It used to be that selecting a processor was easy. AMD had their simple processor lineups, namely the Athlon, Duron, Sempron, and Opteron lines. Intel had the loyal Celeron, Pentium, and Itanium ranges, and these were simple and easy to understand as well. They were all differentiated by clockspeeds, and things were easy enough to figure out. And then, something happened.
The Core series happened. Intel released the first Core chip to the market in the form of a bunch of mid-range chips under the Intel Core nomenclature in 2006. These were later joined by the Core 2 ranges (including Core 2 Solo and Core 2 Quad) as time passed. These no longer followed a standard that the public could follow and understand, because Intel used the same naming system on their mobile chips, confusing consumers even more when trying to make comparisons between desktops and their mobile counterparts. Meanwhile, AMD chucked out the Duron and Sempron ranges to make way for Phenom, keeping their naming system simple and easy to follow.
And now we’ve come to the new bully on the block, the Core i7. The name confused many because Intel didn’t immediately say why they chose this name for the chip, but rather they left things open to speculation. I still can’t see why they chose it, but they’ve now decided to apply it to their whole entire range of CPUs. There is now officially going to be a Core i5 and a Core i3 range, and a star rating system for performance comparisons.
The new i5 range (from the rumor mill) covers not only the i5 chips being released in October, but it could also encompass some Core 2 Duo chips both in the desktop and mobile sectors. This should also cover the P4x, P5x, and X38/X48 chipsets. The Core i3 range should encompass lower-end Core 2 Duos and Core 2 Quads, as well as some mobile chips (namely the T3400 and T4200) and the current Pentium Processors. The G3x and P9xx chipsets follow suit, seeing as they are low-end versions.
But here’s where it gets confusing. This now means that current Core 2 Duo owners now fall under the Core i3 or Core i5 brand, but the chips are still going to be sold under the older naming system. Users shopping for a Core 2 Duo system in a few months, however, will instead find a “Core i3” rig in its place. It’s the same computer, but it has a different name, which will confuse a lot of people in the process of the name changes. Worse still, the revisions of current processors will probably adopt the new naming system, so the same architecture found in the CPUs will have two names. I can see it now:
“I have a Core i3 E7200 running at 4Ghz! Beat that!”
“I have a Core 2 Duo E7200 at 4Ghz as well.”
“So what? Mine’s still better.”
At least the rating system is informative.