The Intriguing Dance of Numbers: AMD's Bold Rethink on CPU Naming Conventions

No matter how literate we are about technology, it always feels like learning a new language each time we want to decipher the terminology of the latest generation of computer processors. Now that AMD has rolled out another in a seemingly endless series of architectural re-workings to its CPU naming scheme, we’ve decided to take another look at it, and compare it to how the industry at large (and specifically, APPLE) handles naming its processors. This article is exclusive to AppleMagazine.

Rethinking the Recipe: AMD's New Naming Convention

This is big news to anyone who cares about how the names of laptop CPU change, and trust me, there are many of us. AMD has announced that it is moving away from a rather opaque four-digit numbering scheme to a more sensible three-digit scheme. This will make it easier to understand the generation of the chip and the SKU (stock-keeping unit – in other words, model). It is a very sensible backflip of a very stupid indiscretion, but how did we get here, and how much better is it than our competitors – APPLE?

Peeling Back the Layers of Complexity

While the world of tech watched, AMD, less than two years after redesigning its CPU model numbers, announced a redesign of the redesign. The new scheme was intended to make model numbers clear but ended up making them more obscure than ever (especially as the generation digit – the most important element of the model number – became a plaything of AMD’s). Chips with modest upgrades looked like generations ahead of their predecessors simply by virtue of their model number.

AMD Takes a Cue from APPLE's Playbook?

It was a move toward simplicity: responding to mounting criticism and confusion, AMD has stripped down the Ryzen AI laptop processors’ numbering scheme to something that should remind you of APPLE’s chip differentiation. Like APPLE, which has a marker for a generation (M1, M3, etc), followed by a marker for performance (Pro, Max), AMD is using the same model: 7000, 8000, 7000X, etc. By doing so, AMD has taken a step that will bring them closer to a common nomenclature consumers might be able to remember and closer, eventually, to an entire tech world that is stepping toward streamlined, legible nomenclature.

The Unending Quest for the Perfect Numbering System

But with AMD’s volte-face, can there ever be an airtight system for numbering CPUs? The obstacles are numerous, from the marketing need to have a ‘new’ part every year, to the technical reality of binning chips. APPLE’s innate position as a fabless company, where they can manufacture both the chips and the systems they run in, is a fantastic rarity that brings straightforwardness into a complicated world. But it looks already as though AMD is moving in that direction, and one thing that we can always hope for is that they’ll stay true to that commitment, to clarity and straightforward communication with their customers.

APPLE as a Benchmark: Simplicity in Complexity

APPLE’s naming processors after just the generation, plus the descriptive performance level (we’re now at the A6, the A7, etc) is probably the best in the business. APPLE isn’t pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes with enigmatic product names; the immediate and accessible addition of the generation makes it clear what you are buying – how much better the chip gets, and the generation of the chip. No decoder ring required. Anyone can tell you that the new generation is a lot better than the old one, and anyone has a relatively quick way to tell a fourth-generation from a seventh-generation. If the APPLE methodology is seeping into AMD’s naming strategies, it’s easy to see why.

Will AMD's New Approach Resonate with Consumers?

Though praised for their simplification, AMD’s refreshed naming convention leaves much room for confusion. With today’s tech market more complicated than ever, and seemingly endless combinations of features, hardware and performance levels, it’s difficult to find a good compromise between clarity and comprehensiveness when it comes to product naming. Only time will tell if AMD’s latest attempt was worth the effort, or if the quest for the perfect numbering system continues.

The Essence of APPLE's Approach to CPU Naming

At the foundation of it all is APPLE’s system of naming its chips, which utilises both generational markers and performance indicators in a minimalist and uncluttered manner. In this way, APPLE’s strategy is about its positioning in the market and its construction of a story around each chip that speaks directly to its capabilities, and to its performance. But such a succinct deployment of marketing also helps simplify consumer purchasing decisions, while consolidating a brand’s positioning in a saturated market.

In summary, AMD’s evolutionary step to a more intuitive naming scheme for its processors heralds an important moment for the tech industry’s war on complexity, even if only incrementally. With its about-face, AMD is hinting that it plans to take a page from APPLE’s long-standing book of customer communication, which is less inclined to offer too many details and, as such, leans toward less complexity. That wider conversation regarding cut-throat CPU naming conventions is, of course, evolving. Where exactly the implementable middle ground between clarity and granularity lies remains a moving target, one that companies such as AMD and APPLE will continue to try to hit.

Jun 03, 2024
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