Intel Core i3 Vs. i5 Vs. i7

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Intel Core i3 Vs. i5 Vs. i7

Intel has now launched its 22 nm third generation core i3, i5 and i7 lineup, based on tri-gate (3D) transistors, built to make your personal computers faster and more energy efficient. Through the Intel core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7 comparison presented here, we compare the entirety of three generations of processors, to help you make a precise choice according to your computing requirements.

Pushing the limits of semiconductor technology, Intel has been constantly innovating to power the PC evolution into the 21st century. In 2012, the company launched its sleek 3rd generation core i3, i5 and i7 processor series, based on 22 nm Ivy Bridge architecture. While the improvement in CPU clocking is 5% to 15%, the graphic performance is 20% to 50% better than the earlier Sandy Bridge line.

In Intel’s Tick-Tock cadence (Tock being a new architecture, Tick being a derived one), the tri-gate (3D) transistor based Ivy Bridge is a major Tick, before its plunge into the mobile computing focused Haswell line to be launched in 2013. In what follows, a succinct analysis of the differences between all three generations of Intel core i3, i5 and i7 lines is presented to help you make an informed choice.

If you already have a first or second generation Intel core i3, i5 or i7 processor up and running, is an upgrade worth it? How is the i5 or i7 better than the entry-level i3 line of processors? The answers will be found in the table presented below, with detailed explanation offered further.

Intel Core i3 Vs. i5 Vs. i7 Comparison
Intel has presented the new hierarchy of its processors in three classes. The entry-level processors are the core i3 series, mid-level processors are core i5 and high-end ones are core i7. Let us see how these three processor lines differ in terms of technical specifications and performance.

Spec. i3
(1st Gen)
(2nd Gen)
(3rd Gen)
(1st Gen)
(1st Gen)
(2nd Gen)
(3rd Gen)
Cores 2 2 2 2/4 2/4 2/4 6/4 4 4
Threads 4 4 4 4 4 4/4 12/8 8 8
1.2 GHz – 3.33 GHz 1.3 GHz – 3.3 GHz 1.4 GHz to 3.4 GHz 1.06 GHz – 3.6 GHz 1.4 GHz – 3.3 Ghz 2.3 GHz – 3.8 GHz 1.06 GHz – 3.46 GHz 1.5 GHz – 3.4 GHz 2.6 GHz – 3.9 GHz
3 MB/4MB 3 MB 3 MB 8 MB/4 MB/3 MB 3 MB/6 MB 3 MB/ 6 MB 12 MB/8 MB/6 MB/4 MB 8 MB/6 MB/4 MB 8 MB/6 MB/4 MB
Hyper-Threading Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
(Only in Mobile Processors)
(Only in Mobile Processors)
Yes Yes Yes
Turbo Boost No No No Yes Yes (2.0) Yes (2.0) Yes Yes (2.0) Yes
Ideal For All basic computing tasks, multimedia applications; ideal for home users Intensive multitasking applications; ideal for home and workstation use All purpose workstations, 3D gaming, server machines and heavy duty computing tasks, simulations, video editing, 3D gaming
Best Chip (Desktop) i3-560
(4MB Cache, 3.33 GHz)
(3MB Cache, 3.40 Ghz)
(3MB Cache, 3.30 GHz)
(4MB Cache, 3.60 Ghz)
(6MB Cache, 3.10 Ghz)
(6MB Cache, 3.80 GHz)
(12MB Cache, 3.46 GHz)
(8MB Cache, 3.40 GHz)
(8MB Cache, up to 3.90 GHz)
Best Chip (Notebook) Core i3-390M
(3MB Cache, 2.66 Ghz)
i3-2330M Processor
(3MB Cache 2.20 Ghz)
(3MB Cache, 2.60 GHz)
(3MB Cache, 2.66 Ghz)
(3MB Cache, 2.60 Ghz)
(3MB Cache, 3.60 GHz)
(8MB Cache, 2.13 Ghz)
(8MB Cache, 2.70 GHz)
(8MB Cache, 3.90 GHz)
Price $113 – $138 $117 – $138 $117 – $225 $176 – $294 $177 – $266 $177 to $276 $278 – $1096 $289 – $1096 $294 – $1096

Comparison of Technical Specifications
Here we will compare both generations of core i3, i5 and i7 lines. The prime specifications that need to be compared are the clocking frequencies, number of cores, threads and memory cache size.

Core i3
Third Generation
All core i3 processors come with two cores and four threads backed by Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology that enables multitasking. Hyper-Threading is simultaneous multithreading ability that enables parallel computing. The Intel HD graphics 4000 technology offers great visual performance, without a discrete GPU for any desktop or laptop system. All in all, the core i3 series is a great entry-level chip that offers all that a home user needs including high quality graphics and great multitasking ability. The price tag for current high-end core i3 processors ranges from $176 to $294. The only important feature, that’s missing here is the Turbo Boost technology that provides an on-demand boost in clocking frequency as needed.

With the 22 nm microarchitecture, the third generation core i3 line is more power efficient, besides providing better visual performance through Intel HD Graphics 4000. In terms of CPU performance, the improvement is marginal. If you have an existing second generation core i3 based system with high clocking frequency, an upgrade to third generation is not recommended, as Turbo Boost still stays off limits for core i3. You are better off upgrading to a third generation core i5 chip.

Second Generation
Launched in January 2011, this core i3 line was launched to replace the earlier generation. Based on advanced 32 nm Sandy Bridge architecture, it includes two desktop lines, which include Core i3-21xx (With 3 MB L3 cache and clocking frequency ranging from 3.1 to 3.4 GHz) and Core i3-21xxT (With 3 MB L3 cache and clocking frequency ranging from 2.5 to 2.6 GHz) series of processors.

First Generation
The Core i3 5xx (Clarkdale) series launched in January 2010, for desktop computers, consists of four processors (i3-530, i3-540, i3-550 and i3-560) with a clocking frequency ranging from 2.93 GHz to 3.33 GHz. All four processors have a 2×256 KB L2 cache, 4MB L3 smart cache with DMI (Direct Media Interface) bus and are fitted with the new LGA 1156 socket. All four processors have two cores, four threads and are based on a 32 nm architecture which enables more transistors to be placed on a chip compared to the earlier 45 nm architecture.

This first generation of core i3 line also includes mobile processors, designed for notebook computers, which include eight chips (Intel core i3-390M, 380UM, 380M, 370M, 350M, 330UM, 330M and 330E processors) with 2 cores, 4 threads, 4 MB smart cache and processing speed ranging from 1.2 GHz to 2.66 GHz.

Core i5
Third Generation
The core i5 series based on 22 nm microarchitecture provides a top clocking frequency of 3.8 GHz, with Turbo Boost, along with four processing threads. These chips are ideally suited for the business users, who would benefit from the extra multitasking ability.

Second Generation
In January 2011, the Sandy Bridge based core i5 line of processors was released, as an improvement over the earlier generation. This includes quad core – Core i5-2500, 2500K, Core i5-2xxxT (with dual/quad core) and Core i5-2xxxS lines of processors with 6 MB of L3 cache, direct media interface and an integrated GPU. The mobile line of processors have also been launched in a new Sandy Bridge avatar, in the form of Core i5-2xxxM, Core i5-2xx7M, with 2 cores and 3 MB of L3 cache. Their clocking frequency ranges from 1.4 GHz to 3.3 GHz.

First Generation
This family of processors consists of three lines, which include the core i5 7xx, core i5 7xxS and core i5 6xx series. They have processor clocking frequencies ranging from 2.4 GHz to 3.33 GHz which can be enhanced by Intel’s new Turbo Boost technology. Some processors have 4 cores with 4 threads (core i5-7xx and core i5-7xxS Lynnfield series) and some with 2 cores and 4 threads (core i5- 6xx Clarkdale Series with Hyper-Threading disabled). Most have an 8MB L3 cache, with LGA 1156 socket, direct media interface and integrated GPU. Besides this, four separate lines – Intel Core i5-5xxM, Core i5-4xxM, Core i5-5xxUM and Core i5-4xxUM, with 2 cores and 3 MB L3 cache have been exclusively created for notebook computers.

Core i7
Third Generation
The crème de la crème of all Intel processors, the core i7 processors, along with the extreme variant (i7-3940XM) are simply the best laptop or desktop processors money can buy on the planet right now. If you are a power user, with extreme multitasking requirements, gaming and nothing less than the best satisfies you, go for the i7 line.

Second Generation
The second generation i7 line has a whole line of new quad core processors with 4 or 8MB L3 cache, with clocking frequencies ranging from 1.5 GHz to 3.4 GHz, for notebook computers. Two more processors were launched as part of the ‘Extreme’ edition, exclusively for notebook computers in the second generation. These include two quad core processors, with 8 MB of L3 cache – Intel Core i7-2960XM (2.7 GHz/3.7 GHz with Turbo Boost) and Intel Core i7-2920XM (2.5 GHz/3.5 GHz with Turbo Boost). Powered with Intel HD Graphics 3000 and Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, these are the best processors on the planet for notebook computers.

First Generation
The core i7 family of processors are built to outperform. They consist of eight different series of processors. Dubbed by Intel to be ‘The Best Processors On the Planet‘, these are quad core processors with 8 threads with clocking frequencies touching 3.06 GHz, which can be enhanced to 3.33 GHz with Intel’s Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading Technology. Along with desktop processors, core i7 line also has dual core notebook processors with clocking frequencies ranging from 1.06 GHz to 2.8 GHz.

The best processors, in this line are Intel core i7 990X and 980X, with 6 built in cores and 12 threads. With 8 MB of smart cache which reaches 12 MB in this first generation Gulftown line, these processors are nothing short of phenomenal. With 3 channels of DDR3 1066 MHz memory that is backed by an integrated memory controller and Intel’s QuickPath Interconnect technology (that enables up to 25.6 GB/Sec of data transfer speed), the core i7 processors are simply unbeatable. They are designed for advanced computing tasks and would be overkill for a home PC, if it’s only going to be used for very basic functions.

Intel core i3 Vs. i5. Vs. i7: Performance Comparison
When compared according to performance, the graph rises higher as you go from the i3 to i5, towards core i7. Core i3 is a great entry-level processor that offers high-definition graphics and ensures that multitasking wouldn’t take a toll on computer speed. This is the default pick for home users with desktop or entry-level laptop computers. If browsing the Internet, watching movies, video chatting and basic word processing mostly sums up your usage profile, i3 is the best choice for you.

The core i5 line is speedier and more powerful than i3, offering all that the entry line offers and more. Turbo Boost technology, with Hyper-Threading enables four threads to be simultaneously handled by two different cores, which in turn, increases processing speed. They are the best processors for laptops and workstations with high multitasking and graphic performance requirements.

A comparison reveals the i7 lines to be simply miles ahead of the two other processor lines. With Turbo Boost 2.0 enabled, it is also miles ahead of its AMD counterpart. The benchmark tests reveal core i7 processors to be the clear winners in all departments. The best processor in the entire lot is i7-3940XM with 8 MB cache and up to 3.9 GHz clocking frequency. The i7 line has an inherent advantage provided by the four cores. More cores provide greater multitasking and improve processing speed. You can develop 3D games, go for video editing and get an unparalleled gaming experience with these chips. Core i7 line places phenomenal computing power at your fingertips.

Opt for core i3 processors if you are a home user with graphic intensive or multimedia-centric usage, coupled with online activities. Core i5 processors are for people who want to go for intensive gaming and run heavy programs. The top of the line core i7 processors are best for people who want to go for intensive multitasking and are designed for computers that have to function as web servers or database servers, video editing workstations or developer workstations. They are designed for business use and high-end computing jobs. However, all depends on how much are you willing to pay for a new laptop or desktop. Choose according to your budget and requirements.

If you can afford it, why not go for a top processor from the core i7 line? The decision is entirely up to you. Choose any processor from any line, but my personal recommendation would be the mid-level core i5 series which is reasonably priced, works well with most demanding applications, offers real value for your money and fits the usage profile of most users perfectly.

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