Intel proves branding can get worse

i7, i5 and i3 done wrong

INTEL JUST TRANSITIONED their product naming schemes from annoying to downright stupid. The new branding schemes make no sense and will only add confusion to a line that is already almost impenetrable.

“How could they do this” you might ask? That part is easy, it likely involved lots of alcohol, a dartboard, blindfolds and a random number generator attached to a printer. No, that set of events would lead to a hint of rationality, the new Intel branding scheme lacks even that.

Core i# logos – so far so good

What am I going on about? The new names for the ‘Core’ brand, i3 and i5, along with a re-purposing of the current i7 name. If you were a sane person, you might think that the older Core Number Numeral (CNN) way of doing things was infuriatingly opaque, and you would be right. The new way of doing things, with Core as the brand and i7 as the top model line of core was a good step back from the older sillyness.

You would be right again if you though the new numbering scheme that followed was pretty decryptable as well. It signified the speed of a three channel Nehalem on a socket 1366 board. Now all Intel needs to do is add the i5 for the Lynnfield 1156 two channel parts, and i3 for the two cores with integrated graphics. The trailing three digit number would indicate speeds and capabilities within the line.

This makes a whole lot of sense, it is clean, clear, decryptable with a little knowledge, and extensible. Doing this would almost make up for the whole CNN fiasco inflicted upon us for the last few years. A clean i7 > i5 > i3 branding would be welcome.

The rub? They didn’t do this, instead they went out of their way for no particular reason to screw up the ecosystem, confuse buyers, and make our lives pain. How? Well, i7 is still the top performance brand, but it does not specify any particular chip. It could be a Bloomfield chip, or it could be a Lynnfield on a completely different socket. “WFT?!?” hardly seems to convey enough confusion.

Same with the i5 and i3, when you buy them, you get, well, who knows? If you think you are getting a hypothetical i5 850, but misread an asterisk in the fine print, you might end up with a two core integrated graphics part that won’t work in your mobo instead of the Lynnfield you wanted.

OEMs and online merchants are going to love this one, I can see the returns skyrocketing, peeved customers, and in general, mass mayhem on a minor scale. Why? Stupidity, there is no other reason to do this. I can’t think of a single excuse at all, there simply is no valid justification.

With that, let me remind readers that AMD has had a clear and clean socket strategy for a long time. They change sockets with memory types, and bend over backwards to make sure mobos are compatible and sockets have a long life. This is a good thing. What Intel is doing now is a bad thing. A stupid bad thing. A stupid bad thing without justification. Am I being clear enough?

Before you think that this is as bad as it gets, don’t worry, it gets far worse. The i# line is not the only ones they have, there are also Celerons and Pentiums. The pecking order goes Celeron -> Pentium -> i3 -> i5 -> i7, or at least it does for now. Give it a month, if Intel marketing holds true to form, we will be seeing Celeron i5s and other bastardizations for no apparent reason.

Instead of two lines, there are now five. For now. Six if you include the Atom line. This all is being done to ‘simplify’ the complex lineup. I will readily concede that the older branding was silly and complex but the new line is silly, complex, infuriating, and problematic for buyers as well.

But wait it gets better. The badge shape of Intel CPUs went from a vertical rectangle to a horizontal one. Why? To put yet another rating scheme under it, stars. As you can see, there are five stars indicating the features of the processor. 1 star is a basic vanilla CPU, 5 has all the features you want, and 12 more you didn’t know existed.


Yes, it gets needlessly dumber

In a hilarious move, the ^$#*$#ing star system doesn’t actually indicate WHAT features there are, just more or less. More or less vs what is an open question, but it adds mindless and unneeded complexity, so toss it in. All we need now is a color scheme to indicate something else, and…… Aaargh. Read up on this heaping of ignominy here.

So, you will have to ask yourself if you want to buy a Core i3 583 4* or a Core i5 442 2* because, as you can tell, the Core i3 583 4* has…. has… damned if I know. If someone like me who follows this stuff like a bored OCD patient can’t figure it out, what chance does an apathetic minimum wage sales-droid have? None, but buying Intel will be yet more annoying from now on.

Did I mention AMD doesn’t have this problem?

I am stunned that Intel would be this stupid. Really. The entire chain of marketeers that thought up, focus-grouped, approved, and put out this abomination out needs to go, now. The only thing they can say to make this understandable is that it was implemented to sadistically inflict so much pain on the buyer that they go out and buy AMD chips, thereby getting the Japanese, Korean and EU regulators off their backs.

If you want to read the official wording, you can shake your head in disgust to the announcemement here, and the explanation here.

Knowing the people involved only makes this fiasco all the more puzzling. Up until I read about the changes, I thought they were quite sane. I was wrong. Take for example the following quotes from the blog, “Over the last year or so, Intel has been quietly working behind the scenes taking a hard look at our brand structure and exploring ways to make it more rational and easier to understand.” Blink. Blink blink blink.

“The fact of the matter is, we have a complex structure with too many platform brands, product names, and product brands, and we’ve made things confusing for consumers and IT buyers in the process.” OK, this I get. “But overall this is a good thing, designed to make it easier and more rational over the long run”. I will probably not be the first to pose the question, “Are you insane?”

Lest you think that I am being totally negative, there were two rational things to come out of the mind-numbing rebranding today, vPro and Centrino. vPro goes from a separate brand to a modifier on the i5 and i7 lines intended for business. That one makes complete sense.

Likewise, the Centrino brand goes from a platform to a brand for Intel wireless cards. Centrino will now be a Wi-Fi or combo Wi-Fi/WiMax card. This is likely aimed at dissuading the unwashed masses from coming in to a store and asking for the non-existent Centrino CPU.

If you take all the sensibility of the Centrino and vPro changes and add them up to the bottomless pit of stupidity and annoyance that is the other stuff, you are so far into net negative good will that it is best to pack up and start over.

With that, I will ask Intel to do just that. Scrap this stupidity before it is too late. There is no up side to this, only annoyance, consumer frustration, high return rates, and sales driven away. It is not too late to change. *HINT*.S|A


Ed note: We wonder when they’ll be coming out with a GTS250?

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Charlie Demerjian

Roving engine of chaos and snide remarks at SemiAccurate
Charlie Demerjian is the founder of Stone Arch Networking Services and is a technology news site; addressing hardware design, software selection, customization, securing and maintenance, with over one million views per month. He is a technologist and analyst specializing in semiconductors, system and network architecture. As head writer of, he regularly advises writers, analysts, and industry executives on technical matters and long lead industry trends. Charlie is also available through Guidepoint and Mosaic. FullyAccurate