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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- Cannot be seriously underclocked (unlocking not possible). Not a problem if it doesn't need it
- Pricey (counting out Celerons, they seem quite inferior to Athlons, performance wise)
I'd be very happy to hear your opinion on the matter.