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 Post subject: Athlon or P4?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2002 2:55 pm 
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I want to build a new (quiet) system. It has to be a general purpose machine for occasional gaming, image editing, mp3 creation, sound editing, web browsing, amateur programming etc, with cost kept well below the high end category. After reading Leo's and Mike's Undervolting Project and P4-1.6A articles, I was confused a bit: which of the two platforms would be the best choice for creating a quiet, yet powerful system? An undervolted+underclocked Athlon or a slightly underclocked P4?

Initially, I was thinking of an unlocked Athlon XP1700+. It's cheap and it has adequate computing power. By undervolting/underclocking it, I might have the equivalent of the old "turbo" switch: full power for games and image/sound editing, low power for web browsing and office applications. An active temp controller should care for keeping noise low when performance is not needed.

Then, I read that a quiet pc can be easily build around a P4, so I started thinking about a P4 1.8. The concept seems much simpler: if very low noise levels can be attained without serious underclocking/undervolting, why do I have to bother with rebooting and changing bios settings whenever I want more computing power?

Surely any choice is a matter of selecting which set of compromises fits your needs better. But, I have very limited experience on Athlon or P4 machines. From what I read on the Web here are the advantages/disadvantages of each solution

ATHLON pros
- Can be seriously underclocked without sacrificing FSB speed.
- Very good price/performance for up to XP2000+ models (further price cuts are coming soon)
- Slightly cheaper mainboards
- Excellent floating point unit.
ATHLON cons
- Difficult to cool with standard cooling solutions (or so they say).
- Not 100% thermally safe (no clock throttling).
- Needs stiffer psu/wiring because of very high supply currents (Intel's decision to go for 12V input was very wise).
- No long term viability. Motherboard support (drivers/bios) will cease soon, as did with Super 7.
- Limited upgrade options because of no further die shrinks.

P4 pros
- Robust platform support, will last for years (see BX440)
- Heat spreader allows for bad handling.
- 100% thermally safe for experimenting low noise solutions.
- Bright upgrading future (at least, one more die shrink to come)
P4 cons
- Cannot be seriously underclocked (unlocking not possible). Not a problem if it doesn't need it :wink:
- Pricey (counting out Celerons, they seem quite inferior to Athlons, performance wise)

I'd be very happy to hear your opinion on the matter.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2002 3:38 pm 
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Seems like I've read that the current Athlon platform will continue as a replacement for Duron. Perhaps the MBs aren't going to disappear as soon as you think.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2002 3:47 pm 
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with the choice between the P4 and the Althon the discussion could go on for HOURS about both pros and cons.... it's really up to your personal decision, I'm poor :roll: so I got a Duron setup, runs well(ish) and does all the need it to do...
The selection of a system should be based on how much you want to pay and if u want to pay extra for premium features... my advice anyway :)

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2002 3:54 pm 
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Your summary of pros and cons gets all the main points right :)

It comes down to this: it's easier to run a P4 quietly but up to ~$60-70 more expensive for the equivalent clock speed, depending on which exact clock speed. At lower speeds, the CPU price difference is sigificant ($135 for P41.8 w/HSF vs $68 for XP1800+ w/HS on Pricewatch), but the suitability of P4 retail HS for quiet cooling vs need to spend $25~$30 for a better HS to cool the AMD kicks in.

As you go up in speed, both P4s and XPs need better HS to do quiet cooling, and the price difference shrinks.

If you want silence (or very close) the unlockable AMDs are the way to go. Run the slowest XP at 2/3 the speed, maybe 80% Vcore, you might be able to go fanless -- or very close.

All things considered, go AMD. Help keep them alive. It's good for everybody to have them around, even for Intel. :)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Nov 12, 2002 6:40 pm 
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Dipa, you nailed all the main points bang on. Here's my slant on the situation. Sorry, I've re-covered much of what you said... just had to keep the train of thought a-chuggin'.

After the recent HS testing Mike did, it seems that underclocking is just not needed for quiet XP1700 level performance. Just get a good HS. Probably would be if you were shooting for XP2000 and up. With MSI's s462 mobo's you can adjust the cpu speed/voltage real-time from inside windows. Handy. That combo could make the XP a very handy solution for the 2000 & up range. Just underclock as needed. AFAIK, all XP's to date can be unlocked. XP's are a lot cheaper too, up to the 2200-2400 range.

So that's a few important pro's on the hardware side for AMD. Now about the P4. The older/slower P4's have problems. I think you need to get into the newer Northwood cores with 512k L2 before they get better than the XP's. That means fast + lot's of heat unless you can software-throttle. I bet you can, but I don't know anything about it. Either that or crank the FSB back a step or two. Can you do it from inside windows? Might be a detour back to the BIOS. Oh yeah, you also might take a BIG memory hit depending on synch/asynch Northbridge. Seems a sad thing to do with an expensive newer P4. So the P4 seems to take 2'nd place in the under 2000 ballpark.

One last real hardware thing. Isothermal heat spreaders / planar heatpipes are a recent reality, required for some high power industrial electronics, and trickling slowly into some high end systems (Sun Spark). Price is an ever falling property, kinda like gravity. I bet in two years we will see HSF's at over twice the best current efficiency. That, plus ducting, should quietly cool the fastest things coming. So a P4 system that can scale up to over 3000 might be a wise move. Use a cheap P4 (celeron?) until then.

But then there's software. Check out Darek's Dirty Little Secrets for in depth coverage and history. If you are headed towards WinXP, then the P4 will be better optimized, and you'll see improvements continue to roll in as software get's re-built for the P4. Did you check out Darek's Secrets? For current to future software, P4 will win. But, for older software, the XP may have a decided advantage. It is the best P3 derivative architechture ever invented. If you are 100% legacy and you know it, then AMD is the best tech to date. I run Win98SE, Dos, and will switch to Linux if I ever upgrade. I don't expect many P4 optimizations in my sofware future. I will skip WinXP thanks, and stick to XP's under my hood. The only way a P4 can keep up is if software is P4 optimized, for P3 code it often flails rather badly. Same for the XP, does somewhat worse with some of the P4 optimizations. I guess that is part of the reason you see some benchmarks strongly favoring one or the other CPU. But you can bet that future support will follow the P4, and more MHz will make short work of any older code in the end. Go back and check out Darek's older secrets, and follow the articles about AMD vs. P4. Very illuminating on this topic.

So finally, there's available hardware. I picked AMD when I did because I wanted mATX with no cards, and the A7N266VM is a very cool mobo. Was also a very cheap solution at the time. Looks like MSI might have some cool tricks these days, plus a together looking support suite. Full size ATX would be a more level playing feild though, soooo many choices.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2002 7:51 am 
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And what about mobile Athlon XP ?
They're 16W - 35W.

http://forums.silentpcreview.com/forums ... php?t=2257


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 Post subject: Thank you!
PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2002 2:13 pm 
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Guys you are great! My only objection is on Amd support. I use and (usually) endorsed Amd for the last 4 years. I want them to stay alive, I want competition. Cpu market would be terrible without them. But lately they simply don't execute well. It doesn't matter if they face the fierce (and sometimes unfair) competition from Intel. We are consumers. While I understand the agony of their employees (I work in electronics industry as well and we have problems with competition too), I wouldn't support their products if they couldn't deliver what market needs. Hoping they will recover with Hammer.

So my biggest disappointments this year were the delay of ClawHammer and the high power consumption of Tbread. I was sure I could build an underclocked 2.6Ghz->2GHz (pr ratings) Amd system in 2002. 0.13 microns seemed so promising! But that dream became laughable and my new machine probably will be clocked well under 2GHz, even without underclocking. Noise, price and performance wise, reality is way off my initial expectations.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2002 11:37 pm 
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I'll throw my 2 cents in and comment on a couple of points the others have missed.

-For the price of a P4 Northwood (and you do want a northwood, trust me) you can get a XP and a motherboard, and maybe even the RAM too.

-Thanks to Intel's gestapo-like licensing tactics, the P4 chipset market has stagnated. With an XP you can get a chipset like the NForce, with powerful all-on-one-board features.

-New AMD chipsets and motherboards are thermally safe. The old days of athlons burning themselves up are gone.

-The Socket A platform is going to be around for alot longer than the Socket 462. AMD isn't expecting the K8's (clawhammers) to become mainstream for desktops for over a year. There is still another revision of the XP's in the wings, the Barton. And even after the clawhammers, the socket A will continue with the XP as AMD's "value" processor. When the P5 comes out, probably in late '03, Intel will go to a new socket.


I think the cooling differences have been vastly overrated, mostly by Intel as a marketing tool. Check out some of Mike's excellent discussions on the subject of the P4's thermal diode.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2002 1:20 am 
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Rusty wrote:
-The Socket A platform is going to be around for alot longer than the Socket 462.

Did you mean Socket A vs. Socket 478? I thought 462=A. Was me on glue somewhere?

Other point, I bet that Socket 478 will live on with the P4 Northwood core as the next Intel value Celeron, well after the P5 hits with it's new socket. Repeat scenario of Socket 370. Socket 423 was just a glitch, so I think 478 will hang around a while. Time will tell.

Meanwhile I camp with AMD, I like the flexability of current AMD options, and I just don't need much more than my XP1600. For the price it can scarcely be beat. The AMD market sector (mobo's, coolers, chipsets) seems primarily targeted at smaller system builders and the DIY market. Just right for us. They try to offer all the frills, instead of trimming them off for the likes of HP, Gateway, and Dell.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2002 6:31 am 
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Crisspy you are completely correct. Socket 462 is Socket A. That's what I get for typing posts at 2 in the morning.

And I bet you're right about the 478 being Intel's el-cheapo socket for the near future as well.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2002 1:33 pm 
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BTW, just noticed Celeron 2 GHz Put to the Test on Tom's hardware. Looks like even the old XP1600 thrashes it. I though a P4 Celeron might be a good cheap entry into Socket 478, but alas it's too crippled, seems the full blown 512kL2 Northwood is the only thing really worth buying from Intel. Maybe a Celeron as a very last-ditch stopgap for buget problems / incrimental purchase.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 14, 2002 7:37 pm 
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Hi all,

And now my 2-bits. :lol:

I have an Athlon 1800+ with a modded Thermaltake Volcano 6cu with an 80 mm case fan, all on an Elite ECS K7S5A MoBo. Motherboard Monitor 5 tells me my Case is @ 25C, the CPU is @ 40C and Chipset @ 18C.

For the modded Thermaltake Volcano 6cu, I removed the very noisy Thermaltake fan & replaced with a much quieter Panaflow 80 mm case fan.

The system still needs to be "fine-tuned", but for now I am satisfied.

My 17-year old son wants to build a similar, if not the same system as I have. He doesn't care whether the computer is quiet or not. Kids these days. Sheeesh! :roll:

The quest continues ....

TerryW 8)


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 11:27 pm 
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AMD I believe has a big advantage in the ability to run as low as 1.1vcore and unlock multiplier, thus a 1ghz chip becomes a passive cooling candidate with a good heatsink. However of course there is the P4 thermal protection, I gotta say AMD's thermal protection is still not even nearly up to scratch to that of a P4 or even P3. Perhaps the best compromise is a P4-M, although I believe it uses a different socket? Hmmmm...

-Ken


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 11:59 am 
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Gxcad wrote:
AMD I believe has a big advantage in the ability to run as low as 1.1vcore and unlock multiplier, thus a 1ghz chip becomes a passive cooling candidate with a good heatsink.
-Ken


I have Athlon an XP 1700+ Palomino and Thermalright SLK-800. I measured the processor temp with my Soltek motherboard's thermal diode when the processor was underclocked to 800 MHz and undervolted to 1.1 V. The case was open and put on it's side and the heatsink fan was off. The processor temperature gradually went up to 66 C. So I would not dare to use my processor even at 800 MHz with a passive heatsink.

I just ordered an XP 1700+ Thoroughbred. I look forward to learn how hot it will get in the same circumstances.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 12:12 pm 
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An addition to the above: Why try to use a heatsink passively because in practice the noise cannot be heard when a Panaflo is undervolted to 5 V? BTW, I also made the above test with the Panaflo at 5 V and got the temperature of 37 C! Quite a huge temp difference (29 C) with a minimal increase in the noise level!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 12:19 pm 
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:)


Last edited by Old Dude on Thu Nov 21, 2002 12:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 12:20 pm 
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An addition to the above: Why try to use a heatsink passively because in practice the noise cannot be heard when a Panaflo is undervolted to 5 V? BTW, I also made the above test with the Panaflo at 5 V and got the temperature of 37 C! Quite a huge temp difference (29 C) with a minimal increase in the noise level!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2002 12:29 pm 
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Quote:
Why try to use a heatsink passively because in practice the noise cannot be heard when a Panaflo is undervolted to 5 V?

Totally agreed! Passive CPU HS not worth the trouble unless ALL other noise sources in the PC are silenced as well.


Last edited by MikeC on Thu Nov 21, 2002 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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