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  The Megahertz Myth, Apple, AMD and Intel. 
  Jan 10, 2002, 07:30am EST 

Intel, Clockspeed rules?

By: Sander Sassen

Intel has been pushing the clockspeed envelope more than any other manufacturer, as they know that clockspeed sells. Iím sure they never thought their P6 architecture that debuted with the 200MHz Pentium Pro a few years ago would take them all the way up to 1.4GHz with their latest Pentium III. Their P6 architecture is easily the best scaling x86 architecture weíve seen up until today, and probably one of most successful x86 architectures ever.

Still Intel opted for a new architecture when the Pentium III started hitting 800MHz clockspeeds, they knew that 1GHz would be hard to attain and beyond that would require at least a die-shrink which wasnít an option as their 0.13micron process wasnít production ready yet. The Pentium 4 architecture was the successor to their P6 architecture and was a topic of much controversy as it debuted some architectural changes and new features that were new to x86 processors.

The deep pipeline was considered by many as a bottleneck for the Pentium 4ís performance but Intel knew that it was a necessity if they wanted to ramp up clockspeed quickly beyond 1.5GHz. The introduction of the 0.13-micron Pentium 4 running at a 2.2GHz clockspeed is a good example of Intelís commitment to clockspeed, as its launch coincided with AMDís launch of the Athlon XP 2000+. Again Intel plays the clockspeed game by showing prospective customers of either company that they have a 2.2GHz part shipping instead of a part rated at 2000+ but with a sub-2GHz clockspeed.

Now that Intel has introduced the Pentium 4 from the very low-end, with the i845 and other 3rd party chipsets, to the very high-end, with the i850 chipset, it needs no further explanation that Pentium 4 will be on Intelís roadmap for at least the next 12-months. Granted, it makes perfect sense, Pentium III was on its way out and needed a quick replacement, although the +1GHz parts could compete very well with sub-1.5GHz Pentium 4s. Having one CPU covering all market segments allows them to focus on one platform rather than three like before (Celeron, Pentium III and Pentium 4) and thus they can put all their efforts towards making the Pentium 4 a successful product.

Raising the clockspeed to new heights naturally is the logical step as that raises the performance bar in all market segments, and thus forces AMD to come up with an answer. Clockspeed certainly sells, and especially if you can make the gap even wider, at some point, if AMD doesnít release their 0.13-micron parts quickly, AMD will not be able to keep up in performance and the performance crown will automatically go to Intel.

Sander Sassen.

1. Introduction
2. Apple, Megahertz myth?
3. AMD, Performance index?
4. Intel, Clockspeed rules?

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