Intel has one of the most confusing naming convention for its CPUs. The names tell you absolutely nothing about where a processor stands in the speed hierarchy.
To confuse you even more, Intel has three lines of budget CPUs namely Atom, Celeron and Pentium CPUs all aiming for a very specific segment of the market.
However, for an average user, the difference between Intel Atom vs Intel Celeron vs Intel Pentium can sometimes be too minute to deduce.
And if that wasn’t enough to confuse you, there are even different sub-segments of the series i.e Intel Pentium Gold and Intel Pentium Silver.
Looking at these three entry level series of CPUs as a fresher can easily overwhelm you. In this article, we will break down each of these lines of CPUs and talk about how they compare with each other.
Intel’s Three Different Lines of CPU for the Budget Segment
Essentially, Intel Atom, Celeron and the Pentium series all belong to the entry level market segment.
Why have three different lines of CPUs for the budget segment?
Well, this has to do more with the nuances of what the budget market entails.
Some segments of the budget market are far lower demanding as compared to the rest.
So while Intel Celeron CPUs are highly affordable and intended for very light use-cases, the Intel Pentium CPUs are slightly more expensive but great for basic productivity.
In the price/performance hierarchy, the series are ranked as follows:
|Products Used In||Remarks|
|For Basic Productivity|
|Discontinued for all mobile devices; only used for Servers now.|
1. Intel Atom Processors
Intel Atom processors were originally designed to compete directly with the leading ultra-low powered mobile processor companies for smartphones and tablets namely:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon
- Apple Bionic
- Samsung Exynos
However, they proved to be a failure as they were unable to make a significant dent in the smartphone and tablet market.
And hence, the Atom processors have been discontinued for all mobile devices since 2016.
Perhaps the most successful application of the Intel Atom processors was with the netbooks.
Netbooks were the baby version of the conventional laptops using Windows OS. They were small, cheap, compact and used weak processors such as the Intel’s Atom processor.
However, as the tablets advanced and as Google Chromebooks became an alternative option for affordable and ultra-portable computing, netbooks became obsolete and so did the value for Atom processors for the overall laptop market.
In the final days of the Intel Atom processors, the following were the most powerful CPUs from the series for mobile devices:
|(4c/4t) | 1.44-2.40 GHz||1198||2016||2W
|(4c/4t) | 1.6-2.56 GHz||1373||2016||2W
While the Intel Atom series has been discontinued for all commercial based mobile devices and computers, it continues its existence for Servers, Embedded Storage Appliances, Cellular Infrastructure Applications etc
2. Intel Celeron CPUs
Intel Celeron CPUs are synonymous with ultra-budget computing.
With the discontinuation of Intel Atom CPUs for computers in 2016, Intel Celeron now hold the notorious title of being the slowest CPUs that you can find the market for laptops and desktops in any given generation.
Intel Celeron CPUs are basically dual core CPUs WITHOUT hyperthreading enabled. Hence they feature 2 threads only.
They are some of the worst performing CPUs in both single-core and multi-core performance benchmarks.
There are exceptions however. The newest Intel Celeron N5100 for instance features 4 cores and 4 threads.
Popular and Latest Intel Celeron CPUs
There are separate lines of Intel Celeron CPUs for Desktop and Laptops.
- “G” Series Celeron CPUs are for Desktops
- “N” Series Celeron CPUs are for Laptops
As is the case with all CPUs, the desktop based Celeron CPUs are more powerful compared to their laptop based counterparts. They also have a much higher TDP.
Currently, the Intel N4020 released back in 2019 is still a very popular Celeron CPU for entry level laptops. The newer Intel Celeron N4500 and the N5100 are more powerful but are rare. They may pick up steam soon.
For desktops, one of the most popular and powerful Celeron CPUs is the Intel Celeron G5905.
(2c/2t) | 1.10-2.80 GHz
|A popular Celeron CPU found on many laptops; released in 2019||6W
(2c/2t) | 1.10-2.80 GHz
|Latest value based Celeron CPU; Not very popular
(4c/4t) | 1.10-2.80 GHz
|Flagship; Rare and latest Celeron CPU with 4 core ; Not very popular
|Intel Celeron G5905
(2c/2t) | 3.50 GHz
|2846||Desktop||Flagship and Popular desktop based Celeron CPU
The table above shows how some of the newer and popular Celeron CPUs compare in terms of performance.
It should be noted that just because a certain CPU is flagship – the most powerful in series – it does not mean it is popular.
Therefore, as a buyer, when comparing Celeron CPUs with the rest, you would essentially take a model that is readily available for comparison.
For instance, currently for laptops, the most powerful Intel Celeron CPU is the N5100. However, since it is rare and almost none existent in products at the moment, it is not a great basis for comparison – for now.
Instead, you would rather look at the N4020 released in 2019 for a better comparison.
Compared to Intel Atom CPUs, judging by the benchmarks, even the weakest N4020 is more powerful than the Intel Atom Intel Atom x7-Z8750.
However, in Intel Atom x7-Z8750’s defense it was released in 2016 (three years earlier than N4020).
What is an Intel Celeron CPU Suitable For?
Intel Celeron CPUs are very popular among those who have a very basic computing need. This includes tasks like:
- Web browsing
- Video conferencing
- Basic Homework/Schoolwork – research, essay and report writing etc
- Email correspondence
- Social media use
- Netflix and video entertainment
3. Intel Pentium Processors
Intel Pentium processors position themselves as being the basic productivity CPUs.
They are far more inferior to the next CPUs series in line, the Core i3, but for those who want a seamless performance and a fair degree of multitasking capability, Intel Pentium CPUs are the way to go.
Basically the idea here is that while Intel Celeron CPUs can show lag and a lacking performance even in the most basics of tasks (particularly in multitasking), Intel Pentium CPUs can provide a smoother performance.
They can even be used for light gaming.
Intel Pentium CPUs used to be the flagship CPUs prior to the release of Intel Core series CPUs in 2006.
However, as it stands, compared to the original Pentium CPUs, the current Pentium CPUs share very little in common in terms of architecture.
The Pentium series is further bifurcated into two lines: Pentium Silver and Pentium Gold.
Intel Pentium Silver vs Intel Pentium Gold
As if the Intel entry level line of Intel CPUs wasn’t confusing enough, Intel has further divided the series into the Silver and Gold lines.
For starters, despite what common intuition entails, the Intel Pentium Gold isn’t necessarily made to be superior to the Intel Pentium Silver CPUs.
They are two completely different products.
Intel Pentium Silver CPUs:
Intel Pentium Silver CPUs are essentially the souped-up version of the Celeron processors.
For instance, Intel Celeron N4020 and the Intel Pentium Silver N5030 both belong to Intel’s Gemini Lake generation.
They are intended for completely different product category as compared to the Pentium Gold CPUs.
You cannot buy Intel Silver CPUs off the shelf, instead, these come with pre-built OEM only PCs and devices.
Intel Pentium Silver CPUs are intended for very low powered devices and promise a very long battery life. Hence, they primarily target the mobile/notebook segment.
Here are some of the popular and latest Intel Pentium Silver CPUs.
(4c/4t) | 2.0-3.30 GHz
|Flagship Intel Pentium Silver CPU; released in 2021||10W
(4c/4t) | 1.1-3.10 GHz
|A Popular Intel Pentium Silver CPUs; released in 2019||6W
Intel Pentium Gold CPUs:
Intel Pentium Gold CPUs follow the Core series architecture. Intel Pentium Gold is thus a rebranding of the Core series processors except that they are a weaker version of a typical Core i3 processor.
Hence, they offer a lower amount of cores, clock speed or TDP compared to an Intel Core i3 processor but essentially hail from the same generation.
Again, the “Gold” in the name here does NOT entail that Intel Pentium Gold CPUs are superior to the Intel Silver CPUs. In fact, particularly in the mobile segment, Intel Pentium Gold CPUs perform worse compared to the Intel Pentium Silver CPUs.
The segment in which Intel Pentium Gold CPUs shine compared to the rest is in desktops.
Compared to the rest of series mentioned here i.e Atom, Celeron, Pentium Silver, the Pentium Gold series has best performing desktops CPUs.
|Intel Pentium Gold
(2c/4t) | 2.4 GHz
|Flagship and Popular laptop based Intel Pentium CPU – weaker than Intel Celeron N5100 and Pentium Silver CPUs||12.5W
|Intel Pentium G6400
(2c/4t) | 4.0 GHz
|4155||Desktop||Popular; desktop based Pentium CPU.||58W
|Intel Pentium G6600
(2c/4t) | 4.2 GHz
|4396||Desktop||Flagship; desktop based Pentium CPU.||58W
As shown in the table above, the Intel Pentium Gold CPUs have an excellent performance for the desktop segment.
The laptop based Intel Pentium Gold 6405U is inferior not just to the Pentium Silver CPUs but also to some mobile grade Celeron CPUs.
Therefore, for an entry level desktop build for productivity, Intel Pentium Gold processors are recommended.
What is an Intel Pentium CPU Suitable for?
Intel Pentium CPUs are great for
- Light multitasking (having multiple browser windows open for instance).
- Light productivity (i.e for casual editing)
- Light gaming (i.e playing games like League of Legends, Minecraft, and even Fortnite).
Following video shows Fortnite being played on Intel Pentium Gold G6400:
Intel Atom vs Intel Celeron vs Intel Pentium Benchmarks
The following shows the overall Passmark score of the various processors mentioned here. I have also added a 10th Intel Core i3 CPU in the mix for reference.
- Results taken from CPUbenchmark.net
Celeron vs Pentium Performance/Dollar Value Consideration
The overall performance/dollar value of the Intel Celeron and Pentium is quite consistent meaning a higher dollar would give you a fair and a direct increase in performance.
For instance, take the popular current gen Desktop-Based Celeron CPU such as the Intel Celeron G5905. It has an MSRP of $42.
A popular current gen Intel Pentium G6400 CPU has an MSRP of $64 – so about a 65% increase in price compared to the Celeron.
As far as the performance scores go, Intel Celeron G5905 scores 2846 on Passmark whereas the Intel Pentium G6400 scores 4155 – so about a 68% higher score compared to the Celeron.
Of course, Passmark isn’t the only benchmark you should rely on, you should also consider Cinebench R15 and R20 benchmarks for comparison, but overall, the performance/dollar ratio of Celeron and Pentium CPUs is quite consistent.
In the end the differences between Intel Atom vs Intel Celeron vs Intel Pentium are subtle but significant if you have a tight budget.
Essentially both the Celeron and the Pentium processors intend to target different segments of the market.
The Celeron is more focused toward very basic computing. In fact, it does not get any more basic than a Celeron CPU.
The Pentium CPUs, however, are essentially stripped version of the Core i3. If there ever was an Intel Core i1, the Intel Pentium (Gold) would essentially be replaced with it.
Pentium CPUs offer a better performance are great for tasks beyond basic computing such as light gaming, casual editing etc.
As far as the Atom processors are concerned, do not worry too much about them. They are obsolete and therefore should be of little significance to you.