A Tool For Its Time

Revision E Athlon 64s should be showing up in a few weeks: Monarch Computers is taking preorders with OEM chips shipping May 6.

As we noted a few days ago, many people have been taken a bit aback by the price of a new platform plus video upgrade, and are wondering what they’ll get for their money.

Just in the nick of time, Tom’s Hardware has come up with a limited-time handy on-line tool to help determine approximately how much more bang you’ll get for your buck.

Essentially, they’ve benchmarked platforms covering just about any platform you’re likely to upgrade from or upgrade to, and put in a 6800GT video card in just about all of them. They then ran a ton of benchmarks on them all, and provide the results in graphical format.

How To Intelligently Use This

For most people, the best way to use this is as follows:

1) Find the benchmarks you think are important, and benchmark your own current machine. This will tell you what you have now.

2) Use the tool to find out approximately what you’ll get if you upgrade the video card For instance, if you have an Athlon XP running at 2.5 or 2.6GHz, you probably ought to see what an Athlon XP 3200+ does, then add a bit (about 10% ought to be right for most apps/games) to the results.

3) Use the tool to find out approximately what you’ll get if you upgrade both video card and platform Presumably, most will be interested in what they’ll get from a heavily overclocked Rev. E. You won’t be far off if you take the results from an FX-55 and add maybe 5% to them.

Don’t Be Anal About It

The whole point to the exercise is to get an approximation of the improvement you’ll get. Whenever I write about anything which involves approximations, I always get some who tell me, “I only work with exact measurements” or ask, “Could I get an exact measurement using the equipment I want/have to get?”

Well, if you are incapable of using anything that isn’t an exact matchup of your current and future equipment, well, you’d better ask Mommy to do some extensive testing for you, ’cause nobody else will.

I’m sorry, but not just computer hardware testing, but life is like that. Life is a series of decisions almost always made without perfect evidence, whether you’re a guy asking a girl out, or the President of the United States deciding whether or not to go to war.

If you wait until you get perfect evidence handed to you on a silver platter, you won’t do much deciding or living. The best you can realistically do is get the best information you can get under the circumstances, and make reasonable approximate adjustments to make the data you have fit a little better.

Sure, the approximations are likely to be off a bit, but really, if the “real” improvement is, say, 52%, and the approximation is 46% or 58%, would you really come up with a different decision due to those differences? Some decisions require exact numbers; most don’t. This one doesn’t.

Information is not the be-all and end-all. You can be completely informed yet still be a complete idiot if you don’t know how to apply it to a problem. Information is just the fuel for the engine called intelligence, and part of intelligence is knowing what is important and what isn’t, which pieces of information have to be known exactly and which don’t.

A Two-Step Improvement

What I think most people will find, particularly gamers with XP systems, is that they’ll see a significant but hardly earth-shattering improvement from a new, fairly expensive video card, and another, significant but hardly earth-shattering improvement from a Hammer system. Neither improvement alone is terribly upgrade-inducing, only the both of them.

When you put them together, you get a very sizable improvement. Problem is, you also get a very sizable bill.

This is why we’ve thought Semprons will eventually catch on. Once they get faster and cheaper than “old” 130nm Athlon 64s, people ought to be able to get, say 80% of the improvement from a Hammer system for considerably less than 80% of the price of a full-blown socket 939 system.

It seems to be the only real candidate for a relatively cheap gaming box with a decent gaming card. You want to pay Intel prices for a socket 939 system, fine, I’m not saying that’s foolish, but some people can’t quite do that.

In the meantime, it’s a good time to use tools like these to start thinking seriously about whether or not an upgrade is right for you.


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