Now that you've got your heart set on an AMD system there are a few things you should take into consideration. Since you're a reader of this site, we're assuming you're going to be building your own system. With this in mind, the first thing we'd like to point out is the need for a beefy power supply.
As processors get faster and more powerful components are added to the system, power requirements also increase. Spend a little extra money and get a 300-watt power supply, especially if you're going to be running at speeds approaching 1GHz.
Thunderbirds and Durons tend to run quite hot, temperatures in excess of 110°F are not uncommon and run even higher if you're seriously overclocking. As a result, purchasing a good heatsink becomes very important for the life of your system.
Once you've got your heatsink in place, make sure it's installed properly. Thunderbird and Duron processors can be ruined in seconds if the core of the processor doesn't make contact with the surface of the heatsink. We've also seen numerous cases of cracked cores (this also occurred with FC-PGA Pentium IIIs when they were initially released), so be very careful when you're attaching the heatsink to the processor.
Besides cooling and power, another important issue with AMD systems is memory -- avoid generic memory if possible. We discovered this issue firsthand when we attempted to match our 128MB Apacer DIMM with the Tyan Trinity K7
. Quite frankly, both components didn't get along very well. We use Athlon-verified memory from Mushkin in all our tests now, and haven't run into any problems as a result of this move.
It seems that with each new graphics chip release from NVIDIA comes a slew of incompatibility reports with an Athlon system. We saw this with the GeForce launch last year, the GeForce 2 launch this spring, and again with the GeForce 2 Ultra launch just last week. While we haven't run into any problems with the GeForce 2 Ultra and Athlon yet, the problem obviously exists for many people. Just last week VIA released a newer version of its AGP driver that supposedly fixes the issue with NVIDIA's Detonator 3 drivers.
Just how cheap are the new Athlon processors? Dirt cheap! We've provided this chart to give you the current prices:
|8/21/2000 Socket A Athlon Prices
Looking over the prices, the Athlon 800 appears to offer the most bang-for-the-buck. But why don't we examine the performance numbers before we draw any final conclusions.
We found these prices via Pricewatch, so we can't vouch for the service of any of these vendors. In many cases, other vendors were within a few dollars of the prices listed above, so we really recommend you check out Pricewatch for yourself, and then head on by Ressellerratings.com to see what experiences others have had with the vendor you're considering purchasing from.