For a lesson in ambiguity, look no further than processor model numbers and codenames. While they contain important product information, they aren’t easy to read. Thankfully, deciphering an Intel or AMD CPU model number won’t require too much mental math or a graphing calculator. Just some of the knowledge contained below.
When it comes to product lines and model numbers, Intel’s nomenclature can be a little easier to understand than AMD’s.
Let’s begin by examining one of Intel’s faster models, the Core i7-5820K.
Model line – Intel manufactures three Core sub-models. In ascending order of performance and price, they are: i3, i5, and i7.
Generation – There have been many generations of the Core i3, i5, and i7 model lines starting with Nehalem in 2008.
|5||Broadwell||2014 (mobile) / 2015 (desktop/server)|
SKU – Useful for gauging a CPU’s performance within its own model line. A higher number means a higher market segment. For example, the i7 5775C features better performance than the i7 5675C.
Suffix – This part of the model number can denote several things across multiple generations.
|5||C||Unlocked processors capable of being overclocked.|
|5||R||Based on mobile architecture and cannot be overclocked.|
|4/3/2||K||Unlocked processors capable of being overclocked.|
|4||R||Based on mobile architecture and cannot be overclocked.|
|4/3/2||S||Designed for low-power desktops. Rated at 65 watts.|
|4/3/2||T||Designed for thin-client and all-in-one systems. Rated at 35-45 watts.|
There is much less variety within the Celeron and Pentium processor lines compared to the Core series. The Celeron line features entry-level performance while the Pentium line is slightly more upmarket in terms of price and performance. With these two model lines, just keep this rule in mind: The higher the number, the better the performance.
AMD’s names and model numbers are a little more esoteric compared to Intel’s. For instance, they refer to several of their CPUs as Accelerated Processing Units (APU).
What is an APU? AMD coined the term to describe CPUs with integrated graphics cores. They wanted to differentiate their old FX line of CPUs with no built-in graphics capabilities from their new offerings, which do have built-in graphics chips. AMD’s CPU offerings target enthusiast buyers while their APU models are aimed at mainstream users.
Here’s how you decrypt an AMD processor model number, starting with the FX series—specifically the FX-8370.
Series – Denotes the number of cores that particular model features, though one exception is the FX-9*** series. They are aimed at enthusiasts and have 8 cores. For the most part however, an FX-8*** will have 8 cores and an FX-6*** six.
Generation – A higher number means a newer generation. For example, an FX-8350 is newer than an FX-8170.
SKU – Useful to compare multiple processors within the same processor series and generation. A higher number means better performance. For instance, an FX-8370 features a 4.0 GHz frequency while an FX-8320 only clocks up to 3.5 GHz.
Model line – Within the A-series model line, you have the A4, A6, A8, and A10 in ascending order of performance.
Generation – Same as with the FX and Core processors, the higher then number, the newer the model generation.
SKU – A higher number means better performance and specifications. You can use it to compare two or more processors within the same model line.
Suffix – Unlike Intel’s Core line, you won’t find too many different suffixes with AMD products. In fact, with desktop A-series processors, there’s only one letter that matters—K. The K suffix means that APU can be overclocked.
Now you can decipher the number scrabble that is your processor’s model number. Just hope that Intel and AMD don’t try to one up each other and introduce more suffixes or longer processor SKUs.