Question Why do we arbitrarily decide to reference GHz or MHz?

Barty1884

Titan
Moderator
Hi all,

Not sure there's an answer, so set as a discussion vs a question.

Random thought of the day, Why do we arbitrarily decide to reference GHz or MHz for any given product?

With the rumoured leaks of Big Navi (that I'll believe when I see!), it's being reported to peak at 2.2-2.4GHz.
That's what spurred my thought..... In any other GPU related discussion, that would've been referred to as 2400MHz, not 2.4GHz.

CPUs made sense at a time when the first 1GHz chip launched.... and subsequently continued for 2GHz, 5GHz etc. It was a big deal and a way to differentiate.
Logically, similar landmarks on GPUs or RAM would also be justified in that marketing, but they rarely are - at least not at the same markers.

4400MHz RAM, not 4.4GHz. Heck, even 5000MHz RAM exists, however rare and it's not marketed as "5GHz" AFAIK.
2000MHz GPU, not 2GHz.

Of course, it's the same thing either way, I've just never really thought about why GPUs and RAM are typically MHz and CPUs are GHz.
 
I'm pretty sure it's because they all used to be ghz, then it was a super major thing when cpus hit 1ghz so they all got used to saying ghz, but when gpus and ram got there, no one really cared and kept calling it like before.
 

Solidjake

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I think it's also based on the application/part used. For example memory, motherboards have MHz as the unit in the BIOS, for the most part, so it would make sense to use that.
 

hotaru.hino

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It could be simply convention. We've been using MHz for the longest time and people don't see a need to change. It could be marketing because the "bigger numbers are better" mentality. It could be a precision thing and people get a hard on for being more precise at something like say 2,523 MHz instead of 2.5GHz (of course you could just say 2.523 GHz).

I think in the end though, it's the company with the most influence that defines the terminology. In the mid-90s, there were no "First person shooters", only "Doom-clones." There was no "GPU", only "3D accelerators." Then perhaps some publication finally decided to coin FPS as a thing. And anyone who knows their GPU history knows where that term came from (if you don't, NVIDIA).
 

Barty1884

Titan
Moderator
but when gpus and ram got there, no one really cared and kept calling it like before.
RAM, maybe.... but there was a near decade between CPUs hitting 1GHz and GPUs doing the same and the the HD4890 was heavily marketed as the first GHz GPU? Heck even a couple of years later the 7970 got it's own "GHz Edition".

I think it's also based on the application/part used. For example memory, motherboards have MHz as the unit in the BIOS, for the most part, so it would make sense to use that.
Logical, but aren't BIOS' still measuring a MHz clock? You don't need a relatively whole one or two decimal place for functionality between base clocks & multipliers etc. A 41 multi @ 101 BCLK is 4242MHz, for example.

Not to be pedantic, even though this already is a pedantic thread by it's nature.

There is no such thing as 4400Mhz RAM...it's 2200Mhz, 4400MTps. That's Transactions per second, the DDR data rate. It's clocked at 2200Mhz.
I prefer to say MT/s for ram frequency and try to avoid saying MHz unless it's actual frequency.
You're right @drea.drechsler , it is.

I see what you mean & agreed, from a strict accuracy standpoint.
However, whether 4400MHz is strictly accurate or not is irrelevant. We could use 2200MHz for the same example to achieve accuracy & be no further forward.

RAM are marketed as 4400MHz not 4.4GHz, which is more of the question/thought I'm posing.
 
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I see what you mean & agreed, from a strict accuracy standpoint.
However, whether 4400MHz is strictly accurate or not is irrelevant. We could use 2200MHz for the same example to achieve accuracy & be no further forward.
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It can be soooo confusing though.

I remember speccing out my first build in many years and trying to settle on RAM...I kept seeing 1600Mhz...but I also saw 800Mhz. Wait, 800? that's what my Pentium IV system used right? I would see so many different things in posts...and different answers to my questions.

Very confusing, especially when you're not sure what DDR2 is vs. DDR3...shouldn't the '2' meant doubled, so shouldn't the '3' mean tripled? took a while to get it straight with all the dis-information around.

I think it's 4.4Ghz when i don't want to type all the zeros... 44oomHz is easily lost on some people.
 

Desch_

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im going to start referring to think im straight up hertz just becuz of this conversation

my ram runs at 3,600,000,000 hertz. is that the proper conversion fomula?
 
It's just a result of the gradual nature of advancement. When everything is a few hundred MHz, you're going to use MHz for everything. When devices start crossing the GHz threshold, but there are still devices less than 1 GHz that are still relevant, some people will still prefer to use MHz for consistency. If you're comparing the new 1.1 GHz model to the old 900 MHz model, you might just call it 1100 MHz so you don't have to keep switching back and forth. And generally that lasts a while, until pretty much everything is above the 1 GHz mark, and then people still use MHz for everything because they're used to it, and then it takes a few years for people to switch over and get used to using GHz. At least that's my view. "Normal" people also aren't as comfortable with SI prefixes as you might think. I know total system power consumption for electric production facilities is reported in "thousands of MWh" because calling it GWh I guess would just be too much for people to handle, even well after we've crossed the TWh threshold (so for California's total system production you might see it reported as "6,310 thousand MWh" instead of 6.310 TWh). People don't like switching between prefixes. It also messes with computer systems, for example "sort by" functionality in product tables and filters are a lot easier when they're all in the same unit, which means retailers are incentivized to not switch to a new tier of prefixes.
 
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