Price/Performance Charts: U.S. retail still waiting for effect of AMD price cut

Posted by Mark Raby

Chicago (IL) - As we are heading into the Christmas season, AMD this week adjusted the prices of some of its processors. So far, most of the price cuts have not made it into etail/retail and some of the processors impacted even increased their prices this week. Get the update in our Intel and AMD processor price/performance analysis.

In this latest installment of this price/performance comparison series, we adopted some suggestions from our readers. Most importantly, we split up the charts to include data that incorporates overclocked processors to the price-performance curve, as well as charts that only take into consideration the regular speed of the processors. This gives the price/performance relationship for both people who want to see included the highest possible bang for their buck on overclocked processors, as well as for the general user who is interested in just at the standard numbers and want a more universal correlation between price and performance.

Additionally, some readers requested that we add the Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 to our chart. To give a more exact set of data for processor price vs. performance, we agree that the E6300 should be included, but as of now, we do not have access to relevant Tom's hardware benchmark data that compares exactly with all other benchmark numbers. We are working with Tom's Hardware's engineers to get these data, and as soon as we do, we will be sure to add it to these weekly updates.

Since these charts are meant to help you decide which processor provides the most value for your specific needs, we invite you to keep the feedback coming and let us know how we can continue to improve these charts to make them more useful and easier to read. If you have a suggestion or just want us to take a look at something in particular, feel free to e-mail us by clicking the author's name at the beginning of this article. We read every email and try to answer as many as we can.

Let's move on to this week's numbers:

Click on the table for a larger view

On the Intel side, the prices of about half of the processors had little to no change (less than $10 from last week). However, fluctuations of the remaining CPUs were substantial. Most noticeable is the Pentium D 820, which dropped 27% from $141 down to $103, thanks to an official Intel price cut this week. The Pentium D 830 followed suit, without an official cut, accounting for the biggest dollar decrease. The average price dropped $54 from $333 to $279, a margin of 16%.

The Pentium D 930 and 840 also saw noteworthy decreases, falling in price on an average of 20% and 6% from last week, respectively. Average price increases were not very prevalent for Intel this week, though the Pentium D 960 and 950 each went up 9%. In the case of the 960, this meant a rise from $320 to $349. The 950 jumped from $236 to $257.

On the very high-end, the latest-generation dual-core Extreme Edition saw a slight increase in price, but remained below the $1000 mark: The EX6800 went up $21 from $921 to $942, a 2% increase. A closer look to the availability at retailer sites revealed that demand for the processor is apparently increasing just ahead of the introduction of the quad-core Extreme version (QX6700), which is slated for a mid-November release. We remain quite confident that demand for QX6700 will push the chip's tray price of $999 well beyond the $1000 mark. Expect the chip to surface on etailer's websites in the $1200 and higher range.

On the AMD side, changes were just as bipolar. The 4800+, 4200+, and 3800+ saw virtually no change in price this week. The rest of the field shifted at least $34, led by the 4600+, which dropped $57 from $302 to $245, or 19%. An 11% price decrease also hit the 5000+. The other major changes came in the form of price increases.

The 4400+ jumped nearly 20%, from $234 to $276. It's interesting to see this reversal in price between the 4400+ and 4600+ this week. Close to each other in terms of performance, the two processors were $68 apart last week, with the 4600+ at $302 and the 4400+ at $234. However, this week, with the dramatic price swings, only $31 separates them. In terms of average pricing, the 4400+ became the more expensive chip this week. The surrounding processors, in terms of performance, were the ones that showed little change. The more powerful 4800+ dropped just 4%, and the two less powerful ones had almost no change at all.

On the high-end, AMD announced a new round of price cuts, which, however, have not yet trickled down into retail. The FX-62 tray price was cut by 13.8%, but the retail price went up by $40 to $727. The FX-62 is now nearly twice as expensive as the 5000+, even though its relative performance index is only 9% higher. The price gap between the two increased by 31% this week.


All Mainstream AMD processors move below Intel price/performance curve
(for currently available, non-overclocked processors)

Click on the chart for a larger view and more details

Here's the data of all the processors except the not-yet-released QX6700, including any applicable overclocked ones. This is the chart we've been following most closely over the past three weeks. Strictly by looking at the shape, it has not changed much over the one from last week. However, there are individual changes on processor pricing for both Intel and AMD that caused smaller changes on a deeper level.

Firstly, because of the erratic price shifts for AMD processors, which are likely a first indication of other AMD price cuts, the correlation coefficient for AMD's curve dropped to 0.891. This is somewhat of a substantial decrease from last week's 0.942, and the first time in the last three weeks where it's dropped below 0.9. This means that AMD's price-to-performance stability, which has previously been unquestionably iron-clad, fell a little bit this week. While a 0.89 correlation is still very strong, it is certainly a slip from where it has been in the past. For consumers it means that more attention to the price of a processor and its potential performance is getting more important on the AMD side.

Intel, on the other hand, which we have chided for having seemingly spontaneously scattered prices regardless of performance, had the expected low correlation of 0.331, which is actually a bit of a jump over last week. However, as our readers noted, this number becomes a bit deceiving when incorporating overclocked versions of processors. So, we took a look at a chart that excludes the overclocked data.

Click on the chart for a larger view and more details

In addition to giving AMD a longer-running advantage at the low-end, this chart shows less of a disparity between Intel and AMD at the mid- and high-end levels. Without the overclocked processors at low price points, the Intel curve takes on its more natural exponential shape, and brings its correlation coefficient up to 0.519. While it is now a more accurate depiction for the real world, it still does not give Intel a strong price-to-performance correlation at all.

The reason are the Extreme Edition processors. Visually, they look like misplaced points on Intel's set of data. In fact, if we remove them, Intel's correlation coefficient skyrockets to 0.794. That would make them surprisingly close to AMD. Still, as long as the market continues to over-price the Extreme Editions while the CPUs themselves offer the possibility of overclocking cheaper processors, it cannot offer the level of price/performance guarantee offered by AMD. On the other hand, while AMD processor can be overclocked as well, the substantial overclocking potential of some Intel processors makes them a tremendous value in terms of a price/performance consideration.

Click on the chart for a larger view and more details

For weeks, we've been looking at the effects of what Intel's Core 2 Extreme QX6700, which has not yet been released, does to the price/performance charts. Because of the processor's significant increase in performance, it's sort of just been hypothetical to look at it. However, the QX6700 is expected to come out in just a couple of weeks, so we can start to really examine what may happen to the overall pricing scale.

The 6700 has always improved the shape of the Intel curve because the projected price of $1200 fits nicely with the level of performance it offers. However, it does also affect how the other prices fit into the picture. Interestingly enough, when the QX6700 is included, most of the individual points seem to fit more or less in the shape of the curve.

In fact, even when considering the overclocked processors, the correlation coefficient for the Intel curve nearly doubles from the graph that doesn't have the QX6700, at 0.616. What's interesting is that the EX6800 becomes the only mid- to high-end processor from Intel that falls on top of the price/performance curve. That, in addition to the obvious fact that the 6800 will lose its superiority when the QX6700 comes along, must - following common sense - trigger price cuts for the EX6800. However Extreme processors, no matter which generation never have been cheap. So don't bet the rest of your Christmas presents on a price decrease.

Click on the chart for a larger view and more details

When the overclocked processors are removed from the chart, the correlation coefficient becomes even stronger for Intel, at 0.655. Just for fun, if we take out the Extreme Edition processors, which are in near-outlier territory, that number jumps to 0.856, which suddenly gives Intel a very strong price-to-performance relationship. Of course, until it ditches the EE models, we'll have to stick to the 0.655 figure, which is still strong compared to what we've seen with Intel in the past.

Even if Intel does not have much control over the exact retail prices, one could get the impression that Intel has been anticipatorily creating a general pricing environment, which will not see a big price shift when the next generation processor debuts. We don't know exactly what the price on the new processor will be, but if it is in line with what we are estimating, there could be some noteworthy changes in how we compare Intel and AMD in the future.