Articles: CPU
 

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Therefore, I was shocked to see what awful disinformation was offered to the public in the official Apple document on the launch of their new systems. It is not about the numerous overstatements like “the fastest system”, “leaves far behind” and other magnificent phrases: that’s normal, that’s marketing. But running along the lines of the document I found the performance results of the cross-platform benchmark SPEC CPU 2000…

Let’s first see who’s in the lead of the performance parade today. The following table lists the performance results in this test (I took the Base result). Note that these data are taken directly from the official SPEC website. You will see shortly why this is so important. Here you are:

 

PowerPC970
1.8GHz

Power 4+
1.7GHz

Pentium 4
3.2GHz

Pentium 4 XE
3.2GHz

Athlon 64
3200+ (2.0GHz)

Opteron 148
(2.2GHz)

SPECint 2000

937*

1077

1287

1583

1266

1405

SPECfp 2000

1051*

1598

1252

1475

1180

1505

* - IBM’s preliminary estimate

The table needs some comments of ours, I suppose. First of all, the results of PowerPC970 are the lowest among the competitors (Power 4+ processor belongs to quite another market sector; I was just curious to know how far the offspring ran from the forefather). The results refer to the 1.8GHz processor of course, while we now have a 2.0GHz version, but this cannot conceal the fact that PowerPC970 is considerably slower than the others. By the way, the release of the “extreme versions” of Pentium 4 and Athlon 64 has been like a spurt of the x86 processors: they are now beyond reach for the poor PowerPC970.

It’s also clear that PowerPC970 loses to Power 4+ in floating-point calculations (its FPU was greatly cut down compared to the predecessor). What’s worse is its significant loss (from 20% to 33%) to the competitors from the x86 world. Accordingly, you cannot expect this processor to compete successfully with x86 processors in serious scientific calculations: it won’t fall too far back at best (if the software is properly optimized for each platform, of course).

On the other hand, this PowerPC970 is a good foundation for Apple which has been in constant trouble in terms of performance (I don’t have much faith in the results of Apple’s “tests” in Photoshop without any clearly defined methodology – just columns of numbers). So there is some hope that the new processors will help Mac platform to bridge the gap to the x86 platforms, which we see today.

Of course, I was looking for performance results of PowerPC970 from Apple. And when Apple did publish them, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Yes, you have the right to show your platform in a most favorable light, everyone does so. But when the company goes for a direct fraud during its marketing campaign and deliberately lowers the results of the competitors, it’s unacceptable! Take a look yourselves, as here are the results for Pentium 4 3.0GHz as benchmarked by Apple:

 

Results from SPEC.org

“Results” from Apple

SPECint 2000

1151

889

SPECfp 2000

1229

693

I am quite curious how they were testing to get the performance reduced by more than twice! As you know, the main concept of the SPEC tests is to achieve the maximum performance for the platform considered. The compiler is chosen at your own wish. So, I can’t think of a reason for such a big difference between the results, save for a deliberate inaccuracy of Apple’s marketing folk. Even by choosing a bad compiler it’s hard to drop the performance twice in SPECfp_base 2000. Apple chooses not the fastest compiler for Pentium 4 and doesn’t use the SSE2 instruction set saying it couldn’t get a performance advantage from using this set (!). Well, the whole world sees a performance advantage from SSE2 optimization, and Apple – doesn’t. Should we buy them spectacles?

 
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