Mid-range CPUs are like minivans in their utilitarian nature. This category of processors offers extremely affordable and satisfying levels of performance to users who need their PCs for basic computing tasks. If you or your workplace primarily uses Office XP and a few other non-CPU intensive applications, such as basic database operations and Web surfing, these processors will work well for you. Don't expect to be able to encode a CD or DVD while you quickly scour the Web or check your e-mail, however.
Note: Intel's and AMD's CPUs run at different clock speeds. This does not indicate faster or slower performance.
Intel Pentium D 820: The shining star in this category is Intel's Pentium D 820. At $250, it's an extremely affordable dual-core solution that offers amazing multi-tasking performance for its price, as well as 64-bit support. The 820 runs at 2.8GHz, and each core features 1MB of L2 cache.
AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+: For months, it appeared that AMD would completely abandon the mid-range dual-core CPU category to Intel and focus its efforts on higher-priced premium CPUs. However, the company recently released the Athlon 64 X2 3800+, a mid-range dual-core that offers premium performance at a much lower price than the X2 4200+. The X2 3800+ runs at a clock speed of 2.0 GHz, and each core features 512K of L2 cache.
While Intel's Pentium D 820 has twice as much secondary cache, early benchmarking tests have shown favorable results for the X2 3800+, particularly in gaming and multi-threaded application performance. That said, at $350 this CPU costs almost 50 percent more than the 820.