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What Letters at End of Intel CPU Model Numbers Stand For

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By: Rohin Jain

December 8, 2020

Like the curious type, some people may wonder what those random letters are at the end of Intel CPU model numbers and wonder why they are there? Intel is one of the leading CPU manufacturing companies. It is also the guiltiest for throwing seemingly random letters at the end of a product name, so it might be difficult to understand the difference between a Core i3 and a Core i5. As a general rule, bigger numbers are better! When looking at a product page or a specification sheet for a laptop, or even some desktops, anyone will notice letters attached at the end of the CPU Model numbers too (see Figure 1).

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Intel processor names are composed of the following parts:

Brand Name: Intel naming scheme begins with the brand name; the most common Intel processor names begin with Intel Core, Intel Pentium, and Intel Celeron.

Brand Modifier: This piece is not included in all Intel processor family; for instance, Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron processors do not have a brand Modifier name, while the Intel Core™ processor series includes the following brand modifiers i3, i5, i7, and i9.

Generation Indicator: All Intel core processors have a generation number associated with them. In a four-digit processor number, the first digit typically represents the generation (e.g., a processor with the digits 4200 is a 4th gen processor). In the 10th Generation Intel Core processors, the first two digits in the product number will be 10 (see Figure 1).

SKU Numeric Digits: The majority of Intel processors will have a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) number located at the final three digits of the product number. When the SKU number is high, this means the processor has more features. Of note, both processors should belong to the same brand and generation for this rule to be valid).

Product Line Suffix: This is a key indicator of Intel processor capabilities. In this article, we will differentiate between different Intel processors by checking each processor "Product Line Suffix" letter.

What do the letters in the Intel processor family stand for?

The Intel processor family's power and features can be distinguished by looking at the "Product Line Suffix" letter in the processor name. However, before beginning this discussion, it is useful to know how to retrieve a used computer's complete processor name. This can be achieved by using a free system information utility called CPU-Z (see Figure 2).

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Now that we know how to retrieve our processor name and number let us see what each letter in the "Product Line Suffix" stands for.

  • CPUs with the letter K: this indicates that the chips multiplier is unlocked, meaning that it can be easily overclocked if you have a similarly enabled motherboard. Non-K chips have very limited overclocking functionality, so make sure you look for that K if you want to tweak your system.

  • CPUs with the letters HK: Intel doesn't talk about it as much, but the K in HK CPUs that you occasionally see in high-end laptops also means the same thing as the letter K referenced above.

  • CPUs with the letter H: H stands for High-Performance Graphics and is used to designate Intel's higher-end offerings in the mobile segment that consumes more power.

  • CPUs with the letters HQ: This designation is the same as that of the letter H in H CPUs. It is another mobile-specific letter denotation. Many of those higher power chips also have a Q on the end that stands for Quad-Core, which is why you'll often see HQ on more expensive laptops.

  • CPUs with the letters U and Y: U stands for Ultra-Low Power, and Y represents Extremely Low Power.

  • CPUs with the letter T: These processors still fit in a standard LGA Desktop socket, but they are low-power, so you'll often see them in small form factor or all-in-one computers that are designed with smaller power supplies or less aggressive cooling.

  • CPUs with the letter P: These have some interesting graphics options, so if you see a chip with a P on the end, this indicates a desktop processor without integrated graphics, which can save you a few bucks if you're planning to use a discrete video card.

  • CPUs with the letter G: The newer G CPUs feature Radeon RX Vega graphics built from Intel's biggest non-competitor: AMD (Advanced Micro Devices), specifically its division Radeon Technologies Group, which is a different company.

  • CPUs with the letters R and C: Now, of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't give a quick shout out to R and C, which we last saw on the now several generations old Broadway line to designate a soldered-on CPU and then an unlocked desktop CPU, respectively. R stands for High-end Mobile, similar to "H". C stands for unlocked, and is the same as "K" in other generations.

  • CPUs with the letter X: This indicates a very high-end unlocked consumer CPU with the most cores and the highest prices. It's sitting atop the pile in the Core i9 7980XE for Extreme Edition (not to be confused with E for ECC memory, as I mentioned earlier).

Closing Remarks

So, in summary, maybe Intel could do a better job of making these letter denotations simpler and more consistent for consumers. However, at least to Intel's credit, someone over there recognized the problem and spearheaded the creation of this lengthy website to help people decipher the denotations' ever-shifting meanings.

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