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 Turbo Boost Technology 2.0

The Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 allows a processor to dynamically increase its clock speed whenever the need arises. The maximum amount that Turbo Boost can raise clock speed at any given time is dependent on the number of active cores, the estimated current consumption, the estimated power consumption, and the processor temperature.

Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 is available on the 7th Generation Core i7 and Core i5 processors currently available in notebooks.

Cache size

Whenever the CPU finds that it keeps on using the same data over and over, it stores that data in its cache. Cache is just like RAM, only faster — because it’s built into the CPU itself. Both RAM and cache serve as holding areas for frequently used data. Without them, the CPU would have to keep on reading from the hard disk drive, which would take a lot more time.

Basically, RAM minimises interaction with the hard disk, while cache minimises interaction with the RAM. Obviously, with a larger cache, more data can be accessed quickly. Intel’s latest processors feature Intel Smart Cache, which dynamically allocates shared cache to each processor core, based on workload, reducing latency and improving performance.

The 7th Generation Core i3 and Core i5 processors in the U-series and Y-series have either 3MB or 4MB of cache. The Core i7s in the range have 4MB of cache. This is clearly one of the reasons why an i7 outperforms an i5.

Intel Hyper-Threading Technology

Strictly speaking, only one thread can be served by one core at a time. So if a CPU is a dual core, then supposedly only two threads can be served simultaneously. However, Intel has a technology called Hyper-Threading. This enables a single core to serve multiple threads.

The U and Y series 7th Gen processors available in notebooks today are all dual core. However, thanks to Hyper-Threading Technology they can serve two threads per core. In other words, a total of four threads can run simultaneously. This means highly threaded applications can get more work done in parallel, completing tasks sooner.

The upshot is that if you do a lot of things at the same time on your PC, then it might be worth forking out a bit more for a Core i7. However, if you use your PC to check emails, do some banking, read the news, and download a bit of music, you might be equally served by the cheaper Core i3.

Another factor in this deliberation is that more and more programs are being released with multi-thread capability. That is, they can use more than one CPU thread to execute a single command. So things happen more quickly. Some photo editors and video editing programs are multi-threaded, for example.

Hopefully this gives you some insight for your next CPU selection.

This article is based upon and older, Haswell-based one that can be found, here.

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