Difference Between Intel Processor Generations

The last time when I went to the computer shop to inquire about the latest prices of laptops, I was told that the new laptop had the Intel fourth-generation processor. I asked the person the difference between first-generation and the fourth generation but he was unable to answer properly only saying that the fourth generation was faster than the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generations.

I have updated this article to add all the latest generations released after initially writing this article. I hope this will be useful for all the viewers. If there is anything missing in the article, please let me know and I will try to add it as soon as possible.

So I came home and wanted to know about the philosophy of processor generations on the Internet. To my astonishment, 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 that I can write and document the differences which I have found in this article.

Intel Processors

The misconception

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 about these later as it requires a lot of discussions. Let me list down all the major processor models released by Intel.

  • Pentium 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Celeron
  • 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

The concept of generations mainly comes after the released 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.

Intel Processor Generations

Intel processor generations simply have the enhanced feature set and speed than the 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 architectures. 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 battery life could be improved as long as 1.5 hours.

The Broadwell chips also featured faster wake times and improved graphics performances. It supports 1150 LGA socket 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 a few efficiencies and power improvements. It uses a 14-nm process architecture.

Kaby Lake is the first micro-architecture from Intel which 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 socket 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 limitation of 4 cores per CPU. Now the new processors can 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 socket with altered pinout 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 the all-new 10-nm technology. It was released in late 2017 but the 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

11th generation Intel, Tiger Lake, is yet to be released. They will be the third generation of 10-nm transistor technology. According to Wikipedia, the Tiger Lake architecture will have up to 30% performance gains as compared to Ice Lake. L4 cache will be introduced in this generation for further performance boosts.

The next generations

Sapphire Rapids is the micro-architecture that is being planned by Intel. It will either be a refinement of 10-nm technology or an all-new 7-nm process. It may also introduce all-new DDR5 RAM support.

Conclusion

I hope the article will give some insight into the processor generations. I would love to have your view about this and if I have missed any features of any generation, it would be great to hear from you in the comments.

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99 thoughts on “Difference Between Intel Processor Generations”

  1. Usman Khurshid, thank you so much for your comprehensive history of the different Intel processor generations. Your information is so valuable for me to see the evolution of the Intel generations. I’m in the process of choosing a new laptop for business & surveillance purposes and don’t know if I should wait for the newest Tiger Lake laptop (since I’m not a “gamer”). I would like the most powerful processor I can get as I need lots of ram to manage my wifi cameras in two locations. If you have time to make any suggestions, I would be extremely grateful. In the meantime, thank you again for the timeline you provided and hope you have a Happy New Year 2020, Jerry

    Reply
    • Hi Usman, It’s 2020. We’re trying to make a point with my wife’s stingy university why the 4th generation i7 processor is so much slower than today’s generation of i7 processors. For the the Haswell you write “The performance improvement of Haswell as compared to the Ivy Bridge is from 3% to 8%. ” Can you tell us in general what the improvement is for each successive generation? Thank you.

      Reply
      • The most prominent and easy difference between a 4th generation Core i7 processor and an 8th/9th/10th generation Core i7 processor is that the later comes with 4 physical cores while the 4th gen processor comes with only 2 cores. This can have double performance benefits depending upon the type of work we’re doing. This alone is convincing enough to go for the latest generation processors.

        Reply
          • Jason 4th Gen Core i7 processors come with 2 cores by default and hyper-threading enabled. This means that you will see 4 logical processors in Windows 10 task manager. If you have an 8th Gen Core i7 processor, you will see 8 logical processors in the task manager.

  2. Hi, good info just a note on one of them: It says 9th gen broke the 4 core/cpu barrier, but the 7th gen 7820 has 8 cores and my 8700k has 6 cores. I believe that the 6700 uses DDR4 from then forward as well. Just thoughts on what I have personally.

    Reply
    • Good points Jerrod. By breaking the barrier I meant that the 6 and 8 core CPUs will be available as standard options. I have used some Dell laptops which were 7th gen and had 6 cores but they had and “H” processor. Likewise, your 8700K means you have the fastest of the Intel processor processors available. DDR4 was selectively available in sixth generation laptops but was not common. 7th gen laptops normally come with DDR4 RAM.

      Reply
    • For LGA 775, you have no generation. It is basicaly pre-first generation.

      They were Core 2 duo and Core 2 Quad processors. It was even before first generation of Nehalem. The core 2 had basicaly 2 generations. First, when it was introduced, on 65nm process in 2006. The processors like Q6600, Q6700, QX6800. Average speed was 2,4Ghz. Then, little bit later, they made second socket 775 generation on 45nm process. The average speed was about 2,8-3 Ghz. It was mainly famous Q9650, Q9400 etc… line. But also Q8400.

      For dual-core processors, they used number like E6800 for first generation, and E8600 etc… for second.
      There were only 2 and 4 core processors.

      After it, nehalem first generation came, and they started to use i3-xxx/i5-xxx/i7-xxx names.

      Reply
  3. By chance i have read this CPU related article in 2019 which is now half unrelated scinece many generations have come to existence.

    Reply
        • 10th Gen Intel® Core™ processors is out, btw. That’s not the issue. Problem is that Meltdown and Spectre (& ALL of the variants) are still ever-present on Intel’s CPU hardware – and there seems to be NO solution in sight; and this is YEARS later -now- after the initial discovery…

          Nobody is talking about how this is a BACKDOOR provided by the IME, Intel Management Engine: originally designed for “ease of use” (or, whatever their -evil- spin is on the matter) and, then, it has backfired; & they can’t get rid of it, as it is part of their hardware manufacturing system.

          With AMD on the rise (once again!), there will -hopefully- never be a need to, ever, purchase any Intel CPUs, ever again..:)

          P.S. For anybody interested, there are companies which HAVE BEEN aware of these issues (since while back!) & are working on solutions. For example, run a search query for: “System76 disable Intel IME”.

          Reply
          • v1adimir thanks for your detailed comment. The ninth-generation Core i series includes hardware fixes for Meltdown V3 and L1 Terminal Fault. As you said, they are not fully patched yet but Intel is working towards a permanent solution.

            When it comes to AMD processors, I don’t see a lot of variety when it comes to AMD laptops. AMD still has a long way to catch up.

  4. being a tech idiot. I cannot under stand what you have written. My question is still what difference is there to the average purchaser between 1st 2nd 3rd or 4th generation of Tablets.

    Reply
    • Difference is same like Hero Spelender and Hero Passion, you will feel the difference when you will do hardcore computing, it depends on your work as well. if you are doing typing work only then any processor will workout but when you will use new applications, advanced software applications then you will require more calculation power which you will get only in new processors. Every time in computer world technology changes and you need something better. And you know, research work is always moving forward in computer world. So that is why you get a new generation every year. I hope it helps.

      Reply
  5. It would be nice to see this article updated to include the most recent processors. The laptop I just bought this past week has a Core I-7 Generation 8 processor, so there is more information to be catalogued.

    Reply
    • I’m I am thinking to buy a new desktop PC. does your laptop works fast then please tell me what processor and how much RAM you are using

      Reply
      • my laptop has i7 processor with amd radeon gpu and 6gb ram….with these inside my laptop alhamdulillah I’m able to play games on my laptop peacefully.
        but it will be better if you have 8gb ram. so you can avoid any unwanted things from happen to your pc/laptop’s gaming perfomance
        but I’d prefer pc…it’s just because I’m a student so I can’t bring my whole desktop with me all along.

        Reply
  6. This list as jut about anything I can find online does not give a list of CPUs by generation. This is a critical list because when buying CPUs you must marry the CPU with a motherboard that can support them. Motherboard support is by CPU generation for the Intel processors. Therefore, I need to know the exact CPU model number and what generation it belongs to. The best list would be by generation, giving all the CPU model numbers that are in each generation. But if you give me a list simply by CPU model number, I can always use Excel and reorder them into the generation group.

    Reply
  7. wish you could tell us how to identify the generation of a processor – it is, IMO, more useful than know the weird names given to them. Will i7-8700 be the 8th generation? because of the 8 in 8700?

    Reply
  8. I am in small confusion, i need to buy a new laptop. but i saw two laptops, one is i5 processor 7th generation, and another one is i5 processor 8th generation.
    Can you please let me know which one is best?
    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • 7th generation of computer is working fine from progressing time and 8th generation is new in market. You should compare the both laptops with clock speed, ram cache size, HDD RPM and with more configurations. Happy New Year.

      Reply
  9. Please update. Also please create a graphic showing the performance of each generation (you could use typical frequency for each generation if the same frequency is not used across all generations). Also, another graphic showing the energy consumption for a mix of tasks. A table summarizing everything would be great. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. I shared my leptop detail with friends the one of them ask me ” which processer in your leptop?..and which genration? “… my answere was i-7 GEN and processer is also same… i’m confuse to answere it… if possible you can tell me this in briefly ….

    Reply
    • i7 is processor model after the model name you will have 4 digits. first one indicates which generation and the rest indicates the speed.
      eg i7 7200U
      i7-model
      7-generation
      200-speed

      Reply
  11. This gaves me idea to all those generation thing.. u help me decide what to buy, coz I was about to purchase a computer set..
    Thanks man. Good Job.

    Reply
    • Sharjeel what type of information do you need? The article seems outdated. I’m updating it right now to reflect the latest changes in processor generations.

      Reply
  12. If my memory serves me correctly.
    Intel’s first PC processor was the 8086 (often referred to as the AT) followed by the 80186, 80286, 80386 80486 (referred to without the 80 prefix eg 286) then came the pentiums.

    Reply
  13. thanks for your explanation. till i read this article i was thinking that there is vast difference in working of the system because of the generation change.

    Reply
    • its not as simple as replacing the processor to upgrade. since these processors support different ram eg ddr 4 ddr3 , also the motherboard needs to be replaced since the CPU architecture is not supported on all motherboards .so yiu need to do some research first.

      Reply
  14. hey like someone said previously there are more generations out now and we would like you to continue the article and compare the 5th, 6th, and 7th generations of the intel core thanks for the well need article that listed all and only information listed.

    Reply
  15. Currently there are more generations now available 5th 6th 7th and counting. I believe that 4th generation was the best one (Hasswell). Great Explanation by the way.

    Reply
  16. Currently there are more generations now available 5th 6th 7th and counting. I beleive that 4th generation was the best one (Hasswell). Great Explanation by the way.

    Reply
  17. In list of early processors, I don’t see the ‘Pentium Pro.’ I remember that it was highly rated at the time. I have one in my computer junk pile. Good article. Thanks for doing the research!

    Reply
  18. Fantastic. It Really helps and very brief intro. Now we will have much idea when we will go to buy new laptops. Thanks once again.

    Reply
  19. your work is very fantastic, i appreciate you for that. please i have been asked to write a term paper, comparing the various generation of intel and motorola processors. please i need your assistance here. I want you to help help write a work on this topic. thank you.

    Reply
  20. A little correction about that line:
    “Nehalem used 45 nanometer process as opposed to the 65nm or 90nm used by previous architectures”

    Nehalem was actually a fourth processor series to use 45nm production process. Previous architectures using it were Core 2 Duos: Wolfdale (2 cores mostly), Penryn (mobile, 1 to 4 cores) and Yorkfield (4 cores). First of these were introduced about a year before first Nehalem. I still use some of them.

    Reply
  21. I want to purchase the laptop,so went through the both DELL and HP website model Inspiron 15 5000 Series and HP 15-AC646TX (V5D74PA) have same specification except processor in dell it have 6th Generation Intel® Core™ i5-6200U Processor (3M Cache, up to 2.80 GHz) and in HP 4th genaration Intel Core i5-4210U 1.7 Ghz and cost for HP is 45000k and for DELL 55000k so sugesst me which one is best?

    Reply
  22. This is a very beneficial document,Now i have a knowledge about processor models and generations.

    Thank you so much,

    Reply
    • 1st gen = directx10
      2nd gen = directx10.1
      3rd gen = directx11
      4th gen = directx11.1
      5th gen = directx11.2
      6th gen = directx12

      Reply
  23. So if I have a third generation Core i7 in my laptop, could I buy a new laptop with a fourth or fifth gen i5 chip and still have superior performance?

    Reply
    • checkout the processor performance charts at passmark.com. select “benchmarks” then “cpu benchmarks”. you just might find a new i5 beats an old i7. but if the performance is similar, is it really worth upgrading?

      Reply
  24. Thanks for your nice article. You mentioned that “The only problem with Ivy Bridge processors is that they may emit more heat as compared to Sandy Bridge processors.” How about Haswell processor–Does it also emits more heat? Thanks for your clarification.

    Reply
    • As far as I have read in different forums, Haswell also has problems with heating the CPU but haven’t done any experimentation on that.

      Reply
  25. I want to know the difference between

    Pentium Core
    Pentium Dual Core
    Core Solo
    Core Duo
    Core 2 Duo
    Core Quad
    Core 2 Quad
    Core i3, i5, i7

    which kind of generations are they?

    Reply
  26. Its true there is no complete guide about processors,
    I asemble a new PC (desktop) i3 (i3-3210) third generation in februry. I am confuse about AMD and Intel processor I have no time research so I go to intel. But after 6 months I discover AMD is better for small office and daily works, some time I feel its better then intel. I want your opinion or post about it.

    Reply
    • Azharuddin, I am still in process of writing about i3, i5 and i7 processors. You can a good idea that I should also write about AMD in addition to Intel. Will definitely keep this in mind.

      Reply

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