Blast from the Past: Socket A
In the world of computers, smaller and faster things are released on an almost daily basis. Rivalry in every sector of technology keeps competition between companies fierce. Because of this competition, technology is ever advancing and improving; however, the newest (most expensive) technology is not always needed.
The AMD Athlon XP line of processors was released in October of 2001. AMD had been around quite some time before the release of Athlon XP’s, but the company was not widely known until the XP’s were released in an effort to compete against the Intel Pentium III line of processors. In short, Athlon XP’s blew current Intel processors out of the water. With new 3DNow! technology and their use off DDR (Double Data Rate) AMD was the new big shot in town. In this guide we will reveal the performance a Socket A computer can hold for an incredible value and how usable Socket A still is. We will break down the basic price and performance benefits and go into detail about General Usage, Gaming, and Overclocking/ Benchmarking/ Cooling.
For the first part of this guide, we will build an average Socket A machine geared towards gaming.
For the CPU we will go with a 2600+ XP (XP-M if you can find it). Both the 2500+ and 2600+ are mid-level Socket A CPUs. Both are known to achieve generally high overclocks and have good customer satisfaction.
A brand new processor is never a bad choice. They come with warranties and can be RMA’d if they come dead. A new processor will also cost you more money for that extra security. By searching price grabber for a 2600+, we find a result showing an Athlon XP 2600+ Barton for $80.00 shipped which is quite bit pricier than it should be. The Athlon XP-M 2600+ was outrageously priced at $143.00 which is hard to believe it is not an error.
Ebay, often times, is a good place to find deals on a wide variety of things. Processors are no exception. However, on Ebay we must be wary of scams such as people not shipping or the equipment being dead on arrival. After briefly searching ended auctions on Ebay for an Athlon XP 2600+ we come across an ended auction with the Athlon XP 2600+ priced at $41.00 + $5.00 for shipping.
Browsing computer forums is a good way to find deals on all types of computer components. Often times, forums are the most trusted way to obtain used computer parts. This is my personal recommended method for buying a Socket A CPU. After browsing around some popular forums, I estimate that an Athlon XP 2600+ would sell anywhere from $30 to $50. It may be best to buy it bundled with other computer parts in order to save yourself some money and keep your buying simplified. You can most likely find a processor, motherboard, memory bundle for under $100, or even less.
When searching for a Socket A motherboard, Abit is often times the company of choice. They had a great run with Socket A boards and are very reliable. We will be searching for the Abit NF7-S2 because it is known to be reliable, a good overclocker, and has a few newer technologies enabled such as S-ATA. We will also search for an Abit AN7 as it is known for the same things as the NF7-S2 but it is a little higher end.
Searching Pricewatch.com for a NF7-S2 we come across one for an overpriced $67.00. A search for an AN7 produces results with prices over $80, which is once again overpriced. So far it seems that companies still carrying Socket A are asking overly expensive prices. Used parts are looking better and better.
A search of completed listings on Ebay, shows only new NF7-S2’s that have been sold, the latest going for 51.00 + 15.00 shipping. Unfortunately, no one seems to be selling their used NF7-S2’s on Ebay. Searching for and AN7 we find that used they sell for $40 to $60 dollars plus $10 shipping, which is not incredibly expensive. We will have a look to the computer forums for some reasonable prices.
It may be harder to find exactly what you need on a technology forum, and you will most likely buy the motherboard in a bundle, but not necessarily. I would estimate an AN7 or NF7-S2 to be about $30 to $40 including shipping for the motherboard alone. Once again, a bundle is probably the best choice of action in Socket A computer building.
When searching for memory prices we will be looking for a capacity of 1GB so our computer can handle most 3D games. We will also go for a 2x512MB kit so the two can run in dual channel. System memory is not quite as cheap compared to other Socket A parts because it was used for the next three AMD sockets (754, 939, 940) and some newer Intel sockets. We will look at OCZ PC3200 memory for this guide, mostly because OCZ is a respectable company with good memory sticks. If OCZ proves a problem to find we will look to G.Skill because they are also know for making great overclocking and performance memory.
Searching newegg.com we come upon an OCZ Premier Series 2x512MB dual channel memory kit with 2.5-3-3-7 timings for a respectable $105 with an $8.00 mail-in rebate plus $5.00 shipping. If that wasn’t too much math to calculate, the total comes to $102 dollars. Not bad but definitely not the best deal.
When searching Ebay for OCZ PC3200 memory, there were no significant deals to be spoken of. The OCZ Premier PC3200 memory could be found for $75.00 + $3.00 shipping. This is a decent deal and one you may want to take advantage of if possible.
Memory is a bit easier to find on forums than Socket A specific things, mostly because DDR RAM is used for technology newer than Socket A. Unfortunately, getting an average price on OCZ proved a bit difficult, so for this we will be looking for some G.Skill with the same specs as the OCZ. Searching through some forums, we find some G.Skill PC3200 with 2.5-3-3-6 timings for $63.00 shipped. I recommend these or the Ebay memory.
For the video card we will go with an Nvidia 6600GT. It’s known to be the best bang for the buck of the entire Nvidia 6xxx series. It also runs almost every current game on medium/high settings and is the perfect card for our Socket A build. This card has vastly dropped in price recently which is great for us.
When searching Newegg.com we come across a Leadtek 6600GT for a nicely priced $130. Leadtek is a trusted company in the graphics card industry and is known to be a decent overclocker which is always a plus. This may be our best choice, we’ll have to check around Ebay and the forums to make sure though.
After looking through completed listing on Ebay. A Leadtek AGP 6600GT sold just recently for about $86.00 shipped. This is not a bad deal at all, but being from Ebay you may be better off choosing from another source if you are scared about security.
Searching around the forums, we find an XFX 6600GT AGP that was just recently sold for $85 shipped. XFX is a trusted company throughout the graphics card industry and that is definitely a great buy.
After, all of that we can now price out what it might cost. I would not recommend new parts when buying a Socket A motherboard and processor. The few places that still carry Socket A motherboards and processor are way overpriced, so much so that it’s ridiculous. The best way to obtain Socket A components is through a bundle people are selling on forums. You can find some nice systems for much cheaper. In fact, you could most likely get a 2600+ and Abit board for $50-$70. If you must buy them separate it will probably cost you right around $90-$110. A used graphics card and memory will run you roughly $160 shipping included.
For the processor, motherboard, memory, and graphics card a Socket A totals between $250 and $300, which is extremely cheap by today’s standard for a gaming PC. When comparing the Socket A price to the Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 + Asus P5B Deluxe is when the small price tag of a Socket A build shines. An Intel Core 2 Duo + Asus P5B Deluxe motherboard will cost you $637.00 shipped via Newegg.com which is just the processor and motherboard, as compared to a full Socket A gaming package that will cost you ~$275 which is a difference of roughly $350.
Socket A may not be top of the line. It may not be the newest or the fastest, but Socket A is great for any budget. When you can get a processor, a motherboard, memory, and a graphics card for less than $300 dollars it is always a great deal, especially because it will play almost all of the latest games on medium/high settings. Compared to the newest fastest components the price is incredible.
Socket A components are also better to buy used these days. It seems if retailers need to ‘get with the times’ and lower their prices. Best case scenario you can get a CPU, Mobo, RAM bundle off a forum. Forums are also rather secure because computer geeks don’t try to scam each other in general, that’s not to say be careless in who you buy from.
Socket A is great for everyday computer usage and great for gaming on a budget. Make sure you stick around for other parts of this guide in order to gain a complete understanding on the performance and usefulness of the Socket A platform.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 : Socket A Gaming