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

Intel’s first Core processors made their debut in 2006. It’s been 14 years since launch and still consumers are still asking the same kinds of questions. Core i3, i5 or i7? What’s the difference? Ever wondered which chipset is best for your requirements? Which is more compatible with your needs? Is it worth it to own a CPU with more cores, a faster clock-speed or advanced features like hyper-threading? Well to cater all your questions here’s a buyer guide to find the right CPU for you. Let’s dive into.

Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 – Difference as quick as possible.

If you want to just keep things so simple, Core i7 CPUs are better Core i5 CPUs, which are in turn better than most Core i3 CPUs. Below that we have the Pentium and Celeron range of processors which we are not going to discuss here, but they are worth mentioning.

Also it’s important to know that these 3,5,7 doesn’t denote the more of cores the each CPU has, they just mention the family of processors they belong to. So what factors differentiate families of Intel Core processors?

  1. Total number of cores present
  2. Clock speed and Turbo Boost
  3. Cache memory
  4. Hyper-Threading

Total number of cores present

Source : Create Pro

Even though the core count inside the processor isn’t everything, number of cores affect the power and performance. Having more cores means more task can be done at same time. which means a PC with a higher core-count is going to be better for tasks where multithreading is important, such as web servers, web browsers and some video games. The Core i3 family is dual core(2 cores) family whereas the Core i5 and Core i7 are quad core(4 cores) family. Each task given to a computer is executed by cores. A computer can still run with single core but having multiple cores enables multi-tasking and improves speed.

Intel Core i3Intel Core i5Intel Core i7
Number of cores468

Clock speed and Turbo Boost

Source : Quora

What is Clock speed? The GHz represents the number of clock cycles (calculations) a processor can manage in a second. Putting things simple the more clock speed means faster CPU but due to the thermal issues involved, processors with more cores tend to operate at a lower clock speed. Clock speed tend to vary from processor to processor even a Core i3 could have a better clock speed than a Core i5 so choosing a CPU involves choosing between a CPU capable of delivering faster clock-speeds or choosing one with more cores.

Coming to Turbo boost it’s a marketing term given by Intel for the technology which allows to increase the clock speed whenever the need arises. Core i3 processors don’t have Turbo Boost, but Core i5 and Core i7s do. This technology increases the clock speed by increasing the power to the CPU when ever needed. For example, although a Core i3-7300 runs at 4GHz compared to 3.5GHz for the Core i5-7600, the Core i5 chip can boost up to 4.1GHz when required, so will end up being quicker and this is reason why Core i5 and Core i7 out perform Core i3 in single core test even though they have lower clock speeds.

Its also worth mentioning processors model ending with K mean its unlockable and over clock able. Overclocking means increasing the power to the CPU and make it run at higher clock speeds. An overclocked processor would run faster.

Cache memory

Source: IT Pro

Another major factor affecting speed of the processor is the Cache memory (Pounced as cash memory). Cache memory is a high speed memory which is even faster than the RAM. When a CPU finds it is using the same data over and over, it stores that data in its cache. As you might be able to guess, a CPU with a larger cache allows for more data to be accessed faster. This is one major reason why an i7 outperforms an i5 — and why an i5 outperforms an i3. Modern CPUs feature more cache memory are growing.


Source: Build In

Although It’s one of the concepts which is a little confusing to explain, but also confuses as it’s available on Core i7 and Core i3, but not on the mid-range core i5. Hyper-Threading is basically the equivalent of something like turbo-boost when it comes to increasing the power of your CPU’s cores. We expect more features in a higher end processor, but not here. A thread in computing terms is a sequence of programmed instructions that the CPU has to process. Only one thread can be served by one CPU core at a time but what if a CPU is a dual-core, then supposedly only two threads can be served simultaneously. If your CPU has four cores, it can handle four threads at once. If your CPU has six cores? So to define Hyper-Threading, it is a clever way to let a single core handle multiple threads. So how does it affect performance?

A dual-core Core i3 with hyper-threading can serve two threads per core rather than the regular one per core. In other words, a total of four threads can run simultaneously and a quad-core Core i5 processor that doesn’t support Hyper-Threading is going to be about as capable as a dual-core Core i3 processor that does -at least when it comes to the number of threads it can handle at once. This is one of reason why Core i7 is much powerful with more number of core and Hyper-Threading.

Intel Core i3Intel Core i5 Intel Core i7

So how to you pick right one for you?

Source: The Verge

If your a person who does lot of multi-tasking and gaming then you might need to go for a Core i5 or Core i7. More cores and threads help in multitasking and push more frames per second in games. If your someone who does just browsing and watching movies you are okay with a Core i3.

If your are a content creator who does photo editing, video editing, music production, 3D and others you should probably go for a Core i7, as these productive softwares uses much multi-threading.

Hopefully you find this article useful to get insights about Intel Core processors and help you to take a better decision on which processors suits your need. Anyways happy computing….

Kevin Joe Harris

Tech enthusiast who loves to share his knowledge and express his thoughts!

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