View Full Version : O.T. - Processor confusion

31st Mar 2004, 15:20
I know this should probably be posted in the Tech forum but I thought more people would see it here.

We are building a second computer for our house and have already bought an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro video card and some other stuff but we're stuck on the Processor. Things have changed considerably since we did our last upgrade and I'm looking for input on what would be a good processor to go with.

We can't afford top of the line and we have been looking at Intel, since the system we use now is Intel based and very stable. That doesn't mean we wouldn't consider Athlon, though we did have a bad experience with an Athlon system before. I think it was more a bad motherboard than the processor itself.

We've been considering a P4 3.0 (512 cache 800mhz), which is about the top of our price range but even with that, we're seeing a Prescott and a Northwood. What's the difference and which one is better? I saw exactly the same Northwood 3.0 but one came with a fan and one didn't. Does it NEED the fan or is that an extra? I've also read that to get the best out of the 3.0, you need a motherboard based on the 875P chipset and they're quite expensive.

The Athlons use an entirely different set of numbers so I don't even know which ones are comparable in performance to a P4 3.0. I don't want to buy something and then find out later we've gotten the wrong thing. I've been reading tech reports but find I'm still confused as a lot of it is TOO technical. Can anybody help explain any of this stuff?

Also, recommendations about whether Athlon or Pentium is better would be welcomed.

31st Mar 2004, 16:34
Hi Nightie....I'm no tech but have always been a fan of AMD products...they can perform just about as well as an Intel and in some cases even better but for a better price point :) I would suggest you bring up Laz's thread about building a new computer and there was some discussion there about the processor/board/Ram and using the proper settings to get best results. Intel has always been much more expensive and apparently AMD's Barton 3200+ (I believe) was the one most recommended. Of course you probably would need to have a different board if the one you have now only supports an Intel :(

I think I'm going to have to think about a beefier system myself in the near future, if not for Thief at least for a couple of others I'm very interested in :) Good Luck and Good Hunting!

31st Mar 2004, 19:51
It's an entirely new computer, Huntress, so the motherboard will be bought to go with whatever processor we buy. I'll see if I can find the thread you mentioned. Thanks! :)

31st Mar 2004, 20:33
Basically the deal is that whilst Intels offer cooler running and superior multitasking, AMDs offer a 5 to 20% performance boost in games/raw calculations and a smaller price tag, though you'll end up spending the difference on cooling systems if you're unlucky. That and there seem to be some problems with Intel development at the moment and in a break with tradition AMD are now leading the way in pure processing power for desktops in terms of release dates with their new generation of 64/32bit platforms, the Athlon64 and the FX53.

Mr. Perfect
31st Mar 2004, 22:11
I can help out with a few of those questions. :)

First, If going Intel purchase the Northwood core over the Prescot. It's cooler running then the Prescot, and actualy outperforms it. The Prescot is a new core designed to run at speeds near 4GHz, and at these "low" speeds of 3GHz it has trouble keeping up with the Northwood. If you do go with a P4, keep with the 800MHz FSB versions, and be sure to pair it up with some dual channel 400MHz DDR.

Second, every processor today requires a heatsink and fan. OEM CPUs come without them though, since many gamers and whatnot prefer to buy more advanced coolers then those that come with proccesors.

You can also get a 865 chipset for your P4, but yes, the 875 is a little faster. The 875 has a more aggressive memory system, so be sure you get some quality memory, Kingston HyperX or Crucial XMS.

Personally, both times I've built my systems I've opted for Athlons. You can build some really nice systems, and usually for less money. Dunno what your budget is, but Newegg.com has the 3.0 P4 for $218, Athlons in that price range are the Athlon XP 3200+ at $210 and the Athlon 64 3000+ at $214. Normally the whatever+ number is ment to corespond to a P4. 3000+ is ment to compete with the P4 3.000GHz. However, the Athlon 64 is AMD's newest processor, and the 64 3000+ is easily on par with the 3.0 P4, while the 3200+ XP lags down around near the 2.6 or 2.8 P4s. Ratings numbers gone haywhire...

Anywho, I'd say go with the Athlon 64 on a VIA K8T800 chipset board with some nice 400MHz DDR. The 64s require registered memory, which does cost a few dollars more.

Couple final thoughts that apply to both machines. You'll need a hefty powersupply, a 350 watt should do, but a 400 watt is probably better. Don't know what case you've got, but make sure it's got some nice cooling. Two 80mm fans is about what I'd suggest, though Newegg.com has a Antec Sonata case with a monstrous 120mm fan and a 380 watt power supply for $96. I always go for an OEM cpu, and I preffer a Thermalright heatsink (http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=35-109-114&depa=1). These are huge copper beasties that let you put on large 80mm or 92mm fans. Bigger fans push more air, so they can spin slower an be a lot quieter(happy ears!). Vantec has some nice quiet fans called Stealth fans (http://www.newegg.com/app/ViewProductDesc.asp?description=11-999-603&depa=1). Custom cooling like that is kinda pricey though, and the fans that come with the CPU are probably a better choice if the Thermalright won't fit with the budget.

Ok, I'll stop now. :D

1st Apr 2004, 00:39
Originally posted by Mr. Perfect
The 64s require registered memory, which does cost a few dollars more.

Small correction needed, otherwise I pretty much agree with everything Mr Perfect said: the Athlon64 CPUs do not require registered RAM, only the Athlon64 FX versions do.

Also, the Athlon64 CPUs support 64-bit operating systems and programs while supporting 32-bit OSes and programs perfectly well. Even going with the current WinXP (32-bit), the Athlon64 dominates much higher clocked P4s in all but a few multimedia apps. Once the 64-bit WinXP is final, upgrading to that will yield even more performance, so Athlon64 is the fastest and most future-proof CPU available today.

As for heat, the Athlon64 is much cooler than the Northwood P4s (800fsb) while the Prescott P4 is ridiculously hot. Stay away from the Prescott, period.

1st Apr 2004, 01:36
That doesn't mean we wouldn't consider Athlon, though we did have a bad experience with an Athlon system before. I think it was more a bad motherboard than the processor itself.

More than likely. I haven't had issues with either, and I only use AMD chips, but also only use ASUS boards.

I have a thermaltake multi-speed cpu fan myself, and I got a really neat case with lots of fan-spaces. I've never had any issues and I only run my cpu fan at low speed, probably because I have a lot of fairly quiet air-flow.

1st Apr 2004, 04:04
My next computer, which I will build in about a month, will use an Athlon 64 3400+ and a Radeon 9800 Pro. I think both of these offer the best price / performance for a high end gaming machine. The Athlon 64 FX models are overpriced and do not perform significantly better than their ordinary cousins. As Leatherman says, the Athlon 64 3400+ et. al. do not need registered memory. For a Socket 754 Athlon 64 motherborard, both www.anandtech.com and www.sharkyextreme.com recommend ASUS K8V Deluxe with a VIA K8T800 chipset. Those are two good sites to check for enthusiast hardware. They both have reviews, buyer guides, and forums. Memory recommendations vary between PC3200 (sharkyextreme) and PC3500 (anandtech). Both say the retail boxed processor with the stock heatsink / fan is OK.

I would not buy a P4 because of The Athlon 64 is marginally better for gaming, and because I don't want to deal with hyperthreading issues. And if you ever need to run with a huge amount of memory, the A 64 with the 64-bit Windows XP (when it comes out) will do it.

For the time being, I am sticking with Windows 2000 because it is less "tricky" and more trouble free.

1st Apr 2004, 07:20
Crap, you guys are making me want to go out and build a new system!!! Seriously, I hope you are all still around in about a year or so when I do decide on a major overhaul and have the money for it.

For now I'm just hoping Thief 3 will run good enough on my Athlon XP 2500/GeForce 4 Ti4400 combo! (Far Cry runs beautifully, although DXIW runs very slowly)

1st Apr 2004, 15:43
I hog our computer :D and my poor husband never gets a chance to play anything without me hanging over his shoulder wanting to "check the forum for a minute" or "see if I have any email please?". LOL! I talked him into building himself a nice one and then I'll have a back-up too if this one decided to die on me. See, ulterior motives! :eek: :D

I won't be buying an Asus board, though. We'll find something else. Our last one (not our current computer) had a squeeky fan and we found out quickly that their service in Canada is awful! We couldn't buy a replacement fan anywhere and Asus wouldn't send us one, though if we'd lived in the U.S. they just would have mailed it. They wanted us to take our whole computer apart, mail the entire motherboard to California, let them replace the fan, which would take all of 5 seconds and then wait for them to send it back! Not!

Thanks for all the great advice, everyone. I knew I could count on you to come through for us and explain all this stuff. It looks like we'll go for an Athlon, so we'll start checking prices. I think stuff is a bit more expensive up here so I don't know if we can go for the Athlon 64 or not but definitely get one as powerful as we can afford so we don't have to upgrade it too soon.

Mr. Perfect
1st Apr 2004, 16:57
Abit boards have a good reputation, and I'm running a nice Shuttle board in one of my machines.

BTW, those little fans arn't used on most boards these days. ;)

1st Apr 2004, 19:04
I have purchased 2 Asus mobos, 2 Shuttle mobos, 1 MSI, and 1 Matsonic, and I have to say that the Shuttle mobos are my favs.

2nd Apr 2004, 01:20
hear hear. Nothing like a Shuttle board with nForce 2 chipset. booya baby!

2nd Apr 2004, 05:20
The nforce 2 chipset is good for an Athlon XP, which is also a good bet.
AMD Athlon XP 3000+ 400FSB is approximately $160.

The nforce 2 does not work for an Athlon 64.

2nd Apr 2004, 12:48
Personally I'd say only this:

Any motherboard but Gigabyte. They are god awful.

Always go for the top VIA or an NForce when using an XP, 64 or FX CPU

2nd Apr 2004, 18:33
I would have to disagree about the VIA chipsets. IMHO they are aweful chipsets. The built in ethernet connections NEVER work, and there is hardly any flexablity for overclocking. I would go either Intel or nForce. Just cuz you have an AMD doesn't mean you can't use Intel chipsets. good stuff. Also, nForce 3 for AMD64.

2nd Apr 2004, 21:20
OK here's my little 2ยข again just for the record. I've mainly had VIA chipsets on my boards and they have worked just fine and they do come out with upgrades fairly often as well :) However I would also agree that for recent times the nforce2 has been highly recommended as well :) but as time marches on and for the newest of boards I guess the nforce 3 will be the next best greatest thing :D ;)

Thanks for the tips about the Shuttle board as I will also keep that in mind for whenever :) Ta and Good Hunting!

Mr. Perfect
2nd Apr 2004, 21:27
I don't think Nightwalker will be OCing here, and considering the lacking aspects of the nForce 3 150, the K8T800 would be the best choice if she doesn't want to wait for the nForce 3 250.

3rd Apr 2004, 14:38
Our last one (not our current computer) had a squeeky fan and we found out quickly that their service in Canada is awful!
TW, those little fans arn't used on most boards these days.

I've actually never even *seen* a fan built onto a motherboard, and I usually check out everything available from asus when I get around to upgrading.

I'm surprised the customer service was bad for you. I've never had a problem with them and neither have a few friends who also only use asus. Of course, we're not in Canada either, which really shouldn't make a difference.

3rd Apr 2004, 14:50
Yes, it was strange that it had a fan. My son had a board that was almost the same but just a tiny bit newer and it didn't have one. Our current board is a Gigabyte, which someone above said aren't good but it's been terrific. This has been the most trouble free, stable computer we've ever had so I wouldn't hesitate to buy one again. The most likely choice is an MSI, though, because a local shop we use sells them. I think we might buy the MB there rather than ordering off the internet so it's easier to get it exchanged/repaired if there's a problem.

Mr. Perfect is correct. We won't be doing any OCing. Thanks for all the terrific explanations and advice. It's been a big help and I really appreciate it. :)

6th Apr 2004, 03:32
Just an update: We've ordered an Athlon 64 3400+ and have an MSI motherboard based on the VIA K8T800 chipset. We went with it primarily because we could get it from a local shop with a 3 year warranty, so if we run into problems, it won't be hard to deal with.

Hopefully, my husband will be very happy with the end result. Again, thanks very much for all the helpful advice, everyone! :)

6th Apr 2004, 05:10
Sounds good, Nightwalker! I have looked at that MSI board myself. Let me know how it does with Thief. What OS will you use?

6th Apr 2004, 13:44
We have XP Pro so that's what will be on the new machine as well. It's working fine on the computer I'm using and it's very stable. 98 used to crash constantly so it's been a nice change. Bernie's itching to get the computer put together but we ordered the processor and RAM from an online source to save some money so he has to wait for it to arrive. :-)

6th Apr 2004, 18:28
Hi Nightwalker

My new(ish) machine at home has an Athlon XP 3000+ in an ASUS A7N8X (nForce 2) motherboard, with a Radeon 9800 Pro, and is running great. I had to do the rather scary task of taking off the (stock) heatsink and putting in some Arctic Silver thermal paste a couple of weeks ago, because the machine had started running at 60 C all the time, and going to 80 C and blue-screening every time I tried to play a game...

That's not any bad report on the processor or anything, just something I had to do because this machine is on all the time, in an apartment where we keep the heat fairly high (we're Australians in Canadian winter!), and the standard thermal compound just wasn't working properly. In my research for that job, I read that if you run modern processors without the heatsink and fan, they can toast themselves in as little as 10 seconds, so the answer to your question about whether the fan is needed would be a fervent 'YES!'

I'm actually very happy with the 3000+, and would recommend it, or it's bigger siblings (e.g. 3400+) highly to someone building a machine now. As Mr Perfect says above, if you were building a bleeding edge machine for the longer term, the Athlon 64 would be the way to go, although given that 'future-proofing' out past about a year is just about impossible with computers, the extra cost required for processor, RAM and motherboard might not be worthwhile for you.

Anyway, in the final analysis, what works for your purposes is what works! Do do some of your own research on the hardware sites above though - there's no substitute for informing yourself!

Edit: D'oh! This is what I get for reading 3/4 of the thread then replying. I see you're already committed. Good choices - let us know how it goes!

6th Apr 2004, 19:34
I still appreciate hearing from someone who's been running Athlon and is happy with it, so thanks, Bravus! We added up the final figures and decided we could go a bit higher and get the 64 instead of the XP. Maybe it will be a bit longer before we have to upgrade that computer. :)

7th Apr 2004, 22:20
Kudos NW! You made a good choice. good luck. :D