The 3.2 GHz Celeron D 351 is right at the top of the entry-level food chain, and although it may not turn the head of a hardware enthusiast, it's still an important processor for the mainstream market. We want to make sure to run it up against the top-ranked contenders in the same price range, but not mercilessly slam it with high-powered Athlon 64 FX-60 comparisons. On the AMD side, we've assembled the gamut of higher-speed 754-pin Sempron models, including the Sempron 3400+, 3300+ and 3100+. To give a better indication of relative Intel performance, we've also included the 2.93 GHz Celeron D 340J.
The platform choice is an important one, as you need to balance the need for performance against the requirement that the chipset at least be targeted at the mainstream buyer. For our Intel processors, this was easy, as the i945G is a nice match, and the Intel D945GTP motherboard is a very basic micro ATX model. The AMD platform has moved to a more contemporary model as well, and adopted the GeForce 6100 + nForce 410 chipset, also in a micro ATX format. This board not only gives us a current AMD Socket 754 platform base, but also provides dedicated PCI Express graphics. The base memory capacity is set at 1-GB, but due to the differing memory architectures, our Intel systems use 2x512-MB of Crucial Ballistix DDR2-667, while the AMD configuration features 2x512-MB of Corsair XMS PC3200LL.
The default hard disk configuration is comprised of a Maxtor MaxLine III 250GB SATA drive, which provides high-end disk performance and ensures consistent benchmarking. The video component is one of the top choices in the mainstream class, and consists of a GeForce 6600 GT 128MB PCI Express card, which offers comparative performance and scalability for our test systems. The drivers are also the latest NVIDIA ForceWare 81.98, and the operating system is Windows XP Pro SP2, along with DirectX 9.0c installed.
The benchmark list includes a wide range of system, CPU, memory, and gaming tests. These include PCMark05, SiSoft SANDRA 2005, and CINEBENCH 2003, along with TMPGEnc Xpress 3.0 for MPEG-1 and 2, XMPEG for DivX 6.1, and Windows Media Encoder 9 for WMV encoding. We also utilize popular 3D game tests like Quake 4, Half-Life 2, DOOM 3, Chronicles of Riddick, 3DMark05, FarCry, Painkiller, Unreal Tournament 2004, and Quake 3. Our default game benchmark setting is 800x600x32, which is demanding enough for CPU comparisons but still realistic as actual game play resolutions.
* Please note that unless otherwise stated, such as the media encoding times, all performance graph results equate to the standard "higher is better" routine.