Linked by Nicholas Blachford on Wed 9th Jul 2003 16:43 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y This article started life when I was asked to write a comparison of x86 and PowerPC CPUs for work. We produce PowerPC based systems and are often asked why we use PowerPC CPUs instead of x86 so a comparison is rather useful. While I have had an interest in CPUs for quite some time but I have never explored this issue in any detail so writing the document proved an interesting exercise. I thought my conclusions would be of interest to OSNews readers so I've done more research and written this new, rather more detailed article. This article is concerned with the technical differences between the families not the market differences.
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by Dawnrider on Wed 9th Jul 2003 20:05 UTC

Honestly.... this entire conversation is stupid. Most of you know very little about processor design and the merits of different schools of thought.

For example, stingerman's conjecture than Quartz (Extreme)'s use of the GPU as a secondary processing engine is a great idea is frankly daft. To put it simply, you don't need your windows to warp, spin, etc. No matter which way you look at it, you are creating extra system load and the idea of having an independent framebuffer per window in memory is insane and has predictable results.

Anyone who looks at PowerPC vs. x86 architectures will come to the conclusion that the RISC vs. CISC argument is a dead one. Effectively both architectures have reached a point where they rely on a RISC core with a translator and interesting caching and processing units to compensate.

Moreover, the heat output and speed of x86 and PPC architectures is much the same in mass-market products. The Pentium 4 is a high-clocked low-IPC architecture, and the Athlon and PPC head in the other direction. At the end of the day, however, the actual performance in inherently similar. Moreover, the heat outputs are substantially similar. Comparing the heatsink on my Athlon XP to that on my friend's G4 indicates similar levels of heat dissipation.

At the end of the day, I do appreciate that the Mac users here (and indeed the majority of posters seem to be Mac users) would like to crow about the 970, but as the recent benchmarks and more in-depth analysis has shown, it runs about 90% the actual performance of the current Athlons/P4s. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not a revolution of any kind.

Ultimately, you will always find that the PPC architecture will perform around 70-95% of current x86 architecture in the consumer market and this will remain the case, simply because processor design is admittedly complex and we've not seen massively revelatory new designs in recent years. Enhancements yield limited percentage improvements in speed, but ultimately, that is that. We haven't seen a consumer (<- I emphasise this word) development emerge in recent years which has come from nowhere and doubled the speed over current systems. It doesn't happen in design, and to be frank, it will only appear due to entire process changes to take advantage of new materials or migration to quantum computing or the like. PPC will never see a significant lead over x86 due simply to economies of scale. More x86 are being sold and more people are working on enhancements. That's life, and it may as well be dealt with.

To be frank, Mac users need to work out that their machines are more than ample for the tasks they put them to, regardless. Even migration to the 970 will yield them a limited benefit over a high-end G4, in fact, perhaps not even massively noticable in many places. Software optimisations could easily be more worthwhile than the upgrade.