AT News Update: Removing the MHz Myth, Againby Kristopher Kubicki on March 12, 2004 10:03 PM EST
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News broke earlier today that Intel will most likely change its current "Megahertz" strategy in favor of a more subdued "Model Name" approach. This does not necessarily mean Intel will change its processors to a PR rating, like "3000+". Rather, the new model system sounds very familiar to AMD's Opteron approach, with three or four digit numbers replacing the product name.
Further sources claim that Intel isn't dropping the Megahertz convention entirely. Rather, it is simply adding a model name to other specifications as part of a new approach to customer awareness. Front Side Bus (FSB) speed, cache size and core name will play a larger role in differentiating one product from another. Unfortunately, this will not be an easy task as the last 10 years of microprocessor marketing has been almost exclusively "MHz" oriented.
Even when AMD began to push its processor "ratings" on the Athlon XP and MP CPUs, the ratings were designed to correspond with the clock speed of an equivalent Pentium 4. Undoubtably, this new name change may force AMD to rethink their labelings as well. Although AMD was originally correct to shy away from MHz labeling, now it will be more difficult for them to inform consumers on which processors are equivalent in performance.
Hurting AMD is probably not one of the main concerns driving the new model name approach. Take the mobile market, for example. Even though Banias (Centrino) is a brilliant processor (we have covered many times), customers are more apt to buy higher clocked Pentium 4 notebooks rather than a lower clocked, "low power" Pentium M notebook. Unfortunately, this is a case of when the trained "MHz" rating system is confusing and poor for the consumer. This ultimately becomes poor for the notebook manufacturer, as consumers complain about low battery life.
Intel's decision to move towards the new MHz less model name coincides with several new technologies, including Dothan (Banias's replacement) and Socket T (Socket 775). With an even more capable Pentium M, a mobile Pentium 4 killer, Intel and the consumer have a lot to gain by picking up the new lingo. We will have more Dothan information later this week.
How will this affect us, the consumer? Well, whether or not you agree with Intel's strategy, there is a more mundane advantage to adding a model number (other than OEM SKU) to each new processor; simplicity. If you just saw a new Intel commercial and want to buy a new computer, isn't it easier to remember "Intel 550" rather than "Intel Pentium 4 3.2GHz, 1MB Cache, 800MHz Front Side Bus, Socket 775."