Low-priced computer lab?
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Dear CPU Scorekeeper

I am researching what the best system would be to set up a computer lab that will be used by the school district and community. We are looking at 10 computers to run medium demand software, but mostly it will be expected to run an internet based, networked educational program. We are extremely limited for funding and I wonder if the huge cost difference in systems with different CPU's could be used to our advantage?

Question: Celeron? AMD? Pentium? Which type of which one and which one offers upgradeability because of the board that supports it?

- - Molly, August 1999

See the questionCPU Scorekeeper Responds

For a set of low-cost, medium-demand, internet-capable computers, you are basically looking at the Celeron and Pentium-II lines from Intel, and the K6-2 series from AMD. For really low-priced systems, you might even consider the Cyrix M2.

CPU's having speeds ranging from 300-400MHz should be suitable for your needs. And as you can see from our CPU Scorecard, the price range will usually start with Cyrix systems at the low end, AMD & Celeron systems near the middle, with Pentium-II's costing the most.

If you want to stick with industry leader Intel, go for a Celeron-- near the speed of a Pentium-II at a much lower price (although, as the Pentium-II line is more or less being discontinued these days, you may find a good deal on a PII system). For upgradeability, get the Socket370 (PPGA or Plastic Pin Grid Array), not the Slot1 version.

For value and upgradeability, go for an AMD K6-2 system on a Super7 motherboard. AMD systems are good for general business applications and provide decent gaming enhancements with their 3DNow! capability.

Of course, if cost is your main consideration, you'll find Cyrix systems will provide adequate processing power for the lowest price around. What you won't get is a lot of upgradeability or blazing game performance, however.

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