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.