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Intel chips get new logos, star treatment

Confusing the masses

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Intel has introduced a new and flashier set of logos for their consumer-level processors and processor-cum-chipset combos, along with a star-rating system that may generate more trouble than guidance.

The new logos feature the familiar Intel logo above the marketing names of Core i7, Core 2, Centrino, Centrino 2, Atom, Celeron, and Pentium, with small print below listing qualifiers such as Extreme, Duo, Quad, and vPro.

The upper-right corner of the logos show a slice of a chip die in chip-like colors for the Core and Centrino families, but - oddly - in blue for the others.

One blue-chip logo has no family name, just the time-honored "Intel inside" slogan. All the other logos include the term "inside" in the lower-right corner.

While the busy-looking round-edged rectangles may win no awards for design simplicity, when slapped on the bodies of laptops and desktops on the crowded shelves of Circuit City Best Buy they'll supply PC foragers with information about the processor powering a purchase they're pondering.

Intel's new processor logos

Intel's extended family, all in new clothes

The new star-rating system, however, may end up being more trouble than its worth.

These rankings divide the Intel desktop and notebook offerings into five groups in ascending order of potency, with the one-star Celerons clinging to the bottom rung and the top-flight Core i7s and Core 2s standing proud on the five-star top rung.

While the star-rating system is a noble goal, it has one fatal flaw. Processors will inevitably slip down the ladder. And when they do, their rankings may change in Intel's marketing department, but not necessarily on shop shelves or salesfolks' minds.

When this first round of rankings expires at the end of September 2009, the confusion will begin. In early October, expect even those highly trained, whip-smart Best Buy sales associates to be flummoxed when trying to explaining why yesterday's laptop with a three-star Core 2 Duo mobile processor is as capable as a laptop that arrived after the Core 2 Duo mobile was re-starred at two.

Atoms, by the way, aren't star-ranked, so don't expect to see netbooks with such stickers anytime soon. Xeons haven't yet been either new-logoed or star-rated.

Which is fine. Netbook buyers have little reason to compare performance, and Xeon buyers don't need the help. ®

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