Athlon 64 3000+ ďVeniceĒ core - $146 Newegg: Even though weíre building a ďbudgetĒ system, we didnít want to compromise on performance when it came to the processor. The CPU plays an important role in your systemís overall performance and is used for a wide variety of tasks, including A.I. and physics in games, and encoding for all you audio and video enthusiasts who read this site.
Traditional budget rigs ship with value processors, such as AMDís Sempron CPUs and Intelís Celeron line. These processors are largely based on their more expensive Athlon 64 and Pentium 4/D counterparts (although do keep in mind that there are quite a few Socket A Athlon XP-based Sempron processors floating around out there), with only a few features taken out to lower production costs. The most popular technique that both AMD and Intel use is to reduce the amount of onboard L2 cache, Athlon 64-based Sempron CPUs ship with only 256KB of L2 cache, thatís half the amount found in the Athlon 64 3500+ that we used in our $1,000 PC build, and just a fourth of the amount of memory found in one of AMDís higher-end Athlon 64 CPUs, such as the Athlon 64 4000+.
On the Intel platform, their Celeron processors not only ship with less onboard cache, they also ship with lower bus speeds, crippling overall system performance. AMDís Socket 754 Sempron CPUs feature an 800MHz HyperTransport interface, thatís 200MHz slower than the Socket 939 chips.
With this in mind, I knew I wanted to avoid AMD and Intelís value processors. With a $600 budget I felt I could afford to step up to a fully-fledged Athlon 64 CPU and still have enough room left over for the rest of the system components as long as I kept the clock speed of the CPU in check.
Hereís where AMDís ďVeniceĒ Athlon 64 3000+ comes in. While the chip only runs at 1.8GHz, itís built on AMDís latest 90-nm manufacturing process, which means the chip runs requires less juice and thus generates less heat. AMD has also made a few enhancements to the Venice core, including support for 11 of Intelís 13 SSE3 instructions. Venice also contains a tweaked memory controller which supports mismatched DIMM sizes as well as providing support for all four DIMM slots to be populated without a performance slowdown.
The 3000+ can be found for under $150, so I am devoting a good portion of my budget to the CPU, but considering the CPUís importance in overall system performance, I feel that itís necessary and will have to cut costs elsewhere in another system component. If you canít afford to budget approximately $150 for a 3000+ CPU, a good alternative would be the Athlon 64 2800+. The 2800+ utilizes AMDís older Socket 754 interface though capping you at the A64 3700+ for future upgrades, so keep that in mind when deciding on which processor to buy.