For a few years now, it has been Microsoft that has led the charge to dumb down computing, so that the extremely dull can also take advantage of their wares. Now, Intel, in an effort, it says, to bring some more ease to the choice of a processor, is using a system similar to the one your second grade teacher might have used. There will be stars awarded to processors, and pretty colors for the logos. This will be the ultimate dumbing down for the masses, as it doesn’t even require the ability to read.
Will you choose a PC’s processor like you choose a hotel? Intel has already bet that you will.
Years after microprocessor vendors launched “model numbers” to try and provide buyers with a simpler way of evaluating microprocessor performance, on April 1 Intel began placing point-of-sale placards and other promotional materials in stores displaying between one to five stars. The company has also jazzed up its chip logos, adding a bit of color to the almost-uniform Intel blue.
Ooh, pretty colors. Mongo like pretty colors.
The problem is threefold: on one hand, it’s almost impossible for even experienced enthusiasts to try and distinguish between two nearly identical processors, which now use a dizzying array of features to differentiate themselves: the number of cores, their clock speed, the amount of level-2 and level-3 cache, the speed of the interconnect, the memory interface and speed, as well as other features such as hyperthreading and “turbo boost”. Differences can be ascertained by benchmarking both simulated and real-world applications, which sites like ExtremeTech run in spades.
This is very true, but within the framework of one manufacturer’s offerings, is it too much to expect a numerical system, reflecting a rating that is easily understood? Or is it really too much for the masses to compare two numbers – perhaps a hand calculator should be prescribed as a tool for computer shopping.
At a retailer like Best Buy, however, such benchmarks are rarely, if ever, provided to the user; OEMs like Hewlett-Packard and Acer are more interested in presenting the advantages of their own hardware and software bundles.
The third issue: the number of processor options companies like Intel and its rival AMD offer; Intel offers a total of 30 desktop processors, and 57 notebook processors, not including the three Atom processors which can appear in either a “nettop” or netbook.
When asked, Intel spokesman Bill Calder agreed that “there were too many models; too many brands.” Intel’s desktop brands include the Pentium, Celeron, Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, Core i7, and Core i7 Extreme Edition. Most are centered around what Calder called a “hero” brand: the Core series. But, he added, it was too soon to say whether older brands, such as the Celeron, would be discarded.
If this simplified form of comparison, which of two numbers is greater, is too much for the shopper, perhaps the working of the machine is a task not to be approached either.
“It’s important for people to understand that we’ve got all these different brands, but we have a challenge when people come to retail,” he said. “How do I distinguish between the Pentium and Celeron and Core and Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad?”
Simple numbers, That’s the ticket – it’s worked with auto parts, engines, and stereo equipment for years.
Over the last few months, Intel has been re-evaluating its brands and embarking on a fairly broad band simplification effort, he said. Both the revised logo and the “stars” classifications are “small but important elements” of that, Calder said. “And there will be more,” he added.
The “stars” rating,” Calder said, is an “easy, intuitive way” to see the processors in connection with one another, in a way that he said communicates “relative performance, not a price-performance type of thing,” he said. They will be applied to both desktop and notebook product lines, but not the Atom, he said.
Yes, and it gives the art department something to do during the recession, also.
Five-star desktop processors include the Intel Core i7 and Core i7 Extreme; four-star processors include the Q9300+ and E8000 series. Three-star processors include the Q8000 series and E7000 series. Intel has drawn a more distinct line between the three- and two-star designations, placing the Pentium line in its own two-star category. At the bottom of the heap is the Celeron, a one-star chip.
(Some of the distinctions can appear arbitrary; the three-star Q8300 is a four-core, 2.5-GHz processor that uses a 1,333-MHz front-side bus with 4 Mbytes of cache; the four-star Q9300 is identical, but includes 6 Mbytes of cache.)
That just makes for more fun for the sales people! They can push the right buttons, and get those upgrades accepted. Natch!
Calder emphasized that the star ratings were not based entirely on performance, but on features, such as the “turbo boost” capability that allows the Core i7 architecture to overclock a single core running one single-threaded application. They won’t be directly affixed to a PC, but have been accompanying sales circulars since the first of the month. Additional point-of-sale training will be required, Calder said.
The revised logos remain largely unchanged from Intel’s traditional “Intel Inside” logo, except with the Core brand prominently displayed, and color coding applied to help differentiate the brands. The logo also includes a “peeled-away” portion, revealing a die-like graphic. The orientation is now horizontal, although the logo will take up the same “footprint,” or space.
The new logos are more colorful and ornamental, Calder said.
Yes, Mongo likes pretty colors… Shiny, pretty colors.
Seriously, if you aren’t smart enough to learn a bit about what you’re buying, or get someone, trustworthy, to go with you, on your shopping trip, you deserve what you get. Besides, the nescience you show already means you’ll never know the difference anyway. How much horsepower does it take to look at your Facebook pages and follow all those celebrities you admire on Twitter?