Which Intel processor should you buy? i3, i5 or i7!

Have you ever been in the process of buying a new computer and wondered, which processor should I buy ? Or what is the difference between an Intel i5 & an i7 ? Would i be missing something if i get the cheaper i3 ? If you have thought about this, you’re just one among many to come across this dilemma eventually. Though most people just assume the higher the number, the better the product, the actual nitty gritty of selecting the best processor for you, is a bit more complicated. One should look beyond the Core i branding and check the number of cores, Clock Speed, Turbo Boost etc when narrowing down on a processor. Let’s go through some details that you need to know.

Different processor families have different characteristics that determine their levels of efficiency. In simpler terms, GHz and clock cycles matter less when compared to how much work is actually done in each clock cycle. The highest clock cycles on processors available today is around 4 GHz. But that is a number even the Pentium 4 was able to achieve. Yet, processors of today as far more powerful than the Pentium 4. Also, a processor designed for a laptop or tablet device needs to be battery efficient, something desktop processors have never had to worry about but, a lot of other aspects remain the same. Therefore, let’s break down these concepts to understand them better.

Number of Core’s

Single core processors are practically extinct today and for good reason. Of all the factors listed below, the number of cores in your processor will have the most significant impact on the processors performance. The core i3 range is purely dual core whereas i5 & i7 have 4 core processors. This is why people generally assume i3 to be the lower of the series. Each core however, is capable enough to work as its own separate processor and most applications aren’t capable of fully utilizing the potential of a multi-core system. You can work just as effectively with an i3 as you would with an i7. On the flipside, a computer can perform more than one task at a time with multiple cores more effiiciently.

Turbo Boost

While reading up on clock cycles, you would have also come across i3 processors that have a higher clock cycles than some i5 & i7 models. Like we just mentioned, a GHz number doesn’t define efficiency and thus, we need to look deeper. The GHz number in simpler terms is the number of clock cycles that the processor can manage in a second.

2.4GHZ MEANS 2,400,000,000 CLOCK CYCLES.

Thus, the more the GHz – the faster the processor and this is where Turbo Boost gains prominence. Turbo Boost is not related to the clock speed as the name would suggest. The term is a marketing terminology for technology that enables a processor to increases the number of clock cycles dynamically when the need arises. Thus, a processor can consume less power, produce less heat and only boost its speed when that extra burst of energy is required. Turbo Boost is restricted to i5 & i7 processors which is also why these two trump the i3 range when it comes to single-core optimized tasks.


Cache Memory

The efficiency of a processor though is also dependent on its cache memory storage. If the processor needs certain data repetitively, its pulls the data out of the RAM and stores it on the cache memory – which is significantly faster than any other memory on a computer that means cache generally runs faster than the RAM does.In this case, bigger is better and the i7 usually has more than double the cache storage than the i3 models.

Cache Memory 3 – 4MB 4 – 6MB 8MB


Hyper Threading

This next concept is a little more complicated and confusing as well. A thread in computing terminology, is a set of instructions that the processor executes. One core can execute only one thread at a time. Hyper Threading however, divides one physical core into 2 logical cores. Thus allowing the processor to run double the amount at the same time. So a 2 core system, will work like a 4 core system and a 4 core system will work as an 8 core system. However, the confusing aspect of this concept, is that the middle layer i5 series lacks it. Thus an i3 processor at times can end up being as useful as an i5 processor.

The Lettering

In addition, Intel also uses serial numbers on all their models. The numeric part of the series is to identify the generation for example, models starting with 6 signify 6th generation. Along with this, they also have letters that signify specialized uses. These letters and their uses are:

  • H – High-performance graphics.
  • K – Unlocked for overclocking.
  • Q – Quad-core (four physical cores).
  • T – Optimized for efficient desktop computing.
  • U – Ultra low power, usually found on laptop processors (slower than desktop chips).

In Conclusion

Series Cores Turbo Boost Hyper Threading
i3 2 No Yes
i5 4 Yes No
i7 4 Yes Yes


From the table, you can easily compare the different series of processors. While i3 is the goto if you do not intend to use your machine for resource hungry operations, for heavy duty users, i7 is a must and if your’re in between these 2 categories, i5 might just be what the doctor ordered.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *