Demystifying Intel Core ‘i’ series processors and chipsets

Posted by Geoff Undrell on: in: Technical Articles

Despite how often we deal with Intel products, it still can feel like a minefield when trying to compare processor models and trying to work out the latest version. Below I have made some notes about the various ‘i’ series processors and their corresponding chipsets that Intel has released over the years.

So at least, if only by the chipset number, you can work out which is the latest and best motherboard or CPU to go for. Often motherboards give you a big clue about their age/generation in the part number, e.g. Intel DH77DF – H77 is Ivy Bridge so takes 3rd Gen CPUs.

In January 2010 Intel released its ‘Westmere’ i3 & i5 series processors and their model code was i3-550. This for the first time had graphics processing in the processor chip itself (only for lower power processors). These first processors ran on x57 chipset motherboards that had a LGA1156 socket.

In February 2011 Intel released ‘Sandy Bridge’ and at the same time introduced an i7 CPU to the line-up. The average performance increase was 11% over the previous generation this new processor used a slightly different LGA1156 socket and the x67 chipset motherboard.

In September 2012 Intel released ‘Ivy Bridge’ but interestingly this time didn’t revise the LGA1155 socket but instead the CPU die size was reduced from 32nm to 22nm. This manufacturing advance meant the CPU clock speeds were maintained while reducing power consumption. This has also lead to a great improvement in graphical performance as less of the physical CPU Size is taken up, the on-board GPU is able to use more space. These run on x77 motherboards

In June 2013 Intel Released ‘Haswell’; this processor family uses the LGA 1150 socket but features the same 22nm die as the previous generation. It seems as though Intel chose to concentrate this update on the graphics side claiming up to a 20% performance increase over Ivy Bridge’s built in GPU. These continue the trend and run on x87 Motherboards.

Looking to the future the next update we will get is the ‘Broadwell’ Series of chips. These are likely to use the same LGA1150 socket as the previous version.The manufacturing die size will be reduced from 22nm to 14nm however  the micro architecture is not due for change during this revision. The series is expected to be released during 2014.