If you’ve shopped for a desktop or laptop computer, you might remember seeing a description of the machine’s speed and power expressed in terms of the generation of the processor working as its brains. But what does the generation of a processor from a company such as Intel Corp. or AMD Inc. mean?
As these companies evolve their processors, a generational jump could signify a new, major change in the manufacturing process, say one that makes the processors smaller and more energy efficient. But it can sometimes also be pure marketing, creating a differentiation between last year’s models of chips and newer ones that may have only slight, incremental improvements.
To give some examples, AMD used to label it’s processors with the label K and a number. You knew K7 processors were newer than K6s. (Circa the late ‘90s). These days, it’s a little harder to keep track of AMD’s naming conventions. Intel of late has taken to calling its flagship processors “7th generation” and “8th Generation” and also giving them cute names such as “Kaby Lake” and “Coffee Lake.”
While a newer generation processor is likely to be faster and more efficient, chip companies often have a wide range of offerings within a generation of products, so that doesn’t mean a particular new-generation processor is automatically faster than one from the previous generation.
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