Cyrix, Advanced Micro Devices, IBM Microelectronics and SGS-Thomson Microelectronics have introduced a new performance rating for computer chips that they hope will become a standard guide for the buying public.
The companies said the new rating system will allow end users to base their computer purchases on relative PC performance levels that compare "apples with apples" instead of "apples with oranges".
The idea is to use standard benchmarks to compare the performance of chips manufactured by Intel competitors to the performance of a Pentium processor of a given speed.
Cyrix spokesperson Michelle Moody compared the new rating system to the automobile's speedometer. "It's a way for consumers to be able to evaluate PCs with a method that they will understand," said Moody.
Here's how the P-rating system works. A processor that gets a P150 rating on the benchmark testing would have performance comparable to a 150MHz Pentium processor, regardless of its actual clock speed.
According to Cyrix, the system is necessary because different chip architectures return different performance levels even though the clock speeds may be the same.
MicroDesign Resources, the same company that publishes Microprocessor Report, has formed MDR Labs to provide the chip testing, which would be done under contract to the various companies that produce x86 and RISC microprocessors.
The test results would be available to PC users through certified performance reports distributed by the chip PC makers and on MDR's home page on the World Wide Web at www.chipanalyst.comMDR said the test procedure uses Ziff-Davis's Winstone 96 benchmark suite, which uses 13 actual Windows applications.
To ensure elimination of variables the only factor that changes in each test is the chip itself, according to MDR.
The Winstone 96 test includes Adobe Pagemaker, CorelDraw, Microsoft Powerpoint presentation graphics, Borland's dBase and Paradox databases, Microsoft Access database, Microsoft Works, Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, Novell's Quattro Pro, Lotus Ami Pro, Microsoft Word and Corel's Wordperfect.
MDR said the system used in the testing will be retained in the lab for one year and will be available on request to members of the industry, should they desire to verify the test results.