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The Plot Congeals a Bit

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The last couple of days have been pretty tough, hardware-wise. I bit the bullet and rigged up my shiny new 7900GT in my gaming machine (and fixed the northbridge cooling) over a week ago now, but I haven't had the heart to play much with it. Meanwhile, I'm still hobbling along on my old development box, and it's starting to be agonizing. Every little millisecond delay adds that much more frustration and annoyance - as a matter of fact, that was a large inspiration for yesterday's tome.

My original plan was to build a new dual-core development machine, based on my very pleasant experience with my new dual-core laptop. Someone pointed out the imminent Core 2 Duo launch from Intel, and a corresponding rumour that AMD would slash prices on their processors to try and avoid taking a massive beating. I'm still not sure whether or not I'm thankful for that tip, as it's caused me a lot of suffering - delayed enjoyment of New Hardware Goodies is very hard to cope with.

Now, though, things are getting really interesting. With the NDAs on Core 2 Duo lifted, we're starting to see some of the first solid benchmarks of the new lineup - and it is absolutely, uncontestably clear that AMD has been spanked. Bitchslapped. Pwned, to adopt the popular parlance of the community.

Of course, there have been hints of that for weeks now; however, up until now, a vital piece of the puzzle was missing: launch pricing. Let me tell you, folks, the launch pricing is just plain and simple orgasmic. There is no other word to capture it.

To put it in a nutshell: take the top-end FX processor from AMD. Yeah, the ones that cost like $950 a shot. Now imagine a processor that's a good 20% faster, with half the power consumption. That processor costs $320.

This is a hard thing for me to take; for quite a while now I've been building AMD machines exclusively. In fact, the laptop is the first Intel machine I've owned in close to 5 years. It has nothing to do with company loyalty, mind you; I'm a total whore, and I'll jump ship in a heartbeat for whoever has the best value available. The shocker is that not only has Intel started actually offering good value again, it's actually incomparable with AMD. There simply isn't any contest. Considering how laughably inferior the Pentium 4 architecture has been in practice (especially compared with the hype it received in the early days), I'm just plain floored at this comeback.

But of course the decision gets sticky. I'm more or less settled on the E6600 ($320 MSRP, probably run $300 street on places like NewEgg) as it hits the sweet spot of value-for-money as far as I'm concerned. However, the problem is that motherboard lineups are currently a bit iffy. Not all LGP775 motherboards will cope with the Core 2 Duo's features, and I'm not going to take the dive on being an early adopter if I can't even adopt half the goodness I'm paying for. This means I'll probably need to wait for motherboard announcements - and that means a price wildcard.

There is hope, though; for several years now, high-end motherboards for brand-new CPU lines tend to run between $180 and $220 around launch time. So based on this estimate, plus the cost of the CPU itself, I can roughly guage what it would cost to go Conroe vs. going Athlon X2.

Bottom line is that I could go X2 now and get a decent stack of hardware for $550, between the motherboard and CPU; a slightly less extravagant motherboard drops that to $500. If I wait for a couple more weeks (aaacckk) for the supposed price slashing, I can probably cut that down to $380 or $400. That is far from certain, however.

On the flip side, I can wait three more weeks (graaaagghhhh!! urghk!) and go with a hot-off-the-lines E6600, and matching motherboard. Based on my estimates, that'll drain me for roughly $500. If a decent value motherboard becomes available (quite likely, since a high-end mobo isn't really necessary for me) I might get away with... $400 or so.

In other words, I can opt for immediate gratification, scratch my hardware-lust itch, and land myself a reasonably performant CPU and motherboard. After waiting for shipping, I could be writing code on it in a week's time. Or, I can hold out another month, and for the same amount of money, get a machine that absolutely shatters what the AMD box possibly could have offered. Plus, I get an extra month to collect interest on my savings, which means I (sort of) save a tiny bit extra cash.

It hurts to think about hobbling along on this old crusty box for another month, but after all the railing I did against the gimme-now attitude yesterday, I'll probably have to suck it up and just wait. At least that wait will be very much worth it [smile]
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AMD is fucked pretty badly; the Core Duo is an excellent chip, and I imagine the Core 2 Duo to be just as good (if not better).

I believe that AMD said their plan was to offer their chip design to more companies to manufacture it, thus winning by cloning. I don't exactly know how this benefits AMD outside of marketshare and possible licensing.

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As the anonymous coward who posted that you wait, I apologize for your dilemma. However, the turtle wins the race. Wait a few weeks, it will be unbelievably awesome what you will be able to purchase with the same amount of money.

I CANNOT wait to upgrade!!!!

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evolutional - Thanks! Some days it's hard to decide if I'm being useful or just wasting a lot of time burbling hot air that everyone will scroll past looking for pretty screenshots, and then close the tab and move on to something else. A little ego-boost in the comments makes it all worth while [smile]

AP - yeah, I really dramatize it a lot here, but in reality the wait isn't that hard. The advantages of going Core2 are just so huge over going AMD; it's like not buying a Yugo because someone has offered you a Ferarri for the same price you wait an extra month. Sure, I can walk for a month!

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