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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Advantage Consumer
by Daniel on Thu 10th Jul 2003 21:15 UTC

IBM has a definite advantage in its ISA in that is doesn't have to worry about binary compatibility with ancient procs (like the i386). Yet, this is the very reason why the x86 is king: backwards compatiblity sells chips. End users are eager to see better performance from existing applications and developers prefer it because it doesn't disrupt the tool chain (compilers, profilers, debuggers, linkers, etc). Developers can gradually improve the apps as the user base migrates to the new iteration of chips. The P4 is heavily reliant on compiler vectorization and instruction scheduling and as a result initial P4 performance was poor due to the immaturity of the compilers. There is an obvious tradeoff in the form of the compiling for the most common arhitecture because releasing apps for specific x86 architectures is a pain (granted Red Hat and other Linux vendors do this with RPMs).

I'm a big fan of the PowerPC architecture but it's not the second coming. It will give Apple a new lease on life in the PC market and provide Intel with its most serious non-x86 competition in years. My biggest question about the Apple benchmarks is why Apple failed to compare its top-end workstation (and they are workstations, people) with the top-end AMD x86-64 workstations? After all, Athlon MP workstations were demolishing the very best that Apple had in G4 workstations. I suspect the same would apply to x86-64 workstations. Apple's reluctance might be attributable to AMD's relationship with IBM. I like Apple but its highly selective and highly suspect benchmarking techniques are discouraging (not to mention all of the macaddicts who would do well to read some books by Patterson and Hennesey).

Finally, for a good article on the RISC/CISC debate take a look at: http://www.embedded.com/story/OEG20030205S0025