The Difference Between i3, i5, and i7 Processors

This might be a little late in coming, but…

It’s occurred to me that, when faced with the prospect of purchasing a new computer, the concept of Intel’s different processors might end up confusing quite a few people. It’s pretty obvious how their new line of processors stack up against the old (they’re better), but at the same time…how do they stack up against one another? Is processing speed the only factor that enters into the equation?

Intel hasn’t exactly been helpful on this front, either- particularly given that each processor features a different  ‘clock speed’ from the other two. Even more confusing is the fact that there are multiple ‘brands’ of each processor, with different brands stacking up differently against one another. It’s enough to completely overwhelm many consumers.

When stacked against one another, the i3, i5, and i7 processors differ in terms of the number of cores, available memory, built-in processes and clock speed. Not surprisingly i3 processors are the lowest-end of the group, with only two cores. There are no quad-core i3s. i5s, on the other hand, could have either 2 or 4 cores. i7s, at the top of the pecking order, might have as many as 6 cores. Again, it depends entirely on what model you’re using.

Now, some of you might look at the clock rate of the i7 and note that it’s actually lower than that of what’s supposed to be a ‘lower-end’ processor. There’s a reason for that. You’ve got to consider how many cores each processor has. The i7, with four cores at 1.7 Ghz each, will outperform an i3 with 2.3 Ghz and two cores every time. The reason? Clock speed isn’t a total value. It’s calculated per core of the processor. An i7 with a 1.7 clock speed has all four cores running at 1.7.  That’s important to keep in mind when shopping around for a processor.

It’s a pretty basic explanation…but it should suffice.

As far as shopping is concerned, most users are going to want to pick up an i3 processor.  It’ll give the best value for your dollar, and chances are you’re not going to be using your system for any particularly intensive tasks. If you’re gaming, pick up a high-end i5. If you’re willing to pay a little bit more for a bit more performance, grab an i7.

Comments

  1. Tyler Melton says:

    “Now, some of you might look at the clock rate of the i7 and note that it’s actually lower than
    that of what’s supposed to be a ‘lower-end’ processor. There’s a reason
    for that. You’ve got to consider how many cores each processor has. The
    i7, with four cores at 1.7 Ghz each, will outperform an i3 with 2.3 Ghz
    and two cores every time. The reason? Clock speed isn’t a total value.
    It’s calculated per core of the processor. An i7 with a 1.7 clock speed
    has all four cores running at 1.7.  That’s important to keep in mind
    when shopping around for a processor.”

    This part is subjective depending on a number of variables. Such as the number of applications a user runs at any given time and whether or not those programs support multi-threading.

  2. There is also a L2 and L3 cache difference that affects performance

  3. Anonymous says:

    What laptop you recommend me for a medium user, I want to play some average games, mainly emulators for PS2 and Gamecube (not newers games). At the same time, a good perfomarmance in Windows 7 and that my laptop last at least 3 or 4 years

  4. long-time-lurker says:

    umm… no breakdown on turbo modes and HyperTheading? I thought those are what really seperates the three lineups.

  5. gordintoronto says:

    The vast majority of applications do the first thing, then the second thing, then the third thing; they don’t lend themselves to using multiple cores. Having two cores is useful, because when one program goes CPU-bound, you can still do something else. More cores are rarely helpful, unless you have an application which can use them.

    Put another way, I don’t want eight cores that run at 2.0 GHz, I want two cores that run at 8 GHz!

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