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Here's a switch: Apple touts megahertz

A few years ago, a bunch of companies including Apple Computer and Advanced Micro Devices advanced a concept called the Megahertz Myth. The idea was that megahertz, or speed, was a very overrated concept when it came to examining processor performance. At the time, Apple used PowerPC chips, which ran at slower speeds.

But check out the Sunday circular ads from CompUSA or Best Buy these days. Chip speed, as measured in megahertz, is the first attribute listed about their computers: "iMac: 1.83GHz, etc."

Other manufacturers do not identify the megahertz speed of the chips in their computers in their Sunday ads (or at least not the ones in my newspaper). The processor is only identified by model number: "Intel Core 2 Duo Processor T2050, etc."

The same dichotomy appears online at places like Best Buy. The product blurbs from Apple identify chips by megahertz, while those from Gateway, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Sony list the model number only. You have to click on the product and scroll to the product specs, for example on Gateway laptops, to finally get the megahertz.

This is not an outrage to humanity or anything, but it's interesting for those of us who've found that their career revolves around studying clues inserted in the ads that come sandwiched between Parade magazine and the Style section. (It could be worse: I could be having to scout Rite Aid flyers for cold-medicine deals.)

Has Apple found a way to cleverly advertise its products to make them look different? Is this because Apple doesn't participate in all of Intel's marketing programs? Again, exceptions may be out there, but this is the empirical evidence I have found.

Either way, it's good to see someone acknowledge that the Megahertz Myth wasn't completely a myth after all. You can have a slower chip that provides more performance than a faster one with a different architecture. But unless you break the chip architecture by running it way past its capabilities, a faster chip will in most circumstances deliver better performance than an identical one running at a slightly lower rate.