Almost five years ago, Intel ran into a heat wall and decided it had to commoditize its processors and focus on the brand rather than the clock speed. Processors received sequence numbers that were designed as an indicator how fast a CPU runs, what features it provides and how much power it consumes. That number appears to have become irrelevant over time as it is virtually impossible for consumers to decode CPU sequence numbers anymore. The icing on the cake is a new 6-core processor, which can only identified as a 6-core processor studying the spec sheet.Do we still care what processor is in our PC? Or do we expect that it is just good enough for whatever we want to do? That may be just the case and only true enthusiasts may still be interested in knowing what runs their apps and games inside their rigs.
If you were ever interested in Intel sequence numbers, if you had some idea what the true difference between i3, i5, and i7 is, if you had a clue why some i7 CPUs are part of the 900 series and other part of the 800 series, why some i5 chips have 700-series numbers and others 600 series, you may be giving up today.
There is a new processor, the i7-970 – which has 6 cores like the i7-980X, but unlike the i7-975 or i7-960, both of which have only 4. The new 3.2 GHz CPU has a tray price of $885, which is just below the i7-980X (3.33 GHz) and i7-975 (3.33 GHz), which are offered at $999, but significantly above the 3.2 GHz i7-960, which sells for $562. Make sense? If Intel ever wanted to hide what a specific processor can do, it has now succeeded: 45 nm and 32 nm CPUs are mixed between even and odd sequence numbers, there seems to be no rule to sequence number series anymore and cores are mixed up within product families as well. These days, it appears that Intel may rely more on a random number generator to label its processors rather than make a reasonable effort to allow its customers to understand what they are buying.
I have to admit that I have lost the reasoning behind that strategy, especially since Intel so often quoted BMW’s numbering system for its cars as a model for its processors (i3, i5, i7). If you were to buy a BMW today, would you be interested in knowing whether there is a diesel engine or a regular gasoline engine under the hood? Whether it is turbo-charged, whether it is a 4-, 6- or 8-cylinder engine, whether it has 4-wheel drive, etc. I would. If they charge a premium for a certain car, I would like to know why. Would you know why there is a 57% premium on the i7-970 over the i7-960 by looking at those sequence numbers alone? You may guess a higher clock speed, which would be wrong. You may not guess 50% more cores, which would be right. For my taste, Intel’s sequence number confusion is a bit out of control.
Besides the new 6-core CPU, Intel has also introduced a new low-power quad-core CPU, the i7-870S, which runs at 2.66 GHz and 82 watts. The regular 870 runs at 2.93 GHz, but consumes 95 watts.
There have been several price reductions: The i7-870 drops by 48% to $294 (the 870S has a tray price of $351), the i3-540 drops by 12% to $117, the Pentium E6600 falls by 11% to $75 and the E5500 by 15% to $64. In the mobile space, Intel dropped the price of the i7-640UM by 5% to $289. There are also two previously announced new Atom processors – the D525 for $63 and the D425 for $42.
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