I wasn't looking forward to this... For once, it's going to be difficult in decided upon a winner. Both CPU's are scorchingly fast.
One thing you will probably consider first is price. Having a look at the latest LOWEST prices (not MSRP), we see this:
AthlonXP 2000+ - $273.93
Look a little further and you will see that a P4 2.0A GHz can be had for just $372. That is a bit better, but it will be quite a bit slower than both CPU's we looked at here.
So AMD once again wins the price war for top end CPU's.
But is price the only thing you look at when buying a CPU? No way! Speed-wise, we can say that the P4 2.2 and AXP2000 are pretty even, with a moderate edge to the P4. This bodes well for the P4 platform, because Intel really has the ability to ramp up the clock speeds with the 0.13 micron Northwood core. AthlonXP can keep up for the time being, but when we start seeing 3 GHz+ Pentium 4's, AthlonXP will be eating dust. Of course by then the AXP will probably be long dead...
We looked at price and speed, but how about 'quality of product'? I think a lot of people overlook the user friendliness of the CPU's. I have been installing and uninstalling CPU's a LOT since I started this site 2 year ago, and let me tell you, nothing scares me more than hearing a crack when installing a heatsink on an Athlon CPU. And let me tell you this as well; I have heard that crack more than one time!
It's not that I am especially clumsy or anything; these CPU's are VERY weak! I am glad Intel reintroduced the heat spreader with the Pentium 4, and as a matter of fact, Pentium III's are starting to show up with heat spreaders - even non-Tualtins!
In addition to the heat spreader, I must say that I LOVE the mSocket-478 platform. The heatsinks are a lot easier to install an uninstall, and even without a heat spreader they are safer for the CPU. AthlonXP unfortunately stuck using an older Socket-A platform, which relies on a single clip across the CPU. This adds to the threat of cracking the fragile face of the AthlonXP.
Speaking of heatsinks, the AthlonXP runs a LOT hotter than the Pentium 4. This is only an issue if you are highly concerned about fan noise, since the AthlonXP requires a little more aggressive cooling. The stock Intel cooler works just fine at just 2500 RPM. Even at default speeds, an AthlonXP is going to require a higher RPM fan. Also, for those running their comp in a cramped space (although I am sure most of our readers take care not to do this, we must again consider Joe AOL), you might even run into some overheating problems at stock speed.
I have to mention overclocking of course, because right now you should be able to snag a P4 1.6A for just around $150, and have it running at 2.1 GHz easily.
Of course, the same goes for the AthlonXP, though it will not be as easy as simply changing the FSB speed. You are going to need some pretty hefty cooling, which means a loud PC. You are going to have to spend some time tweaking things in order to get it running smoothly, but of course for many people that is half the fun!
I'll definitely give the edge to Pentium 4 in terms of overclocking.
The Final Word
One concern I had was whether the Northwood core would propel the P4 above the AthlonXP rating system. That turned out to be a non-issue. I guess AMD was thinking ahead with their conservative ratings.
The AthlonXP 2000+ certainly won't set you back very far, and it will easily handle a P4 2.0A. However, when you consider the overall picture, especially the physical advantages of the Pentium 4 Northwood, and the fact that your P4 motherboard will support the next few Intel CPU releases, I would have to say it is probably worth the extra change for the new P4. Once more programs start to make use of SSE2 instructions, the gap will become even wider. Go back and look at the Prim95 test results to see what I mean.
Still, the decision remains a very difficult one, due to price. One thing that is for certain is that you will not lose with either CPU! I am going to give the nod to Intel in this round, however. The overall product just seems better to me; quieter, cooler, less fragile. All this comes with some extra cost, but in this case I would say it is worth it; the Northwood Pentium 4 is a very impressive CPU!
Winner: Intel Pentium 4 Northwood!
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