Intel's u-turn explained

For years now Intel has been touting clock speed as the best way to measure processor performance and has devoted serious resources to making sure as many non-techie savvy users as possible believe this to be processor-buying law. This month however the company has pulled a very public about-face. What’s going on? Windows explains…

  • E-Mail
By  Jason Saundalkar Published  July 17, 2006

|~||~||~|For years now Intel has been touting clock speed as the best way to measure processor performance and has devoted serious resources to making sure as many non-techie savvy users as possible believe this to be processor-buying law. This month however the company has pulled a very public about-face. What’s going on? Windows explains… Through various trade shows, demonstrations and marketing drives in the past, Intel has made sure to point out its clock speed advantage over AMD’s processors. This was a deliberate move as the company had seemingly identified that non-techie users, i.e. the majority of PC users, base their processor or even PC buying decisions on clock speeds, be these in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). To these guys, as with many buyers of pretty much everything, something with a higher number had to be better than something with a lower number. Intel made the most of this belief and marketed its products with this in mind. In line with this, the ‘NetBurst’ architecture was designed to allow the Pentium 4 processor to run at high clock speeds, which as a consequence meant it performing less work per clock cycle. Now with its new Core 2 Duo desktop CPUs (codenamed ‘Conroe’) however, Intel has begun truly focusing on accomplishing more work per clock cycle instead. This has been AMD’s approach for a long time, so it does seem that the clock speed (or frequency) wars are officially coming to an end. This becomes obvious when you look at the new ‘Conroe’ chips on offer. At present, the fastest chip is the Core 2 Duo Extreme Edition X6800, which ticks along at a frequency of 2.93GHz. This means it runs at a frequency that’s 500MHz or so less than the fastest Pentium 4 processors on the market today. All of which in effect means that Intel now has to convince buyers that clock speeds aren’t important and higher speeds don’t necessarily mean a faster performing chip, in order for these users to accept and buy its new, lower clocked products. Personally, I think that’s going to be one heck of a task. This is because Intel essentially has to tell users that clock speed isn’t actual everything after all. Considering it used every trick in the book in the past to make sure users and PC builders bought its processors with clock speeds in mind, this change of message will leave some users questioning Intel’s integrity or even its know-how. Did it focus on the wrong CPU specification all along? If I was one of Intel’s customers and had believed all the marketing and hype about high clock speeds equating to better performance, only to be then told otherwise by the very same company, I think I’d feel confused at best if not completely misled. Moreover, I don’t think I’d buy a product bearing Intel’s name for a while and would be eager to see what AMD had to offer. And that, let me say, would be a shame, because Conroe really is a quality product that deserves your consideration. Curious to know more? Pick up the September issue of Windows Middle East (on sale next month) and check out our exclusive AMD vs Intel dual-core test.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code