Pentium-III or Athlon at 600MHz?
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Dear CPU Scorekeeper

I'm buying a new CPU. My trusty PII-233 has served me well, but it's time to say good-bye! I want to hit the 600MHz group BUT

PIII 600B or Athlon 600??

All the signs point to Athlon: more bus, higher benchmark scores and better prices!! The MoBo might run me a couple bucks more but that's no problem. For some strange reason, I feel that if I buy an AMD I will be giving something up...WHAT is it? I can't find it, but I can't kick the feeling!

  1. Is there ANY advantage the PIII has over the Athlon? Is there ANY reason I should pay more money and give up performance to stay in the Intel family?

  2. In addition, what about RAM? With whatever CPU I pick, will PC133 RAM help or even work? Is PC100 just fine?

- - Treg, December 1999

See the questionCPU Scorekeeper Responds

  1. The main advantage that the Pentium-III line has over its Athlon competitor is the wider third-party support for motherboards and their SSE (multimedia) instruction set for gaming applications. Most developers, including Microsoft with Windows' Direct-X drivers, support both SSE and AMD's roughly equivalent 3DNow! technology. This increased support for Intel is due only to their respected name, long history, and continued dominance in the industry, rather than to any overwhelming technical advantages at this point.

    Leaving the Intel processor family for AMD's new hotshot on the block can thus feel somewhat like betraying an old, trusted friend. Rest assured, however, that there are millions of computer users around the world that are very satisfied having AMD inside. Ideally, any buying decision should be devoid of emotion to ensure the best performing system for your needs and budget. In reality, you also need to consider the relationships you may have with your local retailers for support and advice in the future.
  2. PC133 RAM is still somewhat of an emerging technology, offering varying degrees of performance gain and stability depending on how much you want to spend. Beware of retailers re-marking (and re-pricing) PC100 RAM that has merely 'tested' OK at 133MHz.

    That being said, many motherboards still do not fully support PC133 RAM or, as is the case for current Athlon boards, run it at only 100MHz anyway.

    On the cheap, PC100 RAM will do just fine for now. Springing for PC133 RAM will, however, better future-proof your system as motherboard capabilities improve. Just make sure   you check out the system configuration recommendations for both Athlon and Pentium-III processors before you buy.

For some additional advice on the subject, see the following links from CNet's Help line:

on Pentium-III boards: How useful is PC133 for Pentiums?
The BX chipset may have problems overclocking to 133MHz

on Athlon boards: 200MHz FSB vs PC133
and

The bottom line on PC-133 RAM

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