A CPU (Central Processing Unit) also called a Processor is an electronic chip that executes instructions to perform a specific task. Intel and AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) are the two players in the consumer desktop CPU market. Unsurprisingly, if you check any laptop or computer they most likely have an Intel or AMD chip inside them. But what do they actually mean and what do they do? In this article, we’re going to explore the origins and of these processors and their lineups. For the simplicity of this article, we’re going to look at all the Desktop processors from 2010 onwards. This article is mainly going to cover the Desktop processors if you would like to see an article for Laptop or Smartphone processors do leave a comment down below
Desktop Processors are based on Intel’s x86 architecture or also known as the instruction set which was first introduced in the 8086/8088 Processors. This instruction set was a gamechanger that allowed Intel to make some of the earliest computers. AMD later made a deal with Intel for the license of the x86 platform. Since then AMD and Intel have been the only commercial sellers of the x86 Platform. Companies like IBM, VIA, Cyrix, and so on still have the license for it. AMD then made a 64-bit version of the X86 platform calling it the x86-64 also known as the x64. From then on the Rivalry between Team RED and Team BLUE had begun. Nowadays, most of all our computers use a 64-bit processor and have an Intel or an AMD chip in it.
Intel – Generations
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Now, we’re going to look at all the micro-architectures of Intel’s lineup starting from Generation 1.
1st Generation – Nehalem
Released in 2010, Nehalem is the micro-architecture that is used in the First Generation of the Intel processors and used the 45-nanometer process. It uses an LGA 1156 socket and supports a maximum of dual-channel DDR3 RAM. The Nehalem processor has an L1 cache of 64 KB, L2 cache of 256 KB per core and 4MB to 12 MB of L3 cache
2nd Generation – Sandy Bridge
Released in 2011, Sandy Bridge is the micro-architecture that is used in the Second Generation of the Intel processors and used the 32-nanometer process. The performance improvement was around 11% compared to the previous generation Nehalem processors. It uses an LGA 1155 socket and supports a maximum of dual-channel DDR3 RAM. The only difference in the processor cache was in the L3 cache which was in the range 1MB-15MB.
3rd Generation – Ivy Bridge
Released in 2012, Ivy Bridge is the micro-architecture that is used in the Third Generation of the Intel processors and used the 22-nanometer process. The performance improvement was around 25% to 70% compared to the previous generation Nehalem processors and the power consumption was halved. It uses an LGA 1155 socket and had support for DDR3-1333 and DDR3-1600 RAM. Although this generation emitted more heat and needed additional cooling.
4th Generation – Haswell
Released in 2013, Haswell is the micro-architecture that is used in the Fourth Generation of the Intel processors and uses the same 22-nanometer process of the Ivy Bridge. The performance improvement was very minimal around 4-8% compared to Ivy Bridge. Haswell uses the LGA 1150 socket and came with a completely new revamped cache design. The main improvement was the lower power consumption for portable devices.
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5th Generation – Broadwell
Released in 2014, Broadwell is the micro-architecture that was used in the Fifth Generation of the Intel processors and uses a 14-nanometer process. This shrink in die size made the Broadwell chips very power efficient and gave it a big performance improvement over the previous generation. It uses an LGA 1150 socket and had support for DDR3L-1333 and DDR3L-1600 RAM.
6th Generation – Skylake
Released in 2015, Skylake is the micro-architecture that was used in the Sixth Generation of the Intel processors and uses the same 14-nanometer process of Broadwell. Skylake processors had to use an LGA 1151 socket and introduced DDR4 RAM.
7th Generation – Kaby Lake
Released in 2016, Kaby Lake is the micro-architecture that is used in the Seventh Generation of the Intel Processors and uses the same 14-nanometer process. It is essentially a Sky Lake refresh which improves performance as well as power efficiency. Kaby Lake introduced a new graphics architecture to improve 3D graphics performance and added 4K video playback. Kaby Lake only had driver support for Windows 10.
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8th Generation – Coffee Lake
Released in 2017, Coffee Lake is the micro-architecture that is used in the Eighth Generation of Intel Processors, Coffee Lake released at a time AMD launched their First Gen Zen Processors, due to this most of the Intel CPU’s core counts were increased by 2 over the previous generation. Meaning that the standard i5 with 4 cores now comes with 6 cores. Coffee Lake brought support for higher frequency memory like DDR4-2666 and DDR4-2800.
More Info Here.
9th Generation – Coffee Lake Refresh
Released in 2017, Coffee Lake is the micro-architecture that is used in the Ninth Generation of Intel Processors. Due to the vulnerabilities in Intel CPU’s the 9th generation brought hardware-level fixes for Spectre/Meltdown. The 9th gen is basically the same 8th generation Coffee Lake Processors with higher clock speeds and support for DDR4-3200 and higher.
More Info Here.
10th Generation – Comet Lake
Intel’s 10th Generation Comet Lake is scheduled to release in Q3 2020. It is the same 14-nanometer process and aims to ramp up their clock speeds to compete with the current Zen2 Ryzen series.
Read about the 10th gen announcement HERE.
AMD – Generations
Now, we’re going to look at all the micro-architectures of AMD’s lineup starting from the infamous Bulldozer architecture.
Released in 2011, The AMD Bulldozer Family is a micro-architecture used by the successful FX and Opteron Processors. The Bulldozer architecture was what gave AMD a bad reputation because CPUs would die from overheating and often required a lot of cooling. The reason for this is because AMD could not beat Intel’s offerings at that time so they took an approach of packing lots of cores into a single processor, That’s why you see FX chips having 6 to 8 cores. They used the AM3+ socket had lots of cache and high clock speeds.
Zen core Architecture
Released in 2017, this was the Ryzen micro-architecture that was designed and developed by AMD. The new Zen architecture aims at improving single-core speeds while continuing to support multi-core performance. It brought about the new AM4 Socket which is used by all Ryzen processors. Currently, all Zen Processors use the AM4 socket.
Released in 2017, Zen is the micro-architecture that is used in the First Generation of AMD Ryzen Processors. It is built on a 14-nanometer process and brought significant performance improvements along with lower power consumption. This was the direct competitor to Intel’s 7th generation lineup at the time. Although first-generation Ryzen processors were not optimized that well because it was a new platform. Although it beat intel in multi-core workloads, it could not beat the single-core performance that Intel offered which directly affected gaming benchmarks.
Released in 2018, Zen+ is the micro-architecture that is used in the Second Generation of AMD Ryzen Processors. Zen+ uses a 12-nanometer processor which is optimized. The Zen+ chips brought better thermal design and reduced power consumption. Zen+ is more optimized, it could attain higher clock speeds along with better DDR4 RAM support, improved cache and memory latency.
The changes in Zen+ resulted in a 3% improvement in IPC over Zen. which in conjunction with 6% higher clock speeds resulted in up to 10% overall increase in performance.
Released in 2019, Zen2 is the micro-architecture that is used in the Third Generation of AMD Ryzen Processors. Zen2 uses a 7-nanometer processor. Zen2 brought CPUs with high clock speeds, improved latency, increased L3 cache, and hardware mitigations for security vulnerabilities like Spectre. Zen2 Ryzen Processors have higher TDPs which give them more headroom for overclocking or boosting.
Series & Compatibility
Now we get to the interesting part, the naming scheme of Intel.
First, we’re going to talk about what all the suffix letters of the Intel CPU’s are.
“X” denotes the powerful processors. It is either X or XE where the E stands for extreme.
“F” is for processors that do not have an integrated-GPU or iGPU.
“K” is for processors that have an unlocked multiplier meaning you can overclock it.
“T” is for power-efficient processors. These use less power than the standard offerings.
Next is the Product lineup of Intel where the list is ordered based on price and performance.
The Intel Celeron series is the entry-level chip used for portable devices. These chips are very cheap and used for budget builds where the workload is small. It is used primarily in classrooms where students can learn. Although don’t expect to do some heavy computing on this series of chips.
For a list of all Celeron chips, you can click HERE
The famous Intel Pentium is the budget lineup. These chips perform better than a Celeron but below the Core i3. This is now split into Pentium Gold and Pentium Silver, Where the Pentium Silver offers low-power processors and the Pentium Gold offers better performance and higher power processors than the Pentium Silver.
Introduced in 2010, The Core i3 is a family of low-end performance processors. Core i3 microprocessors are considered performance processors. They are generally on the low end of the scale and are very affordable. They sit below the Core i5 and well below the Core i7 series. It is a decent Multitasking chip and is used in many budget gaming builds. Core i3 Chips usually have 2 cores/2 threads but from the 8th generation onwards they have 4 core / 4 threads. They range from i3 x100 to i3 x350F.
Introduced in 2009, The Core i5 is a family of mid-range performance processors. The Core i5 is considered as the sweet spot for gaming since they offer the best price to performance ratio. The i5 chips bring many features to the table like Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology and so on. Core i5 Chips usually have 4 cores/4 threads but from the 8th generation onwards they have 6 core / 6 threads. They range from i5 x400 to i5 x600.
Introduced in 2008, The Core i7 is a family of high-end performance processors designed for heavy workloads. It is used by professionals who want high-performance systems and enthusiasts who want to get the best of the best. These used to be the top of the line processors that Intel made, until 2017 when the i9 series was launched. Core i7 chips usually have 4-8 cores and support Hyperthreading and a bunch of more subtle features. They range from i7 x700 to i7 x800X.
Introduced in 2017, The Core i9’s are the top of the line Intel chips that focus on high-performance and high core counts. They range from i9 x900X to i9 x990XE. it is used for heavy-duty applications and extreme workloads. They have the highest clock speed and are very power-hungry but also one of the most powerful processors. All i9 processors are unlocked.
The naming scheme of AMD is quite interesting because it is almost similar to Intel. Here are the suffix letters of the AMD CPU’s.
“X” indicates high performance. It also consumes a lot of power.
“G” suffix indicates that the Ryzen processor has an AMD Radeon RX Vega graphics card.
“H” also indicates high-performance but these are technically laptop processors.
“U” indicates ultra-low power. These have low clock speeds and consume less power.
Next is the Product lineup of AMD where the list is ordered based on price and performance. We’re taking a look at only the Ryzen Processors since they are the only relevant ones. All Ryzen Series processors were released in 2017.
AMD Ryzen 3 is the low-end processor of the Ryzen family. It is similar to the Intel Core i3 and offers somewhat similar performance.
Ryzen 3 Chips are quad-core(4) processors. They are budget processors and tend to be cheaper than their i3 counterparts. They can perform simple day to day tasks easily and can even handle intensive tasks up to an extent. They range from Ryzen 3 x100 to Ryzen 3 x300.
AMD Ryzen 5 is the mid-range processor of the Ryzen family. It is similar to the Intel Core i5 and offers equivalent or better performance. Ryzen 5 Chips are Hexa-core(6) processors. They have high clock speeds which allow it to perform better than their i5 counterparts. Ryzen 5 also comes with a bunch of features like turbo-boosting and so on. They range from Ryzen 5 x400 to Ryzen 5 x600. Most budget builds nowadays use Ryzen 5, as it is the best value for money.
AMD Ryzen 7 is the high-end processor of the Ryzen family. It is similar to the Intel Core i7 and offers equivalent or better performance. Ryzen 7 Chips are Octa-core(8) processors. They have high clock speeds and lots of L3 cache which allows them to absolutely destroy their Intel counterparts in Multi-threaded and now even Single-threaded workloads. They range from Ryzen 7 x700 to Ryzen 7 x800. Ryzen 7 is a bit pricy but when comparing it to the Core i7 series it is indeed cheaper.
AMD Ryzen 9 is the most powerful chip in the Ryzen family. It is similar to the i9’s and has the highest clock speed and core count. It is meant to handle very intensive computational tasks and applications that demand a lot of system resources. They are the Ryzen 9 x900 series.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper is a high-performance and multi-core processor. Pretty cool sounding name right? yep, it absolutely destroys any benchmark and runs the most demanding applications with ease. It is designed to handle a lot of multi-tasking. The ranges vary from Ryzen Threadripper x920 to x990WS.
How To Check Your Processor Generation
Press the Windows + R buttons.
Type “dxdiag” in the search bar and open it.
This is an easy way to check basic information about your computer.
With the end of Moore’s law nearing, maybe quantum computers are the next big thing to look out for, till then we’re going to have to pick a side. Whose side will you be on? Team Red? or Team Blue? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments down below and be sure to follow our page for daily tech news!