Intel Core i3 vs i5 vs i7 vs i9: Which CPU Should You Buy?

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The processor is the most important component of a computer. Your PC’s performance, speed across various applications and video games are heavily dependent on your processor.

When it comes to Intel, you’ll be having an extensive range of CPUs to choose from. These options range from affordable Pentium, Core i3 processors to Celeron processors used in mobile devices to Xeon processors made especially for workstations and servers to the extreme Core i7 and Core i9 processors.

Although Pentium, Xeon, Celeron, and other processors are also made by Intel, the Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9 processors are the most widely used Intel processors. These are also the processors that confuse people with their naming scheme and varied performance.

This is what we are going to discuss in this article. What’s the difference between an i3, i5, i7, and an i9 processor, and which one is the right processor for you? Everything will be explained to you in layman’s terms such that you’ll be able to understand this article even if you’re not a tech geek.

Intel Core Processor Names and Suffixes Explained

Intel Core Processor Names and Suffixes Explained

Let’s first start by understanding how the intel Core processors are named.

Every Intel processor’s name starts with the Brand of the processor like Xeon, Pentium, Celeron, Core, etc. 

These Brand names are followed by the Brand modifier. For example, i3, i5, i7, and i9 are brand modifiers for the brand name Core. 

The Brand modifier is followed by a hyphen which is followed by a four-digit number in the case of Intel Core processors. The first digit of the four-digit number indicates the generation. 

For example, in Core i7-8700K, “8” indicates the generation of that processor. A generation is basically a family of processors that intel release. Currently, we are up to the tenth generation of Intel Core processors. Latest generation processors have better performance, are faster and more power-efficient than previous generation processors. 

The last three digits of the four-digit number represent the SKU numeric digits. The SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) number is simply the model number of the processor. A higher model number indicates that the processor more recent.

For example, between Core i7-6700K and Core i7-6800K, the latter was released much recently than the former. 

Finally, we have the Product line Suffix. These indicate a special feature of the processor. Sometimes the Suffix is placed in front of the SKU numbers. There are also few processors without any suffix.

For example, in Core i7-6700K, “K” is the Suffix.

The Core i7-6700 has no suffix and 

The Core i7-7Y75 has a suffix “Y” in front of the SKU numbers.

intel processor name suffix meaning

What does the suffix mean?

K: Unlocked Processors. A processor having a suffix “K” means it can be overclocked to achieve a performance boost. Non-K processors cannot be overclocked as efficiently as “K” processors. 

H: High-performance graphics. A processor having a suffix “H” means it has a powerful integrated graphics processor. 

Y: Extremely Low Power Consumption. A processor having a “Y” suffix consumes very less power than the non-Y processor. They are mostly used for ultra-thin and ultra-light laptops.

U: Ultra Low Power Consumption. They are designed especially for Laptops and All-in-one PCs. A processor having “U” as suffix consumes less power. They are power-efficient and help preserve battery life.

T: Power-optimized. They can be used in a standard desktop socket. They are mostly used in Small Form-factor PCs. A processor having a “T” suffix consumes less power than a non-T suffixed processor. Their performance is also affected due to this.

Q: Quad-Core. This suffix is given to a processor having four physical cores.

G: Includes discrete graphics. A processor having suffix “G” means it has a discrete graphics processor built into it. They are powerful than the standard in-built graphics found on other processors.

Knowing this basic naming scheme will make be of huge advantage when you’re buying a processor. With this simple knowledge, you are miles ahead of people who are confused and buy into marketing BS.

Intel Core i3 vs i5 vs i7 vs i9: Number of Cores

A core is an important part of a processor that performs calculations, receive instructions, and process those instructions. 

The higher the number of cores a processor has, the more it can process data. The presence of higher cores leads to an increase in performance in applications and frame rates in video games.

A processor is called a dual-core processor if it has two cores, a quad-core processor if it has four cores, Hexa-core processor if it has six cores and octa-core processor if it has eight cores.

In most cases, an i3 will have a lesser number of cores than an i5. An i5 will have lesser cores than an i7 and an i7 will have lesser cores than an i9. There are a few exceptions here and there but this is the general scenario.

An i3 processor has 2 to 4 cores. An i5 processor has 4 to 6 cores. An i7 processor has 6 to 8 cores and an i9 processor has 8 cores.

This is why, when they belong to the same generation, i9 processors are the most powerful out of all the four. Next comes i7 processors followed by i5 and i3 processors respectively. 

Having more cores is beneficial if you’re into

  1. Video Games
  2. Video Editing and rendering

 

Intel Core i3 vs i5 vs i7 vs i9: Hyper-Threading

As I’ve told you earlier, Cores help process instructions. Having many cores can help you process more instructions. Having more cores also consumes more power and is expensive.

This is where Hyper-Threading comes into play.

Hyper-Threading is a technology from intel that helps a single physical core to act as two virtual cores. These virtual cores perform various tasks without having to activate the other physical cores so that power is conserved. These virtual cores are call threads

A dual-core i3 processor with hyper-threading will have 4 threads.

A quad-core i7 processor with hyper-threading will have 8 threads.

An octa-core i9 processor with hyper-threading will have 16 threads

Although a dual-core CPU with multi-threading won’t be as powerful as a quad-core CPU, it is much faster than an ordinary dual-core CPU without hyper-threading.

The hyper-threading technology is present across the i3, i7, and i9 processors. It is absent among the desktop i5 processors.

Hyper-threading is very beneficial if you’re into

  1. Video Editing
  2. 3D Rendering
  3. Multi-Tasking

Hyper-threading has practically no effect on gaming.

Intel Core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7 vs i9: Turbo Boost

You might have come across the terms base frequency (or base clock) and turbo frequency (or boost clock) while buying a CPU. 

The base frequency is the frequency at which your processor will run at idle conditions. When you’re running an intensive task that requires your CPU to reach its full power, Your CPU will automatically boost the frequency of the base clock provided it is running at a suitable temperature. Max Turbo frequency is the maximum up to which it can boost your base frequency.

For example, the i7-7700K has a base frequency of 4.20 GHz and its Max Turbo Frequency is 4.50 GHz. This means when you’re performing an intensive task like video editing or gaming, Your CPU will automatically boost its clock speed from 4.20 GHz to 4.50 GHz. When you complete that intensive task, your clock speed returns to its normal value.

Turbo boost is the technology developed by Intel that will boost the processor’s base clock frequency automatically when it is needed

Turbo Boost if very beneficial if you’re into

  1. Playing Video Games
  2. Video Editing
  3. 3D Rendering

The Turbo Boost technology is not supported by the Core i3 processors. It is supported across the i5, i7, and the i9 processors.

Intel Core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7 vs i9: Cache Size

Intel Core i3 vs. i5 vs. i7 vs i9: Cache Size

Just the way a PC has different Memory options like RAMs, HDDs, SSDs to store various types of data and instructions, A processor also has its own memory where it can store data.

CPU Cache is the processor’s own RAM. Most CPUs have only a few megabytes (MB) of cache size unlike the gigabytes (GB) present in RAMs and HDDs. Don’t be fooled by its small size. It is much faster than regular RAMs and SSDs because it is in-built into the processor itself.

Having a Higher Cache size is better as it can store more data and access it quickly. It is essential for increased speed and overall improved performance.

Older generation i3 processors have a cache size of 3MB with newer generations having a cache size of 6MB or 8MB.

Older generation i5 processors have a cache size of 4MB or 6MB while newer generation i5 processors have a cache size of 8MB or 9MB

Older generation i7 processors had a cache size of 6MB or 8MB while newer generation i7 processor has a cache size of 8MB or 12MB

The i9 processors have a cache size of 16MB.

Intel Core i3 vs i5 vs i7 vs i9: Integrated Graphics

The Intel Core CPUs come with integrated graphics that can help you perform graphics-intensive tasks.

Let me tell you that these are no way as powerful as a dedicated graphics card. They can help you run video games at lower resolutions with a modest graphics pre-set. They’ll also help you perform basic photos editing and video editing. They can save you electricity since you’re not using a dedicated Graphics card.

High-end CPUs like i9s and i7s have better-integrated graphics than i3s and i5s. There are three generations of integrated graphics. They are Intel HD, Intel Iris, and Intel Iris Pro (or Intel Iris Plus). These names are generally followed by a number. The higher the number, the better the performance.

For example, Intel UHD graphics 630 is better than Intel UHD graphics 620.
The difference in performance is modest even when you compare from one generation to another. So, don’t spend too much time thinking about these.

Intel Core i3 vs i5 vs i7 vs i9: Which one is Right For You?

ProcessorPhysical Cores Cache SizeHyper-ThreadingTurbo BoostIntegrated GraphicsPrice
Core i32 to 43 MB (Old)
6 – 8 MB (New)
YesNoEntry-levelLess
Core i54 to 64 – 6 MB (Old)
8 – 9 MB (New)
NoYesMid-RangeMid-Range
Core i76 to 86 – 8 MB (Old)
8 – 12 MB (New)
YesYesPowerfulExpensive
Core i98+16 MBYesYesVery PowerfulVery Expensive

Intel Core i3 Processors

The intel core i3 processors entry-level CPUs that are economical and is the best choice if you’re building a PC for regular use like browsing the internet, sending emails, watching movies, social networking.

It is also best for people who use their PC for Office work that use MS office, ZOOM, etc. You won’t be needing many cores, higher cache size, and Turbo boost for basic tasks and office work.

I would strongly not recommend it for gaming, photo, and video editing. Its integrated graphics are not powerful and the processor may bottleneck powerful graphics card limiting its performance.

Intel Core i5 Processors

The intel core i5 processors are mid-range CPUs that offer a perfect balance between price and performance. They are a great choice for students. They are also good for regular use and a great choice if you’re a casual gamer.

You can also produce music, edit videos, and photos seamlessly without any issues. It comes with the turbo boost technology to assist you when you’re performing intensive tasks.

It comes with a decent number of cores and cache size. It can handle almost all the essential tasks.

Intel Core i7 Processors

The intel core i7 processors are high-end processors that are aimed towards users who want more out of their CPUs. Of course, these are powerful than i3 and i5 processors.

They have better integrated graphics and are aimed towards hard-core PC users. You can create content at higher resolutions, efficiently encode 4K videos, produce music, edit high-resolution images, multi-task like a pro and play demanding games.

They have all the important technologies like Turbo Boost, Hyper-Threading. They have more cores and a higher cache size and are perfect for most heavy users.

The i7 processors are the best choice for most professionals and heavy gamers.

Intel Core i9 Processors

The intel core i9 processors are the latest top-of-the-line processors that have replaced the i7 processors. They are the most powerful out of all the four CPUs. They are made for professionals working on music production, video editing, 3D rendering, and for heavy gaming.

They support mega-tasking seamlessly without breaking a sweat. Content creation even at 4K resolutions will be a breeze. They have all the good things wrapped inside them like hyper-threading, more cores, higher cache size, and turbo boost. Its Integrated graphics are the most powerful out of the rest.

Unless you are an enthusiast who wants nothing but the best, the i9 processors are an overkill. I suggest you get a powerful latest generation i7 processor. It offers almost the same benefits at a lower price. This is also the same in the case of laptops.

The i9 laptop processors are no doubt the best intel can offer but unless you make use of its full power doing High-end video editing, Heavy gaming, 3D rendering and high-end music production, I suggest you go with the latest generation i7 processor.

 

If you have any other queries, ask us in the comments section below. We’ll get back to you ASAP.