Originally Posted by ravalox
Okay, so I am building a computer for someone as a christmas gift. I have to decide between buying Dell(usually the lowest cost) or building it on my lonesome. What I think gives me pause is that I think the pentium4 dual core's don't have all that long a lifespan as far as future cpu's that would use the same motherboard. I am leaning towards building an Athlon 64 system because I feel while I may pay more upfront, it would save money in the long run because it would be more upgradeable to extend the PC's lifespan?
Definitely go Athlon64. You're right about the current generation of dual-core P4's, they haven't got much lifespan. In fact Intel only rushed them out the door to have SOMETHING to compete with the AMD dual-cores. They're not really in the same league as the dual-core AMD chips. Go with an AMD socket 939 platform. You can even start out with a single-core Athlon64 and upgrade it later on to dual-core with just a simple CPU change.
By the way, you didn't state WHY you (or your gift recipient) actually needs dual-core. Keep in mind that most apps do not take any real advantage of more than one CPU core, unless you're running some high-end 3D modeling software or CAD or something similar. And very few if any games can take advantage of the 2nd core, it will sit idle most of the time. An application has to be developed with multiple CPU's (or multiple cores, which is really the same thing) in mind to gain any benefit. As most current software started their development cycle long before dual-cores were available, very few can use the 2nd core.
Of course, this will change, but if it comes down to a price decision, a faster clocked single-core CPU will almost always outperform a slower-clocked dual-core CPU, given similar costs for the CPU. In other words, for the same amount you will spend on a dual-core CPU, you can buy a faster clocked single-core, which will almost always aoutperform the dual-core in most software. You might get a single core running at let's say 2.2ghz, but a similarly priced dual core will be running at much lower clocks, like 1.6ghz (each core). And don't get the feeling that a dual core running at 1.6ghz is equal to 1.6 + 1.6 = 3.2ghz in a single core. It's a common mistake.