AMD and Intel compete for desktop processor market share, with the companies both recently releasing new chips that offer great performance and value.
However, a series of architecture design and naming convention decisions by both parties have resulted in PC owners needing a PhD in computer science to figure out which motherboard works with which CPU, and how powerful their new processor really is.
If you feel overwhelmed, read below – you are not alone.
The first change that caught me off guard was the naming of Intel's low-power mobile processors for notebooks and laptops, which now masquerade as full-power chips.
Previously, these could be identified thanks to their "m5" or "m7" naming convention – designating them as 4.5-watt, low-performance chips.
Come the 7th-gen Kaby Lake mobile chips, and Intel dropped the "m" designation for the standard "i" brand – making it difficult for consumers to tell the difference.
Intel then launched its next-generation high-end desktop chips, which have the "Core-X" designation and fit into a larger CPU socket than standard Core processors.
However, the company placed products based on two architectures within the same generation – meaning customers must check whether their new Core X processor is based on Kaby Lake-X or Skylake-X architecture.
For example, the Core i7-7740X is based on Intel's 7th-gen Kaby Lake-X architecture, while the Core i7-7800X is based on the company's 6th-gen Skylake-X architecture.
This is potentially detrimental to consumers, as Kaby Lake-X chips can only take advantage of 16 out of 44 PCIe lanes on the high-end platform.
This means you can only use half the RAM slots on the X299 motherboard with this CPU – while you can use more with chips based on Skylake-X.
Mobile vs Desktop
Intel has further befuddled consumers by launching mobile and desktop Core processors under the new 8th-gen designation, when the chips are based on different architectures.
The 8th-gen desktop processors like the Intel Core i7-8700K are based on a new architecture named Coffee Lake.
The mobile versions of these chips are based on older architectures. For example: the Intel Core i7-8650U has the same 8th-gen designation, but is part of the "Kaby Lake R" family. This is a CPU lineup based on 7th-gen and 6th-gen technology.
Despite their 8th-gen label, these chips are essentially built on the same design as the previous two generations of mobile processors.
AMD has typically been straightforward with its processor naming conventions, but has caused a lot of confusion with chipset designations.
Intel has traditionally used the X*99 and B*50 designations for its high-end and consumer motherboards respectively, substituting the * for the chipset series number.
Intel's 6th-gen chips launched with X99 and B150 motherboards, while its 7th-gen chips launched with X299 and B250 motherboards.
This naming convention is a consumer-friendly system, and implies that the company's 8th-gen chipsets should be named "X399" and "B350".
This progression was spoiled by AMD, however, which named its Ryzen Threadripper chipset "X399" and one of its Ryzen chipsets "B350".
While chipset names don't denote power or performance, AMD's coup on B350 and X399 make its platforms seem more advanced than their Intel counterparts.
Following this, Intel had no choice but to disrupt its naming convention for its 8th-gen processors, naming its consumer platform "B360" instead.
Intel has not launched its 8th-gen high-end platform, but it will be unable to use the "X399" chipset name when it does.
Intel has also created confusion among consumers with the launch of its 8th-gen processors and the chips' use of the LGA 1151 socket.
The use of the LGA 1151 socket could imply that they are compatible with existing 100 and 200-series chipsets used by 6th and 7th-gen processors, but this is not the case.
The 8th-gen chips are only compatible with Intel's new 300-series chipsets and will not work with older LGA 1151-socket motherboards.
This combination of business rivalry, design decisions, and compatibility issues means consumers will have to triple-check if their chosen processor will work with their motherboard as intended – whether they buy AMD or Intel.
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