The Battle for Value: Athlon 64 3200+ vs. Pentium 4 530

In a review of processors selling for close to $1,000, it's important to look at some of the more affordable CPUs to see how they stack up against each other as well. With the introduction of the first 90nm Athlon 64 parts, AMD has been able to bring the Socket-939 Athlon 64 CPUs down below $300, making for an interesting value comparison.

Using our RealTime Pricing Engine we found that for just over $200 you could either have an Athlon 64 3200+ or a Pentium 4 530 (3GHz). While this doesn't take into account motherboard cost, 925X boards and Socket-939 boards are in the same general price ranges. You can get a Socket-939 nForce3 board for $133, and you can get an ABIT 925X board for $150.

So the question becomes, based on our plethora of benchmarks, which CPU do you buy? In order to find out, we'll break down the benchmarks by category once again.

In our Business/General Use tests, the Athlon 64 3200+ won 6 benchmarks, tied in 1 and lost 3. In the 6 benchmarks that the Athlon 64 3200+ won, its average win percentage over the Pentium 4 530 was 17.6%. In the 3 that the Pentium 4 530 won, its average win percentage was also a hefty 9.6%. Overall it would seem that the Athlon 64 3200+ is the better buy for Business/General Use, although the Pentium 4 did manage to outperform it in some tests.

In our Multitasking Content Creation tests, the Athlon 64 3200+ won 2 benchmarks and the Pentium 4 530 won 3 benchmarks. In the two benchmarks the 3200+ won, it outperformed the 530 on average by 12.8%. In the three benchmarks the 530 won, it outperformed the 3200+ by 10.2%. Although the Athlon 64 won fewer benchmarks here it won by a larger overall percentage so we'll call this one a draw.

Next up is Video Creation/Editing and Photoshop performance, where the 3200+ won 2 out of the three tests by outperforming the 520 by 22.8% on average. The Pentium 4 won one test by a margin of 2.5%. The clear winner here is AMD.

Audio/Video encoding gave the Athlon 64 two wins at an average of 11.9%, while the Pentium 4 530 had 3 wins at an average of 11.3%. Given the virtually equal performance wins with a slight difference in the number of wins, we'll call this one a slight victory for Intel.

If you're a gamer, the choice is clear, the Athlon 64 3200+ won 10 out of 10 gaming benchmarks with an average performance advantage of 13.9% over the Pentium 4 530.

In our 3dsmax 3D rendering tests, the Athlon 64 won twice while the Pentium 4 one once. However the one test the Pentium 4 won in was actually a composite of 4 separate 3dsmax tests which we also included in our results. The Athlon 64 advantage in its two wins was 7.7%, while the Pentium 4 advantage in its wins was an average of 7%. With 4 actual victories over AMD's 2, our recommendation here would be leaning more strongly towards Intel but the win is definitely not clear cut.

Finally in our workstation tests, the Athlon 64 won 7 benchmarks, the Pentium 4 won one by 1% and failed one. The performance advantage here was an average of 8.4%, giving the advantage to AMD.

In the end, here's our scorecard for the Athlon 64 3200+ vs. Pentium 4 530:

Business/General Use - Athlon 64 3200+
Multitasking Content Creation - Tie
Video Creation/Editing and Photoshop - Athlon 64 3200+
Audio/Video Encoding - Pentium 4 530
Gaming - Athlon 64 3200+
3D Rendering with 3dsmax - Pentium 4 530
Workstation Performance - Athlon 64 3200+

Depending on your usage our recommendation may vary, but the best overall performer at the $200 price point appears to be the Athlon 64 3200+.

Power Consumption Comparison Justifying a Rating: Athlon 64 4000+ vs. Athlon 64 3800+


View All Comments

  • coolme - Monday, January 10, 2005 - link

    #85 yeah, but when comparing to Tom's Hardware review, it's totally off track... (Tom's is more believeble because there is pics of how he measured it and based on the fact that there is no way a A64 could handle 200+ watts)
    how Tom tested it:
  • eight - Monday, December 27, 2004 - link

    Has anyone information about A64 performance with Premiere Pro 1.5? I assume thet A64 does beat P4, but assumption is mother of... :) Reply
  • euanw - Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - link

    I am very impressed by your articles. Can you inform me of the procedure you used to overclock the FX55? With the Neo2 board I am not clear on CPU vid and CPU voltage, what do they mean? When I change the multiplier to 13.5 my new PC reaches winXP and then reboots.

    My setup is MSI K8N-Neo2-54G, FX-55, 2 x 512MB - OCZ EL DDR PC-3200 Platinum Rev2, Nvidia Quadro FX3000, 2x Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 120 GB, Matrox RTX-100 real time video editor, Antec TrueBlue 480W ATX-12V, BenQ DVD Dual DW1610, WinXP-SP2.
  • euanw - Tuesday, November 9, 2004 - link

  • Gioron - Sunday, October 24, 2004 - link

    While I'm unsure of the exact method used in this review, I'm sure that there is no built-in power measurement devices on the motherboards and processors listed (unless its new and no one told me...) so its NOT just just a matter of installing software that can read a sensor thats already there (as in all the CPU temp monitors). This means it requires some hardware to measure the voltage and current flow to various components (or you can cheat a little and assume the voltage is constant and just measure current).

    Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds, since isolating various components can be a problem. Its fairly easy to measure things like hard drive power useage since there is only one power connector going to it and its easy to access, so you measure the current on the 5v line and the current on the 12v line, and you're pretty much done. Things like CPUs, motherboards and graphics cards are a bit more difficult. On the newer graphics cards you can measure the power consumption from the additional molex connector, but in all likelyhood, the card will also draw a certain amount of power from the AGP slot power lines, and no one in their right mind is going to unsolder the AGP slot and raise it half an inch in an attempt to put a current sensor in line with the power leads. Thus, you need to rely on indirect means and educated guesses. You can measure the current going into the motherboard, but how much of that is going to the chipset, the CPU, the RAM and the graphics card? You can swap in a different CPU and see how it changes, but that won't give you absolute readings. You can try to remove the CPU and see what power the MB uses without one, but odds are it'll use more power when its actually interfacing with a CPU instead of beeping error codes at you.

    Bottom line: There is no easy way to measure power consumption, and even dedicated hardware review sites have problems with it. Personally, I trust Anand far enough that I'm sure he didn't completely screw it up, and the numbers he has are probably close enough to the real thing. I'd forget about measuring power for myself.
  • xsilver - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Kinda late on the comments but..If anand or anybody can answer -- what is used to measure the "power consumption" software? or hardware? links? I would like to test this myself
  • Bakwetu - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    Whoah, it's been a while since I checked out cpu reviews and I must say Amd has some impressive cpu:s nowadays. Even though I am budget oriented when it comes to buying hardare, I'd choose the 3400+ model before the 3200+, it's not all that much more expensive and seems to perform much better Reply
  • t - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    uhuh.... and in a server type situation, how many raid arrays are ran off the chipset controllers? not many i would wager..

    hell... u prolly have an independent fibre optic raid array :)

    hardware, baby, hardware.

  • knitecrow - Friday, October 22, 2004 - link

    I always knew women were trouble when it comes to technology ;)
  • screech - Thursday, October 21, 2004 - link

    nice ones #79, 78. :) Reply

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