A New Battlefront

In fact, these strengths of the AMD processor line have been recognized for years by the technologically inclined few. As more and more people become convinced that AMD may be a better value than Intel, we are seeing a crucial change in the ongoing battle. Since the large computer manufacturers can do nothing but follow public opinion, you are now seeing Dell and Gateway with a full line of AMD systems. This is quite a blow to Intel. What will they do now that their delicate market position is being shaken? We are already starting to see the answer, as their newest marketing efforts are focused on high end audio and video editing. I believe this to be a very good move for Intel, because it puts them into a market that they should have been in all along!

Intels Real Strengths

Pentium4 has two major advantages over AMD: they are more stable and they are capable of a much higher utilization of system memory. Stability is definitely a quality that they should be pushing, but have simply chosen not too. Their memory bandwidth is what they are focusing on now. This capability is why Pentium4 systems are most often paired with RDRAM. RDRAM is capable of enormous bandwidth, allowing large amounts of data to be quickly transferred from the CPU to the system memory. This configuration allows CPU and ram intensive tasks to run very quickly, which means that a Pentium4 system is a great choice for high-end video editing.

The Strengths of AMD

Not everyone does high end video editing, and of those who do, not everyone has the extra $1500 to spend on a Pentium4 system. AMD is there as their alternative. As I have always said, AMD’s main strength is in their great prices. It has been said that AMD’s prices are so low that it arouses suspicion regarding their quality. How can something so cheap be just as good? This is an amusing problem, though a real one. TomsHardware.com has been running comparison tests between the two processor lines for as long as they have been around, and the latest round of tests revealed some interesting results. The Athlon XP 1800+ processor simply blew away a Pentium4 2GHz processor in video editing! So, once again, Pentium4’s position is being rocked, and it will be interesting to see what happens as time goes on.

Straight Comparison Impossible

For years, AMD has been suffering from a direct comparison of CPU clock cycle speeds. For example, when you have a 1.4Ghz Pentium4 processor and a 1.4Ghz AMD processor, it is natural to assume that they are essentially the same speed. This is bad for AMD, because at the same clock speed, an AMD processor is actually faster. This is due to the architecture of their design — during each clock cycle, and AMD processor performs more operations. An AMD processor, then, is always faster than it sounds to the average consumer. This introduces a great deal of confusion to most people. How can anyone know which processor is faster without pouring over the benchmarks and testing data? AMD has been slow to address this problem, but they have now taken the first steps.

New Performance Based Speed Ratings

AMD finds its solution in a new ‘performance based’ rating system. This is a shaky concept, but was a good move by AMD. What it means is that they will no longer label their processors according to their clock speed, but will create names that appeal to public perception to attempt to accurately describe the processor speed. For example, the Athlon XP series has a processor that runs at 1.5GHz, and they have named the processor the 1800+. You can see what they’re doing. They know that their 1.5GHz processor is the equivalent to a 1.8GHz Pentium4, so they have given it that label (although it is interesting to note that the 1800+ AMD blew away the Pentium4 2.0GHz processor in video editing, which simply means that AMD is being careful to be very conservative in their labeling). This new system has the potential to throw the whole CPU scene into confusion, but at this time, it is the only way that AMD can get the speed recognition that it deserves.

AMD Speed Rating Clock Frequency
1600+ 1.40GHz
1700+ 1.47GHz
1800+ 1.53GHz
1900+ 1.60GHz
2000+ 1.67GHz
2100+ 1.73GHz


With the good moves AMD is making in the market, it looks as if they are going to continue to gain strength with the large manufacturers. Puget Sound Systems is simply a little bit ahead of its competitors. This is not due to anything special about Puget Sound Systems — it is inherent in its nature. While the large manufacturers are forced to closely follow consumer opinion, Puget Sound Systems can work with each and every client to examine each situation to determine whether AMD may be a better choice, and thus is not as closely bound to consumer opinion. After all, as the slogan goes: In a market that is out there to take your money by telling you exactly what you want to hear, Puget Sound Systems is breaking the trend by making computer systems that do not conform to your presuppositions, but your needs!


This article was written by Jon Bach, owner of Puget Sound Systems — a small business based in Seattle, WA that specializes in building custom computer systems. Visit him at http://www.pugetsystems.com

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