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What Makes Intel i3, i5 and i7 Processors Different?

Intel announced the launch of its sixth generation core processors at the annual trade show, IFA, held in Berlin, in September 2015. The lineup, codenamed Skylake, featured 48 processors, including the ideal processor for a boutique gaming PC, the Core i7-i7-6700K and Core i5 6600K.


The company is calling this range “the most scalable ever” and has declared that it is up to 2.5x faster in compute performance than previous chips, up to 30x faster in graphics performance, with up to three times the battery life. Intel’s range of desktop chips have now diversified from the bare-bone Intel Pentium to Intel Core i3, i5 and i7. At a very superficial level, the categories are named according to efficiency, with i3 being the most basic and i7 the most advanced. However, in order to understand the finer differences between the three, one needs to look into the various factors that make up the differences.

What do the 6th Generation Processors Offer?

Before we begin to understand the differences between the three types of chips and their respective potential, it is important to establish what is common between them. They are all based on the 14nm die shrink and therefore have the same architecture. The new processors will need Socket 1151 motherboards, which also come with the newest Intel Z170 chipset, which can support 6 SATA 6 Gbps ports; according to an article in Tech2. This generation of processors provides better performance with less power, while also offering full support for DDR4 Memory. The integrated graphics of the 6th generation CPUs will have an improvement of performance by 28%, compared to the previous generation, which will rival even some low/mid-range GPUs; according to Velocity Micro. This makes them the ideal processors for anyone looking to build a boutique gaming PC. Another added advantage of the 6th generation is that it is envisioned for compatibility with Windows 10, which will enhance responsiveness and performance like never before!

Factors that Distinguish Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 from Each Other

  • Number of Cores: The basic premise behind the number of cores is that the more cores there are, the more the processor can multitask. This, however, can also be accentuated by hyperthreading. Currently, all i3 processors have dual cores, whereas most i5s are quad core, except the i5- 4570T, which has a dual core. However, all i5s come equipped with improved integrated graphics and turbo boost. A core i7, on the other hand, can have as many as 2 cores in an ultrabook, to 8 in a workstation. This is where scalability really reaches its height, making the i7 a boon for gaming enthusiasts and multitaskers.
  • Cache Size: This refers to the CPU’s ability to store data that is repeatedly used for quick access. Cache like RAM is built into the CPU but it is even faster. One way to understand it is that while cache reduces interaction with RAM, RAM reduces interaction with the hard disk; say the experts at PC World. Therefore, the larger the cache size of a CPU, the more data it can store and therefore the faster its processing is. Core i3 has 3-4MB cache, while Core i5 has 4-6 MB cache. All core i7 CPUs have 8MB cache, except for i7 4770R, which has 6MB cache.
  • Hyperthreading: Traditionally, only one thread or task could be serviced by one core. Therefore, a dual core processor could only process two threads simultaneously. However in the 6th generation, Intel has perfected the technology called hyperthreading, which allows a single core to schedule and assign multiple threads at the same time; according to The Intel Core i3 processors are dual core but support hyperthreading, as opposed to the Core i5s, most of which are quad core but do not have hyperthreading. Therefore, while an i3 processor could be handling for threads simultaneously with two cores, an i5 processor could also handle the same the number of threads but with more cores. However, it is Core i7 processors that enjoy the best of both worlds, since most of them are quad cores and support hyperthreading.
  • Turbo Boost: If you thought hyperthreading was a mind-blowing concept, wait till you learn about the Intel Turbo Boost technology. It allows a processor to dynamically increase its clockspeed whenever the need arises. What this means is that if you are multitasking and your processor is beginning to get overburdened, instead of freezing, it will initiate turbo boost to tackle the extra pressure. The Core i3 processors do not have turbo boost, but all of the i5 processors are equipped with Turbo Boost 0.2. The Core i7 has higher turbo boost for clockspeed up to 3.90 GHz, depending on number of active cores, current usage, current power supply and temperature of the processor. This, combined with the new X99 Platform Controller Hub, can make the most exclusive boutique gaming PC.

Therefore, while the Core i7 is by far the best thing that we have ever known in computing, the i5 and i3 experiences also promise to be largely improved from what we have been used to. The i3 has subtle advantages over the i5, but the i5 with more cache size and turbo boost technology that will outperform the i3, despite the lack of hyperthreading. Overall, the new generation of processors promise to be worth every bit of money spent on them.

Written By

Marcelo Fincher is a blogger & writer on technology related topics with years of experience in studying technological advancements. In his spare time, Marcelo likes to read books and take a walk on the beach.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. justin

    February 16, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Didn’t know the difference until now, but I do know that i5 is for medium gaming and i7 is for hardcore gaming. The i3 i’m not really sure if you can play games with it. I’m a gamer so this is what I believe before.

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