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What’s the difference between Intel Core i3,i5, and i7 processors?

If you’re in the market for a new computer, you may be wondering how Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors differ. Here’s a breakdown of what each one offers, so you can choose the best option for your needs.

A nutshell explanation of the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors

When building your first PC, it’s important to keep an eye out for numbers like 3, 5, and 7 that indicates a processor’s relative processing power. The number of cores in each CPU and its speed are unrelated. Intel’s Core i7 and Core i3 CPUs have no seven cores nor three cores respectively.

In addition to their number of cores, clock speed (in GHz), and cache size, an Intel Core CPU’s family can also be determined by how many Intel technologies it incorporates. Therefore, you can expect to find less Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading on an i3 processor as compared to an i5 or i7. 

Essentially, these numbers indicate where each class of Intel Core CPU fits relative to the others and are intended to help consumers determine the kind of performance each will provide. 

In essence, Intel wants PC builders to know that with this CPU classification system:

  • The Intel Core i3 is capable of handling basic computing tasks
  • The Intel Core i5 is capable of performing most tasks well
  • The most demanding tasks, an Intel Core i7 offers great performance

Since some older i5 and i7 processors may not necessarily outperform newer ones, these designations aren’t always accurate but if you’re looking for a short, easy way to know which processor is better, you can use the numbers associated with the Intel Core families.

The Core i3, i5, and i7 processors from Intel can also be grouped based on the devices they target. While some are designed to be installed inside laptops, others are designed to be used with desktop PCs. The main difference here is power consumption since mobile devices are generally limited in their power consumption.  Sometimes, there can be significant differences between the specs and performance of desktop and laptop versions of Intel’s i5 and i7 CPUs. However, to avoid confusion, let’s start by exclusively talking about the desktop variants. 

How many CPU cores are there in Intel i3, i5, and i7?

Even though the number of cores inside an Intel Core CPU is not everything, the more cores there are, the more tasks (known as threads) can be performed at once. Consequently, a PC with a higher core count is going to perform better for multi-threaded tasks, such as web servers, web browsers, and some video games.

You will more likely find fewer cores in a Core i3 than in a Core i5 or i7, even though there isn’t a hard and fast rule. In most cases, Core i3 CPUs have only two cores, with a few exceptions, such as Intel’s 8th Gen “Coffee Lake” CPUs. 

As a result of this, i3 processors are more focused on making a low price point than pushing performance boundaries. Typically, they are found inside PCs aimed at the budget-conscious market, where the need for an affordable device outweighs the need for higher performance. 

The Core i5 processors from Intel usually outperform their i3 counterparts. Their faster clock speeds contribute to this. Additional cores also help. Having more cores means these CPUs can handle more threads at one time, and faster clock speeds mean they can complete tasks more quickly.

Core i5 CPUs have generally been based on CPUs with four cores or more in the past. In recent years, Intel has introduced i5 CPUs with six cores (like the 9th-Gen Coffee Lake refresh). For example, the Intel Core i5-9400, the Intel Core i5-9500, and the Intel Core i5-9600. 

Last but not least, you have the Intel Core i7 processors. Once more, you can expect higher average clock speeds as well as more cores. In contrast to Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake’s i7 core CPUs have up to eight cores and standard clock speeds of 3.6GHz. 

How important clock speeds are?

Clock speed is a measure of how much time it takes for a single instruction to be processed. A higher clock speed means the CPU can process instructions faster. As you might expect, higher clock speeds increase your PC’s overall performance and allow you to get more work done in less time.

Unlike Core i3 CPUs, Core i5 and Core i7 Intel CPUs tend to have higher clock speeds, which contributes to making them more powerful than the other two types of processors.

Yes, but not to the same extent. Core i3 processors typically run at a base clock speed of around 3.0GHz whereas Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs usually start at 3.4GHz or higher. The higher the base clock speed, the more time an instruction takes to be carried out and sent back to the CPU.

How do cache levels influence performance?

The cache is temporary memory built into a CPU that stores frequently used data or instructions so that it can be utilized again with less delay than if it had to come from RAM. Since each i5 and i7 Intel CPU release date has its own unique set of requirements, it can be difficult to compare processors based on their cache size.

How much faster is a Core i7 from a Core i5?

In most cases, you can expect the gap between each successive generation of Intel processors to be relatively small. In most cases, a Core i7 will be 10-15 percent faster than a Core i5. There is a lot of information to take in, but the most important key takeaway from this post is that Intel processors are categorized by their number. The higher the number, the more powerful and expensive they will be for you. If your computer needs an upgrade or you’re looking for one for your home office, make sure to do some research before making any decisions about what kind of processor you need!

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