Intel Processors: Core vs Pentium vs Celeron

Updated: August 15, 2022
Originally published: April 6, 2010

Intel processors and AMD processors: which one’s better? It’s a tale as old as time, but worth especially looking at during the Intel Pentium 4 and AMD Athlon 64 CPUs era of the early 2000s. Up until this era, ot was common practice to compare processors by looking at just the clock speed. The Pentium 4 always “beat” the Athlon 64s in head-to-head clock speed comparisons. But, a closer look under the proverbial hood showed that the Athlons were just as fast, if not faster at times, than the Pentium 4s (and who cares what the listed clock speed is if you plan on overclocking it?).

This perceived gap in the Athlon CPUs spurred AMD’s marketing team to rename their Athlons from having the clock speed as part of their name to having thousands-based numbers names with a plus after them, “3800+” and “4000+”. Take the “AMD Athlon 3800+” for example: it’s a CPU with at least a clock speed of 3.8 GHz. AMD’s marketing team wanted to show that their CPUs were equal or better to (hence the plus sign) than a Pentium 4 clocked at 3.8 GHz.

Now, I’m not going to get into whether AMD’s marketing team was right or wrong in renaming their CPUs, but their actions pulled back the the proverbial curtain on how semiconductor companies like Intel and AMD decide to name their products. And that’s the topic this blog post will cover: what are the latest Intel processor and generation names?

This blog post aims to be an introductory primer to the latest Intel processors (which we have in our virtual private servers and dedicated servers), and help you distinguish among them. With names like “Core i3” and “Core i7”, it’s pretty clear which line of Intel CPUs are higher end. But, you might find it a bit difficult to distinguish what exactly separates each CPU line.

What’s the Difference Between Intel Core, Pentium, and Celeron?

Intel Core is one of three processor names (the other two being Intel Pentium and Intel Celeron). Compared to Core, both Pentium and Celeron are lower-end processors that don’t have the performance capabilities Core processors have.

What Does i3/i5/i7 Mean?

i3, i5, and i7 are exclusive to the Core line and are brand variants of Core processors. They range from low-end (i3) to mid-range (i5) to high-end (i7).

Note: if you’re curious about the different Core processors and how they’ve evolved over time, then you should check out this excellent comparison doc Intel put together. They list all generations’ CPUs and their respective datasheets.

Here are the differences between i3, i5, and i7, and what they mean:

Intel Core i7

The Core i7 is Intel Core’s high-end brand variant. It has three code-named versions (check out Intel’s processor names and numbers guide for a fascinating read):

Bloomfield Core i7: The first version to enter the market. It uses socket 1366 and has clock rates ranging from 2.66 GHz to 3.33 GHz.

Lynnfield Core i7: The second version to enter the market. It uses socket 1156 and clocks in at 2.8 GHz and 2.93 GHz. Both Bloomfield and Lynnfield have four physical cores and can handle four additional threads through hyper-threading. In tests, the Lynnfield’s turbo mode stood out.

Gulftown Core i7: This is the most recent (and beefiest) version Intel has released, and it uses socket 1336, has a clock rate of 3.33 GHz and six physical cores as well as the capacity to handle six additional threads through hyper-threading.

Despite their differences, any Core i7 processor delivers high performance.

Intel Core i5

i5 processors are Intel Core’s mid-range brand variant, and they have two code-named versions:

Lynnfield Core i5: Yeah, you read that right: Lynnfield processors come in both i5 and i7 versions. Crazy, isn’t it?

You, too, can know kung fu like Neo from The Matrix and all the differences between Intel Core, Pentium, and Celeron.
Live shot of the author after he found out that Lynnfield was made for both i5 and i7 variants (image credit: Warner Bros).

Based on my research, Lynnfield i5 Core comes in both a 2.67 GHz clock rate and a high-efficiency 2.4 GHz version.

Clarkdale Core i5: Best-suited for thin home and office computers. Clarkdale processors share the same socket as Lynnfield, but differ in two ways:

  1. They only have two cores.
  2. Most of their components have been included in the north bridge of a mainboard.

The most important change the Clarkdale i5 delivers is housing both the integrated graphics and memory controller in the CPU. The Clarkdale also features 32 nm process and decreased power consumption –well-suited for servers at first glance. But, two cores is a low amount, especially for a new to the market processor. And of note is the fact that Clarkdale’s memory controller is connected via QPI, which leads to higher latency times.

Intel Core i3

As of this writing, there are only two Core i3 processors, and both of them are Clarkdale.

Pentium and Celeron

This is where things get really confusing. These two processor brands have been around since 1993 and 1998, respectively, and account for a variety of related processor variants and versions from different lines and architectures. But, there is a caveat emptor here: you really need to look at the specific Pentium and Celeron processors’ specs if you’re considering either processor brand because they’re value, and not performance, brands.

There are Pentiums and Celerons from the Clarkdale line, but also Core- and Netburst-based models. It’s important to know that Intel is using these two brands to offer value-priced CPUs separate from the more expensive Intel Core processors. And some of the new Pentiums and Celerons have similar specs as some of the Core processors. Note that Pentium and Celeron processors aren’t suitable for use in servers (nor do we use them).

The Bottom Line: Do Your Due Diligence When Buying Processors

It can be a bit tough keeping up with the latest info on Intel processors and AMD processors, especially since new, faster processors come out every year. The good thing is that there are many resources to help you do your due diligence (e.g., Reddit, asking your PC-building aficionado friends). And here at Contabo, we’re always on the lookout for using the latest processors for our servers, like the AMD EPYC™, to give our customers even more value. You can take a look at all of the processors we use in use our servers.

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