Intel Shoots Its Load

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We get derided sometimes for saying, “Wait, wait, wait” a lot.

Well, we do say “buy” occasionally, we just don’t do it a couple times a week. 🙂

We do say “buy” when:

  • A new technology comes out that offers a significant improvement over previous improvements AND
  • Something better than that isn’t coming any time soon.

    The introduction of the Canterwood motherboards and the various 200MHz HT processors are one of those buying points, though mostly for the second reason.

    What will be available shortly is pretty much all you can expect from Intel for another year.

    Intel will come up with a 3.2GHz and maybe a 3.4GHz Northwood later on in the year, but the next big jump in CPU power won’t come until Prescott arrives in the fall, and they’ll probably not be affordable until the spring.

    The next big jump motherboard-wise won’t come until the Tejas-series of processors in late 2004.

    So if you’re inclined towards a new Intel platform, this is it.

    Should You Be Inclined Towards A New Intel Platform?

    You shouldn’t if you’re not inclined to shell out a lot of money.

    Once prices settle down, the cost of a minimal core Canterwood system will probably look like this:

    Intel 2.4GHz 200MHz processor

    $165

    Canterwood motherboard

    $165

    Two high-quality 256Mb memory sticks

    $150

    In short, about $500 just to get you in the door.

    What You Get For Your Money

    On the whole, all the tweaks and 200MHz FSB gets you about 10% more performance than you’d get from a PIV/845PE system, for about $75-100 more.

    The performance gap will be somewhat bigger against Athlon systems (maybe about 15%), but that will cost you about $150 less.

    For many if not most AMD fans, the $150 will matter more than the 15%.

    That’s Entertainment

    For those obsessed with tweaking and the process of overclocking, though, the Canterwoods will give you more possibilities to play with than we’ve ever seen before.

    Depending on the FSB chosen, memory can be set to run either faster or slower than FSB. The slower memory ratios appear to be 3:2 and 5:4. This should certainly allow for a wide variety of setups, and even more arguments about them.

    Which is better for overclocking: 133MHz or 200MHz FSB processors? Is it better to run memory faster or slower than FSB, and what’s better, a 5:4 or 3:2 ratio, and if so, which 200MHz processor fits the bill best?

    The arguments will chew up terabytes.

    From a performance standpoint, Canterwood systems provide an arguable bang for the buck.

    From a playing around with it standpoint, though, the entertainment bang-for-the-buck is huge.

    AMD Has Done Its Shooting, Too

    Processor-wise, short of introducing 200MHz processors and introducing mobos that are a bit more stable running at 200MHz, AMD is pretty much done until Athlon64.

    Realistically, they won’t have anything that will make most of you want to toss your socket A system until we have 90nm Hammers a year or a bit more than now.

    So Who Should Buy This?

    If you haven’t bought a system for a while, can’t wait another year for a new system, and don’t want AMD, this is what you should buy fairly shortly.

    If you want more overclocking options for your overclocking dollar, again, this is what you want. I know, this sounds bizarre, but we’ve never had a platform so flexible before. Nor have we ever had a dry spell as long as the upcoming one.

    If you live to post competitive 3DMark scores, this will probably give you an edge over the AMDers.

    Hmmmm. That leaves out most of you.

    Is this enough to make AMDers defect en masse? No. Right now, their focus seems to be on what they can get out of $50-$75 processors, and the performance gap won’t be big enough to make very many people who don’t fall in the first three categories run.

    The typical AMDer will upgrade his or her socket A system cheap and look towards a 90nm Athlon64 system next year. Unless AMD falls flat on its face with it next year, they won’t consider an Intel system.

    Conclusion

    This is a nice piece of equipment. Do you have to have it? Is it worth it? It really depends more on you than the equipment.

    I think the days of “OMG, you must buy this” are over.

    Email Ed

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