Why did Apple decide to use slower clock speeds on newer macs?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by dictoresno, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. dictoresno macrumors 601


    Apr 30, 2012
    Recently when I was shopping for a new iMac, I was shocked to see the CPU clock speeds to be so low on the lower end models. I mean, I had a 3.0 ghz pentium dell back in 2006. But now I see Apple releasing their base iMacs under 2.0 ghz. Everyone sees numbers and always assumes the higher or more the better. But I guess that isn't necessarily always true.

    Now, I'm not totally a tech noob and read the article below to better understand. Maybe someone else can throw their ideas in as well. But basically would it right to say that a most recent CPU, slower clock speed, can be faster and more efficient than generations old processors with higher speeds?

    So the 2.8 ghz quad core i5 in my late 2015 is actually not that bad, even though the number vs number specs may not look that way when compared to 3.3 ghz machines from previous years.

  2. Trahearne, Feb 12, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017

    Trahearne macrumors 6502

    Oct 6, 2014
    Lower price points use cheaper tier of processors. In this case, mobile processors that MacBook Air used at the time were shipped with these machines.

    Modern Intel processors can generally be compared by generation and by clock speed. If it is one generation behind and clocked lower, it won't outperform a newer generation in any way except the case of HT vs non-HT models (or a fringe case w/ the processor in iMac 4K).

    The 27" iMac stack is what you should look at if you want "real" desktop processor that burns 65-95 watts, starting with a base clock of 3.2 GHz (i5 6500).
  3. PortableLover macrumors 6502a

    Apr 14, 2012
    I agree for the price of the starting model they could have put something higher clocked in.
  4. PinkyMacGodess macrumors 601


    Mar 7, 2007
    Midwest America.
    But 'you get what you pay for' rings true time and time again.
  5. theatremusician macrumors member


    Dec 17, 2013
    Yes. And Apple is not delivering what you pay for anymore. They've stopped making 'must have' products to push expensive, low quality, derivative products. Tim Cook has taken a special company and turned it into a mediocre company.
  6. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    "Apple is not delivering what you pay for anymore."

    This says it all!
  7. padams35 macrumors regular

    Nov 10, 2016
    Half of the story is base frequency vs turbo frequency. Back in 2006 there was no turbo, what was listed was what you got. Conversely the entry level iMac defaults to 1.6 GHz for energy efficiency but can accelerate up to 2.7GHz turbo while the 2.8GHz iMac can turbo up to 3.3 GHz.

    The other half is CPU architectural changes. The newer generations are able to accomplish more complex tasks with each clock cycle (more instruction sets) and might have additional new features such as hyperthreading for better mulithread performance.
  8. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 68000


    Oct 19, 2007
    Nambucca Heads Australia
    You pay for what you get and the 'cheapie' iMacs are out there to compete in the market place with cheap bottom line PCs. Having said that the 1.7GHz model have twice the bench rated tests of the 2007 model, together with faster graphics and memory.
  9. whwang macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2009
    The 2.0 GHz GPU in the current iMac can easily blow away your 2006 3.0 GHz Pentium, even at its based frequency without turboboosting. There has been just so many architectural improvement in CPUs in the past many years: multi-core, multi-threading, more efficient instruction set, higher bandwidth/throughput to the RAM and peripherals, etc, etc.

    You can't just look at the frequency of CPUs to know its performance. The frequency is only relevant when you compare CPUs of the same generation for their single-core performance. Except for probably the last couple of generations from Intel, there is always a noticeable boost in performance for the same frequency when a new generation of CPU is introduced.
  10. Loge macrumors 68030


    Jun 24, 2004
  11. Trebuin macrumors 65816


    Jun 3, 2008
    Central Cali
    Back in 2006, you're talking massive generational differences. When you were talking pentiums, during 2006, you would be looking at the end of the P4 generation. That was a single core system, which required less power because it's a single core. Less power=less heat to the same clocking. Back then, software was written in single core code, with some coming up multi core. Not accounting for other factors, a 2 core 2ghz processor had the same computational power as a 1 core 4ghz. If you ran a multi-core code on both, it would finish at the same time. If you ran a single core code on them, it would finish in half the time on the 4ghz chip.

    I mentioned other factors, this includes technologies or "short cuts" that allows processors to finish work even faster or simply use less power because the timing is more transparent. P4s actually did have hyper threading which was a cheap second core, with unused power being dedicated to the second core. In this way, multicore code could increase performance against single core code.

    As we are hitting the quantum limit of CPUs, we will likely see core stacking, which will help if coders can actually write for enough cores. We'll also continue to see clocks go up & down as temps become an issue. In the end, you need to look as what you require. Multicore or single core loading? High power CPU or low power? Gamers tend not to need CPU as much as encoders.
  12. dictoresno thread starter macrumors 601


    Apr 30, 2012
  13. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    There seems to be two lines of thought
    1. Apple is using a lower rated CPU, but that wasn't done to keep the prices down, given the high cost of the iMacs.
    2. Major changes to how CPUs are now architected, long gone are the days that we saw a linear increase in performance with a corresponding increase in megahertz.

    I think the truth is sitting right in the middle of those two points, Apple could be using faster CPUS (and GPUs) but they don't because they feel the current ones selected are fast enough - this seems to be the apple way of doing things for years, but also CPUs have changed a lot.

    For what its worth my 5k iMac is plenty fast and I'm more then happy with its performance.
  14. antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    Having this psychosis with thinner products doesn't help either to fit full speed CPUs and GPUs within the thermal envelopes.
  15. Trahearne macrumors 6502

    Oct 6, 2014
    The only major shift for Intel happened around 2006, when they finally scrapped the Pentium 4 family of architectures. Ever since then, the instruction per cycle has always been going up, and the average clock speed also goes up with better designs and better semiconductor process.
  16. Trebuin macrumors 65816


    Jun 3, 2008
    Central Cali
    You bring a good point of in between, but I would reinforce that it may depend on the particular device. For example, the last iMac released utilized the highest end CPU available for the TDP & system design at the time of the release. To go higher would be to depart from the current design in a major way, meaning that they would have to redesign cooling & power overall. This is where apple would have to spend a lot of money, & hence why we don't see more major changes along their products. Basically, they could go xeon, but would have to add a larger heat sink system with more fans, redevelop the mold for the case, make it thicker again, & redesign the motherboard, & ditch all i3/i5/i7 CPUs as they would have to dedicate an entire assembly system based on the Xeon. In the end, the price of the system would still be too high to sell to most consumers. That is why the i3-i7 line was chosen.

    Now Cook has brought up the possibility of a pro-line iMac. If I were apple & looking to cut costs, I would look at revamping the Mac Pro line because of the extreme costs. the iMac idea is great, but professionals want the ability to add cards as needed. The latest Mac Pros doesn't exactly have that feature, but given thunderbolt capability, could you attach an external chassis to add what you need. From here, I would attempt to make the iMac modular to give more upgradable options, & increase the thickness closer to the older designs. If the design can be unified between the iMac & pro, then the pro assembly line could be reduced & allow for more profit margins, especially when the pro market is much smaller than the consumer level iMac. If this is what Cook is thinking, we may see higher end CPU options in the future.
  17. MacStu09 macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2009
    Those 'cheap' iMacs are definitely quite odd. At least I understand the new Macbooks phasing out the Macbook Airs, despite their incredibly poor cost to performance ratio. Spec-wise, these 1.7ghz iMacs compete neck and neck with the bottom of the line $149 WalMart laptops. Get to the $299 range and you're suddenly beating the iMac out in every way. To put it quite frankly, the 1.7ghz iMac is basically a cheap-o junk-store laptop with a decent screen.

    I genuinely don't understand who would buy the 1.7ghz iMac and who it's marketed towards. Its specs are worse than just about any computer over $300, yet it's priced to compete with computers that benchmark 4-6x higher than it. Seriously, just buy a 2010-2011 iMac for few hundred and receive far superior performance. Makes no sense to me. Newer architecture only goes so far, and the 1.7ghz iMac is a great example of how newer architecture doesn't immediately make it better. (Obviously it's better than 2006 processors, but quality 2010 processors? Nope.)
  18. Trahearne macrumors 6502

    Oct 6, 2014
    Then is 13" MacBook Air a piece of junk in your sense? The 1.6/2.7 GHz 21.5" iMac uses the exact same processor as the 13" early 2015 MBA which is still on the shelves.

    I doubt those cheap computers use anything but Celeron or Pentium.
  19. Amazing Ox Space Monkey macrumors regular

    Sep 21, 2015
    Hotel chains for example. You assume that everyone is price-to-performance conscious and that everyone uses their computer for heavy stuff like renedering.

    I still use a 2010 i3@3.06GHz iMac (been at my home for 6.5 years now) and it still does its job fantastically. Emails, facebook, news, skype, music notation software, VMs, photo processing from my Nikon D5600 - the big screen is fantastic and the CPU has never felt slow, except for video processing.

    According to the benchmarks, my computer's CPU is relatively as fast as the today's entry-level 1.6GHz. But it uses a 7200RPM HDD (120MB/s transfer) and the new one has 5200RPM HDD (~90MB/s transfer). So, in a way my 6.5 year-old computer is better than the new one.

    The bottleneck is the size if the HDD (500GB) and the slow USB 2 prevents me from using external storage for work. In 2017 I would not buy a computer with less than 2TB storage and SSD for main storage if I want to future proof for the next 5 years.

    But those are just my needs. In my opinion, the entry-level 1.6GHz iMac is a very good home computer. The non-upgradeabe 8GB RAM is enough for this use case.
  20. Olganech macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2015
    Yes the 1.6Ghz Macbook Air is a piece of junk. There are far better laptops that can be purchased for £1,000.

    It maybe well made but it is still junk.
  21. MacStu09, Feb 19, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2017

    MacStu09 macrumors regular

    Aug 27, 2009
    Definitely. There's no "in my sense" about it. They are quite literally junk internally. And yes, the 13" Macbook Air is very much considered cheap junk in a very well-built case, as well. The price is literally for the shell, because you're getting almost nothing internally.

    Many people have not PC shopped in a long time. You'd be quite shocked if you haven't looked lately. While the cheap-o computers used to be all garbage Celeron and Pentium's (and those do still exist), now for $200-400 you can get i5 and i7 machines. Real example: Two weeks ago, I bought a family member an i5 lenovo laptop for $219 (with an SSD and 8gb of ram). The Apple's really are just that bad of a deal.
  22. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    Too expensive (a debatable opinion) is not the same as "junk". Display quality, case, build quality, thermal management, size, weight, etc all factor into it. In any case none of this ridiculous hyperbole is relevant to the OP's question.
  23. Olganech macrumors regular

    Mar 21, 2015

    You can get similar quality laptops with better specs for the same money.

    5 years ago th Macbook Air may have been special but now it has been left behind.

    I would rather have a carbon fibre laptop than an aluminium one.
  24. dwig macrumors 6502a

    Jan 4, 2015
    Key West FL
    All of these fall low on the list of reasons other than "thermal management". The Big #1 Reason is battery life. The faster the clock, in any one given generation of a processor design, the greater the power demand and the greater the heat output. Thin & light + good battery life = slower processors.
  25. kschendel macrumors 65816

    Dec 9, 2014
    I don't necessarily dispute that. What I dispute is the use of the word "junk" in this context. Junk is poor quality, poor assembly, poor design, stuff that doesn't work, etc -- and a lot of it, not just one mistake. Being overpriced is an entirely different thing. Mac laptops, whatever their value proposition (which I don't plan on arguing here), are not junk.

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