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Which CPU should I buy?

Posted on 2006-06-21
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Last Modified: 2008-01-09
Hi

I do a lot of audio processing (recording and saving wav and mp3 files) and I'm tired of waiting for my computer to finish its tasks-  I want to speed it up. Here is the system I'm using:

I'm running windows 98SE with 512 mb of RAM. (Don't tell me to switch to XP. I've heard it runs no faster.) My hard drive is a Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 (ST3160812A) 160GB 7200 RPM IDE Ultra ATA100. It has an 8 mb buffer. My motherboard is a gigabyte 7vm33m-rz. The motherboard can handle cpu's of up to 3200, as listed here

http://tw.giga-byte.com/Support/Motherboard/CPUSupport_List.aspx?ClassValue=Motherboard&ProductID=1781&ProductName=7VM333M-RZ

The cpu I have now in the computer is a Duron 1.8, 133 mhz, 266 fsb. I thought the first thing I should do is to upgrade the cpu, but when I look at the list in the link above of all of the possible cpu's that my motherboard can handle, I don't know where to begin. Would someone please help me choose the best one? I see listed there these types: K7 Sempron, AthlonXP, Athlon, and Palomino. What's the difference between them? I don't play video games on my computer, and I just want a fast cpu that's reliable. I'm willing to pay for it, but if there's a $50 difference between the fastest model and the second fastest, and the second fastest is just 10% slower, I'll go with the second fastest.

Thanks very much
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Question by:shlomofu99
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by:jhance
ID: 16949947
1) Switch to XP.  It _does_ run faster in almost all circumstances but more importantly, Win98 is now a dangerous operating system (not that it was all that safe before).  MS has ended all support for 98 and there are now NO new updates or patches for it.  There are multiple unpatched vulnerabilities in it.  Furthermore, it's limited to 128MB of resource space.  So regardless of how much RAM you have, the system will often bog down since it will hit the 128MB limit.  Win98 doesn't support EITHER of the newest technologies, dual-core CPUs or 64-bit CPUs either of which might be a good thing for you to consider.

2) Get a dual-core CPU.  I prefer the AMD Athlon X2 CPUs since they outperform the Intel varieties and are less expensive.  Windows XP will support the dual-core things like processing audio will often be enhanced by the dual processing nature of the dual-core CPUs.

3) Consider a 64-bit CPU even if you choose NOT to go to an x64 operating system at this point.  With the 64-bit hardware you will have the option of going to x64 in the future.  It's my opinion that 64-bit will be upon us very soon.  Windows XP x64 is here now as is Windows 2003 Server x64 and they work great and offer almost unlimited access to memory resources.  Work like you are doing DOES benefit from larger physical RAM size and the larger virtual space available to x64 processes.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16949981
Thanks for trying to help, but can you please work on the assumption that I'm sticking with windows 98SE, and sticking with the motherboard I described?

By the way, I've been told that I can handle about 437 mb of RAM, not 128 MB
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by:Titanium_Sniper
ID: 16950392
Of cource I would recomend upgrading your motherboard and getting a much faster 64bit processor for future compatibility because when the 64bit operating systems come out with good driver support 64 bit processors will be the fastest.

The athlon xp's are the fastest on the list but it is really up to you how much you are willing to spend:
they dont really sell these anymore on websites I use but heres one on ebay recently they have been selling for about $100.00 however you will have to attach your own fan and use your own thermal greese if you buy this one.
http://cgi.ebay.com/AMD-AthlonXP-3000-Barton-core-POWERFUL-AS-NEW_W0QQitemZ103001284545QQihZ013QQcategoryZ44935QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
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by:jhance
ID: 16950447
I was NOT talking about how much RAM you can install on the system, nor how much RAM that Win98SE can access.  I'm talking about SYSTEM RESOURCES which are severly limited (to 128MB) in Win98 and it's MSDOS-based cousins, Win95 and WinME.

See:

http://reviews.cnet.com/5208-6130-0.html?forumID=7&threadID=58715&messageID=702199

This limit is imposed by the need to maintain compatibilty with old MSDOS apps on these platforms.  WinNT/2000/XP never had this compatiblity and is why there were apps that never did run on these platforms.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950462
Thanks, but why would I need my own thermal grease? The grease is probably still stuck to the CPU. I know when I've changed my CPU fan in the past, the grease remained on the CPU.

Also, how does the AthlonXP compare with the K7 Sempron- which one is better for me? I can also get a K7 Sempron at the same speed.

Thanks
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950483
Jhance

Thanks,  I never knew of that limitation. But I still want to stick to Windows 98SE, so I'm looking for an answer within that context. Which processor to get between the  K7 Sempron and AthlonXP.
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by:jhance
ID: 16950500
What's your motivation with staying with an obsolete OS?  Win98 is 7+ years old and it is riddles with issues at this point.  Why not make the break now since you're upgrading the hardware?
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950547
* I know Windows 98SE inside and out, and have no time to learn a new system. I almost never crash with it.

* I have many programs on it that I'll need new versions for if I switch over, taking more of my time

* Given that I have 1.8 Duron and limited time, the most logical thing to do is to see if a CPU switch would be enough for me, especially since the waits I'm putting up with aren't all that bad- I figure that I waste a total of about 15 minutes a day waiting for the computer to do its work, not more. I don't spend the more than an hour or so a day doing audio editing.
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by:smiffy13
ID: 16950593
hi shlomofu99
It's getting harder to get these old processors and you may have to revert to ebay as suggested by TS. If you live in the US, I see newegg's have still got a couple of Sempron's that are on your list: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16819104206 note that it's a CPU only, so you'll have to get a heatsink for it, but I see newegg's have a heap of compatable heatsink's.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950614
Thanks, but I still don't know whether to get a K7Sempron or an AthlonXP- can you help me out with that? What's the difference between them?
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by:Titanium_Sniper
Titanium_Sniper earned 30 total points
ID: 16950674
athlonxp has more transistors per chip and at least in the 2800 athlonxp has double the L2 cache so athlon is fater than semperon but you will save about $20-30
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by:Titanium_Sniper
ID: 16950694
just another idea, you only wait 15 minutes total a day,
getting a new processor probably will not make your waits go away, just fyi
most likely getting more ram is more cost effective and for your motherboard ram costs almost nothing.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950770
TS

Windows 98SE can't use more RAM anyway. Do you really think that a faster processor won't make my waits go away? How could that be- do you mean because my RAM is too small, i.e. that since Windows 98SE can handle a relatively small amount of RAM compared to XP, and audio processing is - I would guess from your response - much more a function of RAM than of processor speed, getting a faster processor than my Duron 1.8 won't matter? Is that what you're saying?

I take it, though, that if do switch, you feel the AthlonXP is a better choice, even though it's up to $30 more.

Thanks
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by:smiffy13
smiffy13 earned 30 total points
ID: 16950815
It seems that this is true: Athlon XP is better than a Sempron. Here's a couple of links that may help: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/127 http://forums.amd.com/lofiversion/index.php/t51041.html
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950816
I should add that most of my waits occur when I either load my mp3 files into the editing prodram, or when I use the program to save the mp3 files. When I normalise the files (i.e. have the whole file be at around the same decibel level), I have only a small, tolerable wait.

Searching for files, and other 'large' actions give me only a minimal wait.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950829
Smiffy13

Thanks for the great link.

But tell me- do you also think that upgrading my cpu is a waste of time, that it won't reduce waits?
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by:Callandor
ID: 16950871
The Sempron is an AthlonXP with half the cache, though it still has more than a Duron: http://www.techwarelabs.com/reviews/processors/sempron/.  Cache makes a big difference up to 512K, and less as cache goes beyond that.

Win98 does a poor job handling memory; I agree with others that this may be a good time to completely upgrade.  If you choose not to, you can get some more life in your current system, up to 2.8GHz, but video and audio encoding are two applications that benefit from the fastest cpu possible.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950906
Thanks Callandor

So do you think that upgrading my CPU to a 2.8 or more model will reduce my waits by at least a third?
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by:Callandor
ID: 16950928
Very likely, since you have a Duron 1.8 right now.  That's a 50% improvement on speed alone, and you also have the larger cache.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16950938
Thanks Callandor

I understand what you're saying. I'm waiting to see how others weigh in on this before I close the topic.

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by:Titanium_Sniper
ID: 16951491
i am saying that spending $100 to reduce the waits by 1/3 may not be cost effective especially since you will have to get a new motherboard/processor in the future when you upgrade. New computers only cost $300 right now and have XP preinstalled and are about as fast. Personally I would wait untill a good 64 bit os and audio editing software is availible and upgrade then to get a performance boost.
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by:BBPebkac
ID: 16951578
Go with the fastest Athlon XP chip your budget will allow.  Dabbling or thinking about a Sempron is like wondering if you go for a four banger or V12 when you want muscle out of your car. It just doesn't make sense and your wasting your time.

Keep in mind also that Socket A AMD chips are not as easy to come by in retail as they once were because they have been surpassed by the Socket 939/754 standard. Less availablity for an older technology may result in you paying more than you'd like.

Secondly, you should have a gig of memory (PC2700, 333Mhz) by the specs of your motherboard if you went with the fastest processor it supports. 1 gig is probably the maximum amount Windows 98SE can address safely efficiently.

So in a nutshell go with a Athlon XP, preferebly a AthlonXP 3000+ (333 Mhz FSB) and 1 gig of ram (PC2700/333Mhz).

It all boils down to how much your willing to spend.


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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16951593
Thanks for your input, TS.  But I can't wait, since I audio-edit every day, and I haven't the time to both make all my programs XP-ready, and to learn a new os. (A new AthlonXP 2.8 cpu at ebay is under $100.)
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by:smiffy13
ID: 16951737
While we all seem to agree that an A/XP would be best, where are you going to buy an A/XP from? A search of newegg reveals that they don't stock them anymore. I know I couldn't buy one from any of my local suppliers either. So unless you know of a source, you may be forced to buy a 2nd hand one from ebay.
I agree with Callandor that you should see an improvement in your wait times, but this sort of thing is hard to quantify, there could be other bottlenecks in your system: different motherboards perform differently, type of ram etc.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16951778
BB

Thanks for thehelpful reply.  Someone on this forum told me that Windows 98SE can address much lower than 512 mb, I believe it was 437 mb, so are you sure it can handle 1 gig?

Also, must I upgrade my RAM to the faster speed? It's 266 Mhz now. Will the new cpu not work with it, or are you just saying that it'll improve my system?

Thanks again
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16951798
smiffy

They're sold at ebay. They don't seem hard to come by there, even new ones.

As for the bottlenecks, you're right, but it's worth the risk.
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by:smiffy13
ID: 16951834
OK.

Don't put more than 512Mb of ram in your system, as you may run into this problem: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;EN-US;q253912
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16951908
Smiffy

That was a great link. Thanks very much.

Do you know if I'll need to change my RAM to a  PC2700/333Mhz if I get a new,  AthlonXP 2800 or 3000?

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by:smiffy13
ID: 16951983
You should upgrade to 333Mhz to match the CPU FSB speed, but your 266Mhz ram will still work.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16952036
Thanks

That's what I thought.
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tmj883 earned 45 total points
ID: 16953220
Where can this mainboard/cpu combination go to 2.8 GHz...Callandor is confused...the fastest cpu combination on this platform is the XP3200+ running at 2.2 GHZ and that's about a 20% increase in clock speed over your Duron. Less in real performance.
It is not worth any more investment in this platform as the increase in performance will be marginal. You will be dissappointed after spending 100-200 bucks and getting 50 cents worth of performance increase. Yeah, faster but only the benchmarks can tell.
Your mainboard only supports up to 333 mHz memory.
To run Win98/SE with large amounts of memory, vcache settings need to be limited to prevent performance degradation/system crashes and still remains limited at 384MB even with modified vcache. No support/no new drivers/very vulnerable,,,is Win98.
If you really want a budget system taht is capable of meeting your computing style needs, I recommend that you explore changing your platform to an Intel Pentium D 805 based system. I recently built a system for a friend who likes downloading, buring, ripping music/movies etc. The mainboard/cpu combination was US$150. The entire PC(monitor not included) plus a copy of Windows XP Home Edition was under US$500. Buy the mainboard/cpu and memory that you'll need anyway and use the remaining components from your current system.
You will get the performance increase you want as this little cpu is a gift from intel...I have both a Duron 1.6gHz Applebred and an XP 2700+(2.17gHz) on NForce2 platforms. The Pentium D 805...completely outshines the Duron and is almost as fast as my 2700 in single threaded apps, but it continues to outshine the XP with mutithreaded and/or mutiple applications running.
Wait...read...
http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/05/10/dual_41_ghz_cores/
http://www.anandtech.com/cpuchipsets/showdoc.aspx?i=2736
T

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by:Callandor
ID: 16953487
tmj883 is right - I was looking at the AthlonXP 2800+ rating, not the actual clock speed, whereas the Duron was quoted in clock speed.

I am not surprised at the Pentium D 805's overclockability.  Over the past, Intel has released cpus capable of 50% overclock, starting with the Celeron 300a and ending with the P4 1.8 Northwood A's.
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by:shlomofu99
ID: 16954013
I can get a new athlon 2.8 for about $80, and buying that makes more sense to me than spending the time to build a new system - unless it's unlikely such a cpu will make a big difference. But I gather from the replies I've gotten until now that it'll probably cut my wait time by at least a third, which is enough for me for now.

Used ones there are even less- about $50, incl shipping.
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by:Callandor
ID: 16954483
shlomofu99,

My previous calculation was off, as tmj883 pointed out, because I made a mistake in the speed rating, so do not base it on that.  The AthlonXP 3200+ runs at 2.2GHz, so that gives you roughly a 20% increase in speed, probably a little more because of the faster 166 bus, but not a 50% increase.
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by:puter_geek
puter_geek earned 20 total points
ID: 16957036
If you want to upgrade later, in about a month and a half there is going to be a major price war between intel and AMD.  AMD is talking about 50% price cuts on certain CPU's and I'm sure intel won't be too far behind.  
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Author Comment

by:shlomofu99
ID: 16958065
Thanks guys. I'm closing this question. You've all been very helpful. I rethought all of your comments, and see that the best thing for me to do is what TMJ said- spend $150 on a new motherboard-cpu combination, and build my computer around that. And if not, to wait a couple of months and get a cheap AthlonXP 2800, although if I do that I shouldn't expect more than a 20% savings in time.

Thanks to all of you. You've really been great.
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