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AMD's 'Newcastle' Budget Athlon64 Chips Analyzed 266

Edward Scissorhands writes "CNET News.com reported on Thursday that AMD had released a new "budget" Athlon64 CPU. Appearing on the AMD roadmap under the codename of "Newcastle", these chips are identical to the 754-pin Athlon64 3200+ in every way except for the size of their L2 cache (512KB vs. 1MB). CNET suggests that some of these chips may be 3200's that don't pass QA as having full 1MB caches. Newcastle chips are about half the cost of their 1MB cached counterparts, though preliminary benchmarks from Anand indicate favourable performance/price."
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AMD's 'Newcastle' Budget Athlon64 Chips Analyzed

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:05PM (#7788541)
    This is what many companies do. If certain chips cannot pass Q&A then remark them down and you do not lose your inventory.

  • bad bad bad (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:08PM (#7788562)
    a processor named after a beer?

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:36PM (#7788783)
      Why not? They already a version of Linux is named after a beer (Redhat 7.0=Guinness). So all they need is motherboard named after a snack, then you've got a whole party:
      Yes, I've got Newcastle with Pretzels. They're running with Guinness.
      • Be worried if they release CPU's named after presidents... and you have the 'Pretzel' motherboard edition and a certain CPU edition, things are bound to go wrong.

        I suppose instead of "hello world", you could have "heimlich maneuver".


    • Re:bad bad bad (Score:3, Informative)

      by the_bahua (411625)
      An excellent beer to namesake your chip with, though. Smooth, reliable, and makes you dizzy.
    • Aye, you'll be able to spot it by the blue star on the packaging.
  • http://www.hardocp.com/article.html?art=NTYw [hardocp.com]

    Kyle of HardOCP makes a bunch of speculations as to AMD's purpose for releasing these chips, and comes to basically the same conclusions that CNet does.

    He sugguests that these chips are also just the ones that only had partial working cache (a portion of the cache was working, the other portion was not) and to save money they are selling these as a "budget" chip. Seems like a good idea to me!
    • by cK-Gunslinger (443452) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:14PM (#7788611) Journal

      That's pretty standard practice in hardware manufacturing. It also explains the reasons why some hardware (Radeon 9500, etc) can be "unlocked" and turned into the real thing. They don't actually test "every" part at first, just samples of a batch. If X% fail the full spec, the entire batch is remarked as reduced-spec parts. They they are individually tested at the lower spec. It stands to reason that a certain number of these part would have passed the more rigorous full-spec tests, thus us "cheap" buyers can sometimes get lucky and get a nice piece of hardware for a small price.

      • That's pretty standard practice in hardware manufacturing.

        Going back IIRC to the 386SX, which was a 386DX with a nonfunctioning (and hence deactivated) FPU....

        • by Zathrus (232140) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:39PM (#7788817) Homepage
          Argh. No.

          The 386SX was a completely and utterly different chip from the 386DX. The SX only had a 16-bit data path while the DX had a full 32-bit data path. This is not a minor change in the chip or board layout -- in fact, one of the major reasons that Intel released the 386SX was to reduce transition costs from 286 motherboards -- there's considerably less difference between 286 and 386SX than 286 and 386. The 386SX had no feature differences -- it was just slower.

          I believe what you're thinking of is 486DX vs 486SX. The 486DX was the first Intel chip (in the 80x86 line) to integrate the FPU onboard. The 486SX didn't have the FPU, or the FPU was disabled post-manufacture (most likely due to failures in the FPU module, while the rest of the chip was fine). This is something that can be done during product test.

          The funny thing about that was the poor schmucks who bought a 486SX and then decided they wanted the FPU after all... there was a second processor socket onboard, and when the "FPU" was plugged in it simply disabled the primary CPU completely -- the "FPU" chip was a full fledged 486DX. IIRC, there was another varient where the second CPU sat on top of the first CPU (and disabled it), but I can't recall for sure.
          • IIRC, there was another varient where the second CPU sat on top of the first CPU (and disabled it), but I can't recall for sure.

            Such a chip existed, but it was for upgrading older systems, like the 286 to a 486. Obviously because other parts of the chipset weren't as fast, the performance wasn't the same as a true mobo swap, but it was good enough for some people. Such upgrades usually used the 486slc2 chip. Information on these chips, much like the chips themselves, is a bit hard to find, but I remember

            • Evergreen made such an upgrade kit for 486 systems that allowed a low end Pentium CPU to run with the 486's motherboard limitations. They are still around and some info can be foun at their website [evertech.com]
              • Actually, from what I recall the Evergreen chip was really a 486DX running at 100 Mhz or higher. They just billed it as a pentium speed. Really I think it's fair because the very late production 486's (that is after pentiums were out for a while) weren't much slower than the early pentiums.

                On a totally pointless side note, I find it annoying that the plural for pentium isn't pentia as it should be.
          • The 386SX had no feature differences -- it was just slower.

            If i'm not sadly mistaken, the 386sx could only address up to 16megs of memory (24 address lines), where the 386DX could address a bit more (32 address lines) 4gigs of ram if i'm remembering correctly..

            Let's not forget the 486slc and dlc as well. Unlike the 486 sx/dx, this was more like the 286 / 386sx in the fact that it only had a 16-bit data path and could only address 16megs of memory. This was most annoying for largish companies who bought
            • If i'm not sadly mistaken, the 386sx could only address up to 16megs of memory

              Ah... right you are!

              Of course, that was a complete non-issue at the time. I mean, who could possibly need more than 16 MB of memory?!?!? :)

              I do recall getting my 486DX up to 20MB of memory in the early 90s... there were very few people with more memory at the time, and I only got that much because my MB had 8 DIMM slots (4x4M, 4x512k).
              • Of course, that was a complete non-issue at the time. I mean, who could possibly need more than 16 MB of memory?!?!? :)

                Well, it was sorta a non-issue... when I got my first 386sx-16 somewhere between 1989 or 1990 till web browsers started to hit the scene circa 1994/1995 or so. This was the main reason I upgraded to a true 386dx that took simms, rather then my old sx-16 board that took both chips and sipps.

                I also remember trying to argue with the nice folks at the local computer shop. They basicly kept
        • The other people have already got you corrected on the 386/486 thing.

          OT, but what the hell... I just wish Intel had released a 286 bus/pincompatible version of the 386SX. At the time, I wouldn't have cared about the performance loss of clocking at 10MHz, I wanted the instruction set!
          • Actually, I thought that the 386SX was designed FOR THE 286 BUS! It wouldn't be hard to make an adaptor yourself, considering that there had to be less than 100 pins there. BTW, why won't Intel release a pin-compatible version of the Pentium M for Pentium 4 boards? (Oh, well - PowerLeap is making an adaptor - there'd be a /. or K5 story about it, but both were shot down quickly)
      • Tell me about it. With a resistor mod [darkcrow.co.kr], and a quick BIOS flash [3dchipset.com], I turned my 9500 into a FireGL X1. Doesn't OC at all well any more, but it was still worth it. Rock stable with everything I could test it....maybe I should have bought a lottery ticket instead.... ;-)
      • by cnelzie (451984)
        ...the poor sap that can barely afford to spend the extra money on the 'value' board, you listen to someone's spiel about how you can 'unlock' the 'magic' or something and you end up frying your once perfectly good, yet low-spec'd board and are stuck having to go back to your old parts, if those aren't fried as well.
        • On one hand, I think people whould be free to do what they with with hardware they own, on the other, I would expect that they should know what they are doing before voiding their warranties and otherwise ignoring manufacturer warnings and disclaimers.

          While I understand that sometimes there really is a marketing reason for makers to down-mark their chips, I pretty much refuse to overclock anything because sometimes the silicon engineering reason to downmark is very real too, I really can't afford to junk p
  • Looks like AMD.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cK-Gunslinger (443452) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:09PM (#7788573) Journal
    .. has another winner on their hands. Excellent performance at a fraction of the price. 2 GHz, 64-bit performance for about $200 is nothing to sneeze at. Bring on the 64-bit apps/drivers! (And, of course, the MS OS.)
    • Not only a fraction of the price, but a fraction of the megahertz as well. I used to disregard the MHz Myth as Apple told it, but a gap like this, with apples-to-apples benchmarks showing them neck-and-neck, is kind of astonishing. I understand now why AMD is trying to push away from MHz speed to determine overall speed, into more of a video card model, where benchmarks determine the top performer, not specs. nVidia cards are always clocked higher than their direct competitors, yet you almost never see this
      • I used to disregard the MHz Myth as Apple told it, but a gap like this, with apples-to-apples benchmarks showing them neck-and-neck, is kind of astonishing.

        Except when Apple were telling the "Mhz myth", a) the intel CPU was twice the clock speed, not half again as much and b) the apples-to-apples benchmarks demonstrated the CPUs *weren't* "neck-and-neck" - the x86 CPUs were (generally) faster.

        Also, as Moore's Law seems to be finally bending--"faster" chips aren't coming out with steady increases as befor

      • Not only a fraction of the price, but a fraction of the megahertz as well. I used to disregard the MHz Myth as Apple told it, but a gap like this, with apples-to-apples benchmarks showing them neck-and-neck

        There is no such thing as an apples-to-apples benchmark unless you happen to be weighing apples. Every chip architecture is different and will perform in different ways. A 64-bit apple PowerPC chip isn't the same as those that go into an IBM pSeries. A 64-bit Sun workstation UltraSPARCIII chip isn't the
  • by 3DKnight (589972) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:10PM (#7788583)
    after 2004, the 754-pin sockets will make way for their new 939-pin sockets. AMD has said that they will continue upgrades for 754-pin 64-bit chips up to i think 3700+ After that you will need to buy a 939 pin motherboards. Though I wonder what the shelf life for the 754 pins are, since not that many programs can even make use of 64bit cpus yet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:11PM (#7788596)
    This is a very good incentive to go 64 bit. I was thinking of getting a 2500 Barton, since my 1800 finally kicked it last week when the cooling fan gave out (this was right after a re-format, so the temperature monitoring system was not installed yet). However, since this came out, it might be a good time to go 64 bit. The chip still packs punch, so its not really what we would tend to think of when the term "budget" comes up (AMD Duron...Intel Celly). Plus, it won't be that expensive to replace if you take the OC too far.
    • by cK-Gunslinger (443452) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:19PM (#7788650) Journal

      Yeah, it makes you reconsider that Athlon XP 2500+ purchase. 64-bit is temping, but you have to keep in mind that the 754-pinout on the chip is doomed. AMD already announced that they will move to a 939-pinout for most future 64s (Opterons are 940, so I assume they are just removing the "multiple-cpu" pin.) If that's the case, you may not have a very long upgrade path (3700?)
      • by Coaster-Sj (614973) <aspenwind.hotmail@com> on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:32PM (#7788743) Homepage
        I know some people are conecerned about having large upgrade paths but I find that I'm really not one of them any more.

        Usually by the time a processor drops in price enough that I think it'd be worth replacing an older CPU there is a new FSB or something that makes me want a new motherboard + ram to go with it.

        Lately when I've been buying computers I've came to the conclusion that Motherboard, Processor, and Ram are pretty much a package that will never be upgraded independantly (Short of adding more Ram). Unless I have a processor die I'm really not worried about changing it.
        • Anymore, the vid-card, sound-card and high-perf ethernets are the only things I care about. MB + CPU + Mem + Case become an old Linux machine / firewall / vncserver (for aim).

          Considering that the average MB+CPU is only $200, this isn't a bad deal.
      • Dunno, I always keep my CPU's and motherboards together nowadays. If I upgrade, both my CPU and motherboard go to another machine. Motherboards are not too expensive, and there are always reasons to upgrade your mobo (faster memory, better lan, serial ata, raid etc.).
  • by ruiner5000 (241452) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:16PM (#7788626) Homepage
    Didn't we? Athlon 64 3000+ review [amdzone.com].

    In conclusion the Athlon 64 3000+ is one of the best CPUs AMD has never announced. It makes a sub $1,000 system that is 64 bit capable easy to reach, and is able to perform quite admirably even with half of the cache of the other AMD64 CPUs. Will AMD make more 512kb cache Athlon 64s in the near future? How long will Socket 754 continue? Is this 3000+ an overclocker of merit? Stay tuned. For now if you have been craving for a powerful and cheap system with 64 bit onboard then the Athlon 64 3000+ is your CPU. It has no competition in its class, and likely will not for months to come.

    Let's see, 1 year since Slashdot has approved a story I've submitted. Let's keep the streak alive! ;) HP shipping Mandrake biz PCs. Who cares!

  • price? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nate Fox (1271) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:18PM (#7788640)
    $213USD seems to be the lowest on pricewatch, for those who are wondering
    http://www.pricewatch.com/1/3/5867-1.htm [pricewatch.com]
  • by Luscious868 (679143) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:19PM (#7788646)
    This move by AMD is clearly the result of Intel not contributing enough to Bush's reelection fund. Bush and his evil neo-con allies have it in for Intel and are using AMD as a front to destroy it. No blood for processor preformance!
    • Ha ha ... (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I don't know what's funnier ... your comment or the possibility that, given the political leanings of a lot of the people who post here, some people will think your serious and not realize it's a joke.
      • I don't know what's funnier ... your comment or the possibility that, given the political leanings of a lot of the people who post here, some people will think your serious and not realize it's a joke.

        :-) ... hehe .... I know ...

    • by ed__ (23481) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:51PM (#7788929) Journal
      uhhh, maybe a little blood. i can always use a faster processor
  • by dilvie (713915) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:20PM (#7788662) Homepage Journal
    This is good news. The next month or so will be a great time to buy those boring 32-bit CPU's that nobody cares about anymore. Moore's law rocks.
  • Why would anyone want it?

    The cache is allocated physically. It isn't a question of it having 1023 Kbytes instead of 1024 so then being sold as a 512K model...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Cache is not all or nothing. Let's say 934k of 1024k work. Turn off 512k including all the non-working memory and voila -- sellable budget processor. AMD chose the 50% line arbitrarily -- they could have chosen 75% and gotten fewer, higher performance processors or 25% and gotten more, lower performance processors.

      They can't actually tell you how much of the cache works because OEMs like to sell identical machines, i.e. all with 512k cache, not 512k cache or more.
      • Wrong. It doens't work that way. They don't, on a processor by processor basis, go in and "disable" the random parts of any Cache area that failed testing.

        ASS HAT Moderators too.
    • I'm not sure, but I would think that as long as they could find 512K of contiguous cache that passes, they could use just that without any major modifications.
    • by Kazymyr (190114) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:40PM (#7788821) Journal
      The cache is allocated in blocks. There are 2 512k blocks, and if there are bad cells in just one of them, it is disabled and the chip is sold with only 1 512k block enabled. If there are bad cells in both, they throw it away.
      • I don't know about this chip specifically, but for chips in general there would be more than just two blocks. In fact, it would probably be along the lines of 36 cells of 32K a piece. If any of these cells fail validation, you can disable them.

        So long as the number of busted cells is 4 or less (just using my example numbers here), you can sell the processor with 1024KB of cache enabled. Obviously, if there are no cells that are bad you still disable 4 of them to keep the parts consistant (OEMs don't wan
  • Could this become the new 'dual celeron' like a couple of years ago?
    • After you connect a couple o fleads on the top of the chip with heavy pencil lines, of course... :)

      BTW, I like my dual Celeron machine. Abit BP6 may be a crappy, unstable board, but I still like it.
  • by Kazymyr (190114) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:28PM (#7788719) Journal
    Overclockers.com did a mini-feature on the Newcastles last week, including why you shouldn't buy one too soon.
  • by manganese4 (726568) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:32PM (#7788750)
    Given current mechanical properties of the materials that encase the actual chip, the connections from the chip to the pin and the ability to insert chip into a motherboard, is there any impending barrier to the number of pins for future chips?
  • by andy666 (666062) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:46PM (#7788884)
    In Moby Dick, Newcastle is an assistant to the navigator who does all the computations.
  • by dorlthed (700641) <mxc511.psu@edu> on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:48PM (#7788902)

    I like this idea, and from a product-line standpoint, it's a good one. After the Athlon XP line started, I sort of missed the situation with the Thunderbird/Duron, where there was always a low-priced alternative for budget systems.

    Perhaps now they will create a sort of "64-bit Duron," a lower-priced and less-powerful version of the Athlon 64. This way, in the future, if I want to create a bargain version of a AMD64 computer for a family member or friend, or buy one, there is a cheaper processor available for such a system.

    I sort of missed having that alternative available; this creates a bit of processor nostalgia for me :p

  • hmmm.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by theMerovingian (722983) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:49PM (#7788905) Journal

    These 'reject' chips might be the reason Emachines offers such a cheap 64 bit computer. [com.com]

    • by ZxCv (6138) *
      These 'reject' chips are being sold as the Athlon 64 3000+. The chips in the Emachines box you linked to are the Athlon 64 3200+. Same clock speed, the 3200+ just has twice the cache over the 3000+.
  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Monday December 22, 2003 @03:49PM (#7788907) Journal
    ... or so claimed AMD. Maybe this is why - they are releasing 64-bit chips at prices comparable to mid-range 32-bit ones! Way to go AMD :-)

    I have no particular beef with Intel, btw, it's just that AMD always seem to aim more at value for money. I like that :-)

    • I have no particular beef with Intel, btw, it's just that AMD always seem to aim more at value for money. I like that :-)

      More importantly, AMD has provided real competition for Intel, which has helped greatly reduce the price of non-bleeding-edge CPUs.

      Cheers for AMD (in general... and cheers for AMD for surviving this long :)
    • They can release 256 bit processors if they want, it doesn't mean anything to your garden variety desktop user unless it's faster at running 32-bit code (which is sometimes the case, admittedly).

      The 64-bit thing is a bragging rights gimmick and doesn't do anything for the vast, vast majority of desktop users out there, who don't even have 1G of memory much less 3-4G. What's funny is people are actually buying into it.
      • Really, I'm more interested in it as a redesign of the x86 architechture. x86-64 uses the older design as a foundation, except it removes much of the cruft and adds quite a bit to the capabillities of the chip.

        The most harped upon example is the increase in the number of registers available, which in and of itself should increase processing power - something that's not being taken advantage of yet since there's not really any 64 bit native software available yet.

        The fact that the chip is already efficient
      • Just wait till you see the next generation clippy :).

        Seriously though, 2GB+ RAM can be very useful if you are using virtual machines. Opening a suspect attachment/file in a quarantine virtual machine (then rollback to pristine condition) etc. Once you start doing this sort of thing the RAM and disk space can start being used up pretty quickly.

        Pity AMD doesn't seem to have added better support for virtualization to their AMD64 chips.

        Apparently the PowerPC supports full virtualization - you can run a VM in
  • by turgid (580780) on Monday December 22, 2003 @04:02PM (#7789042) Journal
    AMD processors, designed by James T. Nail and fabricated on Tyneside.

    Crocodile shooooes!

  • by steveoc (2661) on Monday December 22, 2003 @04:41PM (#7789483)
    Dont you just love the way that AMD dropped this 64bit chip on the market - WITHOUT WAITING FOR MICROSOFT TO CATCH UP - Like, trust that Linux support alone will be enough to push this thing into the low-end 64bit market.

    And its selling like hot cakes - so the market is proving them right.

    Maybe it is a sign of things to come - hardware vendors pushing forward and bringing real innovation back into PeeCees, knowing that Linux alone will be there to support the innovations, and that Linux support is enough to drive sales.

    Remember how back in the good old days, Hardware makers (Commodore, Atari, Apple, etc) were free to introduce radical new hardware every 12 months, with no regard to operating software portability - they knew that the software guys were capable of keeping up back then.

    The current situation, with Microsoft being the sole supplier of OS's means that any new hardware has to conform to some horrid, and aging 'standard' invented back in the 80's, simply because Microsoft seems to be incapable of keeping pace with innovations in hardware.

    Well done AMD - for daring to break the status Quo, and for sticking one up Microsoft at the same time.
    • Linux isn't the only thing that supports it right now though - most Windows software companies should be considering purchase of one of these, if they haven't already bought one for each developer. Longhorn 64-bit has been available to anyone with an MSDN subscription for a while now, and the first to market apps with 64-bit versions of software will get a big boost in market share when Longhorn goes live.
      • True, but from what I have seen with Windows on AMD64 :

        1) The 32 bit mode performance is pretty impressive anyway (so AMD were clever to hedge their bets here)

        2) The performance of Win32 code on Win64 base is WORSE than Win32 code on Win32 base using this processor.

        I dont trust Microsoft to fully support x86-64 till Intel comes to the party as well.

        Keep in mind, that if Linux never existed, then Microsoft would hold all the cards, and would be in a position to sink this chip if they wanted to. Microsof
        • I cant wait for the support calls to start rolling in. What about businesses that 'Need' to standardize on Longhorn64-Office, but also need to keep support up for some legacy WinXP apps which dont run under Longhorn64 for whatever reason.

          What do you think VirtualPC is meant to be used for?

          As a side note, a 64bit version of WinXP should (in theory) be released in '04 (probably the 1st quarter of it). It's release will probably be fairly close to the release of .Net 2.0, which should have 64bit versions o
    • "Remember how back in the good old days, Hardware makers (Commodore, Atari, Apple, etc) were free to introduce radical new hardware every 12 months, with no regard to operating software portability - they knew that the software guys were capable of keeping up back then."

      Examples??? Not on the Atari end. The Atari 400 and 800 were released in 1979. After that, you had the 1200XL, then the 600XL and 800XL, the "unreleased" 1400XL and 1450XLD, and the 65XE, 130XE, and the XE game system. The newer models
    • Enthusiast gamers are what is selling that chip, not Linux. PC Gamers have always been the driving force behind adoption of new technology.
  • sample buildouts (Score:5, Informative)

    by erikdotla (609033) on Monday December 22, 2003 @04:42PM (#7789485)
    Here's example systems you could build, with the best possible motherboards. Each assumes you need to buy some DDR400 RAM so that is not included, since it's all the same:

    My Athlon XP system:
    Athlon XP 2800+: $150
    Abit NF7: $100
    Total: $250
    I'm quite happy with it. Best price/performance choice (last week, anyway.)

    Top-End Athlon XP system:
    Athlon XP 3200+: $289
    Abit NF7: $100
    Total: $389
    A complete waste of money, especially after today.

    P4 3.2 system for comparison:
    P4 3.2 CPU: $366
    Asus P4C800-E: $164
    Total: $530
    Better than both of the above, but only by a few percent for most things.

    That was the situation last week. Including an Athlon 64, Athlon 64 FX, or P4Extreme in the examples would have been useless since they're insanely expensive.


    Athlon 64 system you can build now:
    Athlon 64 3000+ 512k cache: $230
    Gigabyte GAK8VT800M: $106
    Total: $336

    So, to jump from the top-end Athlon XP to an entry level Athlon 64 actually saves you $53. I could have spent an extra $86 and got all this. The Athlon 64 system will now save you $194 over the best P4 Intel has to offer, and it will beat it (for virtually all applications.) Of course, if $336 is too much, you can still build a good Athlon XP system and cut costs dramatically, but $336 is very reasonable for building a brand new system. It'll be interesting when Intel gets it's P4Extreme down to a reasonable price, and AMD starts ratcheting up the Athlon 64 speeds.

    Proves it's always better to wait just one more week. I should have known that there would be major cuts in the 64-bit world soon after the processor debut.

    Hope all this is useful to anyone considering building a system. Keep in mind that 1gb of dual-channel DDR400 RAM is gonna run at least $150.

    All prices are PriceWatch.com and the Athlon 64 CPU price is from a link on AnandTech. I know PriceWatch prices are hard to get and you have to deal with shipping and all that.
    • Athlon XP 2500+: $83
      Abit NF7: $100 (I'd use an A7N8X Deluxe here, but...)
      A multiplier adjustment to up it to 2800+ speeds (I've heard the 2500+ is an underclocked 2800+): $0
      Total: $183

There's no future in time travel.