The CPU Is Not the Bottleneck
After spending the last few years keeping an eye on the CPU and memory usage of a fairly average MacBook Pro, eWEEK Labs Senior Analyst P. J. Connolly is convinced that processor speed is no longer the obstacle to system performance for the vast majority of use profiles; instead, memory is the stumbling block in today's Web 2.0, Flash-enabled, social networking-obsessed world. Although the new MacBook Airs have inferior processors to those found in a 3-year-old MacBook Pro, the limited memory configuration, which tops out at 4GB, is where users can expect to run into problems.I wonder when people are going to wake up to the reality that the CPU of a mobile computer is no longer the factor that determines how useful the device is. Ever since the new MacBook Air models were announced on Oct. 20, I have been seeing articles-with perhaps the most widely distributed one coming from Ars Technica's Chris Foreman-discussing how awful it is that Apple chose the Intel Core 2 Duo as the CPU for the new Airs. To steal a line from Dear Abby, people need to wake up and smell the coffee. As I've discussed before, the choke points for the casual user are the system memory and the content that one's viewing online. I'll concede that my experience may be anecdotal, but only because I don't record every last tick of the machine; however, I've been keeping an eye on the CPU and memory usage on my own MacBook Pro for the last several months, and I have a couple years' worth of observations that form the basis for my opinion.
A couple of years ago, there was no question in my mind that the CPU was still the bottleneck. At that time, I was using two machines for bread-and-butter work: an early-model MacBook Pro with a Core Duo for business and a PowerBook G4 for fun. As I've mentioned many times, I'm addicted to opening browser windows, and on both of those machines, I could easily redline the CPU many times throughout a typical day.