Intel processors: a guide not to get lost in an overwhelming catalog

The Central Processing Unit (CPU) is the main component of a personal computer, and as such, it should be properly selected thinking about the tasks that it will preferably perform. In the case of Intel processors it is not easy. A good part of users who do not follow the day-to-day life of the technology industry may have difficulties in the face of a vast catalog in number of models and characteristics.

You already know the importance of making a selection as precise as possible, whether we are going to assemble a new desktop PC or update an existing one. Even more so when choosing the version equipped on laptops, generally more difficult to update in the future and in some cases simply impossible. Intel offers a dedicated web page where it explains the different sections to identify them, starting by explaining each part of the alphanumeric scheme used in its nomenclature.

Even so, it is not easy, taking into account that you have to know architecture, generation, series, technological process, platform, chipset, market segment, focus, prices … In addition, the problematic transition to the technological processes of 10-nanometer production has caused several launches in a short space of time and with it that architectures and generations coexist and mix, complicating the choice of the model that best suits the needs of each user.

We catch up on current platforms, those that are to come in the short term, and those that Intel has discontinued, but that you can still find for sale.

What processor am I using

For users who are thinking of updating the equipment and in general for all those who want to know the CPU used and its capabilities, nothing better than identifying it previously. All operating systems offer access to this information. In Windows it is as simple as accessing the Configuration tool or the System Information section in the Control Panel.

We also have specific applications such as CPU-Z that offer extended information of all kinds and that we recommend in Windows. On Linux you can use the terminal with the command lscpu | grep “Model name”and on Mac the same with the commandsysctl -a | grep machdep.cpu.brand_string

In all cases, knowing the model name, you can do a search on Intel’s product specification page for details on the number of cores, frequencies, caches, integrated graphics where applicable, socket and chipset used, and all. type of information including performance comparisons with other models.

Intel Processors: General Identification

intel core processor

Intel uses an alphanumeric scheme to identify its processors. It can be used in a general way for all commercialized platforms, although Intel has varied it in the last two generations. A higher processor number in a class or family usually indicates more power or features, but not always, because the mix of architectures and multiple added suffixes complicate the choice. We explain it in detail by analyzing the following image:

Brand: The scheme begins with the different brands that the manufacturer markets for its processors. Currently the main one is Intel Core and covers all types of equipment. From desktops from mini-PCs to large enthusiast grade towers and the entire group of notebooks. Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron are behind in performance for entry-level PCs, while Intel Xeon is used in workstations and servers.

Brand modifier: It is only used for the Core brand and you can find i9, i7, i5 and i3. A higher value usually indicates higher benefits, although not in all cases or in all tasks.

Numerical digits: They are the numbers that precede the brand modifier. There are generally four numbers for the Core models, since Pentium, Celeron and Xeon can include others and it consists of two parts:

  • Generation indicator: It is the first number. In the example image the number “9” corresponds to the ninth generation of Core processors. If it were “10” it would indicate the tenth generation; “8” the eighth and so on.
  • Numeric digits SKU: ( Stock-keeping unit or reference number). Identifier used internally to track a product. A higher number usually reflects higher benefits.

Optional suffixes: Surely the most difficult thing to understand for an ordinary user because there are quite a few. They are always placed behind the number and can indicate the line where the processor is focused, special features and in the last generations the integrated graphics included. It is a key indicator because it can highlight consumption or yields. We leave you with the most used:

  • “G1-G7” – Integrated graphics level in the processors that include it.
  • «U» – Low voltage for notebooks.
  • «Y» – Ultra-low voltage for notebooks.
  • «H» – High performance for notebooks.
  • “HK” – High performance and unlocked multiplier for notebooks.
  • “HQ” – High performance for notebooks; Quad core CPU.
  • “K” – Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.
  • «T» – Low consumption for desktops.
  • «S» – Special Edition. They are usually the highest performing in a series. «
  • “X” – HEDT Superior Performance
  • “XE” – Maximum performance HEDT Extreme Edition
  • «XS» – Special and unique desktop model with eight active cores at 5 GHz.
  • «E» – Embedded systems. They cannot be updated.
  • “G” – Includes discrete graphics in the die, the Vega GPU in collaboration with AMD.

Intel 12th Gen Processors – Alder Lake

Intel core i7 processors

We start with the big news from Intel for 2021. It has not yet reached the market (it will do so in the last semester), but we highlight it because it will be the most important in many years for its changes at the silicon level, improved 10nm ++ ‘SuperFin’ technological processes and the use of a hybrid architecture which will transfer to PCs the big.LITTLE design philosophy proposed by ARM and which is widely used in devices such as smartphones.

The basic idea is to combine high-performance CPU processing cores with other types of cores of lower power, but with greater efficiency to balance performance, consumption and also the final sale price. The jump to DDR5 RAM and the PCIe 5.0 interface is expected, which will make them incompatible with all of the above and this is something that the user has to take into account if he is going to update equipment this year.

Alder Lake will cover all market segments where Intel works. Your identification will be easy to continue taking into account what was explained above. One of the confirmed models for desktops (Alder Lake-S) is the Core i9-12900K, where we see the Core brand, the identifier i9, the number “12” that corresponds to the twelfth generation and the suffix “K” indicating the multiplier unlocked.

Intel 10th and 11th Gen Processors – Ice Lake, Tiger Lake, Rocket Lake-S and Jasper Lake

The mixture of architectures and generations launched in a short space of time that we mentioned is well reflected in these two generations. And it can drive you crazy…. Intel still uses the alphanumeric scheme for its differentiation, but with some changes.

The main one is that Intel has added a fifth digit to reflect the 10th generation Core “Tiger Lake” with the number “10”. Another novelty is the inclusion of a suffix that indicates the level of the integrated graph that includes:

  • G7 indicates 64 execution units with the Iris Plus graphic.
  • G4 indicates 48 execution units with the Iris Plus graph.
  • G1 indicates 32 execution units, but in this case it is not Iris Plus but from the Intel HD series.

The rest of the identification values ​​are maintained. Intel has only released low- and ultra-low-voltage notebook versions for this generation with the following models:

intel 10th generation, Tiger Lake

As for the eleventh generation Core “Tiger Lake”, it is represented with the number “11” as a generation indicator. Their identification is similar to Ice Lake except for the generation. They went on the market in September 2020 with the low voltage ‘U series and have left similar Ice Lake’ chopped ‘. Intel has announced two other notebook series at CES that it will market according to consumption and performance:

  • Intel Core H35: With 35-watt TDP, they are intended for ultraportables that require power, but at the same time thin and light designs. An example is the Core i7-11375H whose identification is self explanatory. They will be available on equipment from major manufacturers this quarter.
  • Intel Core H45: With 45 watt TDP, they are intended for the most powerful notebooks on the market. The flagship will be the Core i9-11980HK, which follows the same line of identification as the previous ones.

Rocket Lake-S

It is a special series that is also part of the 11th generation Core, but that goes out of line by way of transition. The goal is to motorize desktop computers. They will hit the market this quarter alongside new motherboards with Intel 500 series chipsets that manufacturers have also introduced.

If you follow us you already know these processors. Rocket Lake-S uses the “Cypress Cove” architecture, an adaptation of the Sunny Cove architecture used in Ice Lake chips (10 nm +) to the 14 nm process. In fact, it is expected to be Intel’s last platform in this manufacturing process before the final jump to 10nm with the Alder Lake. The Core i9 11900K will be the most powerful of a platform offering a dozen versions of i9, i7, i5 and Core i3.

Jasper lake

The use of the PC as an essential educational tool has accelerated considerably around the world in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet these needs, Intel introduced the new Intel Pentium Silver and Celeron N-series processors at CES, new developments for entry-level laptops.

They will be manufactured in 10 nanometer processes and Intel promises an improvement of up to 35% in the overall performance of the applications, better graphics performance of up to 78% compared to the previous generation “Gemini Lake” and advanced camera and connectivity functions. for an enhanced viewing and video conferencing experience. They will support Windows, Linux and Chrome OS computers and will be marketed under the “N” series that will define their approach.

Intel 9th, 8th and 7th Gen processors

The identification of the ninth generation of Core processors is explained in the example although it should be known that two different client series were marketed, but that they can be confusing:

  • Core 9000 for the mass consumer market (i9, i7, i5, i3).
  • Core X , high performance processors (HEDT) intended for mounting on professional work machines or enthusiast grade PCs and where you will only see the Core i9.

The first 8th generation Core processors began shipping in the last quarter of 2017 and have been one of the most extensive in Intel’s history with three differentiated platforms, Coffee Lake, Kaby Lake R and Gemini Lake to cover all segments market (workstation, desktops, laptops, AIOs, mini-PCs …) and sold in models such as Xeon, Core i9, Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, Pentium and Celeron. Entering the matter, the eighth generation offers models like the one in the following image:

Intel repeats the named alphanumeric scheme and for this series you can find:

  • Brand: Intel (Xeon, Core, Pentium, Celeron …)
  • Brand modifier: (i9, i7, i5, i3…).
  • Generation indicator: in this case the number 8 which corresponds to the eighth generation of Core processors and which includes several architectures, “Coffe Lake” and “Kaby Lake-Refresh”.
  • Numeric digits SKU: ( Stock-keeping unit or reference number ). Identifier used to track a product. A higher number usually reflects higher benefits.
  • Optional suffixes: represent the line (series) of processors and are placed last. There are a few in every generation.
    • “K” – Unlocked multiplier for easy overclocking.
    • “U” – Low consumption.
    • «H» – Higher Performance.
    • “G” – Includes discrete graphics on the same die.
    • “HQ” – Unlocked multiplier and high performance.
    • «M» – Xeon Mobile.
    • «T» – Low consumption for desktops.

The seventh generation «Kaby Lake» repeats the same scheme with brand, modifier, the number 7 which is the generation indicator, SKU numeric digits and the corresponding suffixes.

Other Intel processors

All of the above refers to the Core brand identification, but Intel has others for sale. We review the most important ones and their identification.

Intel Xeon Mobile: The launch of the first Xeon series processors for laptops came with the Skylake architecture and the firm has been expanding the catalog. The numbering system used has little to do with the previous ones, although they are easy to distinguish by the suffix “M” to define that they are intended for mobile workstations. We review it:

  • Brand: Intel Xeon
  • Brand Modifier: E3, E5 or E7 Product Line
  • Product family: Maximum number of CPUs in a node – Socket type – Processor SKU
  • Product Line Suffix: “M” for Xeon Mobile for Mobile Workstations. to track a product. A higher number usually reflects higher benefits.
  • Version: V2, V3, V4 …

Intel Pentium: Series for basic equipment that you can find in desktops, laptops or mini-PCs. They include an alphabetic prefix followed by a four-character numeric sequence. You will be able to see models of double and quadruple processing core and different TDP consumption. They are available up to the eighth generation.

Intel Celeron: A step below the previous ones in power can be found in a three-digit numerical sequence or in a five-character sequence with an alphabetic prefix and four digits, depending on the type of processor. You can also find 8th generation Pentium called “Gold” and “Silver”. They are available up to the eighth generation.

Core M. Ultra-low voltage models for tablets, 2-in-1 and convertibles using an alphanumeric scheme followed by the modifier. Sometimes an alphabetic suffix representing the line of processors is included at the end of the processor name. In recent generations they have disappeared from the Intel line, but in case you find them.

We stop here before a catalog of heart attack in number of models, architectures, generations, series, technological processes, platform, approach or characteristics. And that we have not entered into technical characteristics, sockets, chipsets and boards where they are connected or in other series for the business market such as the vPro variants with security and hardware management, the Intel Xeon Scalable (servers) or Xeon W (workstation of desktop), or other consumer products such as the Intel Atom already eliminated from the catalog, but which can still be found in old netbooks.

Nor have we stopped at new processors as interesting as the Intel Lakefield because they will not be sold at retail and they will not be able to be replaced. It is a new platform for Intel since it is the first that combines processing cores of different architectures (as it will in the Alder Lake) similar to ARM’s big.LITTLE technology.

To make it sound like if you see it listed, we can cite models like the Core i5-L16G7 that Microsoft mounts on the Surface Neo and that following the general identification scheme, we see the Core brand, the i5 identifier, the corresponding «L» to the Lakefield platform or the «G7» that indicates the level of the integrated graphics that it includes.

Finally, we recommend this guide where we select the seven best processors from Intel and AMD that you can buy today. And if you need to buy CPUs, our leading retailers, PcComponentes and Amazon have a great offer for sale in retail.

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