Intel Processor Series: Behind the Brand Names, Hierarchy & Performance

Intel Processor SeriesThe more you know about the Intel processor series. The easier it is to understand just how much power you can expect from the laptop you’re considering.

If you’re in the market for a new laptop. Chances are the models you’re comparing have Intel CPUs inside. How do you compare the power one processor in a laptop offers you over another?

Although Intel’s branding and CPU ecosystem go a long way in telling you a lot about what you’re getting. If you don’t know what you’re looking for. It can all be rather confusing.

In the last guide, we focused on Intel’s Core i series processors because they’re the ones you’re bound to encounter most as you shop for your new laptop. Now, we introduce you to the rest of the Intel processor series.

Intel Processor Series

Processing power is ultimately all about the number of Cores you have. A CPU’s clock speed is boosted by splitting tasks across many processing units that exist on the same die.

The processor Series, however, will determine what this means for your laptop. As you’ll see, each Series is designed to handle a certain amount of workload.

Another word to pay attention to as it relates to processors is, ‘TDP’. Or Thermal Design Power. It measures the maximum amount of heat a chip can generate normally when running applications.

From the least to most powerful. Here are Intel’s processor series.


Atom Series

Atom was introduced in 2008 as Intel’s ultra-low-voltage CPU. You’ll find them in very low-cost Windows laptops and Tablets for around $250 and less.

You’ll get the worst performance of any Intel processor Series. They deliver extremely low power. But this helps achieve an excellent battery life of 7-12 hours. Which is more than you’ll get from the Pentium and Celeron Series.

Intel doesn’t list the TDP for this processor Series. Instead, they have an SDP (Scenario Design Power) of 2 to 2.5 watts, which approximates how much power they should consume. Almost all Atom CPUs have four cores.

Laptops with this Series chip are desired because they’re lightweight as well as affordable. But they’re better as a backup laptop. Or your child’s first laptop as using them for real computational work will prove frustrating. For example, they’re wonderful for watching videos. But suffer greatly when it comes to content creation and productivity tasks.


Celeron/ Pentium Series

You’ll find these Intel processor Series in laptops between $200 and $400. The battery life is worse than Atom. But performance is a little faster.

Pentium was released by Intel in 1993. The Celeron chip is based on a Pentium 4 core. But it offers less power. They’re both budget minded processors with just enough power for web surfing, basic emails, and light productivity tasks.

Both Celerons and Pentiums come in Dual-Core and Quad-Core configurations. But their speed and multitasking capabilities are limited compared to Intel’s Core family of processors.

TDP ranges from 4 to 15 watts. The model names that begin with “N” use 4 to 6 watts. While those that end in “U: promise better performance, and use 15 watts. But if you can pay more to get a Core i3 or i5, you’ll be much better off when it comes to performance.

Since Google’s browser-based operating system doesn’t require as much power as Windows. You’ll find these chips mostly in Chromebooks, and other value-priced, low performance laptops.

Battery life varies widely within this Series, and depends on the laptop’s battery capacity. But systems with 4 and 6-watt chips tend to be cheaper and longer lasting. Pentium CPUs are less common, but a bit faster. They use a TDP of 6 to 15 watts with most being either 6 or 7.5 watts. Either way, you can expect about 4-6 hours of battery life.


Core M and Y Series

We touched on the next three Intel processor series in the previous guide as we explained Intel’s Processor Lines. Here, we expand on them as part of Intel’s Processor Series.

You can find these Intel processor Series in fan-less, super-thin laptops designed for light productivity. They have a very-low TDP of 4.5 watts, and produce low heat.

But they’re often configured with low-capacity batteries, or high-powered displays. Which means, despite their power sipping chips. Battery endurance is only 5-9 hours. Less than competing laptops with a “U” Series processor.

And you can expect mediocre performance. Core Ms do, however, offer better performance than the Celeron Series for daily surfing and writing emails. But they’re a notch below laptops that use a regular Core i5 “U Series” CPU.

Note: Laptops with the 7th Generation “Kaby Lake” “Core M” Series processors are designated as Core m3, Core m5, and Core m7. The ones from the 6th Generation “Skylake” Y Series are listed as Core i5, Core i6, and Core i7.


U Series

We won’t spend too much time here. Except to say that this is the Intel Processor Series to consider if you favor productivity, content consumption, and most of all. A great battery life.

A Core i5 “U Series” processor, for example, will deliver solid performance for everyday computing, whether you want to surf the web. Or you’re a business user who needs to edit spreadsheets.

Most “U Series” processors have a TDP of 15 watts, which requires active cooling in the form of a fan. (There are a few “U Series” processors with a 28-watt TDP. But only a hand-full of laptops use them.)

With a large battery and power-efficient display, “U Series” laptops can get well over 10 hours of work time away from an outlet. And some high-end systems are getting closer to 20 hours.


HQ and HK Series

Once again, these are high-performance CPUs. These are the Intel Processor Series most focused on the needs and requirements of gamers, creative professionals and power users. They come with four Cores, instead of the two you’re limited to in “U” and “Y” Series processors.

Hyper-Threading gives them the ability to use 8 threads. More Threads helps them do more work. They have a TDP of 45 watts, which means these laptops use huge batteries. But that doesn’t translate to a long battery endurance.

One thing to keep in mind  is that because of the amount of heat they generate. You won’t find them in super-light or thin laptops.

HK processors are the same as the HQ Series. The difference is that they are un-clocked, which means you can overclock them and push their frequencies even higher. You’ll find these in gaming and workstation laptops. They have a battery life of 3 to 8 hours.


Xeon Series

This Intel Processor Series are found in large, very High-End Mobile Workstations. If you do professional-grade engineering, 3D modeling or video editing. Intel’s Xeon Series CPUs won’t disappoint.

They have a 45-watt TDP with four physical Cores and come with Hyper Threading and Turbo Boost technologies.

Laptops with this CPU can run complex calculation. You’ll sacrifice portability, and good battery life. And they’re extremely expensive. But these laptops are also extremely powerful.

Since they’re made for business. They’ll come with the vPro management technology built-in.



Next up in the series, we continue our investigation into Intel’s branding as we show you how the company releases new generations of processors. And how that positively affects your laptop buying process.

We love hearing from you. Was there anything we forgot to include about the Intel processor series to help you shop for your new laptop? Feel free to let us know in the comment section.

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