Intel Corp. Bringing Core i9 Branding to Laptops

Earlier this year, chip giant Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) announced a new branding scheme for its high-end desktop processors: Core i9. Until that point, Intel's processors were branded in a standard "good, better, best" scheme, with Core i3 corresponding to "good," Core i5 corresponding to "better," and Core i7 corresponding to "best."

Intel also uses the brands Celeron and Pentium for its lowest-cost products.

The reason Intel introduced the Core i9 branding is quite simple: The average consumer doesn't know, and probably doesn't care to know, about the technical nitty-gritty of computer processors. However, Intel, personal-computer makers, along with personal-computer resellers, such as big box retail stores, all want customers to buy more expensive computers with more expensive processors.

By introducing the Core i9 branding for its ultra-expensive high-end desktop processors, Intel gives customers an obvious reason to select computers with the company's most powerful and priciest chips. That's good for everyone involved.

It's only natural, then, that Intel would want to extend this Core i9 branding to segments beyond the niche high-end desktop processor market. According to a new leak about future Intel products, that's exactly what the company is planning to do.

Core i9 for high-performance laptops

Release notes from FinalWire for its AIDA64 computer diagnostic software package show that Intel is planning to introduce a family of processors, known as the Core i9-8000H series, for the notebook personal-computer market.

These chips, the release notes indicate, will be based on the company's Coffee Lake-H processors -- chips that are targeted at high-performance laptops. Examples include gaming-oriented laptops, a market that's growing rather rapidly, and portable workstations. The release notes also indicate that Intel will also offer Core i7-8000H series processors into this market as well.

Such a change makes perfect sense.

Giving people reasons to buy up

Today's Kaby Lake-H processors are sold using the standard Core i3, i5, and i7 branding, but only a select few of those chips are sold as Core i3 and Core i5 chips -- the bulk of the lineup is sold under the Core i7 branding.

In the following table, I list all the Kaby Lake-H processor models:

The top Core i7 chips are differentiated by three things:

  • Larger cache memories. The bigger the cache memory, the better the chip performs.
  • Higher frequencies, which equate to better performance.
  • Higher core and thread counts. More is better.

Gamers tend to be receptive to paying for more performance, and from what I can tell in perusing gaming laptop offerings, the Core i7-7700HQ is the most common, with both the lower-end Core i3 and Core i5 offerings as well as the higher-end Core i7 offerings being far less common.

My guess is that system vendors struggle to persuade gaming laptop buyers who may be willing to pay for more performance but unwilling to learn the ins and outs of Intel's branding scheme to pony up for systems with the higher-end 7820HQ/HK and 7920HQ chips.

The reasoning is simple: A Core i7 is a Core i7 to such customers, so there's little incentive for those buyers to pick laptops with pricier Core i7 chips.

I think that if Intel had applied the Core i9 branding to this segment of the market sooner, the Kaby Lake-H product stack would've looked more like this, with changes in bold:

While I still think that the 7700HQ would've been extremely popular, I'd imagine that computers with the processor models above it would've sold better, yielding more revenue for Intel, computer makers, and resellers.

So, unsurprisingly, when Intel launches the Coffee Lake-H chips to succeed the Kaby Lake-H chips, it'll brand the highest-end models as Core i9.

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.