Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Intel is back on top


Although media messages have been a bit confusing, it seems that Intel is regaining customers from AMD. At the same time that AMD is buying ATI (an therefore expanding the number of fronts the company will be fighting), Intel is presenting new versions of their saga of confusing names:

    Pentium D
    Core Duo
    Core 2 Duo

Code names are not helping either as Yonah, Conroe or Merom tell you nothing about the processor (unless you are an Intel engineer).

So will tell you my simplified version: Pentium 4 is dead. Hyperthreading is not bad but having a dual core is better. It means more instructions executed per time unit (faster processing). Trouble is that the thing tends to be hot, hotter as it gets faster. It gets hotter because it uses more power, so computers need these 400W or 500W power supplies to keep all the parts properly sourced of energy.

Intel has moved from 90nm to 65nm which means transistors are now smaller (they have to be if you plan on packing 350 million transistors in a small package) and therefore can work using less energy.

Pentium M was a huge success in terms of breaking the myth that faster clock is what you need. Performance is not always connected to a clock to clock speed comparison and Pentium M processors have been consistently delivering better performance than Pentium 4 running at a much higher clock speed.

What Pentium D, Dual Core and Dual 2 Core have in common is they are all delivering a dual core system where two processors are packed in the same chip. Pentium D is still a power hungry beast while Dual Core family can work with less power.

Please remember that the speed-up of having two processors is only apparent for some applications and it can even mean a slow-down for others. You may want to check this Microsoft article. So until all the code you run is designed with that in mind, you still can get faster single-thread performance with some AMD processors.

However, if you look at the performance per buck ratio, I think that most of the time Intel is now the winner. I have already switch some of my systems to the (cheap) Pentium D and I reckon I will be testing Core 2 Duo in a few months.

2 Comments:

  • At 10:25 am, Blogger Hiroshi Ikeda said…

    I agree with you. Performance does not always mean speed clock. I think a valid example is IBM processors G3 and G4 used by Apple recently. And maybe their PowerPC were superior to the Pentium and Pentium II at a lower clock frequency.

    I think that as the hardware has changed a lot from the last 3 years, the software have to change too. We are programming almost the same way 5 five years ago (I mean I do ;) ) so the programs, the IDE's and the languajes should offer mechanism or tools to take advance over that kind of hardware.
    Well, the article is a ahort processor market state study, and it's useful. Thank you again!!!

     
  • At 12:08 pm, Blogger Miguel Sánchez said…

    Thanks Hiroshi.

     

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