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Bandwidth and latency

Question: What is the difference between bandwidth and latency, and how can you tell how fast a computer really is when looking at these numbers?

The IT Guy says:
Bandwidth of a computer is generally understood to be the processing speed of the machine, which factors in different aspects of the computer’s architecture and components. In order to process a request, program code must be translated from the RAM memory to the CPU via the system bus. Latency is defined as the delay or amount of time it takes for the computer’s memory to respond to a request originating from the CPU. The bandwidth numbers that are generally touted by computer sales folks are typically theoretical maximum values that are rarely or ever achieved in actual practice.

To compare “Apples to Apples†(no pun intended) when it comes to computer performance, you can look at benchmark testing that utilizes identical software programs to perform identical computing tasks. One website that provides these types of comparisons is Mac vs. PC System Shootouts.

For more detail on the nuances of bandwidth and latency, refer to Jon "Hannibal" Stokes’ article “Understanding Bandwidth and Latencyâ€.

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