| In the past few months, there has been a raging debate over
which CPU is the fastest. The contenders for the throne
are the Intel PIV (2 Ghz) and the AMD Athlon (1.9 rating).
Many sites such as http://www.tomshardware.com or http://www.pcmag.com
would lead one to believe that the Athlon is significantly
faster than the PIV.
But what does faster mean? In low level terminology there
are widely used benchmarks to measure the computational speed of
integer and floating point operations. According
to http://www.specbench.org, the Athlon is competitive
with the PIV in integer, but is significantly slower
than the PIV in floating point.
So, why do popular sites believe that the PIV is
slower than the Athlon? The precise answer is that
it depends on which benchmark you use to measure
the speed of the CPU. The popular sites often
use system-oriented benchmarks to measure CPU performance.
Is there a problem with system-oriented benchmarks? Yes, there
is a problem, not in the benchmark but in the way that
popular computer sites interpret the benchmarks. The system-oriented benchmarks typically use
the entire computer - hard disk speed, graphics adapter
speed, etc. The performance measured by these benchmarks
is often limited by the slowest component,
which often is not the CPU. Therefore, the system-oriented benchmarks should only be used
to compare complete computer systems, not CPUs. Popular sites which use system-oriented benchmarks to
measure CPU speed should be given the same credibility as
magazines which cater to gossip and sensationalism.
If you are interested in a scientific perspective on
CPU performance, take a look at http://www.specbench.org
and ignore the popular sites.