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Consumer desktop processors have always been a competitive struggle between Intel and AMD. In this assignment, I wanted to compare the performance of desktop processors from Intel and AMD over time. My objective, in particular, was to find the manufacturer that had been leading innovations in performance over time.


Processor performance is somewhat of an objective issue. Some factors I considered including in this process were raw performance in MIPS (millions of instructions per second), power consumption, price, and transistor size (in nm). In the end, I found it would be useful to include MIPS and transistor size of Intel and AMD's processors over the year as a measure of processor performance.

Data Acquisition

I initially started crawling the Intel and AMD websites for this data, however I found a wiki article which already aggregated this information (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instructions_per_second). I then loaded this information into Microsoft Excel, applied formatting to standardize character encoding, labels, and ordering. I finally imported it into Tableau.


I plotted Size and Instructions per Second over time. For both characteristics, I changed the y-axis to be a log scale to account for Moore's law magnitudes of improvements over time. My initial thought was to use green for AMD and blue for Intel, these being the official company colors, however I changed AMD to orange, as green and blue were very difficult to tell apart.

  • In my initial graph, I encode size and MIPS separately. A trend that immediately becomes apparent is the exponential decrease in size and increase in MIPS. File:akvis1.png
  • In my second graph, I only encode MIPS, as size is represented by the size of each square. I found that while this is not as precise and more difficult to determine exact sizes from, it provides a more intuitive visualization of the data. File:akvis2.png


Interestingly, the resulting visualization highlighted a clear story in the battle between Intel and AMD. When AMD first released the K5, this processor outperformed the Intel Pentium processor of its time. Up until the Pentium 4, it seemed as though AMD processors were outperforming (both in size and in IPS) their Intel counterparts. However, at around the release of the Core 2 Duo in 2006, it becomes apparent that Intel's processors have taken the lead over AMD's processors in performance again. Comparison accross size and IPS becomes interesting as well. In server-grade processors such as the Itanium, we observe a tradeoff of a large size in turn for a higher IPS rate. Meanwhile, in the intel Atom, a netbook-grade processor, we observe the opposite in which a lower IPS is a tradeoff for the smaller size.

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