Processor prices settle for final holiday swing

Posted by Mark Raby

As we approach the end of the Christmas shopping season, there is a certain kind of calmness in the microprocessor space: AMD rolled out the final products for this year, but they come too late to bring a visible impact to the pricing of most processors. Most of them are sitting in a comfortable space. Time to look at pricing histories to identify which CPUs are good deals around Christmas.

The idea for our processor price/performance charts was originally born from the necessity to analyze the dramatic price cuts we saw in dual-core desktop processor industry earlier this year. We discontinued the series in fall, but picked the topic back up when we noticed that many of our readers have a close idea on the microprocessor market and find current retail prices that is coupled with performance data a helpful tool to make their purchase decision.

We always welcome feedback to improve the usability our charts. One of those requests last week was to include a pricing history for each processor, which we thought was a fantastic idea to provide more transparency over the pricing trend of a particular processor you may be interested in. In the end, you really do not want to buy a CPU when its pricing peaks. We have included the pricing histories of AMD's and Intel processors that are included in our charts in this article. We will continue to do this from time to time.

We receive quite some feedback regarding the Core 2 Duo E6300 processor, which is still missing in our ranking. We know that it is the volume Core processor in the retail segment right now, but we have to ask you to remain patient. To be able to compare all processors side by side, we need to ensure a consistent benchmarking environment. As all data have been derived from Tom's Hardware's results, we also need to do this with the E6300. Tom's Hardware has not reviewed the E6300 yet. But we hear that there is a test of this CPU in progress and as soon as those data sets are available, the E6300 will be part of our ranking.

Let's have a look at this week's prices.

Click image to enlarge. Source: Pricegrabber.com

Amid these data, with about 90% of all processors' prices logging only single-digit percent changes, there is one that really sticks out, and it really caught us off guard. Intel's Pentium D 805, which had previously held one of the most constant price histories (between 10/6/06 and 12/8/06, prices were always between $87 and $102), skyrocketed this week, up 72% from last week's $87 to $150, a $63 and the most expensive price in our records. We were not able to confirm the exact reasons for this substantial increase, but keep in mind that this processor is being phased out and supplies will go down and dry up in more places. As the processor slowly disappears from retail shelves, the average price gets more volatile and you could see unusual peaks.

It's also worth mentioning that, on the other side for Intel, the D 930 set a new record low after dropping $22/13% over last week's $170 average price. This is significant because this is one of only two of the processors we've been watching where, up until last week, we had never seen a price dip below our initial value from October 6.

We've been noticing constant price drops for AMD's processors ever since the announcement of the new quad-core and 65 nm processors. In fact, four of these eight processors in our data have shown continuous drops in price over the past three weeks, and even though none of them was significant in terms of dollar amount this week, we did log new record low prices for the FX-60 and 4200+.


Trend analysis

Because of the overall calm in prices, there is not a whole lot to say about the price/performance graphs this time around. One thing to note is that the correlation for both Intel and AMD slid down a bit this week. AMD's correlation fell 1.85% from last week's amazing 0.942 to 0.925, and Intel's went from 0.650 to 0.638, a 1.84% drop.

Click image to enlarge

After dissecting Intel into the Core 2 and Pentium groups, there is virtually no visible different over last week's chart, and the correlation values for the two separate groups is almost exactly the same as well. All in all, the main points this week were AMD's continuing price falls and a couple significant price records for Intel. Business as usual.

Click image to enlarge

After a rough time for AMD earlier this year, which had forced the company into dramatic price cuts to position itself right between Intel's outgoing Netburst architecture processors and the newer Core 2 Duos, it is quite fascinating to see how much both AMD and Intel are in fact able to control e-tail and retail prices and put a complete chaos in to order within less than six months. Considering the fluctuation and complexity of the market as well as the fact that the Pentium D 800/900 will be leaving soon, the processors are remarkably well aligned and are all about where would you expect them to be. From that perspective, there are very few processors that could be considered bad buys at this time.

For those who are interested in our graphical coverage of processor pricing, we have compiled the data for each processor individually. If you are interested in a particular processor, these charts provide you with an idea how the price of a CPU has bahved in the recent past and if you are buying at a low or high point. Head over to the next page for part one, which lists graphs for AMD processors. Intel processors are listed on the following page.


Price history: AMD processors

Please keep in mind that AMD has introduced several revisions of its X2 and FX processors models, which included a transition from Socket 939 to AM2 as well as 65 nm versions of some of its models. The data provided by Pricegrabber.com does not allow us to break out these different versions, which means that certain premiums AMD may currently charge - or discounts it may provide - are affecting the average price of each processor listed.

If you are interested in buying one of these processors we recommend contacting the retail outlet to find out whether it is selling (1) a 90 nm or 65 nm processor and (2) a Socket 939 or AM2 model.

Athlon 64 X2 3800+

Athlon 64 X2 4200+

Athlon 64 X2 4400+

Athlon 64 X2 4600+

Athlon 64 X2 4800+

Athlon 64 X2 5000+

Athlon 64 X2 FX-60

Athlon 64 X2 FX-62

Price history: Intel processors

Pentium D 805

Pentium D 805

Pentium D 830

Pentium D 840

Pentium D 930

Pentium D 940

Pentium D 960

Pentium EE 955

Pentium EE 965

Core 2 Duo E6400

Core 2 Duo E6600

Core 2 Duo E6700

Core 2 Extreme EX6800

Core 2 Extreme QX6700