CPU Buying Guide

Budget lines: Celeron, Sempron and Athlon

Intel Celeron

If your computing needs don't stretch very far, or your wallet is under tight constraints, you may want to consider a more budget-friendly CPU. Both AMD and Intel offer budget processor lines and previously mid-to-high-end CPUs are now at affordable levels, too, which means that plenty of power can be bought for minimal cash outlay. Traditional budget CPUs, such as AMD's Sempron and Intel's Celeron aren't the only options for budget-conscious buyers these days. In fact, while Sempron CPUs are still available, Celeron CPUs are getting harder to find.

The Celeron D 300-series is a cut-down CPU that is suitable for only the most basic of tasks. It's not a dual-core CPU, it has a small amount of Level 2 cache (512KB), a slow front side bus (533MHz), but some can run 64-bit applications (depending on the model number). These are based on the same technology as the Pentium 4

The Celeron 400-sereis CPUs are cut-down versions of CPUs based on the Core micro-architecture. They have an 800MHz front side speed, as well as 512KB of Level 2 cache and they can also process 64-bit instructions. They are single-core CPUs. The Celeron 500-series have a larger, 1MB Level 2 cache, are 64-bit, but have a slower front side bus speed (533MHz).

Found at a similar price point to the Celeron CPUs are the Pentium E2000-series CPUs, which are based on the Pentium D. They are 64-bit CPUs, have an 800MHz front side bus and 1MB of Level 2 cache. They are also dual-core CPUs.

For only slightly more money, however, entry-level Core 2 Duo CPUs offer better value for money. Based on the Core 2 micro-architecture, they offer 2MB of Level 2 cache, an 800MHz front side bus, 64-bit operation and, of course, they are dual-core.

All of these Semprons can fit in motherboards that have an LGA775 CPU socket.

AMD's Sempron, on the other hand, is a 64-bit, single-core CPU with a smaller amount of Level 2 cache than its Celeron counterparts (128KB), but it can be bought for up to $100 less.

However, AMD's Athlon 64 X2 CPUs are much better value. They are dual-core CPUs with 512KB of Level 2 cache, they run very cool and they can be purchased from $100. They are, perhaps, the best value CPUs on the market as far as price versus performance is concerned (at the time of writing) and they will plug into any motherboard that has an AM2 CPU socket.

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