Skip to main content

Was Intel’s decision to (almost) kill Core M deceptive, or was it inevitable?

Intel Core M
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends
Two years ago, Intel introduced the Core M brand. The company hoped the new name would provide a rallying banner for its less powerful Core hardware, yet also mark a difference between Core chips built for the budget market and those built for extremely slim systems. The crossroads between low-voltage and low-cost has always caused confusion. All of Intel’s budget processors draw little power, but not all miserly chips are built for budget systems.

I don’t see Intel making its lineup more confusing. I see Intel correcting a screw-up.

Core M had problems from the start. Despite Intel’s best efforts, people caught on to the performance gap between Core M and Core. Core M became synonymous with slow, even if that characterization was a bit extreme. That would’ve been okay if it inspired the dramatic 2-in-1 designs Intel intended  — but few came, and when they did, they were often underwhelming.

The result? An unloved line of processors.

Now, Intel has decided to all but kill Core M. The brand will continue only with certain “m3” grade components. Otherwise, they’ll be sold as Core i5 and i7, albeit with a slightly different name than their full-fat brethren.

Is Core M’s death about deception?

This move has caught some flak. But I don’t think that’s warranted.

Why my lack of outrage? Mostly, it’s because this is unlikely to leave anyone with a bum PC. Core M isn’t the fastest, but it’s still plenty fast for anything short of gaming or workstation-grade productivity. The problem isn’t with the hardware, but instead the fact it’ll probably never be popular enough to justify its existence as a separate brand.

And if you want to do either of those, well – whether you buy Core M, or not, is irrelevant.

Here’s an example. According to our benchmarks, the Core m3 powered Asus Zenbook UX305CA needs about an hour to encode a 4K trailer that’s four minutes, 20 seconds long into h.265, if you use handbrake. The Zenbook UX305UA, with Core i5 processor, needs about 27 minutes.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Yes, that’s a big difference – but both of these devices are just flat-out bad at this task. You shouldn’t buy either for video encoding or any seriously demanding software. It’s a similar story with games. Asking yourself “Should I buy Core M, or Core i5?” often meant you were asking the wrong question.

To put it differently, I’m not convinced that knowledge of a specific processor is what folks need to worry about. I think they do a lot better by thinking broadly about what they want. Want incredible CPU performance? Well, you’re buying a quad-core. Want to play games? Well, you’re buying discrete graphics. Want battery life? Well, you’re buying a dual-core, and you can chuck graphics out the window.

The “average” person does a lot better when focusing on these broad strokes than when trying to dive into the minutia of model numbers.

Reversal of fortune

Besides, Intel isn’t treading new ground here. Core M was not an entirely new concept when it came into existence, but instead a fork from Intel’s earlier “Y”-series components, which existed for years. By getting rid of (most) Core M chips, Intel is just reverting back to its earlier strategy.

I don’t see Intel making its lineup more confusing. I see Intel correcting a screw-up. The company thought Core M would attract attention to the thinnest, lightest PCs. Instead, it caused more confusion than it was worth. It made manufacturers design the wrong products, and it made consumers ask the wrong questions.

Imagine that Intel didn’t start to kill Core M. Would buying a laptop be simpler? Not at all. Intel would merely have another brand to choose from, making the process more complex. If you want proof, just ask yourself which is better – Intel’s Core i5-6200U, or Core m7-6Y75? I’ll see you in a few hours.

So, Core M? I say good riddance. No one wanted it, and it never offered clarity.

Editors' Recommendations

Matthew S. Smith
Matthew S. Smith is the former Lead Editor, Reviews at Digital Trends. He previously guided the Products Team, which dives…
AMD might finally beat Intel for the fastest mobile gaming CPU
AMD Ryzen 6000 laptop chip.

AMD's Ryzen 9 7945HX, the mobile flagship for this generation, was just spotted in some early benchmarks. The test results show that AMD might be really competitive in gaming laptops this year.

The CPU outpaced its last-gen equivalents by miles, and it kept up with Intel's best processors despite having far fewer cores.

Read more
Intel’s Core i9-13900KS hits 6GHz out of the box, but there’s a catch
Intel Core i9-13900K held between fingertips.

Intel has just launched the Core i9-13900KS, a CPU to end all CPUs -- at least in this generation. This is Intel's most powerful chip right now, fully poised to top the list of the best processors on the market.

This doesn't just mark yet another entry into Intel's impressive CPU arsenal. The Core i9-13900KS stands out as the first consumer processor to hit 6GHz out of the box without extra overclocking. To hit that peak, however, it's going to consume a whole lot of power.

Read more
Head-to-head: Intel Core i7-12700H vs. AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS
Lenovo Slim 7 Pro X front view showing display and keyboard deck.

Two of the top laptop processors in 2022 are the Intel Core i7-12700H vs AMD Ryzen 6900HS, but with so many other factors impacting laptop performance, it's hard to compare them head to head. So, when Lenovo offered me the opportunity to run the Intel version of its excellent Slim 7 Pro X laptop, which I had previously reviewed in its AMD incarnation, I jumped at the chance to pit two very similar laptops against each other.

I say "very similar" because, unfortunately, they're not identical. Importantly, they both used the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, which means we're directly comparing the CPUs themselves. The most important difference, beyond the processors, was that the AMD version running the Ryzen 9 6900HS CPU enjoyed 32GB of 6400MHz LPDDR5 RAM. The Intel Core i7-12700H version was loaded with "just" 16GB of slower 5200MHz LPDDR5 RAM. That means that while our benchmark results are likely to be close enough to gauge the performance differences, we can't be truly scientific. And the Ryzen 9 6900HS is a lower-power version of that chip while the Core i7 is full-power.

Read more