Be careful with questions like that. They seem to start serious flame wars, because everyone has their own opinions and biases.
Right now, most people feel that the Athlon is a more well-balanced CPU on a more mature platform. However, this does not change the fact that the P4 is becoming a good Chip, in its own right.
At this point, because Intel expects to switch out the sockets for the P4 in only a few months, I cannot recommend an investment in that platform.
P4 also costs more than T-bird.
As to which is better... if you're a gamer or a video pirate, the P4 is a better and more powerful chip. It's multimedia power is unriveled, and It's gaming tends to edge out the Athlon in many apps.
If you are a gamer (who is willing to pay 50% less for 10% fewer frames per second) the Athlon could still be good for you, but if you do a good deal of professional graphics, animation, or CAD, the Athlon is your certain choice, as the P4 is very poor in these areas, and the Athlon is very fast here.
Other caveats -
If you want a quiet PC, your choice should be Intel.
If you are in a warm environment, your choice should be Intel.
If you don't want RDRAM, your choice should be AMD.
If you are on a limited budget, your choice should be AMD.
If you want stability and reliability, your choice should be Intel.
Okay, I'm gonna stick my neck out on this, so don't take it as flame bait. AMD CPUs are great, they're cheap, perform real well and now the motherboards to run them on are about the same price as a comparable Pentium III motherboard. However, I've had soo many Slot-A and Socket-A motherboard in our testing labs and only a few of them were able to reach the level of stability offered by for example a good BX motherboard.
One of the things that I find very important is the need for stability, if I choose to leave my computer on for a week, while its running a bunch of SETI@home WUs or is just acting as a file/web-server I expect it to crash only if there some software glitch, not because my motherboards chipset starts acting funny or some Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer choose to cut corners by mounting some components of lesser quality and run them at 110%.
Many of the systems that I use have an Intel CPU, not because they're better, AMDs engineers are just as capable if not more capable to design a cutting edge CPU core, but because the available motherboards for Intel CPUs are of a much better quality than those for AMD. I'm not saying Intel makes bug-free chipsets, but they do a whole lot better than VIA which currently is just about the sole supplier of AMD Socket-A chipsets (not counting AMD 760 or ALi here).
If a system is not able to finish a 72-hour testrun where its running a bunch of looped benchmarks such as SYSmark, Prime, SPEC, etc. that push it to 100% without crashing, than that system isn't stable in my book. I've had that problem with a large number of VIA Socket-A motherboards, even of a respected brand. Sometimes even the components used in the system, videocard, HD, etc. would cause for the system to crash, swapping them out for a different model would remedy the problem, so we're clearly talking compatibility issues here.
If I then run a number of BX chipset motherboards, overclocked to a 155MHz FSB for three months, 24/7, without a single reboot running SETI@home I'm very tempted to conclude that AMD systems are inherently less stable than Intel systems. Surely software configuration and drivers amount to a great deal of compatibility issues, but VIA chipsets haven't been the pinnacle of stability in the past few years.
In my opinion AMD based systems offer great value, and performance wise there's a lot to be said about them being faster than an Intel platform. But if you, like me, consider stability to be of the utmost importance you'll need to select your components wisely and don't push it too far. Intel systems in that aspect are a bit more forgiving, because of the simple fact that Intel, its x86 CPUs, and the established base of software has been based on Intel CPUs and Intel software compilers for years. AMD's x86 implementation is not 100% equal to Intel or they would be sued for patent infringement, they're no longer just copying Intel designs like in the days of the 386. Thus the AMD implementation is different and due to the fact that the software running on it is optimized and compiled for an Intel CPU you could potentially run into software compatibility problems.
This can either result in crashes, instability, the inability to run certain applications, driver related crashes and incompatibility issues with certain combinations of hardware. And although I respect AMD for being able to outplay Intel in the performance field, for mission critical applications I'd go with an Intel system running software compiled for Intel platforms.
I like to think that anyone who is going to buy a Processor and motherboard would take the time to find out about any incompatabilities BEFORE making the purchase.
I have a MSI KT-266PRO-R board and there has been some problems with it but I haven't had any except for an IRQ assignment problem early on. I overclocked my 1.33Ghz T-bird to 1.55G and have run Genome@home for a week straight so far and haven't had to reboot yet. Fingers crossed, but so far I've had no more stability problems with AMD than with Intel and I've had many systems built for each.
I'd say that 90% of all my problems over the past few years have involved either video card drivers or directX. And it hasn't made a difference which CPU I was using.
I have several systems on my home network. More importantly, I have 3 systems that cannot be down for any amount of time without a replacement being online. My post office server currently holds the record for being online over 11 months without interruption of any kind. It is a large cache P3 Xeon 550 running Win2k. It will come offline for a much needed software upgrade when SP2 is available. My other record setter is a P2 450 that is the DC and runs DNS, NAT and Proxy Server.
I truly believe that stability is the reason AMD has not been able to crack the business market. After 10 years of attempts, they are just getting a toehold in the SOHO business desktop market. Business has a long memory. It remembers the problems with the early AMD processor chips.
It all depends, and its unfortunate that people can't seem to realize this sometimes. Different users need different types of machines. I dont see why people can't realize that, I dont even see how flame wars start. heh.
Too many darn variables, too many different configuration a computer can have these days. Sorta anyway.
But yeah Sander dude is right, obvious the CPUs will come attach with specific chipsets, so performance varies from there. And some graphics card works well with some specific chipset.. and some hard drive.. and some ram... and some sound card... and it gets worse and worse and when you go beyond the hardware compatibility you hit the software and then you have Windows. lol. Well you dont have to pick that OS, but yeah... then there's more choices in that, and boy those OS definitely would effect the way that comp runs. heh.
What! No AMD kiddies screaming AMD rulz, as if thier selfesteem and the size of their manhood depends on them supposedly having the fastest cpu, or atleast having one faster than a particular Intel cpu?
I don't believe what I've been reading. This is (so far) has been one of the very, very few discussions about the relitive merrits of the two competing cpu's I've seen in a long time without all that disgusting childishness.
I hope this can be more the norm than a little seen or heard of rareity.
As for me I'm an Intel user and stablitly to important a issue to pass off for a little extra speed in a couple of apps I must use. But, in saying this I am currently trying out an Soyo, SY-7VCA2 with the VIA 133a chip set combo. My server is running a Soyo SY-6BA+IV with the good old stable as ever BX chip set. I have had some stability probems with the new setup. Dumping DX8 may solve most of it.
I really believe that people have a personal preference based on how things 'feel'. Some poeple feel better behind an AMD, and some feel better behind an Intel. Not a lot unlike cars. For example, I don't think an SUV makes a whole lot of sense from a cost, gas economy, or even safety point of view. But some people FEEL more comfortable driving one. More power to you. It's completely subjective. I don't have to drive one, but that doesn't make your comfort with one any less real.
Some people just wont feel right with an AMD or Intel. In that case, I say its worth the extra cost or effort or whatever to buy something you're happy and comfortable with. You can't put a pricetag on that. If you feel like a P4 will make you happier, get it. If you think you'd feel better with an Athlon, get that.
...all seems to be in the direction of DirectX, Video drivers and, on two occasions, a 3Com 3C905C-TX card that just plain refused to work right no matter what on a TBird/KT133A system. All of the problems can be attributed to badly written software or driver-installation routines.
Everything else works as it should, or as I excpected.
I can not say that P3 on BX is any better or worse - its simply more mature, its also 3 years older and 3 years slower.
If you must have absolute stability you dont buy x86 anyway, so I know which type of platform makes the most sense for me.
The only thing I will openly criticise AMD about is 70W is a lot of heat to dissipate from such a small surface area.
I unfortunately (i guess) haven't had any p3 systems to let me actually know anything about them... I have only a athlon 700 & tbird 700. Both work fine, 100% of the time. The athy's vid card overheats (geforce ddr), and I frequently destroy the OS on the tbird, but I can't attribute anything to hardware. linux has never crashed.
of course, as this is all anecdotal evidence, I must trust sander, who has reviewed and tested much more than I ever will
I just want to say that on my VIA chipset, I've never had a problem with stability. Furthermore, my Intel machines are just as stable. There is no evidence in my experience that would lead me to say the AMD and VIA are less stable then Intel chipsets.
I am the manager of a system integrater, we sell parts, and we sell complete computers. I have built and tested more computers in the last year than most people ever will. We are growing rapidly, and it is thanks to one thing:
Why? you ask. simple. AMD came out swinging with the Athlon. The industry needed it at that time. Then they inproved upon it with the TBird. They drove the prices down Made fast chips available to anyone at a very reasonable price.
And on top of that, the Athlon is a stable chip. Period. Some of you may say otherwise, but I can name just as many Intel machines that were just as unstable as any AMD. I've built enough to know that for a fact. Cheaply made Motherboards, cheaply made video cards, cheap ram. ANYTHING can cause system instability. It is almost never the processor itself, I say almost, because I have indeed seen this happen with a CPU.
Now, as for the P4 or Athlon. I say either. Just get quality components. Read the reviews, make an educated decision.
As for store bought systems, buy a trusted name, maybe even not a Name Brand, and definately not one who has made poor systems before....you know the ones.
And VIA chipsets, well, they have proved to be very stable, I am running right now a Athlon 800 and a MSI K7TPro 2A with Micron memory, and a Leadtek GeForce2 Pro. Running Win2K and 100% stable.
But, again, quality components. Buy a cheap motherboard with KT133 chipset, stability might be sacrificed.
They have all put out poorly made computers. Store bought computers are LESS reliable than one you build yourself because you won't skimp on the parts. Once you realize how cheap the parts are you won't have any reason to buy a GeForce2MX for your P4 or 1.33Ghz T-bird. Or a 5400RPM 20G generic HD.
But buy a prebuilt system and they will have something along those lines inside. And you'll pay twice as much for their efforts.
i agree with most of the statements made today. Except one. "As to which is better... if you're a gamer or a video pirate, the P4 is a better and more powerful chip. It's multimedia power is unriveled, and It's gaming tends to edge out the Athlon in many apps" I believe the P4 is indeed better for business related multimedia content such as photoshop (once optimized to run screamin cindy 2) and other such apps. However, clock for clock (and AMD is now about 200-300 MHZ behind the P4 in clock speed) the Athlon is better suited for gamers. The Athlon is 300 mhz slower and still manages to win a couple defacto benchmarks. I also agree that Athlon's achiles heel is indeed the chipset it runs on. VIA has always been unstable. AMD just can't produce its own PCB because it doesn't own the Fab Facilities. But check out some of these reviews and you make up your mind: http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.html?i=1441 http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/01q1/010322/index.html http://www.tomshardware.com/cpu/00q4/001206/index.html
All of these will tell you that each processesor is a champ in its own niche. Yet you can not say definately that one is better then the other. My opinion is this. Thank god for AMD, wether you think AMD is inferior or superior, it helped bring down the prices of processesors so dramatically that you can easily purchase or build Gigahertz machines for less then $1000. and no matter on which proc you decide to buy, you have a decent system that can last you for a while.
The one thing I should have metioned before is that even though I am an Intel user, I'm glad to see the AMD CPU's giving Intel such a good run for their money. This has driven the price's down to a more reasonable level for all of us and it has also brought faster CPU's to the market quicker.
My thanks to the fokes at AMD.
At the same time though, AMD just can't cut it in the Multimedia apps I use more and more each day now. Maybe next year.
>>question should not be what cpu to buy, but what platform.
Like Sander says in his comment, it is not a cpu issue but a platform issue. And his relpy on the question i can only aggree with. I am a via fan because the keep innnovating their product. On the other hand, all my systems at home ar running on intel platforms. For one reason only: stableability.(my english somtimes realy sucks).
I think if AMD would choose to make theyr own chipset like intel does, the comparisso would be more fair. Intel CPU on third party chipsets do not provide an stable environment either. Only logical i guess.