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Athlon XP vs. Pentium 4 : The Ultimate 32-bit CPU Showdown
By CPU-zilla
Category : CPU
Published by Jimmy Tang on Sunday, 14th September, 2003


Price-Performance Matters

OK, we've often been told that performance is one thing, but price is yet another important factor we should consider. We shall now attempt to add price into the equation.

We took the manufacturer's standard 1,000-unit quantity pricing updated on 24th (Intel) and 25th (AMD) August. For your reference, the pricing are shown in the chart below.

Manufacturer's Standard Processor Pricing (in 1,000-unit quantity)
Processor Price (US$)
AMD Athlon XP 2500+ 87
AMD Athlon XP 2600+ 93
AMD Athlon XP 2800+ 180
AMD Athlon XP 3000+ 265
AMD Athlon XP 3200+ 464
Intel Pentium 4 2.4C 178
Intel Pentium 4 2.6C 218
Intel Pentium 4 2.8C 278
Intel Pentium 4 3.0 417
Intel Pentium 4 3.2 637

Similar to what we did with the performance scores, we normalized the processor pricing to the Intel Pentium 4 2.4C. Then, we took these numbers and divided it by the relative performance scores we've calculated in the previous page. The results were then plotted in the bar chart below.


In the chart above, you can see that the Athlon XP 2500+ and 2600+ processors offer the best in performance-price ratio. Following closely would be Intel's Pentium 4 2.4C processor. The results here seem to be in good agreement with most buyer's behavior as we do see a lot more people buying the 2.4C than any other speed. Going down the chart, you can see that the Athlon XP 3200+ offers the worst value for your money.

However, most of you would argue that Intel charges a premium for their chipsets and motherboards based on the 875P chipset are always more expensive than those based on the nForce2 Ultra 400. Thus, based on that statement, we added US$50 to the price of all the Intel processors so that we can level things off a little bit. An updated chart with consideration for the motherboard platform is shown below.


The value of Athlon XP 2500+ and 2600+ processors shot up tremendously when we leveled off using the US$50 difference between Athlon XP and Pentium 4 platforms. However, not much changed although the value of the 2800+ and 3000+ processors went up a few notches. The worst value for money crown still went to the Athlon XP 3200+ processor - obviously because it's overpriced.

From the performance-price charts above, you can see that low-end Athlon XP processors still offer compelling value especially to those who are on a tight budget. Having said that, we think it's a sweeping statement if we say that all Athlon XP processors give good performance-price ratio as that's not exactly what was witnessed here. Still, we should be mindful that there's always a premium to be paid for high-speed processors, but in this case, the premium paid for an Athlon XP 3200+ processor is totally not worth it as you can comfortably settle for a faster Pentium 4 2.8C with a lot of spare cash left for other components.

Now, if we play with the results a little more, we can cook up an even more interesting angle to what we've been discussing here. Taking the differential of the relative performance scores from the previous page and dividing them by the differential of the price, we managed to get the following chart.


Bear with us as we explain this chart. In layman language, each data point on this chart refers to the amount of performance gained with every dollar spent to upgrade it to the next speed grade. Therefore, you get about 0.15% gain in performance for every dollar you spend to upgrade a Pentium 4 2.4C processor to a 2.6C. Thus, the larger the number, the better value you're getting, and the more you know that every dollar spent is worth the investment.

Consider the data points for Pentium 4. For every dollar spent, the performance you stand to gain decreases when you move towards higher speed processors. This is what manufacturer's practice all this while, you always pay a premium for high speed processors. However, the roll-off is more gradual and we think it's quite acceptable since there seems to be a systematic approach to their processor pricing strategy.

For Athlon XP processors, you can see that there's a lot to gain if you pay to upgrade from a 2500+ to a 2600+ processor. So, if you're on the lookout for an Athlon XP processor, go grab the Athlon XP 2600+ now as it offer fantastic value. However, when it comes to higher speed grades, the amount you pay to get to the next speed grade quickly becomes worthless. In fact, if you compare the data points between the Athlon XP and Pentium 4 at 2.8GHz (or 2800+) and above, they are pretty similar. What does this tells us? AMD is actually (or perhaps unknowingly) adopting the same pricing strategy as Intel. In fact, the value offered by AMD is actually a lot lower - anywhere between 60% to 70% lower. Simply means, you get more performance for every dollar spent on a Pentium 4 than an Athlon XP processor.

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