Socket A Processor Comparison

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Purchasing Considerations

One major factor in deciding what speed or type of CPU to use is cost, while the other is performance. So let’s look first at cost from Authorized AMD distributors as of June 11, 2001. I’ll use percentages rather than actual cost in $$ with the Athlon 1.0GHz as a base. As noted above, the 200 and 266MHz FSB parts cost the same.

The price ‘sweet spot’ looks to me to be the Athlon 1.1 / 1.2GHz, while the value price would be the Duron 800. The Athlon 1.4GHz carries a price premium for it’s top of the line performance. But when you look at the actual cost, the Athlon 1.4Ghz really isn’t all that expensive, and the Duron 800 is just plain cheap. Just to put it into perspective: the Athlon 1.4GHz at it’s introduction costs less than half of what a K6 233 did when it was introduced just a few years ago, while a Duron 800 is currently almost a tenth of what the K6 233 was!

One thing to also think about when buying a CPU or building a system is CPU heat – the higher the clock speed the more heat that has to be dissipated. The larger L2 cache on the Athlon (256K) compared to the Duron (64K) also produces more heat. The more heat, the larger the CPU heatsink and fan need to be. Once you go over about 1.2GHz on the Athlon you will need a CPU cooler that has a very large fan and may have a higher noise level. Extra case fans will also be needed, and all of these factors add not only to the cost, but also to the system noise level – an important factor for home use. Current draw and Power Supplies also become more critical with higher speed CPU’s. You can run a Duron 800 on a Micro ATX mainboard with integrated video and sound using a 145w Micro ATX P/S, but I would not even think of running an Athlon 1.4 with anything less then a 300w P/S.

Mainboard choice also is a factor. If using a 266MHz FSB Athlon, you need to get a mainboard that supports that speed, while the Duron and its 200MHz FSB will run on a mainboard that supports either a 200 or 266MHz FSB. Most 200MHz FSB only mainboards will be based on the ‘older’ VIA KT133 chipset and cost less than the newer KT133A chipset that supports both FSB speeds. If using a 266 FSB you might also consider investing in a newer DDR SDRAM mainboard using the ALi MAGiK1, AMD 760 or VIA KT266 chipsets. In this case, not only will the mainboard cost more, but also the memory. However, DDR SDRAM is the memory of the future and does offer a slight performance gain in some applications. There are also mainboards with chipsets like the VIA KL133 that have integrated video, which is a great way to build a low cost, high performance system based on Duron CPU’s.

But for now let’s just look at the performance difference between the different selected CPU’s….

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