Intel kept the debate on, and that’s the TRP. Right? For the most significant number of regular buyers, the most confusing and yet attention-catching query is over the series of processors in Intel reign asking Intel Core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7 - Which one should you Consider?
Confusion always has the hold on attraction in a spooky way. Even if other manufacturers are offering similar benefits, the marketing strategy of Intel didn’t go in vain. We, humans, love new toys, also if the difference is minimal from the previous.
And Intel is good at it, every year launching new series or generations, to let people ask the question- Which one should you consider? The more people ask, the more people know about the company; the more common name it becomes, the more trust it gains. That’s the promise, which means the dynasty expands in not-geek regions more-and-more, and always more.
Understanding What an Intel Processor Name Says
Even if it still occurs, Intel has tried to clear out your head a bit with their naming system.
Core iX series
First, to put, the i_ odd-numbering naming style of the different classes of processors has nothing to do with odd numbers, but to simplify the performance-based naming style, unlike the other series of Intel.
The sequence of these numbers stays with the universal thumb rule, i.e., i3, i5, and then comes i7. Based on performance, you can arrange them as i3 < i5 < i7. But there are also other facts to consider (coming right-up) on this matter. Also, there is already i9 of this series in the market to entertain power users, but we are excluding this one in today’s discussion with honor.
1st Digit for Generation
Let’s be skinny on the part following iX. After this portion, there left mostly a 4-digit number following capital letters. The first digit of the four individual numbers declares the generation. Each generation holds a family of chipsets having their lineup of Core i3, i5, i7, i9 processors. Higher generation family members are always expected to perform better than their lower generation predecessors. For instance, a 6th-gen Core i5 processor is inferior in performance than a 7th-gen Core i5 CPU.
Though the last generation is the 9th-gen with the code name of Coffee Lake Refresh, the 8th-gen is still the market-fav. Yet, the upcoming 10th-gen Ice Lake is going to break the news in 2020.
The code names are Intel’s way of remembering the process design of these different microprocessors based on process nodes. But these names can turn your head while reading through the details before buying a computer. Since the layman-way of obvious performance-difference has less concern with them, we don’t want to blow everyone’s head off here.
To talk about the recent models, 6th-gen takes Sky Lake, 7th-gen is reserved for Kaby lake, and 8th-gen goes with Coffee Lake and Cannon Lake for different microarchitectures. Still, you can check on the Intel page if you want. Also, Wikipedia and PCGamer have discussed it in detail.
Last 3 Digits
Now it’s time to dissect the last three digits in the name. Simply put, the more significant number implies a better performing CPU launched later than the smaller-numbered one. That is, Core i3-8250U performs a little better than the Core i3-8109U model.
Here comes the delicious confusion of the alphabetic nomenclature:
Y (Most Power-efficient) - Battery-efficiency made their performance worst in line. Ultra-slim ultra-light laptop and mobile CPUs come with this designation.
U (Ultra-low Power Consumption) - These laptop-only designation has the same purpose as Y but consume a little more battery. Performs better than Y, but lesser than the others.
T (Power-optimized) - Similar purpose as well. Runs better than U, as it optimizes less power than the previous.
K (Clock Unlocked) - Means the CPU clock is unlocked to enable overclocking for extra performance. But this technology ignites more power-hunger and heat-production.
Q (4 Cores) - Only quad-core processors can be known from the CPU name.
H (Powerful Graphics) - Though it’s still an integrated one from Intel, they offer the better-than-average graphics technology with H-equipped models.
G (Advanced Integrated Graphics) - Bestows the CPU model with a similar but higher-performing graphics system than H. It contains a little dedicated GPU unit.
F (No Integrated Graphics) - That is, you need a discrete graphics card with these models. This variety is saved only for i9 CPUs.
Other suffixes are explained in Intel’s number guideline page.
The Difference Between The Three Series
Before going into detail, let’s destroy a common conclusion here. More money does not speak for better efficiency all the time. Though price arrangement on the i-class CPUs is similar to performance, that is i3 < i5 <i7 again; it also varies on other specs. Sometimes, the cost difference is minimal, as in Dell XPS 13. In those cases, better features can uplift the efficiency of the lower class model up to the upper one, even if the cost may hold some significant divergence.
Based on performance, a physical core tackles the similar workload of a single CPU. Hardware-intensive jobs like Adobe suite-oriented tasks for modern content creations ignite the extra cores while needed. Hence, the more core in a processor, the more powerful it is.
Generally, Core i3 CPUs have only dual-cores, while Core i5 and i7 get Quad-cores and even Hexa-cores in desktop models or more in latest generation processors. After that, the difference is pretty simple when it’s between Core i3 and others, but in the case of i5 and i7, the core-based performance-scale differs so little to confuse any buyer. If you compare between two Apple/Desktop/Laptop CPUs of the same generation, i5 reveals fewer abilities than i7.
Again, some 10th, 9th, or 8th-gen Core i3 CPUs with 4 Cores demand more money, yet shockingly outrunning the expectation of any old-gen i3 models. Yes, the same-old confusion goes on since you get quad-cores in i3 CPUs, too, also having four threads.
It’s the technology with a similar purpose of multiple cores. Though less efficient than physical cores, this mechanism fools the CPU to believe that it has more cores than mentioned.
A thread means a virtual core. So, one physical core will work double as a dual-core with the help of a thread. Therefore, when you need two cores for multitasking, the working core won’t awake the other but the thread in it. This arrangement reduces power-consumption and heat-dissipation due to multi-core uses. But in the end, a dual-core processor with hyperthreading is always slower than a quad-core one.
Core i3 and i7 classes are rewarded with hyper-threading, while i5 is not. Again, the new generations are messing with rules. Some 10th, 9th, and even 8th-gen i5 processors can support hyperthreading too, as we can see in Dell Latitude 3400 laptop model.
It’s an old but brilliant overclocking mechanism to dynamically accelerate the processor clock velocity while demanded from resource-heavy programs, like video editing or gaming.
Typically, Core i3 does not bear Turbo boost technology, but i5 and i7 do. But the typical does not work on 8th to 10th gen modern CPUs. Go to the Intel website, and you will find HP ProBook 440 G6 with an 8th-gen Core i3 processor supporting Turbo boost up to 3.9GHz. Even the latest i3 processors run on the base speed ranging from 3.6-4GHz, while their Turbo velocity lies between 4.2-4.6GHz.
The newest i5 base and Turbo speed range rock over 2.9-3.7GHz and 4.1-4.6GHz, respectively. For i7, these two velocities sit within 3-3.6GHz and 4.7-4.9GHz respective ranges.
It’s the built-in memory inside the processor chip, acting as a personal RAM. This memory remembers the repeated tasks activated by the processor. Hence, a large memory can remember more tasks.
In older models, Core i3 had a maximum 3MB cache, while i5 and i7 were equipped with 3-6MB and 4-8MB of memory, respectively.
New generation i3 CPUs get 6-8MB latest L3 cache, while i5 and i7 earned themselves 9MB and 12MB of the same memory, respectively.
The most common Integrated graphics units are HD and UHD Graphics. Some computers offer upgraded units of Iris and Iris Pro or Plus technologies with the added advantage of a little quantity of dedicated memory. Though they are the better performer, they chew a bit more electricity than the fully integrated ones.
HD/UHD climates are mostly similar performers, though UHD is superior. They can handle mainstream creativity tasks and multi-display (three displays at once) requirements, but not recommended for gaming or resource-intensive scientific jobs. Most 9th-gen CPUs keep UHD Graphics 630 cores or similar throughout all of their CPU classes.
The numerical-orientation is also similar. Iris Plus 650 outperforms UHD Graphics 630, which beats HD Graphics 510. Playing 3D games in 1080p resolution or more with HD/UHD seeks assistance from a dedicated GPU unit.
Lastly, the decision is always yours. But always stay focused on your purpose, so that you don’t end up paying more for an overkill. If CPU-intensive performance is your day-long requirement, you must grab the best generation on your budget-orientation. The performance eats on battery-life and produces oppressive heat.
There are always lots of overlaps on CPU frequency, thermal output (TDW), and other specs discussed above. Core i7 class has top-end frequency and higher wattage, while i3 and i5 have little less. You may consider i3 class for basic stuff and i5 class for midway programs though their latest generations can surprise you in various ways. The i7 series is best for multitasking and power-efficient jobs.
Before purchasing, you can always invest a little more time on detailed-research in official Intel Ark page, or the suggestions given in websites like CPUBenchmark or CPUBoss.