MHz Wars – Part Deux

I have this feeling that the old megahertz (MHz) wars are back – slimmer, sexier and bolder than ever before. A new battle-ground has been chosen and the players and all starting to make their move. There is plenty at stake and companies have realised that if consumers were dumb before, they should still be dumb now. I hope that it is not so, but it is unlikely to be any different.

The new field of battle is in the world of mobile phones – particularly smart-phones. There are a number of behemoths playing in this field and everyone is starting to tout the speed of their all ‘powerful’ processors sitting inside their smart-phones. Consider this blurb from the new Nokia Maemo N900 and Samsung Jet smart-phones:

At the heart of this mobile computer is its powerful 600 MHz processor and up to 1GB of application memory. The superscalar ARM processor delivers exceptional power and enables you to run all your applications quickly, smoothly, and simultaneously.

The Samsung JET, with AMOLED technology and an 800MHz Application Processor, is smarter than a Smartphone.

The reason that the MHz wars of the computer industry was dumb is mainly because of the MHz myth – that is the belief that a faster clock speed translates into a faster processor. This is simply not true as the true speed of a processor is a complicated thing that needs to be measured with a number of different parameters including the clock speed and a number of architectural parameters.

While most of these phones all sport ARM Cortex processors, even these come in different shapes and sizes. The ARM Cortex is just the core of the more complex System-on-Chip that contains the processor with a number of different hardware peripherals and accelerators. Therefore, it is pretty difficult to claim that one machine is more powerful than the other just because it has a faster clock speed.

This is silly.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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