Yes, you’ve read the title correctly. After almost 15 years of branding processors as ‘Core i3, i5 and i7,’ Intel are rethinking their naming scheme.
“But why?” you may ask. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what these changes are, the reasons behind them and what they mean for you.
Introducing, the Intel 4004.
The story of the 4004 would begin in 1969 when Busicom Corporation approaches Intel to design a controller for an electronic calculator. Yes, a calculator; the same calculator that is now integrated into a modern smartphone or computer. Initially, engineers at Intel suggested a seven-chip design to be the brains of the calculator. However, the complexity of the design led Marcian Hoff to propose a single general-purpose chip instead. Design began in April 1970 under the direction of Federico Faggin.
The 4004 debuted in November 1971 and was sold for $60 (equivalent to £338 in 2023) and had a clock speed of 740 kHz. This meant it could perform up to 60,000 operations per second: a marvel of engineering for its time.
This incredible processor was used in a variety of applications, including calculators, traffic light controllers, and even the Apollo Guidance Computer used in the Apollo moon landing missions.
The 4004 made a name for Intel in the microprocessor business, and to capitalize on the situation, Intel introduced a new line of eight-bit processors. The 8008 came first in 1972, followed by the 8080 in 1974 and the 8085 in 1975.
Although the 8008 was the first eight-bit processor produced by Intel, it is not as notable as its predecessor or its successor, the 8080. It was faster than the 4004 thanks to its ability to process data in eight-bit chunks, but it was clocked rather conservatively between 200 and 800 kHz, and the 8008’s performance simply didn’t attract many system developers.
Eventually when the 8086 was released. Recognise the last two digits, ’86?’ The 8086 paved the way for the birth of the x86 architecture, which is the foundation for almost every application package today – even the browser you’re reading this on!
Fast forward to 2008: The Olympics are held in Beijing, the first Hadron collider is enacted in Switzerland AND Intel release the first Core i7 Processor! The CPU that would pave the way for the speedy processors we use today.
What is changing?
Intel is overhauling its system of naming and marketing its Core processors for laptops and desktops, which has been in place for almost 15 years. To simplify the company’s branding, Intel is removing the “i” from the i3, i5, i7, and i9 tiers for its Core chips.
The new naming scheme will be based on four product lines, consisting of the entry-level Core 3, the mainstream Core 5, the high-end Core 7, and the “enthusiast” Core 9. With the new branding, Intel is focusing on the “Core” part of the naming scheme and drops the “i” from processor tiers like i3 and i9. As such, a CPU that would have previously been called “Intel Core i5-14600K” will now become “Intel Core 5 1600K”.
For those who noticed that the Generation Number was missing from the new name, well spotted! Intel are putting less emphasis on generation and are instead branding some chips as “Ultra.”
Whilst we are certain on the naming scheme changing, we aren’t exactly sure on what the differences will be regarding core count, clock speed and cache memory on the Ultra CPU’s.
The change is expected to take effect some time in the second half 2023 with the release of Intel’s 14th generation processors.
So why change it now?
You may be wondering, after 15 years, why would Intel change the branding of their main consumer product? Intel say the reason behind this change is to provide “a more accurate view of process nodes across the industry” and how Intel’s products fit into that landscape. By “process nodes” Intel are referring to the size of the nodes on the CPU. Having smaller nodes allows more to fit on the silicon wafer, so to put it simply, smaller = better.
It is worth mentioning that AMD, Intel’s main competitor in the CPU space, had a breakthrough recently, allowing them to make nodes as small as 5 nanometres. This puts Intel far behind, making nodes that are 10nm in size – double the side of AMD.
So this begs the question: Are Intel falling behind? And is the new branding simply to distract from this?
What these changes mean for you
The new naming convention will be simpler and easier to understand for the average consumer. The new names will be shorter and more straightforward than the previous ones.
As mentioned above, the new naming scheme will also provide “a more accurate view of process nodes across the industry”, or rather, how Intel CPU’s will compare to others on the market.
In summary, the new naming convention will make it easier for the average consumer to understand which processor is best suited for their needs and will also help them compare different processors more easily.