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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | The Processor ]

Processor Families

This section provides detailed technical information about all the major processor families used on PC-compatible computers. It covers every major x86 processor on the market, from the first Intel 8088 used in the original IBM PC, to the latest released hot chips. The processors here are grouped by "families", where I consider a family of processors to be a group of processors that vary only in clock speed, not in architecture (with a couple of possible minor exceptions to keep the section from getting too large).

I organize this section by processor "generation". Which generation a processor belongs to used to be clear when it was just Intel making processors and they were coming out at a slow rate and with very obvious performance differences. Now the situation is much cloudier, with many more chips on the market and many types of technology being used to implement them. I have made the decision of which processor to include in which generation based on technology and performance considerations, along with my interpretations of how the market perceives the chip. Pentium OverDrives use fifth generation technology so they are listed as fifth-generation chips.

Most of the information about each processor is presented in tabular format for easy reference. The rows of these tables summarize the statistics for each processor, and correlate to the other sections in the processor reference on this site where the terms and characteristics are explained in detail. The first section contains explanations for each of the rows in the tables, and links to where each of the characteristics is described in more detail.

Each section contains a brief discussion of the processor and its more interesting points. Included is an illustration of the processor's improvements and changes from the previous generation processor it most directly replaced.

Note: The information on the newer processors, especially fifth generation and later, is more likely to be complete and accurate than that for the earlier CPUs. This is due to a combination of factors, including my greater experience with the newer processors, more information generally being available on them, and my perception of there being much more interest in the newer chips.

Note: There are many variants and licensed versions of different processors on the market. Due to time constraints I do not have all or even most of these covered in this section; they were primarily on older processors in which there is currently little interest.

Next: Explanation of Processor Summary Tables

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