PC133 prices. I wrote last week that memory prices were about to jump, after reading a piece in The Register. Then I read something in The Register yesterday, after the prices of 128-megabit chips fell, quoting an NEC exec as saying NEC doesn’t expect memory prices to rebound until next year.
So… Nobody knows what memory prices are going to do. It’s truly like buying gasoline right now, isn’t it?
But the point will soon be moot for a lot of people anyway. Tom’s Hardware reviewed three AMD 760-based boards this week . A look at Pricewatch confirms these boards aren’t widely available yet (I found two listings on the Biostar board, two listings on the Gigabyte, none on the Asus, and a listing on an AOpen board), and Pricewatch hasn’t set aside an AMD 760 category yet, but by searching Pricewatch for AMD 760 you can find boards. The Biostar is currently the least expensive by far, but having used Biostar boards on occasion, I definitely prefer Asus, AOpen and Gigabyte.
Prices on an AMD 760-based board range from $129 to $189 before shipping, and these are bottom-feeder vendors so you know they’ll charge you $20 to ship it if they can find any excuse to do so.
If Intel’s your game, it’s easier to find a P3 DDR board based on the VIA Apollo Pro266 chipset. Pricing is very similar to the AMD 760 solutions, and availability is wider. As for performance, the only review I’ve seen of the Gigabyte GA-6RX was disappointing, but seeing as AnandTech doesn’t care about anything but overclocking CPUs and Gigabyte couldn’t care less about overclockers, that’s not too much of a surprise. But common sense must prevail here: If I just spent $450 on new DDR-capable kit, why would I immediately set out to overclock it and potentially burn it up?
Part of the problem might well be the Apollo Pro266 chipset. Tom’s Hardware has said the best-performing DDR chipset is the AMD 760, period. And of course Intel’s not about to give AMD a license to produce P3 chipsets, and AMD wouldn’t produce a P3 chipset even if Intel begged them to do so.
DDR memory. As for DDR memory, Crucial is still selling PC1600 DDR for the same price as CAS2 PC133 SDRAM. That’s considerably higher than you’ll pay for bottom-feeder PC133, but seeing as no one should be buying that stuff anyway, that’s a good price.
The outlook for upgrades. You may easily pay $180 or more for an AMD 760-based board right now. A 1 GHz Athlon with a 266 MHz FSB will run about $220, and 128 MB of PC1600 DDR will run $55. So you can be in a DDR-based system for right around $450 before shipping, which is considerably less than I paid to get into a Pentium-75 with EDO memory back when a Pentium with EDO was the thing to have. There’s no point in doing it if you’ve got a recent system because the performance increase isn’t spectacular, but if you’re upgrading an aging PC or building a new system outright, DDR is definitely worth a look. If you’re already looking to spend a fair bit to replace a motherboard, CPU, video card, and hard drive, the extra $100 you’ll spend to get into DDR looks like it’s worth it.