Gizmodo writes the worst article on processors I’ve read in 20 years

Recently from Gizmodo I read the unequivically worst article on PC’s I’ve read in my entire life.  The errors in grammar and spelling notwithstanding. The explanations of hyper threading and the integrated GPUs on these chips are flat out wrong. There are too many other minor errors to list here. So bad I really felt I had to break it down and do it better.

It’s time to replace your computer. Maybe it was purchased during the last Republican administration, or you ruined it with a spilled drink, or maybe you’ve just got some money to burn and you’d like to blow it on Intel’s new Kaby Lake microarchitecture. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to upgrade your computer, and you’re going to be left with a big choice. Do you spend the extra cash for the categorically faster i7 processor, or do you pinch a few pennies and go with the i5.

After running both processors (the 4.5GHz i7-7700K and the 4.2GHz i5-7600K) through the ringer in a computer that was otherwise the exact same, we can say, without a doubt, that you should save your money. For most people the i7 just isn’t worth it.

Now the SPIRIT of the argument is something I can agree with.  Sometimes PC manufacturers   use up all their budget on the i7 and then proceed to skimp on other things like an SSD.  SOMETIMES particularly in the case of laptops  the model with the i7 is the best model they make with the most robust feature-set.  If you are building a PC yourself in most use cases you can get an i5 and put that money towards other features.

For multi core optimized software, streaming and rendering in general, the higher core/thread count on the FX 83xx and i7 series does matter however.

Intel introduced the i7 and i5 brands back in 2007 as a way of guiding customers. The i5 was for “mainstream” use and the i7 was for “high-end” and business use. Spend a little extra money and the i7 should do everything faster and better.

The key to the i7’s speed is not in its higher clock speed (the gigahertz number), but its ability to employ hyper-threading more efficiently. In the early days of personal computing, if you wanted to speed up your computer you’d add an additional CPU.

What?  Now I bought my first PC in 2003 but I don’t remember  SMP motherboards were never in the mainstream of personal computing. Like there was intel Skull trail and a followup that was it.  Skulltrail cost $1000 and only used $1000 processors other than that there was NO possibility of home users to “add an additional CPU”.

Modern Intel processors have multiple cores—which your computer sees as additional CPUs. Hyper-threading takes advantage of those cores, allowing them to doing big fancy computations in parallel instead of systemically. The i7 processor is designed to be so good at hyper-threading that it can do twice as many processes in parallel as the i5.

The catch is that this whizzbang tech only really comes into play when the CPU is extremely taxed. You’re not gonna max out the guts perusing Trump tweets, but you might in processing enormous sets of complex data, and that only really happens if you’re in a few very specific fields of work, like 3D design, engineering, or filmmaking.

Right so here is a quick visual guide to processors:

Even if you don’t play Pokemon I can break this down to you, starting with Celeron imagine these dual core guys are movers. If you’ve only got a few printed up word files spreadsheets, copies, need someone to hold your phone while you watch netflix, the little Celeron guys can do the job.

Maybe you’ve got a case or cabinet with LOTS of files or a big TV you watch a LOT of netflix and youtube on, might even play Xbox time to time the Pentium can take care of you.

The i3 guys are bigger and have two extra arms for “multithreading”  even if they are stuck while carrying something heavy they have a couple extra hands for picking up the phone and handling other tasks but there still are just two of them.   All Hyper-threading does is fill bubbles in the pipeline with instructions from another thread.

with i5 we bump up to four strapping movers. That’s going to be enough for the biggest tasks for most large homes.

i7 we have four large men who can handle multiple tasks/hyperthreading

and with AMD (as of right now BEFORE Ryzen, we’ve got eight of the weaker kids that should work together to get you moved out.

Modern Intel processors have multiple cores—which your computer sees as additional CPUs. Hyper-threading takes advantage of those cores

WRONG, software takes advantage of those cores. In fact, if the software doesn’t bother to, then all those cores go to waste.

and here is a visual guide as to how a faster clock in single thread processor will fare against slower multi core CPUs

The key to the i7’s speed is not in its higher clock speed (the gigahertz number), but its ability to employ hyper-threading more efficiently.

Surprise, surprise, once again Alex Cranz is completely wrong. The i5 does not do Hyper-Threading at all. Hyper-Threading is a feature that exists in silicon which allows one processor core to process two threads at once. The i5 has this silicon disabled. Hence each logical core that the operating system uses is a physical core.

Hyper-Threading is also a marketing label for Intel’s simulataneous multi-threading technology, which is what I just described above, so saying that “it does hyper-threading super good” is absolute nonsense. It either does it, or it doesn’t.

The i7 processor is designed to be so good at hyper-threading that it can do twice as many processes in parallel as the i5.

Please stop. Whoever hired you needs to be fired.

The catch is that this whizzbang tech only really comes into play when the CPU is extremely taxed.

No surprise here, but you’re wrong again. Taxing a processor has nothing to do with how many cores get used. The multithreadedness of the program you’re running determines that. It might do a good job of distributing its workload across, say, 4 cores, so those cores may only be running at 50% capacity (whether they’re logical or not). MANY programs still being used today are just not threaded well enough to efficiently use 8 logical cores, and this is the reason why you don’t see much improvement with Hyper-Threading when comparing these two processors. Many programs will simply use a single core and thus don’t do multithreading at all.

If you ever want to see how fast the processor in your computer is you should try to get it to “render” a file. Converting big files, like a 3D project or an enormous video file, instantly taxes a computer—to the point that some professional have computers whose only job is to render media.

The i7, with it’s hyper-threading ability, is an absolute champ at rendering data, especially compared to the cheaper i5.

When we rendered a 3D object in Blender the i7 accomplished the feat a full 4 minutes and 39 seconds faster than the i5, and when we converted a giant 4K movie file in Handbrake the i7 finished the job 4 minutes and 5 seconds faster than the i5. With that kind of speed the i7 is an absolute necessity for “pros.”

This is more of a personal nitpick but sure back in the day when the speeds were 20+ minutes apart that mattered but now when it’s shorter than it takes to microwave, have a coffee break, smoke a cigarette…nah

DAW’s take advantage heavily of hyperthreading as well thereby making an i7 a worthwhile consideration for audio work as well.(or in more relaxed cases hyperthreaded i3 or even the low votage mobile chips.

Another point of view would be this:

Spending the extra $100 or so on an i7 CPU, will allow your machine to have adequate performance longer, staving off the need for a new motherboard, CPU, ram, etc in the future (which will likely cost you much more than the price difference). Plus you can do some nice OC’s on an i7….

The rest of the article is idiotic graphs without axis labels I won’t even acknoledge but one big area not written about is x99 i7 systems that go up to eight physical cores  which would be  an absolute necessity for film editors, engineers, architects, and 3D designers. The price difference would be about $50 less for a 6 core i7.

CPU Intel i7-5820K 6-Core Processor $375
CPU Intel i7-6700K Quad-Core Processor $415

Sure $130 more than an i5 6600k but both are relatively the same speed, two more physical cores as well as hyperthreading for $75 per core extra…

The price per benefit is an exponential curve, not linear. You pay significantly more for marginal gains the closer you get to the top of whatever you’re talking about. The majority doesn’t need the top. This is true, but what they do need is the right information and education to buy the products they need. Gizmodo isn’t providing that. Check out Anandtech and Digital Foundry instead.

2 thoughts on “Gizmodo writes the worst article on processors I’ve read in 20 years

  1. Well you are wrong on at least one point. You could add an additional CPU. I owned a Dual Processor Pentium 3 back in the day. It’s true it wasn’t ‘mainstream’ but he’s right that that was the only way, as Multi-core didn’t exist, and neither did hyper threading or virtual cores. That was the point he was making. It may simply just be before your time.

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