CPU Processor Comparison – Intel Core i7 vs. i5 vs. i3

Although they’ve been out for a while now, Intel’s Core lineup, Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 processors, are still considered relatively young (for processor line marketing). Here, we will review the three processors, explaining the technologies behind them, Intel’s philosophy, and help you decide which one you should buy.

Rather than taking the traditional processor comparison route by showing you a bunch of benchmarks, game performance specs, etc, this review will focus on explaining the “core” of Intel’s core lineup.

Although benchmarks are useful for heavy computer gamers, they pretty much mean jack to the average computer user. This guide should help you pick out a computer, with a good processor for your needs, without having to know what “Cinebench” is.

Intel Processor Ratings

The first thing you may be wondering, is now a good time to buy a PC with a Core processor? It’s a bit disheartening for anyone to go buy something, and find out the next day that the company just released a better model.

The answer is yes, now would be an okay time to get a computer with a Core series processor. Processor’s and Intel have a history of keeping product lines around for several years. Just look at their Core 2 Duo lineup as an example.

Core 2 Duo processors first made their debut in mid 2006, nearly 4 years ago. Computer manufacturers are just now starting to weed out their lineups of the Core 2 Duos. As we mentioned above, Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 processors are still pretty young, meaning they should be around for at least a couple more years. Below, is a current screenshot of some computers that Dell is offering as their Studio lineup.

Studio Desktop

Should you buy the Studio Desktop pictured above? Absolutely not. $759 is just a bit too high for a PC with an “older” Core 2 Duo processor. Rather, the following would be a better option.

Inspiron 580

Why would the Inspiron computer be cheaper than the Studio? Aside from Inspiron being Dell’s base line, and Studio being Dell’s mid-range line, the Core line of processors (i3, i5, i7) are actually being marketed cheaper then the older Core 2 Duos and Core 2 Quads; strategically, making them more affordable to the consumer.

Most likely, this is due to the struggling economy, and to put more pressure on Intel’s rival company AMD, which has earned a reputation as being a much more affordable processor manufacturer than Intel.

Core i3

We’ll start at the bottom and work our way up. Core i3 is Intel’s latest budget processor. Even though the Core i3 is the lowest of the bunch, it’s still a very good processor that has received good to outstanding reviews by the majority of experts and customers alike.

The technology behind Core i3 processors includes dual core base, hyper threading support, and virtualization. Core i3 processors do support 64-bit versions of Windows. By taking advantage of Intel’s new chipset and 32nm technology, Core i3’s have even been known to perform closely to lower end Core 2 Quad processors.

Should you buy a computer with a Core i3 processor? It depends. If you use your computer for basic tasks such as word processing, email, surfing the web, etc., a Core i3 processor is more than enough to handle all of that with ease. A core i3 processor is a solid, affordable choice for the heavy majority of people.

Core i3

Core i5

Core i5 is the latest “mid-range” processor by Intel. A step up from the Core i3, i5 processors will give you a noticeable difference in speed, depending on what type of applications that you run. If you are playing solitaire, you aren’t going to be able to tell a difference between Core i3 and Core i5 processors. If you are editing multiple files in Adobe Flash, with virtualization software, you may notice the Core i5 to be snappier.

Technically, Core i5 processors are marketed a bit differently. There are two main types of Core i5 Processors, dual core, and quad core. Dual core i5 processors have 32nm technology, hyper threading support, virtualization support, and Turbo Boost technology. Quad core i5 processors have 45nm technology, virtualization support and Turbo Boost technology, but do not have hyper threading support.

Do the two types of Core i5 processors offer similar performance? Yes, in most situations. However, one may be better than another when running multi threaded applications. Be sure to take note of which specific Core i5’s are dual core vs. Core i5’s that are quad core, if you are looking to buy a specific processor.

Should you buy a computer with a Core i5 processor? In most situations, a Core i5 is a safe bet. Core i5’s offer enough performance to do stuff like video editing and gaming, and more than enough performance to do basic stuff like word processing, internet surfing, and email. A Core i5 processor is a great, mid-range priced processor for people who use their computers frequently and often multi task.

core i5 processor

Not so fast. You haven’t read about the fastest yet. Be sure to continue on to Part 2 of the series, where we breakdown Intel’s fastest processor, the Core i7, and conclude with some further advice on buying, as well as Intel.

Comments [53]

  1. Perfect, this is great. Be sure to also mention if it is better to get the lowest end i7 or the highest end i5 if you are looking for a top performer of "everything" but are on a budget…some i5 turbo to 3.2 but some i7s turbo to only 2.8… Help!

  2. Nice article but where the heck is part 2? The title of the article refers to the i7 which is what I wanted to know about.

  3. Part 2 is coming tomorrow! Sorry about that guys. Glad you enjoyed it!

  4. why is the core i3 not able to support windows xp ?

  5. yeah, its way past march 18, where is part 2?

  6. Hi, Aseem,

    Can you send me an email notification when you have part 2 up, with the link. Your info has been good so far. I have to buy a computer today before dell offer expires. I am undecided between i5-750 and i7-860 processors. Difference of $100 dollars, which one should I buy. I intend to keep the comuter for a longer time, hate changing every 3-4 years.

  7. One must be mindful that the real performance of a processor is not necessarily the clock speed(Ghz,etc),but how efficiently the processor co-operates with RAM.Depending of the architecture, 1 Ghz processor can perform better than a 2 or 3 gig!!Another point has to do with the way the OS was written.Case in point,and Apple computer,regardless if it is a G3,4,or 5,will always boot faster than any machine running MS OS because,though Apple OS is based on Darwin,the underlying OS is essentially UNIX,which has the best memory management system.Same can be said about Linux and the many off-shoots.

    Of note,some i7,if not all,have an on-chip memory controller.This idea is somewhat borrowed by Intel from it's rival, AMD, who had the north bridge and south bridge controller on-chip that enable faster throughput between the processor and the PCI bus.

  8. I want more info about core i3, i5, i7 and z. Here in this site, info is not sufficient for customer, who want to buy them.

  9. Hi,

    Can I install Windows XP on Core i3 processor? Is there any compatibility issue?

  10. Hi BG,

    The I3 processor is a 64 bit processor that is also backward compatible with 32 bit operating systems. So in theory, you could run either Windows XP 32 bit (by far the most common) or the 64 bit version which might be a little hard to find now days. So the processor itself should work.

    The real question that I think is more important to you is the rest of your hardware associated with and connected to your PC. For several years now, whenever Microsoft comes out with a new Operating System (OS), they publish a list of hardware that has been tested and certified to run on the OS. And to make it even easier, they developed a website where you can select the processor you are running and the OS you want to install and the website will run a hardware compatibility test on your PC and tell you if your hardware will support the OS you want to install.

    To do this properly, I would connect all of the possible hardware you may have that you use and power it all up including usb devices. One item I came across on my XP to Vista migration was that my usb card reader that I was using with XP would not work with Vista. This compatibility test told me it wouldn't and sure enough after I installed Vista, it didn't work. I checked with the vendor but they were not offering an updated Vista driver for the device so the hardware test I ran was correct.

    Just so I am clear, you will need to run the I3 processor PC on this website. Again, I doubt seriously the processor itself will have any compatibility problems at all but your other hardware is what you really need to verify.

    The website you will want to go to is:

    Before you go there, you'll need to be running IE. Chrome/FF won't work and most likely, only IE will work on their website. You might be able to get other browsers to work with an IE page tab emulator or something but since all PCs come with IE on them, I'd just go with that to keep it simple. If you look at the very top of the page, you will see 3 tabs: Windows 7, Vista and XP. Click on the XP tab.

    You'll see a choice of devices/systems. Obviously you can select either and if you purchased your PC already built and the PC is listed on the website, no harm trying it out. But if you built your own system or changed out hardware in your PC, you may want to go with the devices. That's what I typically do. It will take a bit to run and the report is usually several pages long but I've had decent luck with the accuracy of the report and hopefully you will too.

    If it finds something not compatible, it will tell you and I would plan on having to replace that item. This is actually a nice tool because lots of people want to upgrade their OS and just assume it will work but then find out after they started the upgrade process that something is not going to work for them. You can run the test and then you'll be in a much better position than you are today.

    Hope that helps.

  11. Prakash,

    I don't know of any reason why an I3 processor would not run Windows XP. The processor itself should work just fine.

    See my post above regarding running XP on an I3.

    Post back if you still have questions.

  12. So what happened to part 2 . . . . most of us have been waiting for it for ages ! ! Seems a bit silly to have an article which refers to the I3, I5 and I7 processors then finding out that there's absolutely nothing about the I7!! I think the best option would be to publish the whole article with BOTH part 1 and part 2!

  13. Thanks for explaining these, I was wondering what they were like in comparison to the Core 2 Duo processors. Quad core processors are perfect for gaming.

  14. Hi,

    It was a in-depth explanation of i3 and i5 processor and I am pleased to know that now I’ve some very useful information about them. Would wait for i7 buzz too.

    Thank you.

  15. I should decide between these two…

    – Intel i5 3.2 4000kb Dual-Core with integrated Intel Graphics

    – Intel i5 2.66 8000kb Quad-Core without integrated Graphics

    They are the same price. I'm willing to use the PC mostly for multi-tasking. I'll buy a good graphics card. I'm going to use Win7 64-bit OS.

    Any advice will be appreciated.

    I'd like to receive some more help with building up my PC so if some "pro" has time, contact hipes95@hotmail.com. :)

  16. which is better to buy for the laptop i3, i5, i7 or core 2 duo also tell me the priority in them

    means :


    core 2 duo> i7 > i5 > i3

    as i am a multi tasking man also the downloader man for movies by torrent or by idm

    also sometimes programming too like c,c++,oracle, dotnet, java etc.

    so please refer me the best processor for it. thanks

    also if you have any link then do mail me :


    or gupta.gourav763@gmail.com

  17. I am planning to buy new computer. I am working on programming languages so i need high speed processor. I am not understanding which processor I choose.

    Can an one suggest me with in (Core 2 duo, C i3, C i5, C i7)

  18. thanks for the info, it helped me decide which processor to buy….n i decided to go with a i5 dual core……….

  19. nice,

    but i wanna know about core i7 please post second part of this article…..

  20. For those waiting for Part 2 – the author did post it. It is in the link he pasted in his response above dated April 14th.

  21. Nice article. Just read it today. Found it by chance. Can I print it for my school magazine? I operate a computer school in Rwanda. I am originally from Zambia – that's why I speak English. But, can I be given permission to translate it to French for my Rwandese students?

  22. Thank You for this quick run down on these "new" processors. I have to start shopping for a strong machine that will allow to pull SQL server queries with no hiccups. I guess i5 with 8 gig of Ram should do the job.

  23. Hi all.

    I am a computer student, and I need to buy a laptop. I will do programming: vb/SQL/ Oricle/ .net/ java. Also, play games and movies. I have planned to buy a Dell Inspirion 15R, 3GB Ram, and Core i3 processor.

    I would just like to know if it's good enough for me?

    I am worried much about it. Please help me.


  24. So, when choosing between a 5i dual core or 5i quad core, when should you choose which processor?

  25. With reference to the statement "Dual core i5 processors have 32nm technology […] Quad core i5 processors have 45nm technology"

    …the i5-2500k, is quad core, and 32nm…

  26. Hi, guys.

    I want to buy "core i7 HCL ME Laptop" with the following configuration: "Intel Core I7, 640 GB hard disk, 8GB DDR3 RAM".

    I want to inquire "how's the performance for this laptop"?

  27. I also want to know more information about Ci3, ci5, n ci7, processor. How can I get the information?

  28. Very good article. Waiting for the second part. I have heard about a new generation processors after Core i 3, 5, 7. Is that true?


  29. Where is the link for the next page in the article?

  30. Hi.

    I'm into video graphics and would be running programs like Adobe After Effects and Premier Pro. Which of these processors will boost the performance of these apps? Or, what computer is best for video editing?

  31. Hi, I have purchesed Dell i5 core processor laptop with 500GB and 4GB RAM and 15″.

    I want to intall Visual Basic and Oracle DB on my laptop, can any one suggest me which version of these programs will support the i5 core processor?



  32. I am planning to buy new laptop. I am working on programming languages so i need high speed processor. I am not understanding which processor I choose.

    Can an one suggest me with in (Core 2 duo, C i3, C i5, C i7)

  33. can iuse i3 processor for recording with protools or nuando?

  34. Hi,

    I also want more information about the i3, i5, and i7 processors.

    Which one is the best processor in this lot? And how do they differ?

  35. Does the i5 procedssor support industrial software like somatic manager?

  36. well, how many processors do i7, i5 or i3 have.

  37. Hi, Aseem,

    actually i want to know about core i7 processor please include that in second part of this article…..

  38. An apple computer would be the best for video editing, considering it's handling of multithreaded apps and solid base. Also mac's memory management is a lot more solid than MS Window.

  39. You seem to lack sense, the link is up there!!

  40. Hi all.

    I am a computer student, and I need to buy a laptop. I will do programming: vb/SQL/ Oracle/ .net/ java. Also, play games and movies.I am planning to buy laptop with processor intel i3..

    Is that good enough?? or should i go for lappy with intel i5 processor??

    Please help me.


  41. Awful article. The first thing anyone wants to know is how fast they are. The author doesnt tell you probably because he doens't know. If you go to Intel's website I wish you luck in finding comparative benchmarks. Vendors put the i3 in their cheaper models, i5 in the midrange and i7 in the expensive ones. Intel wants you to think this way. But one opinion I've heard is that there is no noticeable difference in speed for most applications. If that's true, it could save customers hundreds of dollars or buyer's remorse when they get to thinking their i3 is a slowpoke. We don't need to know about cores and threading and all that crap. It's like with a car: FIRST tell us how fast it goes, THEN you can talk about how overhead camshafts work.

  42. Hey all geeky guyz ……….. please help me to find out the best ….
    I want to buy a laptop and after doing a lot of research i sorted out 2 laptop both of from lenovo ….
    1st is :- Lenovo Y560 59-055616 with Intel® Core™ i7-740QM Processor (6M cache, 1.73 GHz)
    2nd is :- Lenovo Y570 59301914 with Intel® Core™ i5-2410M Processor (3M Cache, 2.30 GHz)

    I am totally confused which processor is better first generation i7 or second generation i5 …. please help me out ….. will be very thankfull to you … hv a good day .. keep smiling .. :)

  43. btw i own intel corei7 720qm and i just love it! really :D nice info !

  44. The i3 will do that and a bit more, just make sure that the i3 has a processor speed of 8 +

  45. Obviously you don’t know anything about CPU architecture.

    Imagine if you were buying a car. The dealer says “BMW is good”. You ask how fast it is. The dealer will reply: “That depends on the configuration you buy”.

    It’s the same with CPU’s. There is no definite truth. It’s all up to the rest of your PC hardware, and how well it interacts with your CPU.

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