In 1969, Intel designed the world's first microprocessor, the 4004. The chip implemented a computer's central processing unit, or CPU, in a single 16-pin package containing 2,300 transistors and running at 740 kHz. Today, Intel's product line includes dozens of CPUs in several distinct families, targeting desktop PCs, mobile devices and servers.
First introduced in 2008, Intel's Atom processor family has a low-power design intended for netbooks and other battery-operated mobile devices. As with most other Intel CPUs, the Atom runs the x86 instruction set that forms the foundation of Microsoft Windows. Atom CPUs have single- and dual-core versions, and 32- and 64-bit designs. Clock speeds range from 600 MHz to 2.13 GHz, depending on the model. The chips consume between .65 and 3 watts of power.
High-end server computers from Hewlett-Packard use the Itanium processor. This chip is not compatible with the traditional x86 instruction set and has a different architecture. The product family, which Intel calls "Itanium 2," has integrated floating-point arithmetic hardware to speed scientific calculations, separate 16KB Level 1 cache memories for data and instructions, 1MB of Level 2 cache for instructions, and 6MB of Level 3 cache. The CPU operates on 64 bits of data and has a 128-bit data bus.
Intel designed its Xeon processors for high-end desktop workstations and server computers. Unlike the Itanium, the Xeon runs the standard x86 instruction set, allowing it to run the same as the majority of CPUs in use. The Xeon has a multiple-core design as well as Intel's Hyper-Threading technology. Both multi-core and Hyper-Threading improve the CPU's performance when running many processes at the same time.
I3, I5 and I7
Mid- to high-performance desktop PCs use Intel's i3, i5 and i7 CPUs. The three CPU types run at clock speeds ranging from 1.2 GHz to 3.6 GHz, with the i7 series being the fastest of the three. They are all 64-bit designs and have at least two cores; excluding the quad-core i5, they use the same Hyper-Threading technology found in the Xeon chips.
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images