The last time I went to the computer shop to inquire about the latest prices of laptops, I was told the new laptop had the Intel fourth-generation processor. I asked the person the difference between first-generation and fourth generation, but he was unable to answer properly, saying the fourth generation was faster than the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generations.
So I came home and wanted to know about the philosophy of processor generations on the Internet. To my surprise, there was no complete guide available, which could tell clearly about the Intel processor generations and their differences. After researching a lot, I have enough knowledge to write and document the differences I have found in this article.
Table of contents
- The misconception
- Intel Core Processor Names and Numbers
Intel Processor Generations
- 1st Generation Intel Processors - Nehalem
- 2nd Generation Intel Processors - Sandy Bridge
- 3rd Generation Intel Processors - Ivy Bridge
- 4th Generation Intel Processors - Haswell
- 5th Generation Intel Processors - Broadwell
- 6th Generation Intel Processors - Skylake
- 7th Generation Intel Processors - Kaby Lake
- 8th Generation Intel Processors - Kaby Lake R
- 9th Generation Intel Processors - Coffee Lake
- 10th Generation Intel Processors - Cannon Lake/Ice Lake
- 11th Generation Intel Processors - Tiger Lake
- 12th Generation Intel Processors – Alder Lake
- 13th Generation Intel Processors - Raptor Lake
- The Next Generations
- How to Check Processor Generation on your Windows PC
First of all, many people think that Core i3, i5, and i7 are the processor generations. These are models or brands of processors from Intel. I will write another article later, as it requires a lot of discussion. Let me list all the major processor models released by Intel.
- Pentium 1, 2, 3, 4
- Pentium M and Celeron M for mobile devices
- Pentium Dual Core
- Core Solo
- Core Duo
- Core 2 Duo
- Core 2 Quad
- Core i3, i5, i7, i9
The concept of generations mainly comes after the release of the Core i series. The difference in processor micro-architecture is the main difference in processor generations. We will discuss these generations in detail below.
Click on the image below to open a visual timeline of Intel processor generations:
Intel Core Processor Names and Numbers
As you can see from the image above, the complete name of the processor can confuse you. That is why we are here to clear out any doubts about the information contained within the names of a Core processor.
The name of an Intel Core processor contains the following information:
- Brand Modifier
- Generation Indicator
- Product Line Suffix
The Brand signifies the overall product line. It could be any one of the following:
A Brand Modifier is only used in the Core series to signify the processor’s performance. You can find the following modifiers currently available (at the time of writing this post):
The higher the modifier, the greater its performance.
In the 4 or 5-digit processor number, you will find the generation of the processor in the 1st or the 1st and 2nd digits.
If the processor is from a generation with only one integer (for example 8th or 9th), then the numbers would be starting like 8XXX or 9XXX. However, if it is of the 10th or 11th generation, the numbers would be line 10XXX or 11XXX.
The generation signifies some of the processor’s attributes, such as when it was released, the size of the transistors used, cache type and size, etc.
The SKU signifies the model number, which is usually the last 3 digits in the product number. The higher the SKU, the more features the processor is likely to have.
That said, SKUs cannot be used to compare processors amongst different Intel brands or different generations.
Product Line Suffix
The suffix at the end also signifies the capabilities of a processor. This is an alphabet that highlights the key features of the processor. Below is a list of all the suffixes currently in use by Intel and their meaning:
- C: Desktop processor with high-end graphics
- F: High-performance processor used with discrete graphics cards (ex. Gaming)
- H: High-performance graphics
- K: Unlocked for overclocking
- M: Mobile
- Q: Quad-core
- R: Desktop processor, BGA1364 (mobile) package, high-end graphics
- S: Performance-optimized lifestyle
- T: Power-optimized for best desktop computing
- U: Ultra-low power for laptop efficiency
- X: Extreme unlocked for high desktop performance
- Y: Extreme low power
Let us now continue to discuss the different Intel Core generations.
Intel Processor Generations
Intel processor generations simply have an enhanced feature set and speed compared to previous generations. Let’s discuss each generation separately.
1st Generation Intel Processors – Nehalem
Nehalem was the Intel processor micro-architecture which was the successor to the initial Core architecture which had certain limitations like inability to increase the clock speed, inefficient pipeline, etc. Nehalem was released for production in 2010.
Nehalem used the 45-nanometer process as opposed to the 65nm or 90nm used by previous architects. Nehalem reintroduced hyper-threading technology which was left out mainly in the initial Core i3 processor models.
The Nehalem processor has a 64 KB L1 cache, 256 KB per core L2 cache and 4 MB to 12 MB L3 cache which is shared with all the processor cores. It supports 1156 LGA socket and 2-channel DDR3 RAM.
2nd Generation Intel Processors – Sandy Bridge
Sandy Bridge micro-architecture was introduced in 2011 to replace Nehalem architecture. Sandy Bridge uses the 32-nanometer process as opposed to 45 nm used in Nehalem. Sandy Bridge processor average performance enhancement as compared to Nehalem was about 11.3%.
Sandy Bridge uses the same 64 KB L1 cache and 256 KB per core for L2 cache but the difference is in the L3 cache. Normally the Sandy Bridge processor L3 cache was from 1MB to 8 MB. For extreme processors, it was from 10 MB to 15 MB. It uses 1155 LGA socket and 2-channel DDR3-1066 RAM.
3rd Generation Intel Processors – Ivy Bridge
Introduced in September 2012, Ivy Bridge processors are faster than Sandy Bridge processors and use the 22-nanometer process as opposed to 32 nm used in Sandy Bridge. This processor model consumes up to 50% less energy and will give 25% to 68% increase in performance as compared to Sandy Bridge processors.
The only problem with Ivy Bridge processors is that they may emit more heat as compared to Sandy Bridge processors.
Ivy Bridge architecture uses the same 1155 LGA socket with DDR3-1333 to DDR3-1600 RAM.
4th Generation Intel Processors – Haswell
Haswell was released by Intel in June 2013. It uses the same 22-nm process as Ivy Bridge. The performance improvement of Haswell as compared to the Ivy Bridge is from 3% to 8%. Haswell carries a lot of features from Ivy Bridge with some very exciting new features like support for new sockets (LGA 1150, BGA 1364, LGA 2011-3), DDR4 technology, a completely new cache design, etc.
The main benefit of Haswell is that it can be used in ultra-portable devices due to its low power consumption.
5th Generation Intel Processors – Broadwell
Broadwell was released by Intel in 2015. It uses 14-nm process technology which is 37% smaller in size than its predecessors. According to Intel, with the Broadwell CPU, the device’s battery life could be improved as long as 1.5 hours.
The Broadwell chips also feature faster wake times and improved graphics performance. It supports 1150 LGA sockets with 2-channel DDR3L-1333/1600 RAM.
6th Generation Intel Processors – Skylake
Intel introduced Skylake, the 6th generation processors in August 2015. Skylake is a redesign of the same 14-nm technology which was introduced in Broadwell, the 5th generation architecture.
7th Generation Intel Processors – Kaby Lake
Intel’s 7th generation processors, codenamed Kaby Lake, were introduced in 2016. Kaby Lake is essentially a refresh of Sky Lake architecture with few efficiencies and power improvements. It uses a 14-nm process architecture.
Kaby Lake is the first micro-architecture from Intel that does not come with an official driver for Operating Systems older than Windows 10.
Kaby Lake introduced a new graphics architecture to improve 3D graphics performance and 4K video playback. It uses 1151 LGA sockets and has dual-channel support for DDR3L-1600 and DDR4-2400 RAM slots.
8th Generation Intel Processors – Kaby Lake R
In 2017, Intel introduced a refresh of Kaby Lake processors as their new 8th generation release. The details are the same as mentioned in the 7th Generation Intel Processor but some 8th generation chipsets have support for DDR4-2666 RAM but lack DDR3L RAM support.
9th Generation Intel Processors – Coffee Lake
Coffee Lake processors were introduced by Intel in late 2017. With this architecture, Intel Core i9 processors were introduced.
Coffee Lake processors break the limit of 4 cores per CPU. The new processors can now support up to 8 cores per CPU.
Since the heat produced in these cores will be enormous, Intel attached the integrated heat spreader (IHS) to the CPU die instead of the thermal paste which is normally used in earlier processors.
It uses 1151 LGA sockets with altered pinouts to support more than 4 cores along with up to 16 MB of L3 cache.
10th Generation Intel Processors – Cannon Lake/Ice Lake
Cannon Lake, Intel’s 10th generation architecture, comes with all-new 10-nm technology. It was released in late 2017 but production properly started in 2018.
Ice Lake is produced as the 2nd generation of 10-nm processors.
They use BGA1526 sockets and come with DDR4 3200 and LPDDR4X 3733 support. This is the first CPU architecture that comes with integrated support for Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Thunderbolt 3.
11th Generation Intel Processors – Tiger Lake
The 11th generation Intel, Tiger Lake, is the third generation of 10-nm transistor technology, released on September 2, 2020. The Tiger Lake architecture has up to 19% performance gains compared to Ice Lake. L4 cache has been introduced in this generation for further performance boosts.
Furthermore, this was the first generation to feature Intel Iris Xe graphics with significant FPS boosts whilst gaming.
12th Generation Intel Processors – Alder Lake
The 12th generation of Intel Core processors is referred to as Alder Lake. It also has 10-nanometer transistor technology, but with hybrid capabilities. This means it is both designed for power and scalability with its P-cores and E-cores, which essentially means power core and efficiency cores, respectively.
This generation supports DDR5 memory, Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, and WiFi 6E (Gig+).
Intel claims the 12th generation provides an average of 13% performance gains in gaming and offers up to twice the performance of its predecessor in terms of content creation.
13th Generation Intel Processors – Raptor Lake
Intel’s 13th generation of processors is called “Raptor Lake.” It has 10nm Enhanced Superfin technology, which is an improvement on the previous 10nm technology used in Alder Lake.
For this generation, they have released the following SKUs:
- Core i9 13900k
- Core i9 13900
- Core i7 13700K
- Core i7 13700
- Core i5 13600k
- Core i5 13400
Of course, these are also available in other variants, such as the T series, but the main SKUs are listed above.
The high-end Core i9 13900K is the only processor which will have 24 cores (8 P-cores and 16 E-cores) and 32 threads, whereas Core i5 13400 will have 6 P-cores and 4 E-cores. 5 of these also have integrated GPUs and clock speeds between 1.6 GHz and 1.55 GHz, however, Core i5 13400 is the only variant with a different integrated GPU than the rest.
Users will also be able to overclock the integrated GPUs for the K series processors.
Raptor Lake support’s both DDR4 and DDR5 memory modules. DDR4 is supported up to 3200 MHz, whereas the DDR5 memory clock speed is supported up to 5600 MHz.
The Next Generations
The next generations of Intel Core processors are the 14th and 15th with the codenames Meteor Lake and Arrow Lake, respectively. They are planned to be released in the years 2023 and 2024.
The 14th gen Intel processor will adhere to a new socket type (LGA 2551) since Intel is known to change its types every 2 generations. This socket type will also support the 12th and 13th generation CPUs. These are expected to be 20% more efficient than the current processors and will be designed to tackle its competitors, the Ryzen Zen 5.
How to Check Processor Generation on your Windows PC
Type in msinfo32 in the Run Command box to open System Information.
Now, look for the information in front of “Processor”. Using the information above, you can now determine all the information regarding the processor, including its generation.
I hope the article will give insight into the processor generation, as well as clear up any confusion regarding it. I certainly hope this will help you decide which processor to opt for, depending on your needs and requirements.
I would love to have your view about these and if I have missed any features of any generation, it would be great to hear from you in the comments below.