When you compare the literature on the Intel Pentium 4 processor vs. the AMD Athlon, you may think the Pentium 4 is going to kick some butt.

But if you listen to TechRepublic members about the two chips, it is difficult to find Pentium 4 supporters. Many members still love the Pentium III, and AMD is getting lots of support for price and stability.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why Intel and AMD think their respective products are the best and what members are saying about the two chips.

First, the contenders
Our comparison pits microprocessor heavyweight Intel against its biggest challenger, AMD. Intel has long enjoyed the business of IT professionals and large computer makers, although AMD has gained an equally enthusiastic following among IT pros to become a serious contender.

Intel makes its case
The bigger player in the processor battle is Intel. How can you go wrong with an Intel processor inside your box?

The selling points of Intel’s Pentium 4 include the following:

  • Speeds ranging from 1.3 to 1.8 GHz
  • 400-MHz system bus
  • Hyper pipelined technology, doubling pipeline depth to 20
  • Streaming SIMD Extensions 2 graphics technology that includes 144 new instructions
  • Advanced Level 1 cache technology called Execution Trace Cache that is supposed to make more efficient use of the L1 cache
  • The Intel 850 chipset requires a distinctly Pentium 4 compatible motherboard.
  • Works with dual-channel RDRAM

“The Intel Pentium 4 processor maximizes the performance of cutting-edge technologies such as digital video and online gaming and has an innovative design capable of taking full advantage of emerging Web technologies,” Intel boasts on its site.

For comparison purposes, an Intel Pentium 1.4-GHz chip can be bought for about $330.

AMD touts price and stability
AMD, Advanced Micro Devices, sells its chips for less money than Intel, but it has a reputation for stability and has built a loyal following.

The selling points of its Athlon chips are:

  • Speeds ranging from 1 to 1.4 GHz
  • System bus speeds at either 200 or 266 MHz
  • Superpipelined, nine-issue superscalar micorarchitecture
  • Enhanced 3DNow! Technology featuring superscalar SIMD floating point schemes
  • 384 K total of both Level 1 and Level 2 caches
  • Compatible with existing Socket A and AMD 760 chipset
  • Uses Double Data Rate (DDR) RAM

“The combination of exceptional performance, high clock frequencies, performance-enhancing cache memory, impressive bus bandwidth, and a reliable design makes the AMD Athlon processor family a powerful choice for high-end desktop systems, workstations, and servers,” AMD says of its Athlon chips.

For comparison purposes, an AMD Athlon 1.4-GHz chip can be bought for about $265.

Pentium 4 takes a beating by TechRepublic members
TechRepublic members have had an opportunity a couple of times this year to comment on the Pentium 4 chip, and it has not received the enthusiastic praises that you might expect for an industry leader’s most recent offering.

Dream machine will have other alternatives
In early February, Microsoft Challenge columnist Ed Bott reported on the responses he got when he asked for suggestions on how he should build his Windows Dream Machine for the new millennium.

Bott said in his column, “CPU wars,” that he has built and bought machines running Intel CPUs.

Members advised him to either stick with Intel Pentium IIIs or to switch to the AMD Athlon.

Member Kieth McKeever told Bott he has an AMD 400-MHz chip that he is overclocking to 500 MHz, and it is running nicely and is stable.

Another member, dlancaster, said that if compatibility problems limit you to Intel processors, “a PIII 800eb is a good solid chip with enough speed for the vast majority of users.”

Jay.Winks told Bott that if he’s interested in multiple processors, forget about the Athlon or the Pentium 4 and go with the Pentium III.

A call to arms
If you need confirmation of TechRepublic member impressions of the comparative merits of the Pentium 4 vs. the Athlon, or even Pentium III, then you need look no further than the discussion that follows Mark Gonzales’ “An IT manager shops for PCs and considers RAM and CPUs.”

Gonzales anticipated that readers would recommend that he stick with the Pentium III or AMD Athlon when he wrote, “Despite the positive reviews for other processors, I plan to buy the Pentium 4 because of Pentium’s proven performance and track record in our shop. I also believe the Pentium 4 is worth the investment because we won’t undergo another hardware upgrade before 2006.”

Well, he was right. In the discussion that followed, just about all of the 62 posts to the discussion recommended that Gonzales avoid the Pentium 4 for his purposes.

Eric L wrote that “Depending on what these PC’s will be doing, it seems that for the cost of going with Pentium 4 and the RDRAM, he could save quite a bit of money with Pentium III or AMD and be able to use the money he saves to move his next upgrade date up a little bit.”

According to phake, Intel will be changing the Pentium 4 to a new variant that will make the current motherboard and chipset a bad buying move now. “Read Intel’s roadmap, and you’ll find out that buying a current P4 is the quick path to having an obsolete processor.”

JasonCCTC points out that a Pentium 4 is overkill for most enterprises.

“Currently, there are few software packages that can take advantage of the P4’s advantages over the P3 and AMD offerings. This may change, but keep in mind that the software most likely to see benefit is that which is memory dependent, such as games, CAD/CAM, etc.,” he wrote. “The money you save by going with high-end P3 or [AMD] Thunderbird/Duron processor choices, you can put to good use taking care of the more glaring bottlenecks like hard drives, video, and memory.”

Do you have strong feelings about CPUs?

Is there anyone out there to sing the praises of the Intel Pentium 4? As best as we can tell, the Pentium 4 is best at graphics and games, but how important are those advantages in the enterprise? What is ahead for CPU chips? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.