A lot can happen in 10 years, a lot can happen in 10 months. The computer industry is the fastest growing entity on this planet. With new generations of graphics cards and processors coming out every 6 months, it is costing more and more to keep our systems up to date with the newest technology to squeeze all the MHz our machines can muster. The Processor is the heart of the computer system, it is possibly the most important thing inside of a computer and it is the deciding factor for how fast the system can perform.
The top two companies that make processors are Intel and AMD. Up until the introduction of the K6-2, Intel practically dominated the processor market, everyone knew that if you wanted power, you needed a Pentium, then a Pentium II, then a Pentium III but the processor that gave the best bang for the buck was definitely the Celeron. Since the Celeron does not have has much L2 cache as a Pentium II or a Pentium III, it is cheaper. The great thing is that most games donít require the use of the L2 cache so in games, Celerons perform just as fast or sometimes faster than their Pentium III counterparts. Celerons are also a LOT cheaper than other chips so that was probably the deciding factor on choosing that chip. I left one thing out, the most important thing.... overclockability. How do power users get the most out of their systems? Overclocking. Overclocking is modifying a processor to run at a higher speed than it was originally intended to. The Celeron is undoubtedly the most overclockable family of processors in history. So, overclockability, speed, and price make the Celeron the processor of choice with many gamers. Of course thereís a part of the group that wants speed and can afford it. Those are the people who purchase the expensive Pentium III processor. The Pentium III is a fair overclocker but not as good as the Celeron.
AMD has been in the processor market for a long time now and theyíve made quite a name for themselves. Intelís arch rival ever since the beginning, AMD has had processors that perform on par with their Pentium equivalents. Their K6 chip was a formidable competitor to the Pentium from Intel and their K6-2 was probably the first processor to be recognized as a potential processor for gaming. The K6-2 processor was a disappointment because of the limited support for 3DNOW games and their relatively low ability to overclock. AMDís 3DNOW instruction set were designed to speed up processes such as 3D rendering, games, etc... It is comparable to the SIMD instructions on the Pentium III. The K6-3 was released after the K6-2 and was almost identical in design except for the higher clock speeds, again, they were poor overclockers. But recently, AMD has been laying pressure down on Intel with the release of their Athlon (K7) chip. The Athlon is a powerful chip and it currently holds the speed crown. Benchmarks after benchmarks prove that the Athlon is a faster chip than their Pentium III or Celeron equivalents. Part of the reason why is because of the faster bus speeds the Athlon uses (200MHz) compared to the Pentium III (100MHz, 133MHz) and the design of the Athlon is more efficient in the floating point area than that of the Pentium III. Intel introduces a new processor every couple of months and AMD does the same, the bad news of all this is that if youíre obsessed with keeping your system up to date, it will cost you a lot of money. The good news is that since AMD insists on keeping their processors a certain percentage lower than Intelís that puts pressure on Intel to lower prices and then AMD lower prices because of Intelís and Intel lower prices again, etc.... it is an endless loop of price cuts. Processors that were $500 6 months ago might be $150 today. Processors are also one of the most confusing challenges you have to face in order to build a great system. There are many interfaces for the CPU.... Slot-1 (Pentium III, Celeron), Slot-II (Xeon), Socket 7 (AMD K6-2, K6-3), Socket 370 (Celeron , Pentium III), and Slot-A (Athlon). It all adds up into a frustrating choice for purchasing motherboards for the processor, the good thing in the department is that motherboards are cheaper than processors, averaging just over $100.