With the introduction of the new AMD Athlon XP and MP series CPUs we’ve witnessed the return of the dreaded PR-rating system. It has only been a few years ago that a somewhat identical rating system was used by Cyrix to market their CPUs and AMD's K5 series of late that also came with a PR-rating. So are we looking at the same thing here? Well, upon closer inspection something does seem to have changed, whereas the 'older' PR rating system was meant to indicate to what clockspeed Intel CPUs these AMD or Cyrix processors were comparable to, the new PR-rating seems to do it differently. They're not comparing it to any Intel CPU directly this time, but have come up with a PR-rating based on a large suite of benchmarks they've run.
In the light of AMD's success in the enthusiast and home-user markets I'd actually hoped that AMD would not start using that PR-rating again. The majority of these enthusiasts and home-users are well aware that clockspeed isn't the only thing that determines a PC's performance. However we can see the reasons for opting for such a rating when common people, not computer enthusiasts, buy off-the-shelf PCs at, for example, Best Buy
or Fry's. I'm doubtful the sales guy will be able to properly explain why the AMD system of a lesser clockspeed can be just as fast or faster than the Intel. As honestly, do you think the average sales clerk will be able to explain the following? The AMD Athlon XP 1800+ runs at a 1.53GHz clockspeed, has an 1800+ performance rating and cannot be directly compared to an Intel CPU, yet does offer performance better than that of a 2GHz Pentium 4. The 1800+ rating is not the CPU's clockspeed but rather a performance rating meant to indicate the real-world performance. Unfortunately identical PR ratings do not exist for Intel CPUs thus you'll not be able to compare them directly.
Confusing isn't it? But lets look at the facts. AMD shouldn’t be ashamed that they don’t have a shipping 2GHz part yet, on the contrary it is admirable that their 1.53GHz Athlon XP performs better than the 2GHz Intel part, despite the fact that the Intel CPU has a 500MHz clockspeed advantage, a 400MHz FSB and RDRAM memory with 3.2GB/s of bandwidth. If I were AMD I'd focus my marketing efforts on the fact that their CPUs are faster clock-for-clock, or to make a bolder statement, offer more performance per MHz. As really, I'm not too confident that most of the retailers selling systems from the well known OEMs will be able to provide proper explanation to their customers about AMD's PR-rating. I've already seen numerous ads, both in the printed and online press, that sell an Athlon XP 1800+ system as having a 1.8GHz CPU. I'm sure the people buying such a system will feel rather mis-informed when they find out their CPU is running at 1.53GHz rather than 1.8.
Actually, although AMD is making it very clear that their PR-ratings are not to be read as a comparison to Intel’s Pentium 4 CPUs many retailers and enthusiasts shopping for a new system seem to think it is. That is rather unfortunate as that was never AMD’s intention. AMD should not try to play the clockspeed game, but actually rise above it and educate its prospective customers that clockspeed simply doesn't equal performance and advertise and sell their CPUs at their rated clockspeed. If they do a proper job they will have debunked one the biggest myths in the industry and have taken a number of cards from the hands of Intel's and other companies PR and will force them to play a different game of numbers, performance rather than clockspeed.