of you probably remember the sky high prices of Intel's and AMD's first dual core processors a couple of years back, when they were launched and took the geek world by storm. Thanks to the price war, dual core chips have become dirt cheap and even Quad Core CPUs are now very affordable.
However, in the low end of the market there was still room for crippled single core Celerons and Semprons. We use the words, "there was," since by today's prices they make almost no sense, no matter what kind of machine you're building.
In recent days, Intel's 1.6GHz E2140 has dropped to €49, and while this is far from a powerful CPU by today's standards, it will probably do more than well in office computers, low-cost home machines and HTPCs. The low-priced Conroe based Celeron 430 sells for around €27 currently, but for just €20 you can get a much more potent E2140 which not only beats it performance wise, but it's also more energy efficient. Back in August Eliot , our CPU and mobo guru, put the Celeron 430 and E2160 thought their paces, and you can check out the review here
On the AMD front, you can get a 2.1 GHz Athlon X2 4000 for €49.99. This is a 65nm Brisbane part, G1 stepping, and while it's probably not as overclockable as Intel's E2140, this really doesn't matter in low-end machines, and if you take overclocking out of the equation, it's a great value for money. Like the E2140, it has a 65W TDP and without overclocking it will probably outperform the E2140 in most scenarios. For comparison, a 1.8GHz Sempron 3200 at 90nm costs €27.
One more nice thing about low-end AMD machines is the abundance of 690G based motherboards at bargain prices. These babies offer decent integrated Radeon X1250 graphics and many of them have HDMI, making them a great choice for HTPCs.
If you still have an old socket 939 machine lying around you can breathe some new life into it with an Athlon X2 3800 for just €43. You might argue that it makes no sense to invest in socket 939 machines, and we agree to some extent, but at these rock bottom prices this might be an interesting option for cash strapped consumers. And let's face it, not everybody needs a high-performance PC, anyway.
So, there you have it: dual core computing on a budget - for under a hundred euro you can get a decent dual core CPU, a cheap motherboard with integrated graphics and a gigabyte of memory. This is an excellent deal, no matter whether you choose AMD or Intel. And once Vole forces you to migrate to Vista, you'll just need to invest €15 for an extra gigabyte of memory.