No More Megahertz

Since the dawn of the PC, CPU power has been most easily compared by clock speed, measured in megahertz or gigahertz (one gigahertz is one thousand megahertz). While this only holds true for identical platforms, such as Intel's Pentium 4 line, it has provided consumers an easy way to estimate that a 2.0 GHz processor is twice as fast as a 1.0 GHz processor.

For the last several years AMD has numbered their Athlon line of CPUs with a model number such as "3000+" to indicate performance they feel equals or exceeds an Intel Pentium 4 3.0 GHz CPU. Internally the clock speed of an Athlon chip is actually much slower, but the CPU processes data much faster than a Pentium at the same clock speed. Picture bicycling in 10th gear (AMD) vs. 7th gear (Intel) must pedal faster in 7th gear to generate the same speed.

In recent months, AMD has released its newest 64-bit CPUs using the model numbers FX-51 and FX-53, with future models incrementing from there. Intel has already confused many people by releasing new versions of its Pentium 4 line: the Pentium 4EE, Mobile Pentium 4, and Pentium 4M (if you are wondering the 4M is faster than the Mobile Pentium 4 at the same clock speed).

Intel says it now plans to convert all its processors to model numbers, a rather transparent attempt to thwart AMD's "our CPU is as fast as that Intel CPU" numbering scheme. The new scheme will have several series, such as the 300 series (Celeron and Celeron M), 500 (Pentium 4, Mobile Pentium 4), and 700 (Pentium M, Pentium 4 Extreme Edition). This scheme will let Intel continue its Pentium brand across more generations of CPUs. Unfortunately it will also create more confusion for users as indications are a given number may be used more than once, for both the Celeron and Celeron M for example.

April 2004

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