Intel has an ever-growing revenue stream that pushes over 70 billion US dollars every year. They can thank their innovation for most of that market growth. Intel releases a new CPU generation often, and each new one comes with upgraded speed and features.

When in an electronics store while shopping for a new computer, there’s often not even someone there that can explain the difference between Intel chip generations. This makes it hard to make a truly informed purchase.

Never fear, the below article takes a deep dive into each generation. Read on to learn more.

What are Intel Processors?

Across the globe, Intel processors make up the majority of desktop and laptop CPUs. These microprocessors have transformed society, and their ongoing efforts to produce the latest generation Intel chip have become quicker and smarter. 

They are available in various model families, like Core, Xeon, Pentium, and Celeron. They come in several generations, including the 9th, 10th, and 11th, known as Coffee Lake, Comet/Ice Lake, and Rocket/Tiger Lake.

Most PCs on the market are powered by these household-word processors, with particular variants designed for increased speed, mobility, creative workflows, gaming performance, business, big data, and other applications.

Intel Chip Generations

Intel processor generations have improved over the years and will continue to do so with each new release. Indeed, the number of cores on a chip will continue to increase, ushering in an age of more powerful computers.

Architecture is the primary distinction between generations. Over time, they have gained greater RAM compatibility, cache support, and overclocking capabilities. New generation processors can also attain faster clock speeds while becoming significantly more energy-efficient.

1st Generation Intel Processors – Nehalem 

In 2010, Nehalem was approved for production. Nehalem was the Intel processor microarchitecture that succeeded the original Core architecture, which had constraints such as the inability to increase the clock speed, an inefficient pipeline, and so on. 

Nehalem employed a 45-nanometer process rather than the 65nm or 90nm processes used in earlier designs. 

Many remember hyper-threading technology, which was primarily absent from the first Core i3 CPU models. Nehalem reinstated it. 

The Nehalem CPU includes a 64 KB L1 cache, a 256 KB L2 cache per core, and a 4 MB to 12 MB L3 cache shared by all processing intel chips. It fits an 1156 LGA socket and supports two channels of DDR3 RAM.

2nd Generation Intel Processors – Sandy Bridge

In 2011, the Sandy Bridge micro-architecture replaced the Nehalem architecture. Sandy Bridge employs a 32-nanometer process as compared to Nehalem’s 45-nanometer technology. The average performance improvement of Sandy Bridge processors over Nehalem processors was roughly 11.3%.

Sandy Bridge has the same 64 KB L1 cache and 256 KB L2 cache per core as Sandy Bridge. However, the difference is in the L3 cache. Usually, the L3 cache on Sandy Bridge processors ranged from 1MB to 8MB. It ranged from 10 MB to 15 MB for powerful processors. It has an 1155 LGA socket and two channels of DDR3-1066 RAM.

3rd Generation Intel Processors – Ivy Bridge

Ivy Bridge CPUs, which went mainstream in September 2012, employs a 22-nanometer technology rather than the 32-nanometer process used in Sandy Bridge. As a result, they are faster than Sandy Bridge processors.

Compared to Sandy Bridge processors, this processor type uses up to 50% less energy and provides a 25% to 68% gain in performance.

The sole disadvantage of Ivy Bridge CPUs is that they may generate more heat than Sandy Bridge processors.

Ivy Bridge architecture employs the same 1155 LGA socket as Sandy Bridge, with DDR3-1333 to DDR3-1600 RAM.

4th Generation Intel Processors – Haswell

Intel announced Haswell in June 2013. It is built on the same 22-nm technology as Ivy Bridge. Haswell improves performance by 3% to 8% compared to the Ivy Bridge. Haswell inherits many features from Ivy Bridge and some highly intriguing new ones, including support for new sockets (LGA 1150, BGA 1364, LGA 2011-3), DDR4 technology, and a whole new cache architecture.

Haswell’s key advantage is that it is utilized in ultra-portable devices because of its low power consumption.

5th Generation Intel Processors – Broadwell

Intel introduced Broadwell in 2015. It employs 14-nm process technology, which is 37% smaller than its predecessors. According to Intel, a device’s battery life extends up to 1.5 hours with the Broadwell CPU.

Broadwell processors also have shorter wake times and better graphics performance. It is compatible with 1150 LGA sockets and 2-channel DDR3L-1333/1600 RAM.

6th Generation Intel Processors – Skylake

Skylake, Intel’s sixth-generation processor, launched in August 2015. Skylake is a redesigned version of the same 14-nm technology debuted in Broadwell.

7th Generation Intel Processors – Kaby Lake

In 2016, Intel’s 7th generation CPUs, codenamed Kaby Lake, was unveiled. Kaby Lake is simply a Sky Lake refresh with a few efficiencies and power enhancements. It is built on a 14-nm process architecture.

Kaby Lake is Intel’s first microarchitecture that does not provide an official driver for operating systems before Windows 10.

Kaby Lake debuted a new graphics architecture to boost 3D graphics performance and 4K video playback. It has 1151 LGA sockets and dual-channel DDR3L-1600 and DDR4-2400 RAM slots.

8th Generation Intel Processors – Kaby Lake R

As part of their new 8th generation release, Intel refreshed Kaby Lake CPUs in 2017. The specifications are the same as the 7th Generation Intel Processor, except certain 8th generation chipsets support DDR4-2666 RAM but not DDR3L RAM.

9th Generation Intel Processors – Coffee Lake

Intel released Coffee Lake chips in late 2017. Intel Core i9 CPUs were debuted with this architecture.

Coffee Lake CPUs are the first to exceed the 4 cores per CPU limit. It means there are now up to 8 CPU cores available. Because the heat generated in these cores would be immense, Intel mounted the integrated heat spreader (IHS) to the CPU die rather than thermal paste.

It employs 1151 LGA sockets with modified pinouts to accommodate four cores and 16 MB of L3 cache.

10th Generation Intel Processors – Cannon Lake/Ice Lake

Cannon Lake, Intel’s tenth generation architecture, features all-new 10-nm technology. It got launched in late 2017, although manufacturing did not begin until 2018.

Ice Lake is the second generation of 10-nm CPUs.

They have BGA1526 sockets and support DDR4 3200 and LPDDR4X 3733 memory. The first CPU architecture includes built-in Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity.

11th Generation Intel Processors – Tiger Lake

Tiger Lake mobile CPUs and Rocket Lake desktop CPUs are examples of the latest and finest 11th generation architecture. Tiger Lake’s new intel chips had a significant influence on laptop processors. They have a higher clock speed and other upgrades like PCIe 4.0, Thunderbolt 4, USB 4.0, and LPDDR5 memory support.

12th Generation Intel Processors – Alder Lake

Intel is actively developing 12th generation Alder Lake Processors. Alder Lake will have a new LGA 1700 socket, PCIe 5.0, LPDDR5 RAM, and DMI 4.0 compatibility. It might be a rebuild on 10nm architecture. However, most of the specifics are presently unclear.

What’s the Latest Intel Processor?

12th Gen laptops are technically released but you’ll be very hard-pressed to find a PC with one in it at the moment.

So, the most recent Intel CPU that’s readily available is the 11th Generation Tiger Lake chip for mobile PCs and the 10th Generation Comet Lake chip for desktops. 

The 11th Generation Intel chips are exciting since they support the Evo platform. That’s not just a chip, but a whole overhaul of PC hardware that awakens from sleep in less than a second, switches between programs and tabs in a flash, and enables remote workflows like no other computer in history.

If you’d like to learn more about the Evo platform, head over to Lenovo to read more now.

How to Identify Your Generation?

Navigate to the following locations: Start > Settings > System > About. Your Intel chip will be listed next to Processor. You’ll notice your processor, and the first number after i3, i5, i7, or i9 indicates the generation.

My current processor, for example, is the i7-1165G7. You can tell this is the 11th Gen as the suffix starts with an 11.

You may also look at Device Manager > Processors by searching for and selecting Device Manager on your laptop/PC.

Which Generation of Intel Processor is Best For You?

It depends on you whether you afford to buy the latest Intel processor or not. 

You also need to consider what you do with your computer. Certain tasks require more processing power and therefore work better with more cores or higher clock speeds. Some examples of tasks that will need a newer gen processor include:

Editing images and videos – Usually, a graphics card can help with the load of editing. But as there are several processors running at once, a newer gen multi-core processor is better.

Gaming – Again, the graphics card can help but the motherboard processor is still an important part of a high-quality gaming PC. The need for a newer processor increases if you’re relying solely on the motherboard chip for your graphics. Newer CPUs have better built-in graphics than older ones

Music Production – When you use digital audio workstations, you will often layer numerous virtual instruments on top. You can run midi instruments, virtual amps, and other plugins all at once. All of that requires a lot of processing power, so a Gen 8 i5 and beyond should be the minimum you’d consider.

Ever-Evolving Intel Chips

Now that you have a better understanding of Intel chip generations, you should be able to make an appropriate choice while shopping.

If you’re upgrading, you’ll need to consider if the CPU will fit the socket in your motherboard. The descriptions above have mentioned all the compatible sockets for each generation. Obviously, you won’t have to worry about this when purchasing a pre-assembled PC.

We have plenty of other articles related to the tech industry, check them out to learn more.