The high-end of the processor market is an area that gets a ton of media coverage, and for good reason. Dual core is the current buzzword, AMD and Intel continue to release higher-clocked models, and prices have never been higher. Many of the top-end desktop processors offer unprecedented desktop performance, but also tip the scale at well over $1K about the cost of a well-equipped mainstream PC. This kind of price comparison brings you back to Earth very quickly, and while the Pentium EE 955 and Athlon 64 FX-60 processors can nice to read about, most people are in the market for something a bit more affordable.
That is where the Intel Celeron D and AMD Sempron come in, offering mainstream performance for a C-note, and ensuring that even entry-level systems are not saddled with outdated technology. We've covered the various AMD Sempron models in past reviews and it's high time we addressed the Intel side of the equation. The Celeron D 351 is a 3.2 GHz value powerhouse that not only upgrades the performance of Intel's entry-level line, but also includes a laundry list of current features and options.
The basic specifications of the Celeron D 351 remain consistent with previous Celeron D models, and the processor utilizes the LGA775 package and an integrated heat spreader. Its 90nm core, a variant of the Prescott 1M, features 16K of L1 cache along with 256K of L2 cache, which naturally scales back performance from higher-end Pentium 4/D models. This Celeron D core supports SSE3, and for LGA775 models, the Execute Disable Bit feature combats malicious "buffer overflow" attacks. Intel has also introduced EM64T 64-bit support to select models, among them the Celeron D 351.
The Celeron D 351 is yet another speed upgrade to the existing core design, and the model number represents a 90nm Prescott-based core running at a full 3.2 GHz. The L2 cache remains at 256K, and is an area Intel should look at upgrading. The lower cache level wasn't so bad back in the days of the Pentium 4 Northwood or even Prescott cores, but now that both the Pentium 4 600 and Pentium D 800 series feature 2MB, and the Pentium D 900 series offers a whopping 4MB of L2 cache, the Celeron D's L2 looks very small by comparison. The processor bus speed remains at 533 MHz, and now that Intel is moving to 1066 MHz speeds with their newer platforms, the Celeron D would seem to deserve an upgrade to 800 MHz as well.
The Celeron D 351 represents a shift in terms of entry-level computing, and from here on, LGA775 will be the de facto Celeron D platform and EM64T will be a default feature. The first point is certainly no surprise, as Intel has supported the Celeron D line on Socket 478 much longer than the Pentium 4, and offers a 3.2 GHz Celeron 350 at the top end. Moving the Celeron D to 64-bit has been taking place in a separate product line, but with the Celeron D 351, Intel created its first EM64T model without a corresponding 350J 32-bit only part. AMD has already made this move with the value-priced Sempron, and Intel must keep up, even if the chances of operating a 64-bit OS on a value processor are slim.
The Intel retail package is fairly standard, and includes the Celeron D 351 processor, a bundled heatsink-fan, a hardcopy user manual, and an "Intel Inside" Celeron D case sticker. Intel has recently revamped their entire corporate logo structure, but this retail package was still in the "old school" format. The other area of interest is the heatsink-fan included in the retail package, It is very similar to the coolers found with Intel Pentium 4 and Pentium D models, and is designed around the standard 4-post locking format.
On the surface, the various Intel HSF units all look the same, but there is one noted difference. While the higher-end Pentium 4/D retail processor feature a heatsink-fan with a copper core surrounded by aluminum fins, the Celeron D 351's bundled cooler seems to be all aluminum. Going the lower-cost HSF route is a sound decision, and we did not see any problems throughout our rigorous testing. The Celeron D 351 is a single core design, includes only 256K L2 cache, and does not support Hyper-Threading, so its cooling requirements are quite a bit lower than a similarly clocked Pentium 4 or D processor.