Pentium4 vs. AMD AthlonXP

Written on December 10, 2001 by Jon Bach

Marketing Support

Intel Pentium 4The sweetest thing about their position is that they have a lot of help. With the market share so large, Intel receives large support from all of the major computer manufacturers. Gateway, Dell, Compaq...they all are heavy on the Intel market. This is not surprising! When 80% of their customers come looking for an Intel-based computer, it is in their best interest to comply! Not only that, but it is in their interest to help push Intel sales. So now we have every main manufacturer putting out advertising for Intel. "Intel Pentium4 inside" is a slogan that has caught on with the consumers.

Common Setup Characteristics

When we look at the computers from the major manufacturers, we see one striking trend. The processor is the best part of the whole system. Not only that, but the processor is sometimes the only part of the system of any value! In that single characteristic, we can draw a very important insight -- the large manufacturers do not care about quality systems or optimal arrangements. They care about making sales. They know that to the average consumer, "Intel Pentium4 inside" is the only slogan they know. When they are looking for a computer, the only requirement is that it has a Pentium4 processor. That is why the rest of the system can be poor quality -- the processor is the only thing making the sale. So why aren't they using AMD processors? The same reason. Why attempt to change the minds of your customers when you can make a quicker sale by giving them exactly what they want!? And there lies the perpetual nature of Intel's marketing. By retaining a large market share, manufacturers are happy to go along for the ride and get a piece of that market!

Making Up Lost Ground

Under the conditions outlined so far, it seems nearly impossible for any secondary manufacturer to make any gain in the market. It is very impressive that AMD is doing just that. They aren't doing it with clever marketing techniques or manufacturer contracts. Their strength is simple -- build faster processors, and sell them cheaper. It is working. Over the last few years, AMD has made amazing gains, and is placed very well in the market. The graph below is certainly out of date, but it clearly shows the growth of AMD.

Market share graph

A New Battlefront

In fact, these strengths of the AMD processor line have been recognized for years by the technologically inclined few. As more and more people become convinced that AMD may be a better value than Intel, we are seeing a crucial change in the ongoing battle. Since the large computer manufacturers can do nothing but follow public opinion, you are now seeing Dell and Gateway with a full line of AMD systems. This is quite a blow to Intel. What will they do now that their delicate market position is being shaken? We are already starting to see the answer, as their newest marketing efforts are focused on high end audio and video editing. I believe this to be a very good move for Intel, because it puts them into a market that they should have been in all along!

Intels Real Strengths

Pentium4 has two major advantages over AMD: they are more stable and they are capable of a much higher utilization of system memory. Stability is definitely a quality that they should be pushing, but have simply chosen not too. Their memory bandwidth is what they are focusing on now. This capability is why Pentium4 systems are most often paired with RDRAM. RDRAM is capable of enormous bandwidth, allowing large amounts of data to be quickly transferred from the CPU to the system memory. This configuration allows CPU and ram intensive tasks to run very quickly, which means that a Pentium4 system is a great choice for high-end video editing.

The Strengths of AMD

AMD Athlon XPNot everyone does high end video editing, and of those who do, not everyone has the extra $1500 to spend on a Pentium4 system. AMD is there as their alternative. As I have always said, AMD's main strength is in their great prices. It has been said that AMD's prices are so low that it arouses suspicion regarding their quality. How can something so cheap be just as good? This is an amusing problem, though a real one. has been running comparison tests between the two processor lines for as long as they have been around, and the latest round of tests revealed some interesting results. The Athlon XP 1800+ processor simply blew away a Pentium4 2GHz processor in video editing! So, once again, Pentium4's position is being rocked, and it will be interesting to see what happens as time goes on.

Straight Comparison Impossible

For years, AMD has been suffering from a direct comparison of CPU clock cycle speeds. For example, when you have a 1.4Ghz Pentium4 processor and a 1.4Ghz AMD processor, it is natural to assume that they are essentially the same speed. This is bad for AMD, because at the same clock speed, an AMD processor is actually faster. This is due to the architecture of their design -- during each clock cycle, and AMD processor performs more operations. An AMD processor, then, is always faster than it sounds to the average consumer. This introduces a great deal of confusion to most people. How can anyone know which processor is faster without pouring over the benchmarks and testing data? AMD has been slow to address this problem, but they have now taken the first steps.

New Performance Based Speed Ratings

AMD finds its solution in a new 'performance based' rating system. This is a shaky concept, but was a good move by AMD. What it means is that they will no longer label their processors according to their clock speed, but will create names that appeal to public perception to attempt to accurately describe the processor speed. For example, the Athlon XP series has a processor that runs at 1.5GHz, and they have named the processor the 1800+. You can see what they're doing. They know that their 1.5GHz processor is the equivalent to a 1.8GHz Pentium4, so they have given it that label (although it is interesting to note that the 1800+ AMD blew away the Pentium4 2.0GHz processor in video editing, which simply means that AMD is being careful to be very conservative in their labeling). This new system has the potential to throw the whole CPU scene into confusion, but at this time, it is the only way that AMD can get the speed recognition that it deserves.

AMD Speed RatingClock Frequency


With the good moves AMD is making in the market, it looks as if they are going to continue to gain strength with the large manufacturers. Puget Custom Computers is simply a little bit ahead of its competitors. This is not due to anything special about Puget Custom Computers -- it is inherent in its nature. While the large manufacturers are forced to closely follow consumer opinion, Puget Custom Computers can work with each and every client to examine each situation to determine whether AMD may be a better choice, and thus is not as closely bound to consumer opinion. After all, as the slogan goes: In a market that is out there to take your money by telling you exactly what you want to hear, Puget Custom Computers is breaking the trend by making computer systems that do not conform to your presuppositions, but your needs!


ive hered amds are great for gaming. how do they do it? i just want to know wether to buy an amd or intell because its so popular and i have it right now. im not totaly sure if amd is better but i would still try it if i could buy a pentium after if it didnt staticfy me :)

Posted on 2004-03-04 16:12:12

I've heard that a lot -- that AMD has a good reputation for gaming. To be honest, I can't quite figure out why that statement is floating around. Here are the facts:

AMD has always been the better bang for the buck. If you want the most performance for your dollar, AMD is the way to go.

The nForce2 chipset for AMD has a VERY good onboard sound system, this makes is a great choice for gaming.

The downside is that AMD processors run very hot, and require a large (and loud) fan to stay cool.

So while it is true that AMD is great for gaming, I would qualify that to say that it is great for budget gaming. If cost were no factor, I'd recommend Intel over AMD any day :)

Posted on 2004-03-04 16:16:18

Yeah, I'd say the "great for gaming" rumor is because we're all poor!

:lol: :lol: :lol: :shock:

Posted on 2004-03-04 16:39:50

Here's the deal for gaming...for the same speed rating (ie 2.4 Ghz p4 to a 2400+):

Athlon XP < Pentium 4 < Athlon 64 < Athlon FX

However, they are all pretty close in performance to eachother.

Posted on 2004-03-04 19:23:44

u can put a liquid cooling system and kool the whole system.

Posted on 2004-03-05 16:26:41

Yes...but generally pre-made water cooling kits don't perform too well, and really arn't any better than air cooling. Quieter maybe, but more of a pain to set up and take care of.

Posted on 2004-03-06 06:37:43

They are definitely a bigger pain to set up....but we do it! We don't charge any labor fees for any system we build, so the fact that liquid cooling takes 3x as long to set up is our problem!

As far as performance, if you do it right, they perform very well. The key is to cool everything that produces a major amount of heat:

1) Processor (duh)
2) Hard drives
3) Motherboard chipset
4) Video card

Once you have those key points covered, you just need to make sure you have enough ventiliation to carry the remaining heat out of the case. I recommend our temperature controlled fans -- they run at low speed when the case is cool, and speed up depending on the temperature rise when you put the computer under load. The result is a computer that will run VERY quietly, and stay consistently in the 45-50C range -- not bad at all!

Posted on 2004-03-07 20:41:20

I forgot to mention that this article got published in the Buffalo Internet and Computer Magazine a few months after it was released on our site!

Check it out!

Posted on 2004-03-10 12:33:49

Ooh, very nice ;-)

And I didn't know you guys sold watercooled PCs...that's pretty interesting. What kinda parts do you use?

Posted on 2004-03-11 13:15:57


They're located right here in Seattle, so we have great prices, great lead time, and when we need it, great RMA service!

Posted on 2004-03-11 14:33:55

Yeah, I suppose Koolance would be a good choice for a simple to set up and easy to maintain watercooling system.

Posted on 2004-03-12 19:43:23

There are a lot of articles about the AMD vs. P4 situation. I just thought I would add my opion here. I bought a computer from Puget Computers. It has a Asus nForce2 board, AMD 2500+, and a GeForce4 ti 4800. My games run great! Halo for PC runs smoothly with all of the options on HIGH! (be sure that Anti-aliasing and Anistro is set to application, Halo doesn't work well with these filters on.)

I know a few people who insist that P4's are more stable for gaming. But I haven't had a single problem. I think their problem is that they bought a AMD system from some other company that didn't know what they were doing. But with my Puget Computer, not a single problem! :D

Posted on 2004-03-13 10:20:01

...(be sure that Anti-aliasing and Anistro is set to application, Halo doesn't work well with these filters on.)

No, it's not that Halo doesn't work well with those on, it's that the GeForce4 Ti series arn't optimized for Antialiasing and Anisotropic filtering. That's what the Radeon 9500/9600/9700/9800s are for, and the GeForce FX 5900/5950 to a lesser extent (doesn't handle it as well, and looks worse).

Posted on 2004-03-13 14:33:22

Let me preface by saying I'm not a hardware expert.

I had a system custom built a few years ago with an AMD 1900+, ASUS A7V266-E motherboard, 1.5 g of RAM, Matrox G550, etc. I had the system built primarily for Photoshop use manipulating very large file sizes (100 to 300 MB scans which can balloon up to 700MB during editing). I found my new computer to be unable to maintain stability in this usage over time. I also found that it was similarly unable to accomadate the use of USB 2.0 via a PCI card (external hard drives). I experienced crashes almost weekly that often simply could not be recovered.

My builder was a company from out of state (I live in Seattle). I was unaware of Puget Custom Computers at the time, perhaps you did not even exist back then. I think my builder did everything he could have to help me resolve the problems I encountered and I have a high opinion of his customer service ethic, but in the end, we simply could not make the system work for my intended use. We spent months replacing parts, drivers, patches, etc. all to no avail. Incidentally, it works just fine with all standard Office Programs.

Sometime later, I encountered a very knowledgable person through another forum who suggested that the root of my problem may well have been in the chipset. Evidently, VIA had some significant problems in this regard. This led to a general discussion about the compatability and stability of processors when paired with different chipsets. I have since formed a general opinion that the stability of Intel processors may well be a function of using them in conjunction with Intel chipsets. AMD does not make their own chipsets. Any further opinions on this?

Turning this to an altogether different subject, I am anticipating having a new machine built for this same usage perhaps in the Fall or Winter of 2004. I'm hopeful I'll be able to afford it by then. I'd very much like to hear PCC's opinions on what makes an ideal Photoshop computer for extremely large file sizes. Perhaps an in depth article? I've been thinking dual Xeons after the jump to 800FSB, and many harddrives to separate out simultaneous resource use; but I'm not sure I'll be able to afford all this. I simply can't be burned again in my purchase of a high end system relative to the use I intend it for.

My former builder is a great guy and he even agreed with me that a local builder would be the way to go considering my high end computing needs and the huge difference it makes to be able to have someone come to the customer's house and see on-site any issue that might arise. This made me look for a local builder, and right now, I'm strongly considering PCC for a future machine.

Your responses are appreciated.

Posted on 2004-03-21 16:51:43

There are non-VIA chipsets for Athlons. The nVidia nForce2 chipsets are the best you can get for the Athlon XP platform (especially the ASUS one). 1.5 Gigs of RAM is a lot and perhaps the VIA one couldn't handle it well enough.

And yes, the stability of Intel chips is due to having more stable chipsets. However, P4 chips have an advantage with programs that use SSE2, because they have that feature enabled.

Posted on 2004-03-22 08:43:46

I think if you are some family guy with everyone using a computer Intell is the way to go. Sure Intell is more stable proably because of the Fact you cant really mess with them. As far as gaming I think it is all in the vidcard really.

Now if your some crazy computer nerd who does not min spending hours modding and cooling AMD is by far way better! for exaple;
an intell chip running at say 3.2mh will burn you about $400(canadaian)
So that is equal to an XP3200 with is about $300 (canadaian)
BBBBBBUUUUUTTTTTTT with a bit of work the XP2500 will run as a Xp3200 and maybe faster. So big deal except teh 2500 will burn a wopping $100(canadain) so humm pay $400 or $100 humm not hard decesion is $300 really worth avoiding the hastle of o-cing and a loud fan lol. And aneyone who says the AMD is unstabel proably has it overclocked wrong. BURNING?????????????? has aneyone ever heard of a temperature monitor?????

Posted on 2004-05-19 21:46:39

You know.. I'm one of those poor guys who always has hardware at least a year old. (aka Cheap!). But I've always wanted to see how insanely I could overclock a system.

I'm curious what 150FPS with AF16x would look like on our 11foot projector. :thumbs

Posted on 2004-05-20 13:16:29

Someone got a 100% OC on an Athlon XP 1700+.

Posted on 2004-05-20 19:20:09

And that lasted for how many seconds? :-D

Posted on 2004-06-16 14:54:30

Long enough to take a screen shot of CPUID in WinXP :-D

Posted on 2004-06-16 17:05:23

I always perfer AMD over Intel anyday. MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK. Besdies the A64 do actually beat p4 in gaming. Google it and look for the benchies. As far as gaming goes a A64 3200 and a P4 3.2, the A64 would whoop it in gaming, not by the huge margin but enough for AMDroids to cheer. As far as synthetic processing and multi tasking I would say Intel got that part hands down. AMD's way is shorter piplines and more work done per clock cycle. Intel's is longer piplines and higher clock speeds. But AMD design if far better IMHO, because as Intel has longer pipelines more info is lost per clock cycle, so it has to track back and get the missing data. Which is why HT was made to keep the pipelines full. Anyways its all about your budget and what your gonna use it for.

tight budget go for AMD.
Got the shmoolians get Intel.

Mostly gaming,avergae photoshoping,and everday use=AMD
Ripping cds,encoding,Intensive RAM apps=Intel

THat's my .02 cents

Posted on 2004-06-16 18:31:55

Yeah, the last good P4 chip was the 2.4C

Posted on 2004-06-16 21:26:02

Yup and whats up with the presscot, jeez I can boil a couple eggs on that CPU. They run so hot, and the extra chace doesnt even justify their price. Intel latley has been screwin around with their deisgns. AMD I feel are going in the right direction, and really have dont great against Intel. With Intel holding 75% of the market I would expect more from them. The A64 and FX-53 are great. Intel has to make the leap into the 64 bit world. When they do 64 apps will be in mainstream. :thumbs

Posted on 2004-06-16 21:36:23

And the newest Intel chip pin configuration (754 or something)...those chips I hear are very prone to breaking, pins flying everywhere...oh, poor Intel...

Posted on 2004-06-16 21:39:30

Well I hope AMD really crushes Intel. Intel most of the time had been fooling normal customers that didnt know any better. With outrageous prices for like a slow CPU. So The more AMD keeps making better cpu's and continuing THE MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK. Intel will have to drop prices. So comptetion is always great for customers like me n u. :wave

Posted on 2004-06-16 22:04:17

I've always agreed that AMD simply makes a better chip than Intel. Intel does hold the market, though. It's funny, because whenever you hear about CPU performance, it's always in clock speed, which is based off Intel processors. My own college computer recommendations say: "Processor: 3.0 GHz." That's nice, because AMD processors don't clock in at that speed, but still perform equally or better. People always buy into the Megahertz Myth, though.

Posted on 2004-06-17 10:20:07

Even Intel is switching over from raw MHz ratings to...something else.

Posted on 2004-06-17 10:26:50

To what, MIPS? :rollin

Posted on 2004-06-17 10:36:32

I never heard of this?..Anyhow most computer owners are normal everyday families and children. So when a father goes out to best buy and wants to buy a good computer they look at the CPU SPEED..SO he sees a AXP2800(2.08GHz ghz I think) and an Intel 2.8Ghz. Well he automatically not knowing better picks the Intel bases system cus of stupid numbers. This comes from not doing your homework on the products you buy and Intel's Mhz shceme.

Posted on 2004-06-17 10:36:45

I never heard of this?

It's a measure of computing speed. MIPS stands for "Million Instructions Per Second," but for all it's worth, you might as well call it "Meaningless Indication of Processor Speed."

If you use Linux, you may have heard of BogoMIPS, Linus Torvalds' own little joke.

Posted on 2004-06-17 11:00:42

Well nonthless I perfer AMD over Intel anday. Bottom line I aint cheap i just rather get the same performance from AMD with a way cheaper price. The saved money can go towards a better GPU or a nice big copper heat sink. Or even a RAPTOR hd. :thumbs

Posted on 2004-06-17 11:08:36

Hear hear!

Posted on 2004-06-17 11:12:33

just a random note i think that the rating system that amd uses isnt rated against intel chips, its against the older amd processors, forgot exactly which.

this means that when AMD says 3200+ they dont mean its equal to a P4 3.2GHz processor, they mean the equivalent of their older chip at 3.2GHz I believe

Posted on 2004-07-07 21:44:03

AMD dont have a chip running at 3.2..THe Rating System was based off of old Intel chips...

Posted on 2004-07-08 15:56:28

what i mean is the 3200+ rating is the equivalent of one of the older chips i forget which clocked at 3.2Ghz, it isnt a rating against intel processors

Posted on 2004-07-08 16:21:55