Intel rebrands its PC processor lineup

Intel rebrands its PC processor lineup

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Intel Corp. today announced plans to reorganize its personal computer processors under a simplified, two-tier branding structure.

The move comes more than a decade after the last major rebrand of the product portfolio. It also follows a smaller naming change that Intel announced last September. The latter update saw the company fold two sets of entry-level laptop processors, the Pentium and Celeron lines, under a single brand.

Intel’s latest branding revamp will roll out with its forthcoming Meteor Lake series of central processing units. The series is expected to be one of the biggest updates to Intel’s client computing portfolio in recent memory. It will be the first lineup of PC processors from the company to use chiplet and extreme ultraviolet lithography, or EUV, technologies.

The most advanced Meteor Lake processors will form a new product portfolio known as the Intel Core Ultra series. The remaining chips, in turn, will be organized into a second product lineup known simply as Intel Core.

“To better align with our product strategies, we are introducing a branding structure that will help PC buyers better differentiate the best of our latest technology and our mainstream offerings,” said Caitlin Anderson, Intel’s vice president and general manager of client computing group sales.

Intel’s client CPUs are currently organized into four tiers known as Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 and Core i9. The different numbers denote different performance levels. The Core i3 line includes Intel’s entry-level client processors, while Core i9 chips are generally the company’s fastest. 

Intel will continue to organize its client CPUs into four product tiers. However, it’s dropping the “i” from processor names. The four product tiers that comprise Intel’s client CPU portfolio will be renamed to Core 3, Core 5, Core 7 and Core 9.

Intel processor names currently include what the company describes as generational messaging. A CPU might, for example, be referred to as an “Intel 11th Generation” product in the chipmaker’s marketing materials. With Meteor Lake, the company will drop that branding in most areas with the exception of CPUs’ product numbers.

The new branding will roll out when the first Meteor Lake chips become available later this year. Meteor Lake is based on the Intel 4 process, the chipmaker’s latest and most manufacturing technology. The process is the first from the company to rely on EUV machines to carve transistors into silicon wafers.

Intel’s competitors already use EUV machines to produce their most advanced semiconductors. Such systems cost about $200 million apiece. They can create faster, more efficient transistors than is possible with earlier technology.  

A CPU comprises two main elements: transistors that process data and SRAM cache circuits that store the data being processed. Transistors made using Intel 4 processes are reportedly half the size of the company’s earlier circuits. As a result, more of them can be placed on a chip to speed up processing. Additionally, Intel has reduced the size of its SRAM units by 30%.

Meteor Lake will introduce other hardware improvements as well. Intel has reportedly reduced its use of cobalt in some semiconductor components. It switched to a new material, called enhanced copper, that is expected to facilitate higher clock speeds.

The Meteor Lake series features major upgrades at the architectural level as well. Most notably, it’s the first client CPU line from Intel to include chiplet technology. A chiplet-based processor is not a single piece of silicon, but rather a collection of computing modules that are made separately and assembled after manufacturing.

Besides CPU cores, each Meteor Lake chip will also feature an integrated graphics card chipset. Furthemore, Intel has included a specialized artificial intelligence accelerator. The latter module promises to run AI models with limited processing requirements more efficiently than a PC’s graphics cards.

Intel disclosed earlier this year that Meteor Lake is already in production. As of April, the company was reportedly “ramping up” manufacturing in preparation for the product portfolio’s launch. 

Image: Intel

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