Intel Core i5 Vs. Intel Core i7


First introduced in 2006, Intel's Core-branded CPUs have adopted a cross-generational naming scheme designating entry-level, mid-level and high-end chips. The Core i5 brand is Intel's mid-range CPU designed for the typical user whereas the Core i7 brand designates the Intel's high-end consumer CPUs. Because of performance differences, Core i7 CPUs tend to be in a higher price range than the Core i5 counterparts, but the Core i5 CPUs are by no means performance slouches.

The Core Brand History

  • Core branding superseded Intel's Pentium branding after 13 years of use. Intel introduced the 32-bit Core Duo laptop CPU brand followed by the 64-bit Core 2 counterpart in 2006. The first Core i-numbered CPU, the Core i7, hit the market in 2008 as the high-end consumer model; the Core i5 and Core i3 designations followed in 2009 and 2010 respectively adopting a naming convention to rate processing power compared to the Core i7 chips. The comparative naming mechanism makes it easier to compare processors with each other across the same hardware generation; however, the designations do not work as well cross-generation. For example, a fourth generation Core i5 may substantially outperform a second generation Core i7.

Core Count

  • While each additional core added to a CPU is subject to the law of diminishing returns related to processing power increases, more cores equates to better multitasking and can improve performance. As of August 2014, the Core i5 and Core i7 families both include dual-core and quad-core CPUs; however, neither features a single-core architecture in any model. Intel's gaming-oriented Core i7 Extreme Edition CPUs feature six-core and eight-core variations, giving even more processing power. Core i5s are more likely to include dual-core setups than Core i7s.

Clock Speed

  • Core i7 CPUs tend to feature faster clock speeds, or how fast the individual cores operate, than the Core i5 models. For example, the fourth generation Core i5 CPUs range from 1.9GHz to 3.5GHz whereas the Core i7 counterparts range from 2.2GHz to 4.0GHz. From a performance perspective, technology website AnandTech found that the Core i7 variation of the 2013 MacBook Air performed 27 percent better in graphics rendering and 17 percent better in multithreading than the Core i5 version.

Cache And Hyper-Threading

  • While some Core i5s surpass some Core i7s in clock speed and core count, the comparative Core i7s offer improvements in other areas like power efficiency and cache size. While not the case with the fourth generation, earlier Core i5 models were less likely than Core i7s to feature Hyper-Threading (a task-stacking mechanism that improves CPU efficiency). The Core i7s feature a larger cache, or on-chip memory, than the Core i5s, peaking at 8MB and 6MB respectively for fourth-generation chips. The Core i7 chips are also better at managing system memory, supporting triple-channel RAM.

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