Intel should simplify its CPU naming policy

Written by Antony Leather

November 29, 2012 | 07:51

Tags: #intel-core

Something happened the other day that made me realise just how complicated Intel’s naming regime is. It’s been a bone of contention for years now, and we regularly pass jokes in the office about whether the average consumer really knows the difference between Core i3, i5 and i7 and where Pentiums and Celerons fit in to all this as well.[break]

Just a few days ago a friend of mine said she had around £350 to spend on a laptop but didn’t know whether to go for a Core i3, Pentium or Celeron, but thought the Pentium would be the best as she’d heard of it before and it was slightly more expensive than the other two. Needless to say I pointed her in the direction of the Core i3, which, on further investigation on CPU World turned out to be an Ivy Bridge-based CPU too.

Intel should simplify its CPU naming policy *Intel should change its CPU naming policy
Click to enlarge - It's a Core i3 but is it Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge?

Of course, it’s not just all these ranges of CPUs that consumers need to get their heads around, it’s the fact that multiple generations of Core CPUs are available at the same time as well. Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge (Intel Core second generation and third generation) are both available at the moment and many refurbished/second hand models are first generation too.

For tech-savvy desktop users and journalists who salivate over new releases, gossip and rumours, the difference between the two will be well-known. For prospective laptop buyers, though, it’s anything but clear cut. Most retail stores will list whether desktop CPUs are Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge-based, but many don’t, meaning plenty of people are probably buying generation-old stuff without knowing it.

However, with laptops, the situation is pretty dire. Not only are the CPUs often just listed as Core i3 and then the model number, but most retailers don’t even mention which generation the CPU is. The worst part is that at the budget end of the spectrum, there are at least four completely different CPU options, and that’s just before you even count AMDs various and equally confusing offerings.

Core i3 second generation, Core i3 third generation, Pentium and Celeron are all doing their best to utterly confuse the consumer. There’s very little difference in price too – the Pentium and Celeron options are often only a fraction cheaper than Core i3s, but those in the know would never pick a Celeron over a Core i3.

Intel should simplify its CPU naming policy *Intel should change its CPU naming policy
Click to enlarge - Different generations and multiple models can only be serving to confuse the consumer

I’d also place bets that as Pentium is a better-known name, they get picked up for just that reason. If you’re browsing on the Internet for cheap laptops without some kind PC World assistant maybe or maybe not doing the right thing and pointing you towards the similarly-priced Core i3 laptop, then there’s little else to guide you away from the cheap and nasty CPUs and towards something with a bit more grunt that will stand the test of time.

The point is, that there’s very little information out there that steers people in the right direction, especially if you're shopping alone on the Internet focusing on prices rather than digging a little deeper. For your average Joe who has never seen a CPU benchmark, never mind knows this ins and outs of the latest CPU architectures, it’s a confusing situation.

However, there’s an easy solution. Intel – change your product naming. It might work for those of us in the know or for retailers that list CPUs with all the proper info, but for the hordes of other outlets, particularly online, people are ending up with the wrong kit.

Have you had to explain Intel’s naming strategy to the less tech-savvy? Let us know in the forum.
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