With Christmas just a couple of weeks away, itís that time of the year again folks: time for us to pick our top holiday upgrades in PC hardware!
This article has quickly become a tradition around here. In it, weíre going to pick our favorite hardware upgrades in CPUs and motherboards. We know that for a lot of you, the holidays are the only time of the year where youíve got enough downtime to delve into the innards of your PC. The holiday shopping season is also rife with sales and tech deals, making it a popular time to upgrade a component or two (or your whole system) on the cheap. With this in mind, letís get started with our top CPU picks first.
$0-$150: Athlon 64 X2 3800+
Average Overclock: 2611.6MHz
While Intelís Core 2 CPUs end up dominating our CPU selections this year, Intel doesnít make a Core 2 CPU below $150. Yet.
As we outlined in our CPUs and GPUs for í07 article, Intelís currently prepping a cheaper Core 2 Duo E4300 CPU for introduction in the first quarter of next year. The E4300 is expected to support Intelís slower 800MHz FSB, itís also believed that the chip will lack support for Intelís virtualization technology, but it will support 64-bit and execute disable bit.
Itís also rumored that the E4300 will utilize Intelís tried and true Allendale core, which is used in the Core 2 Duo E6300 and E6400 today, with the chip sporting a 2MB L2 cache and 1.8GHz clock speed. Pricing may be slightly higher than the $150 price point however, as DigiTimes believes the chip will launch in January priced at $163.
Until then, AMDís Athlon 64 X2 3800+ is our CPU of choice at the $150 price point. The X2 3800+ sports dual processing cores running at 2.0GHz, with 512K of L2 cache per processing core. As we found in our GeForce 8800 GTX Performance with Athlon 64 article, at 2.0GHz, the 3800+ isnít as peppy as some of AMDís faster CPUs, but if youíre gaming at high-res anyway this isnít too big of a deal. And besides, thereís always overclocking.
According to our CPU overclocking database, the average overclock for the X2 3800+ is 2611.6MHz, with the highest speed recorded by dbro972000 at 2.85GHz. Thatís pretty good for a sub-$150 CPU.
Because of all this, the 3800+ has proven popular with enthusiasts on a budget due to its price/performance ratio.
For now the X2 3800+ is AMDís least expensive dual-core processor, although rumors persist that AMDís X2 3600+ may hit US shores next year to combat the Core 2 Duo E4300. The X2 3600+ is currently available in price-sensitive parts of Europe and Asia, where it has been picked up by many OEMs. Itís built on the same Windsor core as the rest of AMDís Socket AM2 X2 CPUs, and it runs at the same 2.0GHz clock speed as the 3800+. The only difference is that half its L2 cache is disabled, leaving it with 256KB L2 cache per core (2x256KB).