By Harry McCracken | Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 7:41 am
For as long as I can remember, AMD has been trying to convince the world to worry less about specsmanship when thinking about the CPUs inside PCs. It’s often had a point, such as when it argued that processor clockspeeds were a lousy way to judge a chip’s performance. (It largely won that war when Intel deemphasized clockspeeds in its marketing, although I have a sneaking suspicion that consumers still use them as a primary means of comparing processors.)
Now AMD is making a dramatic bid to simplify branding of its CPUs down to the bare essentials. In fact, rather than emphasizing specific CPUs at all, it will focus on three levels of performance:
PCs with Vision technology are basic machines designed for Web browsing, music listening, and the like. Ones with Vision Premium are potent enough to handle video and audio conversion well, as well as gaming. And Vision Ultimate indicates that a PC is well suited to video recording, audio editing, advanced photo editing, and the like.
Beyond the fancy stickers, there are two simple ideas here: AMD is emphasizing media applications (which makes sense, since video and audio-related performance is the main reason to worry about what chip you get at all) and is giving consumers the classic choice between good, better, and best. (However, it plans to introduce Vision Black, a sort of “bester” designation aimed at gamers and enthusiasts, early next year.)
Intel, meanwhile, is trying to simplify performance comparisons, too–but its menu of choices is broader and more complicated, and it’s not always easy to figure out how everything relates. Which brings up an issue with Vision that’s out of AMD’s control: The most important CPU comparisons are those you make between processors from competing companies, and it isn’t obvious how the three Vision options map to Intel’s chip family.
I’m sure that serious tech enthusiasts will squawk that AMD is dumbing things down too much (and the company does say that it’ll use more traditional, meaty technical facts to market its chips and technology for that crowd). But when I think about how I buy PCs these days, the Vision distinctions would probably do the trick. There was a time when I dithered over whether I needed a CPU with a math coprocessor, and got excited over stuff like MMX extensions. Today, I mostly want a general idea of whether the processor will be potent enough for the tasks I’m likely to throw at it. And once I’ve plunked down my money for a computer, I tend to forget what’s inside.
How much time do you spend thinking about CPUs these days?