Byte Me #61 CPUs give lay person no idea of computer’s power

14 January, 2012

In our profession we are often hearing “we just got these two PC’s from XYZ chain store but can’t get them to work properly – or they run slow”.  It is not surprising as computer related technology is highly confusing to the lay person and often what they learn today is out-dated in just 2 years.  Also so many believe that a PC is a PC so any PC will do the job.  This is not real logical either or why would we have PC’s that cost as little as $500 and some that cost as much as $5000?

Basically you do get what you pay for and some PC’s are required for specific tasks which then requires that they have specific features.  If we tried to tow a large caravan or boat with a 4 cylinder 2 door hatchback we would be in for a lot of trouble and quite simply the Department of Transport won’t let us as they give every registrable vehicle a maximum towing rating.  It’s a pity that PC’s aren’t rated too – well in effect they are, but many don’t want you to know!

Besides the operating system, there are 3 main hardware specifications that determine how powerful a PC is and how it will behave.  One is the hard drive capacity (similar in function to the size of a filing cabinet in an office) which determines the amount of permanent storage the PC has.  The second is the ram or system memory (similar in function to the amount of space you have on your desk to open many books or pages at once) often called temporary working memory.  The third is the CPU or central processing unit (similar in function to the brain of the person sitting at the desk) which is the only part of the PC that can think or process information.

The first two items are always given a simple rating of gigabytes (GB) on the description of the PC which allows a direct comparison between PC’s.  However the third item, the CPU is often just given a model number which means nothing to the average buyer and is often impossible to compare to another PC with a different brand or type of CPU.  This is something I disagree with and something that needs to change – and it could easily change.  There are particular organisations with large sites on the Internet that specialise in giving every CPU ever released a power rating which allows us to do a direct comparison.

An old indicator of power was the clock speed of the CPU but now with some CPU’s having multiple cores (like having two or four brains working as one) and varying amounts of cache (fast on-board memory) this is no longer a fair indicator of overall CPU power.  It is for this reason that for the last 2 years we give all of our PC’s and Laptops a power rating from this site – so that our customers can see exactly what performance they are getting per dollar.  This should be adopted as an industry standard.

This site shows for example that an Intel Atom D525 running at 1.8GHz has a power rating of 712 whereas an Intel i7 2600 running at 3.4GHz has a power rating of 8969 (more than 12 times as powerful even though it is just running twice as fast)!  The Intel Atom CPU’s were originally turned out by Intel solely for low power consumption in portable devices mostly for uses such as browsing the net, where they fulfil a very valid role.  Unfortunately because greedy PC manufacturers want to sell any PC for any purpose, both of the above CPU’s can be purchased in desktop PC’s from stores right now, but you can image how different they would be to use.  The Intel Atom’s should never be used for QuickBooks or MYOB for example.

Customers need to keep in mind the old adage of getting what you pay for and in the above example the Intel i7 which is 12 times more powerful would most likely be available in a PC that is barely twice the cost of the cheaper example above.  Kerr Solutions is at 128 Musgrave Street & is contactable on 49 222 400.

2012-01-14 Byte Me Article 61- Computer Ratings


  • February 20, 2014