My history in the technology age dates back to the last century, back to a time where computing power was measured in megabits and then gigabits, and a 10-megabyte hard disk drive could be yours for a mere $1,500.
Most personal computers were powered by chips from Intel, Motorola, and a few others of forgetful names, and they were differentiated by clock speed. MegaHertz. Then GigaHertz. The latter is still be used. This week I ran into a benchmark shootout between Intel and competitor AMD.
I was bored. Why?
Just as it is with GigaHertz, benchmarks do not mean what they used to mean. Yes, there is a huge difference in performance between low-end Intel Inside and high-end Intel Xeon chips, but the only ones who care about benchmarks are those at the high end; those who need the most power they can get for the money.
Mark Hachman did a side-by-side benchmarks comparison between two Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 models– one had an Intel Ice Lake mobile Core i7 inside, the other AMD’s Ryzen 7, Surface Edition. Remember, this is a notebook that starts at $899, and at the top end, fully configured, hits $1,999, so we’re not talking about the top of the line professional class.
It’s more mid-level MacBook Pro-like, definitely not a PC notebook designed for hefty Photoshop lifting or digging through video or audio production– even when fully tricked out with the best of everything.
Such shootouts don’t matter much, and, besides, comparing CPUs still runs into other related issues that keep it from being an apple-to-apple comparison. For example, were the SSDs the same? No. How about the graphics (GPU)? No.
All that’s getting looked at are the standard bullet points, mixed with a few other benchmarks. Since Intel’s Core i7 Ice Lake won every category, I wonder how much the chip giant had to pay for the shootout. And forget the fact that AMD’s Ryzen 7 chip was built on 12-nanometer technology.
Why not a comparison to AMD’s screaming fast 7-nanometer chips instead?
Regardless, such benchmarks to pleasant for geeks to look at, but for the rest of– certified members of the great unwashed masses of personal computer users– it’s another ho-hum.
I type as fast on a new MacBook Pro as I did on my first Mac notebook, a PowerBook 100 back in the early 1990s. Black and white display. 40-MB hard disk drive. Roughly the same size as the MBP, not nearly as powerful, of course, but my typing speed has not increased much in a few decades. All the basic apps most of us use daily– Safari, Mail, Calendar, Contacts, FaceTime, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Notes, and Reminders– work the same on a lowly entry-level MacBook Air at $1,099 as they do on a Mac Pro for $12,000.
Benchmarks just don’t matter the way they once did.