Intel shatters MHz Myth; to attempt ‘CPU speed isn’t everything’ campaign

“Intel wants to take your mind off chip speeds — especially if you’re going to be in the market for a new laptop. That might sound crazy to anyone who has watched Intel constantly crank out newer, faster chips — and constantly try to convince consumers and corporations that the speediest semiconductor is the answer to all their computing prayers. But in a reversal of emphasis, Intel is about to start pressing the public to buy laptops with new brains that aren’t faster than existing ones. Instead of simply running more rapidly, says Intel, its new laptop chip will result in better overall performance in real-world applications.

However, by taking this new, rather un-Intel-like approach to chipmaking and — perhaps more important — to marketing, the world’s biggest semiconductor producer is attempting to dominate what promises to be a rare, high-growth tech market. Or possibly laying itself open to a big counterattack.

Intel says it achieves this performance increase without a speed increase because of the way it’s bundling the new processor with other components into an integrated offering, a first for Intel. Called Centrino and set to be launched on Mar. 12, the package includes a main low-power-consuming processor specifically designed for wireless notebooks, a choice of one of two chips controlling graphics, and a wireless chip allowing the laptop to connect to wireless local-area networks… In making such claims, though, Intel might actually end up bolstering the arguments its rivals have long made — that chip speed is hardly everything when it comes to gauging processor performance, ” reports Olga Kharif for NewsFactor. Full article here.

Of related interest, from Apple’s most recent SEC Form 10-Q filing, dated February 10, 2003: “The Company’s ability to produce and market competitive products is also dependent on the ability and desire of IBM and Motorola, the sole suppliers of the PowerPC RISC-based microprocessorfor the Company’s Macintosh computers, to provide the Company with a sufficient supply of microprocessors with price/performance features that compare favorably to those supplied to the Company’s competitors by Intel Corporation and other developers and producers of microprocessors used by personal computers using the Windows operating systems. Further, despite its efforts to educate the marketplace to the contrary, the Company believes that many of its current and potential customers believe that the relatively slower MHz rating or clock speed of the microprocessors it utilizes in its Macintosh systems compares unfavorably to those utilized by Windows-based systems and translates to slower overall system performance. There have been instances in recent years where the inability of the Company’s suppliers to provide advanced PowerPC


  1. Sorry, Jim. It’s not.
    It will help the powerpc a little (cross fingers), but sheep will be sheep, and the laptop sheep are the worst, because they think they know best.

  2. Wow and in shock. I, being a Macintosh fold member since the beginning, have known this. However, the general public has always looked at MHz as being the decision maker, eventhough 500 MHz on an Intel chip and 500 MHz on a Power PC chip do not come out equal.

    This will favor well for Apple, Motorola and IBM – IF and ONLY IF, they choose to react and run with the ball once on the court.

  3. Ok Apple, lets blame IBM and Motorola.

    Are they also why Apple cant compete with their competitors on isntalled memory or hard drive space? Is IBM also why it takes Apple so long to update its system bus speeds? And embrace the current state of the art like DDR ram and ATA133 and the like? What about price points and expandibility? Try replacing the internal CD/DVD drive in your G4 (as I am) I can find 10+ PC compatible CDRW drives for around 50-100 bucks none of which are compatible (i’ve tried 3 – iTunes and the finder do not support Sony/Plextor/Panasonic) though I can buy one from Apple at 1/4 the speed of the PC ones for around 3x the price. JOY.

    If you and Apple truly believe that Apple’s fortunes are only being limited by Motorola and IBM, then they are standing too close to Stevies reality distortion field.

    Oh, and the “general” public might be being mislead about the importance about processor speed, but that doesnt change the fact that a 3GHZ PC will stomp a G4 a duel G4 or anything else Apple is likely to ship in the next 6-12 months. This is just a fact.

    So save your sheep remarks and what ever comments you probably have about me not being a “real” Mac user. People like me buy Apple because of the OS, and because recently (in the last 3-5 years) Apple hardware integration and quality of design and assembly have been head and shoulders above anything in the PC world. Thats what the “general” public doesnt see. The part about Apple’s being slower and generally having less for more $ is true.

    Just because you have a Mac doesnt mean that you’re not a sheep. Im not, are you?

  4. On reply to Mr Ender.
    why it takes Apple so long to update its system bus speeds? And embrace the current state of the art like DDR ram and ATA133 and the like.

    The chip needs to be able to utilise the bus moron. Motorola were not making G4’s that can take DDR that will be 7457. Their Network chips can but until very soon will it be done properly.

    I think we can call you Mr Tech genius, F#@kin knob.

    I’m sorry but as an Animator and Graphics person I can tell you Alti-vec still blasts. The problem isn’t really the chips it is raw optomisation.

    Advances on the hardware are needed, but are usless without the accelreation of well written software. Go use Maya 4.5 on a PC and then on OSX with dynamics. Then we’ll see who’s talkin.

    Go back to IT 101 in primary school.



    do some friggin reading.

  5. wow a typical mac-head response that gives us all bad names.

    Explain to me oh tech wizard how an ATA133 hard drive would be limited by processor speed at all? The original 601 PowerPC Macs are plenty fast enough to saturate an ATA66 bus which is what we have now unless Im mistaken – ATA133 would be NO problem friend. I really dont think you have any concept of how slow and what a bottleneck disk access really is.

    Then please continue to expain to me, how it is that dual G4 processors are such an advantage yet not enough to make use of DDR ram. And if the Mac is truely not behind in processor ability because of the “mhz myth” then why is it that PCs with pentiums can handle DDR ram but Macs cant? Are you just stupid?

    I dont need to go back to IT school thanks, I already have a very nice position at a fortune 300 company. It appears you could use some spelling lessons however, after that you might be ready to study the basics of IT. I’d be happy to help, maybe after a few basic pointers you’ll sound less stupid making comments in the future. Until then please shutup, uneducated people like you are what scare real IT people away from Mac users.

    Go ahead and call me a knob or whatever, i wont respond in kind as your blatant contradiction of concepts has done that far better than I could.

  6. Whatever company you work for, your arguments still sound over-emotional.

    Apple’s statement simply pointed out that CPUs were not there when they were needed most. If Apple releases a product like the flat-panel iMac and everyone wants one then it better have enough CPUs. If it does not then it has missed an oppurtunity and somebody has to get the blame. In this case it is Motorola and IBM who are in a contract to supply Apple with the CPUs.

    As for the bus speeds, ATA 133, etc… There are a lot of areas where Apple hardware outperforms the competition. The ethernet and FireWire ports on the new PowerBooks are just two examples. The new 16:10 aspect ratio LCD displays from Apple are also firsts and I dare you to find a desktop computer more sophisticated in its design than the iMac.

  7. I don’t really care what the MHz ratings are- all I care about is getting my work done quickly. Most people who rant about processor speeds I have found have never really tried running their apps on similar hardware. I have- I’m a hardcore Mac user who just sold his Dual G4 867 on eBay so I could buy a 2.8 Ghz Dell and guess what- The Dell is faster- and cheaper- by alot. I do lots of rendering in Lightwave and After Effects/Premiere, and the Dell just flat out smokes the Mac. The Mac still has the edge in terms of multi-threading performance and in Quicktime Video playback and manipulation, but for overall number crunching the Dell does just fine. True-XP is not as elegant as OSX. True- The Mac is better built and more reliable. Is it worth the extra 500 bucks for those advantages? Not to me. Sorry dude- I’m Bizzaro switcher. I went the other way and my life isn’t ruined, and I have more cash. I might need to change my license plate. It currently says MACMAN1. Will I go back to Mac at some point? Maybe… when I can get my work done faster than I can in the PC world. Sorry guys. Reality bites.

  8. Just stop complaining. Apple is the only one who can change things within their products. And they know we want really faster Macs. How they do this – I don’t care as long as they are faster.

    Now the facts:
    Apple uses dramatically faster motherboards in their recent products (in theory). They increase memory, HD and main bus speed. The use faster and faster graphic cards. And the result: just a little speed improvement which might also be due to the a little higher speed of the main processor.
    Just compare the original Dual QuickSilver with the current MirrorDoor Dual G4’s. With all the bells and whissels one would expect more than double performance with all that efforts taken. And the result: about 30% faster, just the speed increase of the main chip.

    When they launched the Xserve I remember to read an article about it’s internal design. Bottom-line of this article: the impression that the Xserve motherboard was designed for a different microprocessor than being used currently. Most improvements on the motherboard simply can not be used by the current Motorola processor’s I/O subsystem, leaving the improvements idling around. The articles author suspected an upcoming processor redesign in the near future. Take out old Motorola chip, plug in the new design and the engine finally can use its turbo booster to the max.

    On this background it is OK to use chip sourcing problems as potential financial risks for SEC filings. Apple is prepared for the new design but can not deliver the real thing because their chip sources are not ready for mainstream production. And when they don’t mention this in their SEC filings they may face a lawsuit from some of their shareholders.

  9. DDR, bus, graphics chips… you’re still cackling the ol’ speed myth… it’s ALL speed myth.

    For those of us not using Maya or Final Cut, which I would guess is about 99% of the computer users, the REAL myth is talking about ANY speed, not just CPU speed. How intuitive is the GUI, or adding peripherals, or connecting to my spouse’s computer? It doesn’t matter if my iMovie takes twice as long to render if I have to rifle through a 300 page manual to figure out the features.

    Apple’s goal is to make money, NOT fast computers. Faster CPUs only appeal to a tiny fraction of the market. From a shareholder’s viewpoint, I would much rather see better and more frequent commercials. I was hoping that the VERY low production costs of those “Switcher” ads would result in a greater frequency/coverage, but alas, not. Having some stone-headed high school twink is not the way to do it. Yo-Yo Ma was a good idea too late.

    Apple needs people to head to the Apple store. There is no better sales tool than having the potentail customer actually use a Mac. Everything else is pointless numbers and cyber-garble.

  10. I just recently purchased a used Power Mac G4/400, and have a 17″ Powerbook on order. Previous to this my last Apple purchase was an old Apple II. The reason: MacOS X. I’ve been running Linux and BSD on PC’s since ’94, so I’m a switcher from the ‘NIX world, not Windows. Even though I’m making this somewhat expensive investment I do so with some trepidation. The fact is that PCs are *significantly* faster per dollar than a Mac. There is just no way around this truth, “Mhz myth” or no. Apple is in a real bind here. Their CPU suppliers, neither IBM or Mot, can possibly compete against Intel’s domination of fab and lithography R&D. Intel will always be ahead because they have the capital to buy new fab facilities ahead of their smaller competitors. Game over.

    Apple is in the same bind every of other UNIX supplier, from Sun, HP, SGI – you name it. And if they follow the same strategy as these guys they *will* lose. Look at Sun, they don’t manufacture their SPARC processors, they farm that out to third party fab facilities. The outcome of this is that the SPARC is getting spanked on the low end server market by intel. But where does Sun shine? Like SGI, with large scale SMP systems – 32 and 64 processor monsters (SGI has systems which even scale up to 1024 processors). But Sun (and the other ‘NIX players) are getting squeezed on the low and high end just like DEC did ten years ago. The low end server market is getting commoditized while the high end server market is being pushed down ever lower due to CPU and I/O performance gains on the low end.

    So, what can Apple possibly do to prevent the eventual demise of the Mac? On the software side they’re doing a great job. But they need better hardware. One thing I remember about the older Macs, back when the IIci and IIsi series were just released, was that Apple’s hardware was absolutely top notch. You paid a premium for their stuff back then, but you got that premium back in performance and them some. They did this by engineering their own products instead of using lots of off the shelf commodity components. They innovated 2D hardware acceleration for use with QuickDraw, by integrating SCSI on the motherboard instead of ST508, by designing their own fast bus (nubus), by using their own motherboard chip designs, etc etc etc. Yes, it was proprietary, but that gave Apple the advantage that they could control performance where it mattered – to the user.

    —> Finished at next comment —>

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    They can’t do these things now because the R&D costs would be prohibitive. And since on the commodity market the PPC will never compete with Intel performance wise, Apple must find some other means to outperform the desktop PC. I don’t think Apple can afford another architecture move, never mind a move to Intel processors. And while everyone is looking toward the IBM PPC970 as Apple’s savior, the fact is that when released it won’t compete against newly released P4, never mind an Itanium or Hammer chip. Upon release a modern Mac will still be slower than a modern PC. The 970 helps, but doesn’t resolve the fundamental problem that due to Intel’s cash reserves they can out R&D every other processor on the market.

    Apple’s only solution is to go parallel. For example, imagine a Mac with one PPC970 CPU and four G4s. The PPC970 is critical because it supports a 64 bit address space which is necessary for editing HDTV and manipulating other very large files – Apple’s core market. But the secondary G4’s could be used to handle background image processing and rendering. They could also be used for Applications since they’re binary compatible. And since Darwin is based on Mach they needn’t even go with a shared memory model (SMP) but could instead just create a fast communications path between each processor and pass messages/data between. While it may not be optimal to create a hybrid 64 bit/32 bit system like that, it would be cheap. Apple could win by going back engineering their own systems with lots of cheap slower processors on the motherboard and the backend software to link it all together by the OS. And they would beat the pants off PCs both in value and in raw performance.

    Anyway, that’s my rant…


  12. I’m not a hardcore gamer, I’m not a hardcore graphics pro or number cruncher – I’m just an average computer user who had grown sick and tired of buggy & unreliable operating systems, software and hardware.

    I’ve used, updated, built and modified PCs since I was 18 (I’m now 33) and all I want is a computer which is fast, reliable and easy to use. A PC might be fast (or, horror of horrors, even faster), but it’s not reliable or easy to use. I don’t appreciate having to pay the MS software ‘tax’ to take advantage of new hardware or other technologies, when most of what you get with the upgrade is a tweaked UI which is still painful to use but doesn’t crash ‘as much’.

    That’s why I bought an iBook 18 months ago. It’s fast enough for me, it plays games nicely, it does everything that my previous desktop PC did but reliably and it never crashes. It’s energy efficient, elegant, extremely well built, incredibly user friendly, handles multi-media flawlessly, had true plug and play, burns CDs flawlessly…and did I say it never crashes?

    It is beautifully crafted technology.

    Probably one of greatest failings of PC manufacturers is this mad, irrational rush to have to latest, fastest, biggest, even when these technologies and/or the supporting enabling software are still half-baked.

    I prefer Apples approach of using technologies which are generally more mature with all the bugs ironed out, is well understood how to best integrate with other technologies and queeze the industry’s best performance out of it.

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