The letters PR stood for "Performance Rating", but many people mistakenly thought it stood for "Pentium Rating", as the PR was often used to measure performance against Intel's Pentium processor.
Later that year, Cyrix also adopted the PR system for its 6x86 and 6x86MX line of processors. These processors were capable of handling business applications under Microsoft Windows faster than Pentiums of the same clock speed, so Cyrix PR-rated the chips one or two Pentium speed grades higher than clock speed. AMD did likewise with some versions of their K5 processor, but abandoned the system when it introduced the K6.
Others took the opposing view that the great majority of users at that time were performing integer-intensive tasks like word-processing, spreadsheeting and web browsing, and the substantially lower cost of the PR-rated processors allowed the user to afford a higher-spec part in any case. The question remains controversial to this day. With the demise of the Cyrix MII (a renamed 6x86MX) from the market in 1999, the PR system appeared to be dead, but AMD revived it in 2001 with the introduction of its Athlon XP line of processors.
The continuation of this practice, despite lower performance per clock, led consumers to conclude that AMD's Athlon XP processors, because they had much slower clock speeds than Intel's Pentium 4 processors, were inferior to Intel's Pentium 4 microprocessors. In reality, on a clock-for-clock basis, the Athlon XP microprocessor was superior to the Pentium 4 on a number of benchmarks. An Athlon XP with a 2 GHz clock would easily outperform a 2 GHz Pentium 4 on most benchmarks.
The use of the convention with these processors (which are rated against AMD's earlier Athlon Thunderbird CPU core) is less criticized, as the Athlon XP is a capable performer in both integer and FPU operations, and manages to out-perform an Intel Pentium 4 at a PR equalling the P4's MHz. The Athlon XP (as well as the Athlon 64) PR scheme is not intended to be anything more than a comparison to the same family of processors, and not a direct comparison to Intel or any other company's processor speeds (in raw MHz), despite what skeptics may believe.
Because of the philosophy change, Intel now faces the challenge of making consumers compare its processors based on the PR system rather than raw clock speed, ironically a problem which Intel created itself.
Some analysts regard the PR scheme (and a raw MHz/ GHz rating) as nothing more than a marketing tactic, rather than as a useful measure of CPU performance. Many professionals or interested amateurs now consult extensive benchmark tests to determine system performance on various applications.
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