The Celeron D 351 started off in a very impressive fashion, and really took it to the Sempron competition in the desktop and media performance areas. The Intel value processor outpaced the Sempron models in both real-world and synthetic testing, and posted the highest scores in all memory benchmarks. Media encoding performance was equally stellar, as the Celeron D 351 took top spot in the all-important MPEG-2 and Windows Media Encoder tests, while strangely losing the DivX 6.1 contest to AMD. Even so, the Celeron D 351 was very impressive in terms of desktop performance, and is a more well-rounded business and home entertainment processor.
Unfortunately, the 3.2 GHz Celeron D 351 fails to impress on the gaming front, and not only falls back from the 2.0 GHz Sempron 3400+ on the majority of occasions, but is also beaten badly in several game tests. Other than its lone victory in Chronicles of Riddick, the Celeron D 351 was outmatched in all other game tests, and it was really slammed in both DOOM 3 and Half-Life 2. The Sempron is obviously the top choice for a low-cost gaming system, but on the other hand, those looking for an entry-level business, Internet or media encoding system will want to give the Celeron D 351 a close look.
The Celeron D would seem to be an overclocker's dream, given the 90nm core and 256K L2 cache, not to mention that it runs considerably cooler than a Prescott 1M core. The Celeron line also has a long history of insane overclocks, and the last-generation Socket 478 Celeron models posted some very high numbers. All of this is true, but there are a few factors working against the Celeron D 351. The most obvious is its already-high clock speed, and the fact that 3.2 GHz was a prime OC target of the 2.26 to 2.53 GHz Celeron D models. The other mitigating factor is that the Celeron D is already using the 533 MHz bus, and this eliminates the easy 400 MHz-to-533 MHz overclock of the old 400 MHz Celeron models, which maintained AGP, PCI and memory speeds, while ramping up the CPU core speed.
Of course, the above commentary is not meant to dissuade anyone from jacking the Celeron D clock speed to the ceiling, but only to illustrate the pros and cons of such an exercise. In our own testing, the basic Intel 945G motherboard used for the benchmark testing was simply not up to the overclock task, so we utilized an ASUS i915P instead. This allowed a full range of CPU clock speed, core voltage, DDR voltage and PCIe clock settings, and provided a more fully-featured tweaking environment. CPU-Z identified our Celeron D 351 processor as a Model: 4, Stepping: 1, Revision: E0, which was the same as our reference Celeron D 340.
Under the above hardware configuration, we were able to attain a stable overclock of approximately 3.74 GHz, using a bus speed of 156 MHz at 1.475V. Core voltage doesn't look to be a real sticking point, and these Celeron D models seem to overclock well even at default voltage levels. We were able to boot at over 3.8 GHz, but it was not 100% stable, although with these LGA775 platforms, it's tougher to locate the actual problem and narrow it down to a CPU, bus, memory or PCIe/PCI bus speed issue. The Celeron D E0 core does seem to overclock higher, and it exceeded the 3.55 GHz clock speed we were able to attain with an older C0 core on a Celeron D 335.
The Celeron D LGA775 line offers two individual paths, with the Celeron D 325J to 345J processors offering standard 32-bit performance and features, while the "+1 increment" Celeron D 336 to 351 models also provide EM64T support. There used to be a premium associated with adding 64-bit support, but this seems to have dried up of late. The Celeron D 341 2.93 GHz ($90) and Celeron D 346 3.06 GHz ($100) EM64T processors are actually less expensive than the standard Celeron D340J ($100) and Celeron D 345J ($125). The Celeron D 351 isn't much more expensive at $120, and at this point in time, there is no reason to go with the older 32-bit models, rather than a shiny new EM64T-enabled Celeron D. Intel has also recently announced a Celeron D 355, but we could not locate it at retail.
In terms of an AMD price comparison, the Sempron 3400+ checks in at approximately $125, while the Sempron 3300+ ($105) and 3100+ ($86) are not far behind. This presents a very evenly-matched price structure, and at least at the top-end, Intel and AMD are very close together in terms of overall value. An interesting sidebar to this is the price of memory; now that DDR2 has gone mainstream, it actually favors Intel. Yes, at the low-end, DDR2 is actually less expensive than DDR, but AMD still holds the cards in terms of platform costs, as Socket 754 boards remain less expensive than LGA775 models.
* Please note that these prices were taken at the time of review and are not meant to reflect long-term trends.
The Celeron D 351 is almost a "Tale of Two Processors" where its standard desktop and multimedia performance offers up the "best of times", while gaming benchmarks translate into the "worst of times". This is exactly how our recommendations play out as well, and those looking for mainstream desktop and media performance on a budget, will be well-served by a Celeron D system, but true gaming aficionados will need to look elsewhere for their low-cost fix.