What is the difference between Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?

We take a look at the latest 7th Generation Intel Core family of chips

Intel is phasing in 7th Generation Core i processors.

Intel is phasing in 7th Generation Core i processors.

Intel Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 CPUs have been around for a few years now, but some buyers still get stumped whenever they attempt to build their own systems and are forced to choose among the three. With the more recent 7th Generation (Kaby Lake) architecture now available in notebooks that are on store shelves, and the rest of the processors expected to launch in January, we expect the latest wave of buyers to ask the same kind of questions.

Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 — the difference in a nutshell

Generally speaking, Core i7s are better than Core i5s, which are in turn better than Core i3s. Core i7 does not have seven cores nor does Core i3 have three cores. The numbers are simply indicative of their relative processing powers.

Intel 7th Gen Core processor. Image credit: Intel.
Intel 7th Gen Core processor. Image credit: Intel.

Their relative levels of processing power are based on a collection of criteria involving their number of cores, clock speed (in GHz), size of cache, as well as technologies like Turbo Boost 2.0 and Hyper-Threading.

Note: Core processors can be grouped in terms of their target devices, i.e., those for laptops and those for desktops. Each has its own specific characteristics/specs.

[Related: Which CPU is best: Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen?]
[Related: Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen motherboard review]
[Related: Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU review]

Intel recently launched its 7th Generation processors to power fanless 2-in-1 (convertible laptop/tablet) devices and ultrathin notebooks – known as the Y-series and U-series processors. Theses processors are designed to strike a balance between performance and mobility, including longer battery life.

The second phase of 7th generation processors, including those for desktops, gaming notebooks, workstations and more, will launch in January. We’ll update this article to cover these processors when that time comes.

Number of cores

The more cores there are, the more tasks (known as threads) can be served at the same time. Since the 7th Generation Y-series and U-series are designed for maximum battery life and fanless designs, all processors in these families feature two cores.

Desktop processors, starting from the 6th generation Core i5 and i7 desktop processors are quad core and hence can handle more tasks at the same time, while lower end Core i3 desktop processors are dual core.

At this point, I’d like to grab the opportunity to illustrate how a number of factors affect the overall processing power of a CPU beyond just number of cores, and determine whether you should consider i3, an i5, or an i7.

Even if a CPU only has two cores (known as dual core), most Intel CPUs benefit from a technology known as Intel Turbo Boost 2.0.

Find out more about Intel Turbo Boost 2.0, Cache size, Intel Hyper-Threading Technology on the next page

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags pc componentsCPUsintel

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

PC World Staff

PC World
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?