Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

You can read ten pages about the Castrateron, oops, PIV Celeron, here.

I can summarize it in one word: No.

For the more literate among you, two words: It sucks.

For word-lovers, three words: Don’t buy it.

But It’s Cheap!

There’s a difference between thriftiness and cheapness. Smart people are thrifty. Less-than-smart people are cheap.

Thrifty people look for a low price for quality items. Cheap people just look for a low price and usually get what they paid for.

This is a tale of thrifty vs. cheap.

The Better Intel Alternative

The Celeron 1.7GHz is old .18 micron technology with just 128Kb of L2 cache.

The Northwood 1.6GHz processor is new .13 micron technology. It has 512Kb of L2 cache.

Cost difference? Right now, $40. Probably will settle around $50.

Take that 1.6A Intel Northwood processor. Run it at 133Mhz, or 2.133GHz. This is a gimme overclock with the current Intel CPUs. You can do it with the Intel heatsink. You can do it without even raising voltage.

And what does that get you?

Based on the benchmarks run here and here (the 2.0A benchmarks with RDRAM are close enough to what our 2.13GHz machine with DDR would do to serve our purposes); outside of the Lame (how appropriate) MP3 test, the 2.13GHz monotonously does about 50% or more better than the 1.7GHz.

The Celeron 1.7GHz review also shows benchmarks with that processor overclocked to about 2.3GHz (a tougher overclock requiring a voltage increase than our no-brainer 2.13). Even when the Celeron is running faster than the Northwood, the Northwood still beats it by about 20-30%.

50% better for $50. Even if you took the overclocked results, it’s 20-30% better for $50.

What about AMD?

Anybody actually interested in a Celeron probably isn’t going to be interested in AMD, but you can compare the low-end XP benchmarked in the links above, and the same argument more or less holds true, and the low-end AMD alternative will look even better when the low-end Thoroughbreds are out within a month.

But It Doesn’t Need To Be That Fast

A computer has a useful life. If Computer A is 50% faster than Computer B; Computer A is going to have a much longer useful life than Computer B. For the average person, probably a couple more years, but let’s assume just one year.

Even just one extra year is awfully good for $50.

I don’t care how cheap you are, you’re spending at least $500 for this (or at least the parts will be worth that much). Unless you think you’ll be using this computer past 2010; one extra year of useful life is well worth an extra $50 upfront.

Plan on replacing it and selling it? Don’t you think a computer that’s 50% faster is going to retain its value a lot better than the slower one?

A Curious Omission

I shouldn’t have to be telling you this. The person who wrote the Celeron article should have. But it wasn’t, wasn’t at all. Why?

Overclocking is frowned upon there? Then why were there plenty of overclocked Celeron benchmarks in the article? Same 133Mhz overclock I’m talking about, and getting a .18 micron chip to 2.3GHz is harder and more stressful to the CPU than getting a .13 micron chip to 2.1GHz.

The price of the 1.6A was too high for the processors being compared? Processors that cost the same or more were included.

Why were there no Northwood benchmarks included in those benchmarks?

Well, if there were, the overclocked 1.6A would have wiped the floor with the Celeron. Even an un-overclocked 1.6A would have beaten it handily.

So why not?

I guess I’m weird in this arena, but I think my job should be to tell you how to get the best for your money.

I personally don’t see why someone wouldn’t spend an extra $40-50 to get a 50% improvement, but what I really can’t see is why anyone looking at this product wouldn’t want to mention this option to his or her audience.

Comparing a low-speed Northwood to this Celeron seems a lot more important and relevant than most of the other comparison made.

In an arena where differences of less than 10% are highlighted, even when the cost difference is in the hundreds of dollars, why should a 50% difference for $50 not be mentioned at all?

Why not? 50% better for $50. How can be you be better off not knowing that than knowing it?

P.S. Here’s another review that’s more of the same.


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