So what do the benchmarks tell us? Basically that MHz to MHz, the Intel Pentium 3 and AMD Athlon (T-Bird) perform almost identically, so there is not real performance advantage to either. The 1.2GHz Pentium 3 is the top of the line and it appears that it will not be available later in faster speeds, since that market will be for the P4. You can get an Athlon 1.4GHz (T-Bird core) at this time and within a month or so AMD will have the new slightly faster Palomino core available at 1.5GHz. But its market is really the same as the P4, not the P3. AMD will also be adding the SSE instructions with the Palomino core, something AMD has not had before (they have been using 3DNow! which will be expanded to include SSE compatible instructions).
But do you really need more power than what is offered by either of the 1.2GHz CPU’s? I’d hazard a guess that most of us do not. If you do, then the P4 or upcoming Athlon with the Palomino core may be what fits your needs.
So what are the advantages of going with the Intel Pentium 3 and 815 chipset? Well let’s take a look:
Some feel that an Intel-only based product (CPU and Chipset) offers better stability and compatibility. For most users I would say that is not an issue, but you do see those rare components or software that is written or tested with Intel only in mind and may either be difficult or impossible to set up with any other chipset. If you use a program that relies heavily on SSE instructions, the current Athlon T-Bird core does not support them.
If you use or plan to use a specific component and no other component will do, find out what it has been tested on. If only Intel products have been tested, then I would say an Intel P3 1.2 and 815EP chipset would be a good way to go if looking for top of the line performance.
In the corporate environment it is sometimes easier to buy an Intel product than AMD. To some the Intel name means everything, and if that is the requirement to get approval for your purchase then by all means go for it, you will not be at a performance disadvantage at all.
If system noise is important to you, a quieter CPU cooling fan can be used with the P3 1.2 than you with an Athlon 1.2, due to the differences in heat dissipation. You can also get by without a case fan if using the P3.
And what about the disadvantages?
Cost would be the number one issue on my list, but in the overall system price it’s generally not that much of a difference.
The processor isn’t the latest and most exciting technology. Not a big deal to most, but is to some.
You can use a faster CPU if you go with the AMD Athlon line, and also with the P4 to a certain extent. However, do you really need more performance than what is provided by either of these 1.2GHz processors? That should be your question.
The product life span of the Tualatin Pentium 3 may be short. Not a big deal to the end user, but should be to a dealer or system builder.
So what do you buy? Well if your needs are such that you feel an Intel based system fits them best, I would not hesitate to buy a Pentium 3 1.2GHz CPU and a Intel 815EP based Mainboard, such as the Soyo TISU. What you would end up with is a very fast system that would be compatible with just about every piece of hardware and software available. It may cost you a few dollars more and not have the fastest CPU speed along with the latest technology, but I’d think it would suit most users just fine.
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