Friday, June 17, 2005

The Dual Cores Are Here

Wondered over to NewEgg to look at the prices for the Intel and Amd dual-core processors and see if it's possible for me to afford the newest in processor technology...

Basic requirements.
  • I'll look at the Athlon64 X2 and the Pentium D. I'll compare the processors that have 1MB of L2 cache/core. This helps level things a bit because the Intel parts have 1MB of L2 cache/core.
  • I'll need a new motherboard to support the new chips. My current systems are both Athlon XPs running on Chaintech manufactured motherboards using the nForce2 chipset.
  • I will need a new video card. The latest chipsets from nVidia and Intel that can support the latest processors only support PCI Express.
  • I want to keep (recycle) my current system memory. I've got a pair of 512MB DDR 433 DIMs in my current system. There's no reason to get rid of them.
  • I want to keep (recycle) my current hard drives. I've got two Maxtor 120Gig IDE133s that are still quite useful. I have Windows XP on one and SuSE 9.0 Professional on the other.
Now lets get some prices from Newegg.






ProcessorPrice
Athlon64 X2 4400+$639.00
Intel Pentium D 820$291.99
MotherboardPrice
MSI K8N Neo4 Platinum Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra ATX$142.00
ASUS P5WD2 Premium Socket T (LGA 775) Intel 955X ATX$225.00

At this point we need to compare the total basic prices (processor + motherboard) between AMD and Intel and what it is you get. For the AMD solution I get to spend $781. For the Intel solution I get to spend $517. That's a significant difference of $264 (and I'm already pausing to reflect on the prices in and of themselves). Remember how I wanted to recycle my 1GB of DDR 400 memory? Can't do that with the Intel solution, so I need to drop another $138 on 1GB of Corsair Value Select DDR2 667 SDRAM. That drops my price differential down to $126 and puts me further into sticker shock. I know I have to purchase a new video card with either solution, and since I'm not a gamer, I can live with a low-to-mid range video card from nVidia or ATI. I can reuse my hard drives. I've got an all aluminum case and a solid 450W power supply; they're reusable. Tube is reusable as well until it just flat dies. As I dig further I find that the Athlon chip is OEM only, which means I have to spend more on a cooler. Oops. Waited to long. Newegg is sold out of the Athlon processor. Well, I guess that solves that problem. Between the cost and the lack of availability, I'll favor the Intel solution.

Depending on your gender and your view towards computers you may ask why would I want to replace two perfectly good systems with the latest and greatest? After all it's going to cost about $800 before it's all finished to replace the guts on one of them with the newer processors and motherboards. The answer to that question is the relentless drive of technology. Yes, I'd have to spend $800. But look at what I get for that $800. You get processor technology and capability that would have cost a fortune a mere five years ago. Dual-core processors and the latest motherboard chipsets give you a system that, given the right software, gives nearly a 2X (or more!) increase in raw computational performance. It also gives you the ability to learn and use leading edge technology. That $800 isn't for gaming (although I'm sure I'll play a few games on it) as much as it's an investment in my continuing education. And that, to me, is what it's all about. Continuous personal improvement leads to continuing competitiveness.

A computer is a magical crucible for the inventive and the inquisitive. We're reaching a new inflection point with the systems that are now hitting the street. There's a real excitement in the air, something I haven't felt since the mid 90's. That $800 may be expensive to some (and truth be told, put a dent in my budget), but it's dirt cheap when you consider future possibilities.

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