Even though they’ve been gone for over a decade, Intel’s Core, Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 processor lineup still seems relatively young. Here we take a look at processors, explain the technologies behind them, explore Intel’s philosophy, and help you decide which processor to buy.
Rather than going the traditional way of comparing processors, showing you a few benchmarks, game performance specs, and more, this review will focus on explaining the “core” of Intel’s mainstream processor line, which also includes the new Core i9 family. p
While the tests are useful for avid gamers, they are useless for the average computer user. This guide should help you choose a computer with the right processor for your needs without knowing what 3DMark is.
The first thing you might be wondering is what is a good time to buy a PC with an Intel Core processor? It’s a little offensive when someone goes out to buy something and the next day they find out that the company has just released the best model.
The answer is almost always yes, now is the time to get a computer with a Core series processor. Processors and Intel have supported product lines for several years now. Take a look at their Core 2 Duo lineup as an example.
Core 2 Duo processors first debuted in mid-2006. These processors were still being released by manufacturers in new systems until 2010. The Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 processors have been around since 2008 and aren’t going anywhere. Additionally, in 2016 Intel moved from a traditional tick-by-tick refresh cycle to a much slower three-step process, architecture, and optimization cycle.
Previously, every tick was a major upgrade in terms of speed, efficiency, and production. However, now it turned out to be too difficult. The new cycle adds improvements and only every few years will we see major upgrades such as moving from 14nm to 10nm chips, etc.
Intel assigns a codename to each microprocessor architecture update. You’ve probably heard names like Broadwell, Haswell, Skylake, Skylake-X, Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Cannon Lake. Wikipedia has a nice table with all the codenames and release dates Basically, consumers don’t have to worry about next-generation chips because they don’t have to be very different from those on the market.
So which processor should you buy? The latest Skylake-X i9-7980XE with 18 cores and 36 threads, or a simple Coffee Lake i3-8350K with 4 cores and one-tenth the cost of an i9? Well, it all depends on your needs and budget. First, let’s take a look at each processor brand.
We’ll start at the bottom and move up. Core i3 is Intel’s latest budget processor. Even though the Core i3 is the youngest of them all, it is still a very good processor, receiving good to outstanding reviews from most experts and customers alike.
The technology behind the Core i3 processors includes dual-core, hyper-threading, and virtualization. Core i3 processors support 64-bit Windows. Taking advantage of Intel’s new chipset and 14nm technology, the Core i3 can handle most of today’s computing needs.
In addition, this year, for the first time, a Core i3 processor (Coffee Lake) will have 4 cores instead of 2. Each core is like its own processor, and the more cores you have, the more tasks your computer can do simultaneously.
Another big difference between Core i3 and later is that the Core i3 doesn’t support turbo acceleration. Turbo Boost is the ability to overclock a processor beyond its base clock speed. Also, the latest Coffee Lake i3 processors lack hyper-threading.
Should you buy a computer with a Core i3 processor? It depends. If you use your computer for basic tasks like word processing, email, surfing the internet, watching videos, and more, the i3 Quad-core processor is more than enough to handle it all with ease. The Core i3 processor is a reliable and affordable choice for most people.
The Core i5 is Intel’s latest mid-range processor. A step up from Core i3 processors, the i5 will give you a noticeable difference in speed depending on the type of applications you run. If you play solitaire, you won’t notice the difference between Core i3 and Core i5 processors. If you edit multiple files in Adobe Photoshop, you will notice that the Core i5 can complete tasks faster.
Technically, Core i5 processors are sold a little differently. There are three main types of Core i5 processors: dual-core, quad-core, and now six-core. The i5 dual-core processors have 32nm and 22nm technologies, support for hyper-threading, support for virtualization and Turbo Boost technology. The quad-core i5 processors have 45-, 22-, or 14nm technology, support virtualization and Turbo Boost, but do not support hyper-threading.
The latest Coffee Lake i5 chips do not support hyper-threading either, but the number has been increased to six instead of four.
Do the three types of Core i5 processors offer similar performance? For single-threaded applications, six cores will outperform dual cores, but won’t make much of a difference over quad cores. However, for multi-threaded applications, the newest six cores will have a significant advantage over the dual and quad core versions. When buying an i5, pay attention to the number of cores in the processor.
Should you buy a computer with a Core i5 processor? In most situations, the Core i5 is a win-win if you can spend the extra money. The Core i5 offers enough performance to do things like video editing and gaming, and more than enough performance to do basic things like word processing, web surfing, and email. The Core i5 processor is a great mid-range processor for people who often and often use their computers for multiple tasks.
Next up is the Intel Core i7 processor line. The Core i7 has been the top chip of the Core series so far. This was the case before the Core i9 and Core X series chips. However, the Core i7 series is still quite expensive. The Core i7 also comes in several flavors. The difference is in the chipset.
Prior to Coffee Lake, the i7 series featured quad-core performance, virtualization support, hyper-threading, and Turbo Boost technology. With Coffee Lake, we get a nice boost to six cores, just like the i5, but the i7 is hyper-threaded so we get a total of 12 threads.
Core i7 processors are primarily used for multitasking, heavy multimedia tasks, top-notch gaming, and heavy computing tasks. You will see the benefits of the i7 when running a couple of virtual machines, or when editing 4K or higher video in Premiere.
The i7 processors also have more on-board cache memory, which allows them to perform repetitive tasks more efficiently. Larger caches also mean better multitasking performance.
Should you buy a computer with an i7 processor? For the vast majority of people, this is overkill. It would be much wiser to use something like the i5-8600K and spend the savings on a better graphics card, more RAM, or even a faster SSD hard drive.
However, if you do CPU intensive tasks from time to time or play 2K or 4K games, the i7 series is a great choice.
Last but not least, we have a new series of Core i9 chips that are very different from the rest of the lineup. First, all i9 chips use LG’s new 2066 socket, which requires a motherboard with Intel X299 chipset.
The i9 series chips are also the most powerful set of processors Intel has released. The cheapest one has 10 cores, a huge L3 cache and now costs about a thousand dollars. The most powerful i9 has a staggering 18 cores (36 threads) and will set you back about a cheap used car.
All i9 processors are also part of the Core-X series of processors. There are also Core-X versions of the Core i7 and Core i5 processors, although the i9 processors are completely inferior to the i7 and i5 versions in benchmarks.
Should you buy a computer with an i9 processor? Yes, if you want the coolest, fastest, coolest computer you can own. Just be prepared to shell out some serious money. Plus, when you get a processor with such high specs, it only makes sense if all the other components are high-end too. You are talking several thousand dollars here, so the i9 is literally meant for 3D animation, scientific computing, etc.
Conclusion and advice
Regardless of which processor you decide to buy, you will get a quality processor that will last you a long time. However, every purchase is a balance between cost and performance. I recommend using a site like CPUBenchmark for details on each processor in question.
For example, the best processor, the Core i9-7980XE, has a terrible CPU performance rating due to its high cost:
Use this tool along with your budget and you need to determine the best processor to buy. Even if you’re not planning on buying a processor, hopefully this gives you a good idea of ??the differences between Intel’s Core i3, i5, i7 and i9 processors. Enjoy!