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AMD To Hide MHz Rating From Consumers 916

pezpunk writes: "Tom's Hardware is reporting here that AMD's next-generation Athlons will be identified by model number rather than Mhz rating. This means that an Athlon will be designated an "Athlon 1600" even though it's only a 1.4Ghz part. The true clock speed of the chip will NOT be shown either on the chip itself or even in the BIOS. Apparently, they're desperate to compete with higher-clocked Pentiums in the minds of consumers -- proof that even the underdog can pull dirty marketing tricks =("
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AMD To Hide MHz Rating From Consumers

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  • Don't they already have a P rating or something of the sort? It's from way back when they did the k5's I believe.
    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the P rating was started by NexGen, the company that AMD eventually bought that created the architecture that was incorporated into the K5/K6 lines.

      Their chips used slower clock speeds, but rivaled Pentium performance. For example, a chip clocked at 81Mhz yielded a performance equal to a Pentium 90, hence a P90 designation. This also happens to be the designation of my NexGen motherboard that still serves as my home web development platform under Linux. :)

      Now WHY they didn't just run their chips at comparible speeds and blow away the Pentium performance-wise, I have no idea.

      I always thought it was a stupid marketing ploy to begin with. Casual consumers always rate things by simple measurements (speed, horsepower - as in cars).
  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @03:19PM (#2231385) Homepage Journal
    It makes sense to me. Lower MHz Athlons are always compaired to higher MHz P4's in benchmarking and stuff. It just proves the MHz isn't everything.

    Which is the marketing scheme? The faster MHz? Or the better chip????
    • Yes. From experience (review machines) I can tell you that a top of the range Athlon 1400 is considerably faster than a top of the range PIV 1800. It's similar to Apple's GigaFlop machines, they weren't that fast at all.

      Heck, since when did MHz mean something?

    • by Rimbo ( 139781 )
      Which is the marketing scheme? The faster MHz? Or the better chip????

      The faster MHz. Even people who ought to know better are looking at AMD's move as a "dirty trick" (*ahem*). But faster MHz, even though it's pretty much a pure marketing move, makes news headlines, and even those who know better are tempted to say, "Gee, still, 2GHz is really fast" even though its speed is comparable [] to a [] 1.4GHz Athlon4 [].

      When people call your marketing strategy a marketing strategy, and even more when they call it a "dirty trick" (*ahem*), then you're not doing as good of a job at marketing as your competitor whose marketing strategy is difficult for people to recognize as such.
    • by hillct ( 230132 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @03:41PM (#2231582) Homepage Journal
      This isn't really a dirty marketing trick, so much as an approach to weening the consumer from their reliance on clock speeds as a measure of performance. Granted it would be better handled by insuring that reliable and impartial benchmarks such as perdormed by AnandTech or Tom'sHardware got the appropriate amount of press, rather than being pushed out of the spotlight by clock speeds. They could have tried to get the consumer to rely of FOPS or some other measure of performance, but if they completely refuse to disclose the clock speeds of their chips, that is entirely another problem. The trick will be to insure that there are a sufficient number of impartial benchmarks out there for consumers to feel confident about the numbers they provide.

      • by Telek ( 410366 )
        Sure, that makes sense, but only if they're not being misleading.

        By using numbers that look suspiciously like MHz numbers they are being very very dirty and should go sit in the corner. If they had called it MODEL T, for example, then your argument would hold water. Forcing computer manufacturers to not be able to display the MHz rating just prooves that's exactly what they're trying to do: be dirty and hide the numbers.

        And besides, when a TBird 1.2 is 1/2 the price of a P4 1.4, are they really in that much of a loosing spot?

        Mind you, DDR did the same trick with their PC1600 and PC2100 memory, to not "sound" slower than RDRAM...
        • And besides, when a TBird 1.2 is 1/2 the price of a P4 1.4, are they really in that much of a loosing spot?

          That is part of AMD's problem. When a consumer sees that the AMD part is "1.2" and the Intel part is "2.0" AND the AMD part is cheaper, they assume it is cheaper because it is slower. This is not the case (as far as I have seen), but the big chipmakers don't really care what John Q. Nerd thinks, they care what John Q. Public thinks. There are more regular consumers than nerds, on an order of several magnitudes. Intel makes more money on each processor. They have higher margins than AMD, because they are not just selling a proc, they are selling a brand. AMD is just selling a proc. They have made quite a bit of market share since the introduction of the Athlon, not because it had good architecture and was a solid chip, but because they were competitive in Mhz. Now that they are not competitive in Mhz (but still very competitive in performance) they are running scared. John Q. Public does not care how many instructions the Athlon can execute in a clock cycle, he doesn't even know what an instruction is and wouldn't care if you told him. He knows what a Mhz is. That is what computers are sold on. I think AMD is waaaay off the mark here, but I certainly understand the reason they are doing it. What they should do is follow Intel's lead and produce a fantastically overclockable CPU by increasing the length of the pipeline. I don't know how much it is going to matter, hopefully there will be 64-bit chips on the market soon and the stupid Mhz race can start all over again.

      • so much as an approach to weening the consumer from their reliance on clock speeds as a measure of performance

        You know, in a couple years clock speeds will be so high that that they will be largely irrelevant for most PC purchasers. Except for a very small group of users, neither the Mhz or the benchmarks will really matter all that much. At that point the chip specs become a footnote in the manual.

        Look at the current situation -- AMD has a very fast 1.4Ghz chip that they apparently have to almost give away at $100 or so a unit. Long gone are the days when Intel could release a chip that was 10% faster and demand twice as much money for it. A 2 Ghz chip comes out, and it's being sold at Walmart, not as a $8000 workstation. Mhz is no longer moving product.

        The OEMs have been primarily relying on Intel and AMD to 'add value' by routinely upping clockspeeds. The result is a commodity low-margin business where the CPU guys make all the profits. They've got a couple years to try to figure out another way to squeeze blood out of a turnip (like Apple did with style and video apps, for example), and then it's all over.
      • But what if intel did the same thing. Would you all be so sympathetic?

        Intel can rename there pIV's as pIV 3200 and the consumer will false think the intel chip is twice as fast as the athlon 1600. Got to love marketing.

        Hey, speaking of clever marketing, remember when NT 5 which was due in 1997 got renamed as windows2000? Hehe. It worked. I told my boss that microsoft took ages to make w2k and it was long overdue. He said quote "Its not late. Why do you think Microsoft named it Windows2000 ?". He fell for it.

        Also go to your grocery store and look at Campbells Chicken soup. The can with a picture on it is $1.45 and the other can without a picture is $ .99. The 2 soups are identical ingredient by ingredient and quantity, yet the consumer pays more because one can has a nice pretty picture on it.

        Sadly consumers are really suckers for things like this. Megahertz ratings included. Same is true for clever wording. Notice how microsoft's products are all verbs? Internet Explorer, Access,excel, etc. Marketing does really work and people subconsiously think of these actions each time they open the apps. Ask any Phsyc. major? Using verbs and positive adjectives does influence people. Anyway consumers just want something that looks visually appealing and is highly marketed. Perhaps AMD could rename the athlon to a verb. Hey Geforce256 is a great example. I admit a geforce is the fastest chip available but I am sure the name helped them greatly market it.

        Expect intel to do something similiar like I mentioned above with names for its chips. Intel does have the extra hand in marketing due to brand name recognition. Also without a magehertz rating many consumers who are second time buyers know to look for a megahertz rating when buying computers. They may be nervous and wonder what AMD is hiding when no info is available. They will probably pick intel to be safe. Or pick the chip with the higher number in its name. :-)

  • What next? Car model names? Oooooh the AMD "Mustang SHO"! Buy one and get laid everyday! Howzabout the AMD "Shilznatz" for the Thug in us all - faster than a Glock 380.
  • So, if I don't know how fast the chip is, how am I supposed to set the jumpers on my motherboard?


    • Performance benchmarks. Look at how much better an actual workload performs. But I don't see how it could hide it from the BIOS all that well.
  • I fail to see how this will help. It seems to me that it will only confuse the consumer. You take the one piece of data that the average buyer uses as a benchmark (the MHz rating) and completely obscure it.

    It seems to me that the consumer would be better served by AMD advertising in plain language why their chips are better than the competition's.

    Look at it this way, if you went to the gas station and the pumps were only listed as "Formulas One, Two, and Three" instead of octane ratings, you'd likely buy the cheapest one instead of the one best suited to your needs.
    • "It seems to me that the consumer would be better served by AMD advertising in plain language why their chips are better than the competition's."

      Hah. These are the same users that choose iMacs for the pretty colors (as opposed to choosing them for any other reason, or choosing something else).

      "Look at it this way, if you went to the gas station and the pumps were only listed as "Formulas One, Two, and Three" instead of octane ratings, you'd likely buy the cheapest one instead of the one best suited to your needs."

      And millions of people always buy the most expensive gasoline even though their car engines were designed to run perfectly fine on the cheapest (by law). They just think that since it's more expense (or "higher octane") it must be better. And anyway, how does "Octane 83", "Octane 87", and "Octane 94" really differ from "Formula One", "Formula Two", and "Formula Three". I'm so sure people are solving stoichiometric formulas at the gas pump to figure out their "ideal" fuel. Bah.
      • And millions of people always buy the most expensive gasoline even though their car engines were designed to run perfectly fine on the cheapest (by law). They just think that since it's more expense (or "higher octane") it must be better.

        Higher Octane IS better. High-performance car manufacturers especially recommend higher octane fuel for their cars. While it is true that not everyone needs it, but in many vehicles a performance difference is very noticable.
        • Octane is the level of knock supression. High performance engines, ie. high compression, high reving, high temp, and forced aspiration are more likely to detonate. So you have to run a slower burning fuel to prevent detonation.

          Faster burning fuels can produce more power and offer better milage if you car can run properly on it.

          So octane has nothing to do with quality. Just run what is required by your engine.
        • Higher Octane IS better.

          No, It's not "better", it's "different".

          Higher octane means (IIRC) the gas has a higher ignition point, so it won't "knock"(pre-ignite) in high compression [high performance] engines.
          "Knock" will reduce performance, and will eventually damage your engine.

          In your average car, putting in high octane has absolutely no benefit, except maybe to give you a good feeling that you're putting "premium" gas in it.

          Bottom line: use what your manual tells you to use. Don't try to outsmart the people that designed your engine.

          C-X C-S
    • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @03:52PM (#2231663)
      On the one hand, as has been pointed out a dozen times, MHz is a pointless number. It's like talking about engines in terms of liters. Higher numbers are not always better than lower numbers.

      More importantly, CPU speed has stopped being an issue for most people. I know, I know, there are always some people who love to claim to be the exception to the rule, people who insist they need to solve systems of fifty million linear equations or that they do aircraft design at home, but for most people, even professional programmers, speed has gone beyond what we know what to do with. When the 333MHz Pentium II rolled around, I started coding in the highest level language I could find, be it Lisp or Smalltalk, because what I then saw as excessive performance afforded me the luxury. Now we have processors that are five times faster, and I don't think about speed at the hardware level.

      Slowness is usually something that's outside of the realm of hundreds of millions of operations per second. For example, Internet Explorer takes too long to start up on my machine. Lots of people apparently think that a faster processor would fix that. And other people complain that a game is stuttery, and think they need more CPU performance, when half of the time it comes down to a buggy video driver.
    • I think the purpose is to obscure that piece of data intentionally since it's not an accurate benchmark anyway. This way people will actually have to learn something about the processors when they decide to buy. Perhaps read reviews that compare AMD chips with Intel's. That could work to AMD's advantage.

  • I suppose that will still work correctly right? Isn't that taken from kernel callibration routines instead of BIOS?

    On my Athlon 700:

    cpu MHz : 700.044
  • If it helps AMD get the market share and laurels they seem to deserve, great! Maybe it will force Intel to be more innovative in their architecture design sessions than they are in their marketing sessions.
    • What? That just doesn't make sense. Why wouldn't Intel just go, "oh look, it works for AMD, now let's market our 2GHz PIV's as Pentium 3000s" ????
      Why oh why do you think this would cause Intel to work harder on their architecture?
  • It's not really that bad of a "dirty trick" since an 1Ghz Pentium Processor and a 1Ghz Athlon Processor are not exactly equal... but because they are both "1Ghz" they ARE equal in the minds of many consumers.

    Benchmarks usually place the like-clockspeeded Athlon at slightly faster then it's Intel competitor... but it becomes hard to market that.

    Hiding the clock speed from the BIOS though... going a bit too far.
  • I do not like this. I think AMD could better compete in other ways. We do not buy cars based entirely on how many RPMs they are capable of. Sure, most people buy CPUs on the Mhz but I'd rather see an advertising campaign targeting that fallacy rather than hiding the Mhz from us.

    Also, whatever 'P' rating you rate it at is meaningless. An Insel chip may be faster at integer math, slower at memory access and floating point while an BMD chip may rock at floating point but be terrible at other things. Plus, are we comparing against the PQ3 or the PQ4 Insel CPU?

    No, keep the information about Mhz right on the CPU. Ideally, keep the FSB and multiplier as well. But just don't use this as your selling point.

    • Re:Better options (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pulzar ( 81031 )
      >>We do not buy cars based entirely on how many RPMs they are capable of.

      No, but horsepowers do influence our decision. Much less, though, because the cars are not named 'Integra 180hp' and 'M3 340hp', while the CPUs *are* named 'Athlon 1.4GHz', 'P4 1.6GHz'.

      So, it's a good marketing decision, to make up model names/numbers for different CPUs. As for hiding the actual clock frequency -- for the people who care to find out, it can't possibly be a big problem to figure it out.

      • I would put MHz as more like engine size. HP is an objective number arrived through a standardised test.

        Ford Zetec 2.0L - 130HP
        Honda 2.0L from S2000 - 240HP

        Even though the engines are the same size... the HP test (dyno) show what they actually do with that size.
  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @03:22PM (#2231417)
    AMD should go for this all they way! After all, we all know how well trying to hide a chip's REAL speed rating worked for Cyrix! oh, wait....
  • Seems to me that a marketing ploy like this will not work against a marketing giant like Intel...

    Intel will simply exploit the fact that the Athlon "1600" is not a 1600Mhz chip.

    The average consumer(read non-slashdotter) will see the "True" 2000 beside the Athlon "1600" and will obviously go for the higher numbered chip.

    Apple has tried to educate the consumer about the reality of clock speed, and they failed. What makes AMD think they can achieve a different result?

  • I don't think clock speed is important. It should be printed on the computer box someplace but it doesn't need to be part of the marketing or product name.

    Clock speed hasn't mattered to me since about 100MHz. Just get a current PC, and your computer will be fast enough for the popular applications (MP3 for instance).

    Of course power users will care, but average joe doesn''s hard to compare MHz to MHz these days anyway.
  • If I don't know what the clock speed is on my chip, how am I expected to set the jumpers on my motherboard?
    • This may be a stretch, but have you considered RTFM?

      As new CPU's are released, if the motherboard can handle it the motherboard manufacturer will update the manual on the website. Look for the name of your CPU and set accordingly. And if you want to overclock then just get the settings for the CPU you want to aim for.

      Or you can just let the motherboard autodetect, which is what most of the good motherboards do these days anyway.

  • FreeBSD's boot process will still tell how fast
    it is clocked :-).
  • I recall about 2 or 3 years ago when the overclocking chips started to roll out that several questionable vendors had sold chips that they claimed were, say "500mhz", but was really an overclocked 300mhz chip. Some organization (FCC?) stepped in and said that there must be truth in advertizing and that if you are selling an overclocked 300mhz chip, you must advertize it as an overclocked 300mhz chip that can obtain 500mhz, but not as a 500mhz chip.

    Wouldn't this strategy defeat the purpose of this ruling? Those same questionable vendors can come out of the wordwork, and say that they just sold you a 1.4ghz AMD chip, when in relality, you've just got a 1.2ghz overclocked to 1.4ghz? Without the ability to see both the chip model # *and* the chip speed in the bios, it will be very hard to proof that you get what you ordered.

    I agree that stupid consumers are infactuated with high clock speeds that lead to this problem, but AMD chips, from my experience, seem to stand on their own in terms of quality and performance compared to Intel, and need not hide behind this strategy to effectively compete. Besides, if anything, they have to woe the OEMs and not the ones buying speciality-built computers, and last I checked, many of the OEMs are still Intel-based.

    • No, since you aren't claiming that its a 1600MHz chip, just calling it an Athlon 1600. Same thing as the old PR ratings.
  • by Kasreyn ( 233624 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @03:26PM (#2231466) Homepage
    ...consumers can't get it through their heads that clock speed is not even close to being everything. Intel has proven a willingness to more or less lie about the speed of their processors (got look at some Tbird vs P4 benchmarks and tell me I'm wrong there).

    As long as the public continues to see things based solely on the clock speed, AMD can't win unless they:

    1.) try to educate consumers better (not gonna happen because cpu design is complex)
    2.) fight dirty and do Intel's tricks right back to them.

    I'm not too happy about it either, but there's little else AMD can do. At least there's one good thing: it's only a model number. Unlike Intel, they're at least not lying about clock speed.

    • got look at some Tbird vs P4 benchmarks and tell me I'm wrong there

      Please post a link to these "lies" that you so boldly claim. Even better, some proof that they are lies.

      Unlike Intel, they're at least not lying about clock speed.

      How is it better to attempt to intentionally mislead people? Cyrix tried this same trickery, and suffered the consequences.

      This is no better than Apple's misleading claims that some bogus narrow benchmark or extremely optimized, specific operation (e.g., photoshop filters) is a measure of overall performance.

      As evidence of my statements, I direct you to John Carmack's post [] regarding his performance tests of x86 versus PPC.

      There is more to performance than what a lot of people want you to believe. This AMD move is simply about misleading consumers.

    • but will it work?

      Will the consumers (not understanding that > MHz doesn't mean faster computers)?

      I remember Alphas being listed by model #. I don't remember the Mhz and I have no comparison of speed to Intel machines..

      Ok, so they put up a freaking chart that shows the comparison. How is that any different from what they have to do now?

      There is no less confusion. At least to me.

      Just my worthless .02
    • by rkent ( 73434 ) <rkent&post,harvard,edu> on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @04:14PM (#2231808)
      ...consumers can't get it through their heads that clock speed is not even close to being everything.

      How about cycles per instruction?

      I mean, really. AMD and Cyrix already won one battle, if you think about, by calling attention to MHz in the first place. Before that, it was "increasing intel product numbers mean better processors." But then some clones came about and said, "Wait. This newfangled 486 does basically what the 386 does, but at 66MHz instead of 25. Well, WE make a chip that does the same thing at 100MHz!"

      Now, let's do the same thing with CPI. Instead of "Megahertz GOOD!", let's all stomp our feet and say, "CPI BAD!" I'm thinking of that metallica parody here. Anyway, people understand golf scores, where lower is better -- they can be made to understand that lower CPI is better. So why doesn't AMD come out with an ad campaign saying, "The pentium 4's average CPI is 97, and ours is just 2. Therefore, our chip is FIVE TIMES as fast as a p4 at the same clock rate!!"

      I mean, that's a bit hyperbolic, but it's just as valid as saying "Megahertz GOOD!" like everyone's doing now. And it's not a lot more complicated. They could even start pitching it as an efficiency thing, since you know we hate waste: "Intel is simply offering you a bigger and bigger gastank, while we're offering to improve your mileage."
  • I can't say that I disagree with their inclination to not want to use MHz, when it doesn't mean anything; even less now that the Pentium 4 is up to 2GHz. Talk about bloat.

    I don't agree with their attempt to give out these "model numbers" that looks suspiciously like higher clock rates. Cirix tried the same thing a while back. It only confused people in the end and (IMHO) increased the consumer's reliance on MHz as the single metric on which to base purchasing descisions on.

    We really need a good benchmark to comapare these, but that is a very old story....
  • Arrrrggg, just when I thought AMD would actually have a chance in the marketplace vs. Intel they go and do a stupid thing like this.

    This is the tactic of a loser. Look where it got Cyrix. What they *should* be doing is emulating Apple, and run a lot of ads expostulating on the "Myth of the Megahertz". This has the double bonus of getting them airtime and also slamming Intel without mentioning Intel outright (or even *with* mentioning Intel, that's fine). They don't even need to get into technical details, just say stuff like "In the most demanding benchmarks, our processors come out ahead. They are more efficient, and better able to perform the tasks that will launch you into the Internet Era.. etc. etc. ::Insert Marketing Stuff::"

    If they want to be seen as a serious competetor in the business arena, this is NOT the tactic to take. Bogus "power ratings" are just that. Bogus. I had just started to genuinely *like* AMD as a company that put out a good, solid product with a minimum of BS. Man, I'm so pissed off about this. Grrr!!
  • This certainly raises an eyebrow, but I cannot see how it provides any value to me (or the average consumer). It makes things even more mysterious! Given a choice between something that is well known, with a published clock rate, or a 'second tier brand' that hides information, I'd think it would give Intel and even BIGGER advantage. Unless, of course, for some stupid reason, Intel decides to do the same thing.

    But really, for the AMD fan, this is an insult. Hopefully their marketing and PR people know some sort of angle to this beyond the obvious that will magically capture market share by removing its Mhz rating.
  • "Check it out: the new Athlon 1600!"
    "Excuse me? Yes, how fast does this processor actually run?"
    "It's a 1600!"
    "Yes, I know that, but how fast is it? in megahertz?"
    "It's equivalent to a Pentium at 1600 Mz."
    "Okay, but how fast does it run?"
    "I don't understand the question, sir."
    "How many megahertz does this processor run at?"
    "Perhaps you're not familiar with what we call 'The Megahertz Myth'...."
    "I'm thoroughly familiar with it, I've worked in hardware for fifteen years. I just want to know how many megahertz this particular processor runs at."
    "It's equivalent to a...."
    "No, I don't care about that. What's the clock speed?"
    "It's faster than a...."
    "That's nice. What's. The. Clock. Speed?"
    "Would you like to see some comparisons to...."
    "Never mind, I'll just go check out the Motorola booth."
  • Well at least Microsoft are honest. You definitely do need a 2000MHz CPU to get tolerable performance out of NT5.
  • If AMD thinks that the BIOS won't be revealing the true speeds of the CPUs, they are on crack. I guarantee you that right after these CPUs hit the market, ABIT will release a BIOS update for all of their mobos supporting the chip. This update will show the true CPU speed, giving ABIT an edge in the overclocking market. To compete, ASUS will do the same with their BIOSs/motherboards, which have a hard time against the cheaper ABIT mobos. After that, EPoX will do it for the value oriented segment of the market.

    And then it will end up a standard feature on all the AMD mobos out there....
  • The normal user sees clock speed as a measure of performance. Clearly it isn't, and so AMD is moving to model numbers that use higher numbers. Tom says a A1600 is "as fast" as a P4 1.6ghz, however this still relys on clock speed as a measurement!

    They need to move away from clock speed and to real world output. I think a good idea would be do name their CPUs after something like the number of FLOPS or MIPS the processor is capable of, much like Apple has done (except that AMD and Intel are both x86 for the sake of this argument, and so it might actually have an effect), unfortunately, neither Apple nor AMD has the market share or reputation to start a new trend, especially since the Intel PR machine has the "clock speed" crown and is likely in no hurry to reveal how weak a P4 has to be in order to reach the higher clock speeds.
  • ...and sell them under the name PowerHouse 2200's.
  • What I find amusing is that the same people who bitch that we shouldn't judge a processor by its clock speed are the same people who bitch that Intel's processors are slower at a certain clock speed than AMDs.

    Who cares? The big question is overall performance. Intel made an architectural choice for the future, not for short-term performance gains. The trade-offs that they have made now are going to allow them to grow to much higher clock speeds in the future while AMD has a harder and harder time of it.

  • by jshazen ( 233469 )
    This is not a dirty marketing trick. This is a (admittedly, stupid) counter to Intel's dirty marketing of their bloated speed ratings.

    Here is an article [] on ZDnet discussing the issue. In it, an independent analyst notes that the P4 is 20% less efficient (does 20% less work per clock cycle) than the the P3. This means that MHz comparisons are no longer comparing apples to apples, and therefore meaningless.

    As others have said, this obfuscation won't serve AMD in the long run, but they are the "victim" of this marketing war, not the perpetrator. The true victim is Joe consumer, who buys a chip because it has higher MHz, instead of having a metric which actually measures computing power.
  • Cyrix did the same thing a number of years back.

    As a matter of fact, a quick search shows that they got in hot water for this tactic as this Register Article [] shows.
  • This makes complete sense and I was wondering when it was going to happen. I would suspect that we will see Intel doing the same.

    If you look at the Intel road map, specifically, to the next generation chipset, the IA64, you will see that it is slated to come out at something like 800mhz. No general consumer is going to pay a premium for a 800mhz chip, even though a IA64 at 800mhz will knock the socks off a P4-2ghz.

    The consumer has been trained that MHZ are THE measuring stick of processors. As a rule of thumb on like processors that works. IA64 changes all of that, and marketing has to change as well.

    I don't know what everyone here is getting all worked up over. Anyone (just about anyone) who reads /. knows which processors to buy, and we don't just pick our processors based on a marketing name. We all look at benchmarks etc and do our comparisons there. The average joe doesn't get it anyway, no mater what the hell the write on the box.

    That is my .02.

  • I'm sorry.. when the P4 2ghz can't outperform an Athlon 1.3ghz, I don't think that AMD is doing the dirty marketing.

    Rating computer systems (specifically) and chips (more generally) by mhz is absurd. There is more to computer speed than mhz, as we've seen by the various cache and bus differences between the chips available (even using the same manufacturer). A 450mhz P2 will frequently outperform a 500mhz Celeron. When you make the jump to the P3, the change actually widens the gap.

    AMD moving away from the mhz game is an excellent move, but they really need to come up with some way of letting the public have some idea of how fast their chips are compared to the competition..


  • If you don't like MHz comparisons, why just make up new numbers to compare to MHz ratings? Why not start marketing on a whole new metric, like MIPS or MFLOPS?

    If AMD were to start selling processors based on MFLOPS I suspect Intel would have to publish their own numbers. It would be obvious to consumers that the two ratings were not comparable - that is, if you see an ad with a "1200 MHz" machine and a "35 MFLOPS" machine you don't assume the former is 35 times faster.
  • The new athlon part numbers will all contain the "GHz" suffix, which AMD insists is "simply an internal product code," and is "certainly not meant to be confused with an actual statement of clock speed."

    Accordingly, the first chip released under this new nomenclature will be the 1600 MHz "Athlon 2.1GHz." AMD expects sales to improve immediately.

  • ...think like your average consumer. Since if they know ANYTHING about their computers, its the speed, imagine them trying to buy software.

    "Okay sir, and how fast is your computer?"
    "Its an AMD 1600"
    " fast is it?"
    "Its an AMD 1600"
    "Do you know how fast it is, in MHz?"
    ".......Its an AMD 1600"

    The average consumer will now know even less. And while that might not mean much to the /.'ers here, I'm sure we all have tech-impaired family and friends (like that one who bought Max Payne to run on their know who they are).

    Sure, it might be what AMD needs to compete with Intel's ads, but they should just launch their own ad campaign showing how the 1.4GHz Athalon performs just as well, or better than the new 2GHz Pentium IV in almost every non-SSE-related benchmark.
  • Its creepy that Intel seems like the honest platform now. A P4 2000 is actualy 2GHz. PC800 RDRAM is actually 800Mhz. But calling an Athlon 1.4 an Athlon 1600 is almost as bad as calling 266 DDR SDRAM PC2100!
  • OK, but if I can't compare the clock speed of an Athlon vs. a P4, I also can't compare two different Athlons. How do I know whether I should be model 1600 or model 1800? It would sound like saying Windows 2000 is better than Windows 98 because the number is higher. Not telling how to compare two of your products, will likely decrease your sale.

    Also, now Intel can say: "Our latest P4 beats the crap out of an Athlon XYZ" and people won't know that they compared it the the slowest model.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @04:02PM (#2231742) Homepage Journal
    In the end, virtually ALL the units used for measuring processor performance have died ugly, brutal deaths.

    And, you know what? Within a week, we all sigh with relief, because the old units never worked anyway!

    When was the last time you heard the MIPS or FLOPS rating for a processor? When the RISC processors came out, and scored 100 x the nearest CISC chip, we suddenly started hearing how worthless those ratings really were. (Which was true, only the people saying it had been using them to crush the competition under their feet, the previous week.)

    What's the FLOPS rating for a Pentium IV? Anyone seen it listed on any of Intel's adverts? Curious, that.

    Truth is, there -is- no meaningful number you can use, to describe a processor. Applications will vary so much in performance, depending on how well they exploit the various caches and pipelines, that any value you get will be useless for any realistic comparison.

    Worse, the bottlenecks for the main memory, the PCI bus, any local busses, etc, ad nausium, are so much more significant than the processor. Sure, building a faster chip will earn lots of green bits of paper, whereas building a better motherboard will simply earn lots of whining from hardware manufacturers.

    The reality is, though, that processors today would be perfectly adequate, if the support hardware were up to scratch. (Anyone remember the problems the 486DX-50's caused? Those worked at 50 MHz, direct. Great design, but the hardware needed to run it killed it. The 486DX2-66 was really just a DX-33 with some fancy over-clocking. The support hardware was all standard stuff. That's why it caught on.)

    It's time to take another look at that hardware, though. I doubt it's changed much since the DX-33 days, except with a few extra levels of caching. It's still convection-cooled, for the most part. The connectors are still badly designed and cheaply made. Sockets are built to be easy for plebs, not easy on components.

    Compare this with a VME or VMX bus, where the backplane alone costs more than most top-end PCs and where ease-of-use can go jump in a lake. These are systems where customers can afford to pay, and don't want to pay for junk.

    I'm not saying PC manufacturers should suddenly switch over to VMX-style architecture (128-bit busses can get a little interesting, and besides, I've some PCI cards I'd like to keep using!), but it's time to do some re-designing. If a user wants to be babied, they're not going to handle hardware installation, anyway. They're going to go to a shop. Providing idiot-proof systems is simply driving up the number of idiots and driving down the performance of computers.

    • > If a user wants to be babied, they're not going
      > to handle hardware installation, anyway.
      > They're going to go to a shop. Providing idiot-
      > proof systems is simply driving up the number
      > of idiots and driving down the performance of
      > computers.

      You know what's really sad? I've seen a lot of shops where the 'techs' are marketing drones that were sat down and shown how to install a PCI card.

      I remember a long time ago a friend of mine bought a internal modem. He had the guy at the shop install it and when he brought it home, the modem refused to work. He had already talked to the tech before calling me in. It was a simple matter of disabling the external COM port in the BIOS so the modem could use it instead. I told the tech at the store who replied "that's weird, PCI is supposed to configure itself - all you need to do is put the card in and power on."


      I think a lot of people buy a computer for the sake of having a computer. If they only sat down and thought about what they needed it for, they could probably cut a few hundred off the sticker.

      At present, no home user needs a 2000MHz system. But Intel will make them believe that they do.

      Damn the Joneses. Damn them straight to IBM.
  • IBM refers to their own mainframes's performance using an obscure value like 'Relative performance units'. They use an arbitrary baseline from one of their own models - call that 'Relative performance 1.0' and then proceed to not only NEVER publish any other vendors numbers but tell you that any other vendor's machines are not comparable and that no other benchmark can be compared or correlated. In a similar vein if you use some of the Lotus benchmarking tools for Notes and publish the results they can sue you.
  • The last PC I put together was AMD based. Before that, I had always gone Intel. What moved me over was the fact that I could get more performance for my dollar. As long as the processor is powerful enough to do what I want, I don't really care about the clock-speed. Yeah, having a more clock speed can bring "bragging rights", but every day we are shown that clockspeed is almost meaningless in terms of performance.

    In my mind, however, hiding the clock-speed rating is equivlant to hiding the version number on software. It's no longer Windows 6.0, it's Windows XP, or 2000, or Windows "The Version that Makes Windows Good(tm)."

    This whole processor coverup thing started with Intel and their "Pentium" series. It does make business sense, but it can tick off tech-savvy people. Why? The average consumer thinks "Processor" and not "80586 200MHz CODENAME CPU". Consumer understand brand names, and brand names help companies develp identies and products. That is why it is now Windows 2000 and Windows XP: it creates a sub-brand of the real product.

    Think about this: Windows NT 5.0 and Windows NT 6.0 versus Windows 2000 and Windows eXPerience. The version numbers make it sound like a simple "upgrade" while the brand name make them seem like completly seperate products. It may be just enough to convince people that it is a world of change, regardless of what is actually in the box.

    Back to processors, I think AMD is going to try to make some brands - focus on the name and image and push aside the gritty technical details. IE. "The AMD WhizBang(tm) processor is as powerful as the Intel Pentium 4 2000MHz." It's marketing... pure and simple.

    I don't think it will matter what they call it or how fast the CPU runs. Independant benchmarks will show the true performance of the processors. This could be a good thing in that it may get ordinary consumers to become more informed about speed vs performance. IMHO, an informed consumer is much better than one that simply buys the one with the bigger MHz rating. ;)

    • by Telek ( 410366 )
      This whole processor coverup thing started with Intel and their "Pentium" series

      Woahhh.... That wasn't done to hide performance, that was done to copyright the name of their processors because apparently 486 isn't copyrightable, so in the public's mind a 486-100Mhz is obviously better than a 486-66MHz because they're the same name, right?

      Intel only stuck with the Pentium naming scheme because they put so much damned money into advertising (which AMD has yet to do), and that's what got the public on their side.

      AMD just needs to get a good marketing team to whip up a lot of good advertising and put it everywhere. Those "dumb" people that everyone here is so fond of referring to only think that P4 is better and that the MHz counts because they haven't been told otherwise.
  • Salesmen

    Flat out. That's the problem with computers these days is that the salesmen don't know the inside of the computer from the outside.

    Example: Back when Intel started making S370 Celerons, I went and asked a computer store clerk if it was Slot1 or S370. He said it was slot1. "All the older socket processors are too out of date and just don't perform as well." After going back home and looking on the internet to find out that the computer was a S370 rather than Slot1, I didn't trust that salesman again.

    I figgured I'd try again last week with the Pentium IVs. I found another sales clerk and acted like a potential college student needing a computer for college. I asked him which was the fastest processor. "Oh, hands down, the Pentium IV! I mean, they just released a 1.8GHz chip, when all AMD has is a 1.3 GHz chip." I figured I'd play this out..."But is it worth the money? I mean, that Athlon system is $400 cheaper!" His response? "Well, if you need the cheaper system for college, pick the Athlon. But if you really want those games to shine, pick the Pentium IV. All that money is for the faster processor and faster memory." I just had to get out of there before I blew my top over his faster memory claim with RAMBUS.

    Look at it this way: If you're ever gonna go out and buy a car, look over the lots to see what you like and what looks nice. But for crying out loud, NEVER take for granted what the dealers say, because they're out there to sell. If you want to know how the things honestly perform, find someone who already owns one and ask them! Or go to your local mechanic (everyone should have one, just like everyone should have a neighborhood geek whenever they need help with their computer) and ask them what they think about that specific model car.

    That's why Cyrix and Intel both have to crank out these pathetic "P" ratings in order to satisfy market competition. The people who sell the products in the stores have no other choice.

  • When I read this earlier on ZDNet, "industry experts" were saying that AMD couldn't get consumers to abandon MHz ratings for instructions per clock cycle. Personally, I don't see a problem with them trying to change comparison factors as long as the numbers are meaningful, which 1600 doesn't sound like it is.

    I'm sure their marketing team could come up with something like 1.9 giga-doodles for a 1.4 MHz cpu. Obviously something a little more sexy would be needed though.

    If AMD changed schemes, then what geek here would not buy them because of it? We know what they're referring to. But I guess the average consumer couldn't compare giga-doodles to GHz on their own. But AMDs marketing could again jump in with stickers & posters for retail stores and OEMs. Something that specifically states what the giga-doodles of this AMD is vs. the giga-doodles of similarly priced P4. That's definitely not illegal and would be better received by the geeky population at least.
  • the MHZ of a processor means absolutely squat.
    It's been rehashed time and time again, and silly enough people keep clinging onto the MHZ speed as a performance rating. It means nothing and indicates nothing. everyone with a clue knows this and everyone that ever owned a cyrix 586 or 686 processor really knows this. you'll never get real ratings out there (print the mips and mflops on the chips!!!!) but even then that means nothing with the addition of huge pipelines and multiple pipelines.

    I say just market as follows.

    Athalon 4.2 - It's 4.2 times faster than the Pentium 4 (or whatever)
  • Power Consumption? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ( 184378 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @04:29PM (#2231904) Journal
    Why don't chips compete on power consumption and battery life?

    I think we can all agree that the latest and greatest chips are grossly overpowered for the average consumer, even the average gamer.

    So in this age of power crises in California, why not sell laptops or desktops that are smaller and consume less power? I personally want a laptop that will run eight to ten hours on a battery.

    Right now, I have a ThinkPad 570 that has every feature I want. It has a Pentium II Mobile at 366 Mhz. I can watch DVDs (granted, I have a hardware decoder PCMCIA card), browse the web, check email, even play games (Fallout Tactics) and I have no complaints at all. Battery life is two to three hours, depending on what I'm doing.

    Meanwhile, Intel and AMD are releasing gigahertz processors for laptops. Why? Laptops are not gaming machines. Laptops are for a portable office. Most usage is email, word processing and internet access. By designing what is now a Pentium III 1.13 Ghz to instead be 500 Mhz, you could save money and power (while still making use of the SpeedStep features to further reduce clock cycles while on battery).

    Truly "on the go" laptops could be smaller and lighter with longer run times. High end "desktop replacement" laptops could still use the full speed processors and the powerhouse video cards which spank my Voodoo 3.

    Desktops could likewise be smaller, using the same features. Most desktops are available with build-in everything, so expansion bays/slots could be kept to a minimum.

    Another advantage of this is that one could create silent computers, similar to the Apple G4 Cube. Less heat generation means less fans and that means silence.

    Those who want to overclock are going to buy the high end processors anyways. But those building an MP3 server/player to integrate with their TV/stereo are not going to need a 2 Ghz processor. A 500 Mhz Pentium III (0.13 micron process) would simply need a heatsink and some airflow.

    I welcome the day when megahertz is something you need to look to the "technical specs" page (and I mean technical).
  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @04:36PM (#2231939) Homepage
    This whole discussion boils down to 2 points:
    1) Hiding the Mhz from the masses is good
    2) Misleading people about clock speed is bad

    So why name a 1400Mhz PC as a 1600? That sounds like "lying" about the clock speed. Instead, name it an Athlon 6000? Name the 1500Mhz part Athlon 6500. That way, no one will make the "Mhz equivalency" mistake that hurt Cyrix, but the frequency is still hidden.

    Who here bought an HP 600 or a Canon 720? No one, because manufacturers never made the mistake of naming printers by DPI. But I bet some people have an HP 624C.

    The best solution would be a standards body, started by a tech reviewer, (like Tom's hardware or Anandtech) to assign each chip maybe 3 numbers that indicate it's performance in 3 key areas. Perhaps applications, games, and server. Then the consumer can easily browse the shelves looking at whichever number best applies to them. If the rating is independant, then we don't care if it is proportional to the Mhz or what, it is a valid usable measure for the consumer. Isn't that what we want?
  • Kinda consfusing? (Score:3, Redundant)

    by Lxy ( 80823 ) on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @04:41PM (#2231964) Journal
    I just assumed that "Athlon 1600" meant 1.6 Ghz. I like AMD's idea of ditching clock speed since it's irrelevant. I don't agree with a model number that closely resembles a clock speed. There are morons who work at Best Buy and other computer chains that are going to tell consumers that the machine is 1.6 Ghz. Why? Because it just makes sense and they don't know any better than the consumer. Then Best Buy will get sued for false advertising when someone figures it out. I would personally like to see model numbers like "A0108" (Athlon released Aug 2001). Any guess that it represents a 1.4 Ghz chip? Not really.
  • by Moofie ( 22272 ) <> on Wednesday August 29, 2001 @05:55PM (#2232327) Homepage
    The clock speed DOESN'T have any direct bearing on the system's performance. What's dishonest about this? I mean, the Mustang 5.0 always had a 4.7 liter engine...what's the big deal?

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears