As the debate of Intel versus AMD rages on, the difference between their clock speeds can be a point of confusion for many users. All processors are given a rating, known as clock speeds, that designates how fast the chip can process data. When comparing central processing units (CPUs), however, a higher clock speed doesn’t necessarily mean the processor will run faster.
Understanding CPU Speeds
The speed of a CPU chip is usually measured in megahertz (Mhz), which designates one million electrical cycles in a second. This is essentially a measurement of how fast a CPU can process data. This is not the only factor that should be taken into consideration, however, when comparing CPUs. A phenomenon known as the “megahertz myth” can be misleading.
Difference in Clock Speed
The megahertz myth is a belief that clock speeds are the only reliable measure of how well a CPU will perform. This is often a poor indication of a chip’s performance, as the CPUs efficiency in handling applications is a more reliable indicator of speed. For example, an AMD chip running at 3.0 Mhz is, in reality, faster than an Intel chip designated as 3.0 Mhz. This is due to AMD's chips being able to run at a slower clock speed, while still being able to match the performance of an Intel chip rated at a higher clock speed.
As a result of the discrepancy in clock speeds, AMD has decided to rate its chips in numbers equivalent to Intel speeds. For example, an AMD chip that runs at 3.0 Mhz may, in fact, be designated as 3.33 Mhz if it matches the performance of a 3.33-Mhz Intel chip. Though this helps in eliminating the megahertz myth, this can create further confusion regarding a chip’s true speed.
All processor chips contain what’s know as a cache, which allows the CPU to access recently used data to allow for faster working and greater efficiency. Thus, a larger cache can lead to a faster processor. Yet, this is not always true. A cache running at half speed is not as powerful as one running at full speed. This can also help determine the speed of a CPU, as well as how efficient it handles tasks.
The Faster Chip
Ultimately, determining which maker’s chips are faster, Intel or AMD, is a moot point. Both companies offer cutting-edge speeds and technological breakthroughs. Deciding which chip to use requires considering several different factors and determining which will work best for your personal uses. No single chip, no matter how fast it runs, can be crowned the absolute best CPU available.