How Intel® Core™ Processors Work

Next gen support. Enhanced overclocking. Revolutionary hybrid design. Learn what makes Intel® Core™ desktop processors tick.


  • Intel® Core™ desktop processors pair powerful Performance-cores (P-cores) with Efficient-cores (E-cores) for a smoother gaming and computing experience.

  • Intel® Thread Director makes optimal scheduling decisions for any workload when assigning threads to cores.

  • Choose to use either DDR4 or newer DDR5 RAM.

  • Achieve next generation data transfer speeds with support for PCIe 5.0 SSDs and GPUs.



Along with enhanced clock speeds and more cores, Intel® Core™ desktop processors contain technologies that further heighten performance. Chief among them is Intel’s latest in hybrid architecture design. Introduced in 12th Gen, this breakthrough technology increases core efficiency and delivers intelligent workload optimization by integrating two core microarchitectures into a single die. Meanwhile, the Intel® Thread Director1 helps optimize performance when multitasking.

Another important inclusion is broad support for state-of-the-art standards and specifications. On the latest Intel® Core™ platform, you gain access to the latest and most powerful PC components, including DDR5 memory, PCIe 5.0 and 4.0 devices, Wi-Fi 6E routers that support nearly 3x faster connectivity2, and the best displays and external devices by way of Thunderbolt 4 support.

What does this mean for gaming? Mainly, that you can do more on a gaming laptop or desktop.

To see how it works, let’s dive into the key advances.

Explore Intel® Core™ CPU options now

What Is Performance Hybrid Architecture?

Intel® Core™ desktop processors adapt to the ways you work and play. When gaming, the processor prevents background tasks from interrupting or using high-performance cores, resulting in smoother gameplay. When you’re using your system for general computing tasks — like, say, working with 4K video while listening to some tunes and managing your channel — it provides a smoother system-level experience.

Intel® Core™ desktop processors integrate two types of cores into a single die: powerful Performance-cores (P-cores) and flexible Efficient-cores (E-cores). Both types of core have a different role.

Performance-cores are:

  • Physically larger, high-performance cores designed for raw speed while maintaining efficiency.
  • Tuned for high turbo frequencies and high IPC (instructions per cycle).
  • Ideal for crunching through the heavy single-threaded work demanded by many game engines.
  • Capable of hyper-threading, which means running two software threads at once.

Efficient-cores are:

  • Physically smaller, with multiple E-cores fitting into the physical space of one P-core.
  • Designed to maximize CPU efficiency, measured as performance-per-watt.
  • Ideal for scalable, multi-threaded performance. They work in concert with P-cores to accelerate core-hungry tasks (like when rendering video, for example).
  • Optimized to run background tasks efficiently. Smaller tasks can be offloaded to E-cores — for example, handling Discord or antivirus software — leaving P-cores free to drive gaming performance.
  • Capable of running a single software thread.

What is hyper-threading? Find out here.

What Is the Intel® Thread Director?

The Intel® Thread Director supplies the behind-the-scenes magic that maximizes hybrid performance.

Built directly into the hardware1, the Thread Director uses machine learning to schedule tasks on the right core at the right time (opposed to relying on static rules). This helps ensure that Performance-cores and Efficient-cores work in concert; background tasks don’t slow you down, and you can have more apps open simultaneously.

Here’s how the Intel® Thread Director works:

  • It monitors the runtime instruction mix of each thread and the state of each core with nanosecond precision.
  • It provides runtime feedback to the OS to make the optimal decision for any workload.
  • It dynamically adapts its guidance according to the Thermal Design Point (TDP) of the system, operating conditions, and power settings.

By identifying the class of each workload and using its energy and performance core scoring mechanism, the Intel® Thread Director helps the OS schedule threads on the best core for performance or efficiency.

The end result is performance gains in many demanding gaming scenarios, such as streaming your game and recording gameplay footage at the same time. You get a smoother gaming experience with a higher FPS, your followers get a better viewing experience with higher-quality streams, and your gameplay captures look better, too.

What Are the Benefits of Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0?

Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 enhances lightly-threaded performance further. Because in-die variation during manufacturing produces some cores that are faster than others (supporting higher performance and lower voltage), some P-cores can outperform others.

Turbo Boost Max 3.0 capitalizes on these differences by identifying the best P-cores within the processor and routing work to them. This boosts performance without increasing voltage, allowing the CPU to operate within specifications.

How does Turbo Boost differ from overclocking? See our article here.

What Is DDR5 Memory?

The Intel® Core™ platform gives you an important choice when it comes to memory: DDR4 or DDR5 RAM.

DDR5 is the next-generation specification for RAM and it comes with a host of improvements in speed and efficiency when compared to DDR4, the current standard.

  • Higher-bandwidth kits thanks to doubled burst length — the number of bits that can be read per cycle.
  • DDR5 allows capacities of up to 128GB of RAM per module, whereas DDR4 allows only 32GB.
  • DDR5 doubles the number of memory bank groups and improves the speed at which groups can be refreshed.

With a Intel® Core™ desktop processor, you’ve got the option to build a system using either tried-and-tested DDR4 RAM or new DDR5 sticks. If you decide to stick with DDR4 for now, a Intel® Core™ processor leaves you the option to upgrade to DDR5 down the road.

Many Intel® Core™ desktop processors feature unlocked memory support, providing more freedom to fine-tune your RAM’s performance. Use DDR5 profiles on Intel® Extreme Memory Profile 3.0 (XMP 3.0) to easily overclock your memory and create new custom profiles to adjust behavior.

What Is PCIe 5.0?

The latest Intel® Core™ desktop processors are at the forefront of the industry transition to PCIe 5.0. PCIe 5.0 doubles the bandwidth of 4.0, which means your system will be ready for the next generation of SSDs and discrete GPUs.

PCIe is an expansion bus. Capable of transferring data at high speeds, it’s used to connect high-performance peripherals like graphics cards and SSDs to your motherboard. Each generation of PCIe doubles in throughput, with PCIe 5.0 providing theoretical maximum data transfer speeds of 32 GT/s.

The advantages of PCIe 5.0 adoption include:

  • Full backwards compatibility with PCIe 4.0 and 3.0 devices.
  • Double the bandwidth of 4.0 and four times the bandwidth of 3.0.
  • Up to 16 CPU PCIe 5.0 lanes and up to 4 CPU PCIe 4.0 lanes, with the Intel® 700 Series chipset having up to 8 more lanes capable of PCIe 4.0.

For more about PCIe 5.0 and CPU PCIe lanes, continue reading here.

How Do Intel® Core™ Desktop Processors Support Overclocking?

The architecture of the latest Intel® Core™ desktop processors gives users with unlocked processors advanced tuning options. Separate overclocking controls for both P-cores and E-cores allows you to adjust core behavior to your liking.

Use the latest versions of Intel overclocking utilities to get the most from your gaming systems:

  • Intel® Extreme Tuning Utility (Intel® XTU) provides an advanced toolset for aspiring and experienced overclockers. The latest version gives you more control over your overclock with new advanced tuning knobs for E-cores and telemetry data for detailed performance analysis.3
  • Intel Speed Optimizer (ISO) is a one-click tool built into the latest version of Intel® XTU, which performs automated overclocking after analyzing your processor’s individual performance DNA.
  • Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP 3.0) helps you easily overclock DDR5 RAM. Exclusive to DDR5, XMP 3.0 technology brings a suite of enhancements to RAM overclocks, including up to five profiles, two customizable profiles, and additional voltage controls.
  • Intel® Dynamic Memory Boost, accessed from within the Intel® XMP application, automatically switches to a high-frequency memory profile during demanding applications such as gaming, overclocking your RAM as needed, then returning to default specifications. DDR4 and DDR5 memory modules are supported.

Learn how to overclock an unlocked Intel® Core™ desktop processor here.

What Is Intel® Wi-Fi 6E?

Intel® Wi-Fi 6E is the biggest step forward for Wi-Fi in some time, supporting nearly 3x faster connectivity when compared to standard Wi-Fi2. The main draw of the new standard is that it uses the 6GHz spectrum band. Wi-Fi 6E devices can operate on the 6GHz band, which can transmit data faster and more reliably due to an increase in the number of channels and channel width.

Wi-Fi 6E provides:

  • Gig+ wireless speeds — up to 1700 Mbps2 under ideal conditions. That’s nearly three times greater than Wi-Fi 5.
  • Up to 75 percent lower latency than Wi-Fi 54.
  • An exclusive 6GHz band that prevents interference from legacy devices.

How does Intel® Wi-Fi 6E benefit gaming? For starters, you get less lag when playing games on a system equipped with an Intel® Wi-Fi 6E card. Because the data is being transmitted using the new wider 6GHz band, the network is less crowded. As a result, connectivity issues that commonly plague online gaming — like packet loss and ping spikes — are cleared up.

For the most reliable connection to gaming servers over Wi-Fi, look for a Intel® Core™ system with an Intel® Killer™ Wi-Fi 6E card. These cards have been specifically designed to address gaming-related latency issues.

They feature technologies including the Intel® Killer™ Prioritization Engine, which automatically prioritizes gaming traffic on your network, and Intel® Killer™ DoubleShot™ Pro, which allows your system to use a Wi-Fi and Ethernet connection in tandem for an optimized connection.

Learn more about Intel® Wi-Fi 6E here.

What Is Thunderbolt™ 4?

The latest Intel® Core™ desktop processors support Thunderbolt™ 4 technology, a versatile cable connection interface developed by Intel.

With 40Gbps of bidirectional bandwidth, Thunderbolt™ 4 ports let you connect multiple high-performance devices like high-speed external SSDs, 240Hz gaming monitors at 1080P, and video capture devices for when you stream. Since they’re compatible with a wide range of devices (including DisplayPort, USB4, external PCIe, and legacy Thunderbolt devices), you can use them as a hub for all your gear.

For these reasons, Thunderbolt™ 4 ports are excellent for building out a battlestation, workstation, or streaming setup. Another possibility is converting a laptop into a desktop-like experience by connecting devices like dual monitors, mechanical keyboards, external drives, or microphones. Up to five devices can be docked into a single Thunderbolt™ 4 port.

Find out more about Thunderbolt™ 4’s many benefits here.

A Generational Leap in Performance

Not only do the latest Intel® Core™ processors provide elite performance, but they deliver it when and where you need it most. Whether you’re looking to maximize your FPS or do more at once in your creative workflow, the new P-core/E-core hybrid performance architecture has you covered.

Along with the performance advancements, Intel® Core™ processors have built-in support for the latest technological standards. A Intel® Core™ system unlocks DDR5, PCIe 5.0, Wi-Fi 6E, and Thunderbolt™ 4, all of which can enable an optimal computing experience — both now and in the years to come.

Find the right gaming laptop or desktop for you.


Frequently Asked Questions

No. Your motherboard will need to support the type of RAM you intend to use. Although DDR4 and DDR5 modules both have 288 pins, their different layouts mean that they cannot be installed in the same DIMM slots.