Intel's Dothan Makes Its Late Debut

Down With Gigahertz Clock Speed Mania! Long Live The Processor Number!

Dothan also represents a new shift in Intel's chip nomenclature. Until now, gigahertz (the CPU's clock speed, or, as Intel's marketing folks like to call it, "real" gigahertz) has been the measure of all things. Now, even Intel breaks away from this nonsensical dogma, partly because its rival AMD has already come up with this idea long ago. AMD's approach had always evoked a faint smile from the Intel front. However, we're already familiar with this little game in the context of AMD's Powernow power-saving technology. This was later "adapted" by Intel - some even say "copied" - and implemented in its mobile processors as Enhanced Speedstep Technology.

Mobile Processor FamilyNumber Sequence
Intel Pentium M processor7xx
Intel Pentium M processor Low Voltage (or LV)7xx
Intel Pentium M processor Ultra Low Voltage (or ULV)7xx
Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processor (including the Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processor supporting Hyper-Threading Technology and Mobile Intel Pentium 4 processor with HT Technology)5xx
Intel Celeron M processor3xx
Intel Celeron M processor Ultra Low Voltage (or ULV)3xx

Intel's CPU nomenclature also represents a fundamental inconsistency. Using the Pentium M 755 and Pentium M 735 as an example, the latter two numbers of the name suggest that the M755 is 20 points or about 60% better compared to the M735. However, if we take "better" to mean "faster" or "higher performance", then it's clear that this cannot be the case. And even if it were the case, then it is still impossible for the user to tell in which respect one model is "better" than the other, i.e. in which benchmark.

We think that it's not a bad approach to finally part with the gigahertz game. The only way to effectively compare CPUs is to compare them (e.g. in a matrix) to devices with both the same architecture as well as devices with different architectures. Processor numbers themselves don't allow you to do this because the numbers don't tell us anything in this context. In addition, a gigahertz-centric nomenclature does not take into account many factors, such as power consumption.

The exact nomenclature of Dothan, the 1.7 GHz Pentium M

It wouldn't be right to only find fault with manufacturers for making an effort. Nevertheless, we have to complain that they have been giving consumers the megahertz and gigahertz spiel for years, and now they're trying to change things overnight by giving these modern CPUs, highly complex as they are nowadays, a simple number. On the other hand, it must be said that end users must make a conscious effort to change as well. They must come to realize that mere clock speed is not the only thing that counts - factors such as cache size and architecture are particularly important for mobile processors, and power consumption is decisive when it comes to choosing the right CPU.

After all, when you buy a car, you don't choose a model solely based on the performance of the motor, but also on other criteria such as mileage, engine specs and other various features like air conditioning. All of this plays a role in your purchase decision. For instance, nobody would ever think that a BMW of the 700 series is two times faster than a BMW M3.

What will happen to the product nomenclature of other mobile processors? According to Intel, older processors will not be re-named, with the exception of the Celeron M. The Mobile Intel Pentium 4 with Speedstep technology will be phased out. The Intel Pentium 4 notebook processor will be allowed to bear the numbers "5xx" from now on.