The long hot days of summer are over, and so with should be going the quietest period of the CPU year. The next few months should bring with it a whole change to the face of the CPU market with two new chips in the form of the AMD Athlon 64 and Intel's 0.9 nm "Prescott" Pentium 4. In the meantime we still have the chips that we have become rather used to seeing.
The chart itself is made up of the usual Athlon XPs and Pentium 4s. We would recommend going for either the "Barton" core Athlon XP or the Pentium 4C (incudes Hyper-Threading support) as the chips of choice.
The criteria with which we rate the processors currently available is simply what we judge to be the best value for money. Raw power alone can not top the charts (unless we think that it is significantly good enough to warrant a high price tag), and other factors such as all round performance and availability (at time of writing in the UK) also influence our decisions. We do not use a chip's overclocking potential as a factor in this chart, thus giving a guide to those who do not wish to overclock their CPU. Plese note that this rating is purely the opinion of the authors.
So onto the chart...
AMD Athlon XP 2500+ (1.83 GHz). Hanging onto Number 1 is the Athlon XP 2500+. Based upon the "Barton" core and clocked at 1.83 GHz with a 333 MHz Front Side Bus speed we feel this is the pick of the chips now it's price has stayed at £74. The increase in cache to 512 KB over the 256 KB found on the "Palomino" and "Thoroughbred" cores is worth the bit extra in our opinion.
Intel HT Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz. Our preference when buying Pentium 4 chips these days is to go for the new C-core just to make use of the 800 MHz Front Side Bus. The cheapest is currently priced at £140. Intel's latest technology feature is Hyper-Threading which so far has only featured in the very high-end Pentium 4 range. Hyper-Threading essentially gives a single CPU a number of dual-CPU like features. One of the most impressive features of this chip is the sheer amount of memory bandwidth it can utilise makes it an impressive performer. A great gaming chip too, it's only weakness is it's X87 FPU performance which is outclassed by the Athlon XP. It does though have SSE2 which is essentially the new Floating Point math.
AMD Athlon XP 2800+ (2.20 GHz). Pricier by quite a margin over the 2500+, but it does come with a £2.08 GHz clock speed. Priced at £128 makes this chip very attractive indeed.
AMD Athlon XP 2000+ (1.73 GHz). The value chip on the market at the moment is the XP 2000+ is the chip to go for at £54. Now based upon the "Thoroughbred B" core.
Intel HT Pentium 4 2.6 GHz. Intel's latest technology feature is Hyper-Threading which so far has only featured in the very high-end Pentium 4 range. Hyper-Threading essentially gives a single CPU a number of dual-CPU like features. As Intel positions it's CPU range for the summer we see the cascading down into lower clock speeds of Hyper-Threading P4s to lower cclock speeds such as 2.4 GHz. Whilst pricey at £175, it does give users the benefit of the new 800 MHz Front Side Bus.
Intel Pentium 4 B 2.40 GHz. The bargain "Northwood" at present is the 2.4B. Making use of the still rather effective 533 MHz Front Side Bus and lacking Hyper-Threading. £120 is a rather nice price for a P4B.
Intel Celeron 2.4 GHz. If you are going to buy a P4 based Celeron, we recommend getting the fastest chip available and this means going for the 2.4 GHz part. Don't expect this to rival the Pentium 4s at similar speeds due to it's tiny cache (128 KB) and 400 MHz Front Side Bus. It is priced very keenly at £69 though.
AMD Duron 1.3 GHz. This should be it's last appearance in the chart but it has hung on at Dabs (and Scan) (yet again!). The Duron 1.3 is still a good choice especially as it is based upon the "Morgen" core and thus includes Intel's SSE instruction set. Now priced at £28. Much better value than the Celeron although it is eclipsed by the Athlon XP.
Intel Pentium 4 3.06 GHz. The high-end, but it is still the only chip around with Hyper-threading technology. Priced at £316 it is extremely pricey, but is a welcome change from being priced at over £400.
AMD Athlon XP 1800+ (1.7 GHz). Fantastic value at £46 one of the best chips on the market at the moment.