Godzilla or Mothra?

PC Hardware | Monday, July 17th, 2006 | 10 years, 8 months ago

With mere hours to go until my hardware is delivered I’m basically quivering in my office chair in anticipation. I’ve been scouring CPU reviews left and right and can’t really find a definitive answer to my queries. No one article is putting all the information I need in one place so I’m afraid I’ll have to take a stab in the dark.

There is much speculation that AMD will drop its Athlon 64 X2 prices in a week or two. I’m hoping I can get an extension on buying at least the CPU and mobo until this happens. I’m basing this decision on two reviews I read:

AnandTech’s article is very in-depth and has some valid insights about Intel’s upcoming Conroe line. They put many chips, including lower-calibre value chips, through the paces in many gaming and desktop applications and they almost all turn up in favour of Intel. However, this article is quite skimpy on gaming benchmark staging details and almost all benchmarks are from timedemos and other synthetic tests. Timedemos tend to primarily tax the GPU since the CPU usually takes care of things like AI and physics; neither of which come into play in a prerecorded demo. The huge disparity between Conroe and X2 is a little suspicious, but AnandTech is a reputable site so I’m torn. That’s why I consulted HardOCP.

The HardOCP article on game performance is far more detailed and of interest to gamers. Personally, I don’t care which side I pick if they game the same, even if Intel’s chips can render a video clip 20% faster. I don’t do much of that stuff, and I don’t really mind spending another fraction of a second staring at my always-attractive desktop wallpaper while I wait for Firefox to load. This article shows both side’s chips to perform very similarly, and is pretty much the only article to do so. Plus, they test actual gameplay instead of timedemos, let tests go for 10-20 minutes while capturing benchmarking statistics throughout, and they report the minimum, maximum, and average framerates in various configurations. My biggest problem with HardOCP’s article is that they only test the top-end enthusiast chips which are about $1000 USD each. These benchmarks are all but irrelevant to me since it’s foolish to assume that lower models will scale down predictably.

Benchmarks aside, I would have benefitted from some speculation about the longevity of these platforms.

The Conroe chips plug into Intel’s aging socket 775, while the X2’s take advantage of AMD’s new AM2 socket. It would be nice if I could upgrade a few times in spurts instead of having to do a complete teardown like I’m doing now. I’m fairly confident that AM2 will host at least one more generation of AMD processors (maybe their much anticipated 4×4 quad cores) but I’m not so sure about 775.

Also, AM2 is being released with NVidia’s new NForce chipsets with the 570 on the Asus M2N SLI Deluxe board I have on hold now. That’s a great feature set from a line of stable chipsets, plus my NVidia GPU will undoubtedly run better on a south bridge of the same brand. Also, Intel has no SLI support right now and probably won’t offer dual-GPU mobos for at least a couple of months.

It’s so tough to decide what to do. I’m spending a lot of money here and I don’t want to make a (too-frequent) habit of that. I certainly don’t want to buy a 4200+ chip today only to see the much-improved 4600+ sold for even less 2 weeks from now.

I’ve printed and highlighted some key points from a few benchmarks and I’ll bring them along with me to the store tomorrow. They didn’t have any information on falling AMD prices as of last week, but perhaps they’ll be able to confirm some of the speculated discounts. AnandTech says AMD will drop X2 prices in July, and there ain’t much July left.

Chances are I’ll stick it out for a week or two and nab that 4600+. From what I’ve read, AMD will be the first out of the gate with multicore CPUs and they’ll certainly be limited to the AM2 socket. The current Intel benchmarks are phenominally tantelizing, but in terms of bang per buck I think AMD is the way to go. The money I’ll save by buying another 7900GT for SLI instead of being forced to buy the next generation with a single PCIe slot solution from Intel might alone be enough to tip the value scale back toward every nerd’s favourite underdog.

>> ATH0 -- NO CARRIER <<

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