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Intel's Core Brand Change
No longer about i, it's all about U
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One of the significant mainstays of modern branding for personal computers has been Intel. We all remember Intel Inside, Intel Celeron, Intel Pentium, and perhaps less pervasive but more widely spread, Intel Core. To go along with the Core architecture, Intel Core has been placed on pretty much every CPU Intel has produced that wasn't a low-end Atom or an enterprise grade Xeon. Intel put billions of dollars into its core branding, and it has become very recognizable:
Intel Core i3
Intel Core i5
Intel Core i7
and a lot later, Intel Core i9
These brands have entered the technical sphere so pervasively that many users, or even store salesman, no longer care about the generation of the hardware - it just has to be a Core i5, a Core i7, and so on. The branding was good enough that Intel's main CPU competitor, AMD, has adopted something similar for Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and a little later, Ryzen 9. The 3/5/7/9 scheme has been recognizable in consumer electronics. But some of that now changes as Intel introduces Meteor Lake.
In order to indicate that Intel is moving into a new era with its portfolio - the era being advanced packaging and chiplets that Meteor Lake starts with - Intel is doing multiple things. It's best if I enumerate them.
Dropping the generation from the SKU ID
Dropping the i from the SKU ID.
Adding the word 'processor' (uncapitalized) before the SKU number.
This means, for a hypothetical 17th Generation 1790P:
Intel 17th Gen Core i3-1790P -> Intel Core 3 processor 1790P
Intel 17th Gen Core i5-1790P -> Intel Core 5 processor 1790P
Intel 17th Gen Core i7-1790P -> Intel Core 7 processor 1790P
Overall, I'm not fussed about #1 or #2 here. There are going to be a lot of places that will bemoan the fact that Intel has put a lot of branding money behind the Core i series over the last decade - billions and billions if you count partner MDF for co-branding. But I always felt calling them the 'Core i' series was just bad English. So I'm less concerned about that. Also 'Gen' or 'Generation' always felt excessive.
What perhaps makes me a bit weird here is #3, the fact that there's an extra word of processor in there, which is not capitalized, before you get the SKU number. That individually seems very odd, personally, and I'd prefer that it was the Core 7-1790P processor, but that's my take. It will be interesting to see what sticks and what the audience will end up using, but it's safe to assume that all of Intel's partners will follow the guidelines.
I should point out that my use of 1790P is an arbitrary example. Intel's announcement today states that the exact SKU naming for Meteor Lake is still in the works, but the numbering should still indicate the generation of the product. There will be at least four numbers, no word if it will go beyond that.
There's also a fourth thing that Intel is doing.
Some of them may have Ultra put in place as well.
Intel Core i5 -> Intel Core Ultra 5
Intel Core i7 -> Intel Core Ultra 7
Intel Core i9 -> Intel Core Ultra 9
Again, the full name (for example) of a product would be the Intel Core Ultra 7 processor 1790P.
What's the reason for this? Intel's official reason is that it wants to shift away from generations being explicitly in front of the core - nothing about 'Intel 13th Gen Core i3', just 'Intel Core 3', and it's up to the SKU number to show the generation. Another reason is the introduction of the Intel Core Ultra series. There are no explicit details on what this means, however it could be that chiplet based products are going to be called ultra, while monolithic chips will not. Chiplet technology is still expensive, so I suspect that there will still be a monolithic design at some level with upcoming families.
Also, just to be clear, this is going to start with Meteor Lake. Meteor Lake is technically Intel's 14th generation, but Intel won't call it that. There's a possibility that there will be other non-Meteor Lake products in the market called 14th Gen, given that there's no clear indication that Intel will launch Meteor Lake for desktop so far (and updated LGA1700 motherboards at Computex are rumoring a refresh of 13th Gen Raptor Lake for desktop instead). So Meteor Lake will be 14th gen, it just won't be called that.
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