What’s the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?


Author:David Parkinson

We take a look at Intel’s Sandy Bridge family of chips

Intel core i7

Intel Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 CPUs have been around for over a year 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 Sandy Bridge architecture now on store shelves, 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

If you want a plain and simple answer, then generally speaking, Core i7s are better than Core i5s, which are in turn better than Core i3s. Nope, Core i7 does not have seven cores nor does Core i3 have three cores. The numbers are simply indicative of their relative processing powers.

Their relative levels of processing power are also signified by their Intel Processor Star Ratings, which are based on a collection of criteria involving their number of cores, clockspeed (in GHz), size of cache, as well as some new Intel technologies like Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading.

Core i3s are rated with three stars, i5s have four stars, and i7s have five. If you’re wondering why the ratings start with three, well they actually don’t. The entry-level Intel CPUs — Celeron and Pentium — get one and two stars respectively.

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. To avoid confusion, we’ll focus on the desktop variants. Note also that we’ll be focusing on the 2nd Generation (Sandy Bridge) Core CPUs.

Number of cores

The more cores there are, the more tasks (known as threads) can be served at the same time. The lowest number of cores can be found in Core i3 CPUs, i.e., which have only two cores. Currently, all Core i3s are dual-core processors.

Currently all Core i5 processors, except for the i5-661, are quad cores in Australia. The Core i5-661 is only a dual-core processor with a clockspeed of 3.33 GHz. Remember that all Core i3s are also dual cores. Furthermore, the i3-560 is also 3.33GHz, yet a lot cheaper. Sounds like it might be a better buy than the i5. What gives?

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 and determine whether it should be considered an i3, an i5, or an i7.

Even if the i5-661 normally runs at the same clockspeed as Core i3-560, and even if they all have the same number of cores, the i5-661 benefits from a technology known as Turbo Boost.

Intel Turbo Boost

 

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

For the Core i5-661, its maximum allowable processor frequency is 3.6 GHz. Because none of the Core i3 CPUs have Turbo Boost, the i5-661 can outrun them when it needs to. Because all Core i5 processors are equipped with the latest version of this technology — Turbo Boost 2.0 — all of them can outrun any Core i3.

 

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. All Core i3 processors have 3MB of cache. All Core i5s, except again for the 661 (only 4MB), have 6MB of cache. Finally, all Core i7 CPUs have 8MB of cache. This is clearly one reason why an i7 outperforms an i5 — and why an i5 outperforms an i3.

 

Hyper-Threading

 

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 introduced a technology called Hyper-Threading. This enables a single core to serve multiple threads.

For instance, a Core i3, which is only a dual core, can actually serve two threads per core. In other words, a total of four threads can run simultaneously. Thus, even if Core i5 processors are quad cores, since they don’t support Hyper-Threading (again, except the i5-661) the number of threads they can serve at the same time is just about equal to those of their Core i3 counterparts.

This is one of the many reasons why Core i7 processors are the creme de la creme. Not only are they quad cores, they also support Hyper-Threading. Thus, a total of eight threads can run on them at the same time. Combine that with 8MB of cache and Intel Turbo Boost Technology, which all of them have, and you’ll see what sets the Core i7 apart from its siblings.

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 an i5 or 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 i3.

At DCA Computers, we regularly hear across the sales counter, “I don’t mind paying for a computer that will last, which CPU should I buy?” The sales tech invariably responds “Well that depends on what you use your computer for.” If it’s the scenario described above, we pretty much tell our customers to save their money and buy an i3 or AMD dual core.

Another factor in this deliberation is that more and more programs are being released with multithread 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. However, the Internet browser you use to access Netbank or your email client is not, and is unlikely to be in the foreseeable future.

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

Happy computing!

David Parkinson is the managing director of DCA Computer Technologies a computer retailer and support provider. Read more articles at the DCA Computers blog, follow DCA Computers on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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HP’s New Gaming PC – HP HPE h9 Phoenix


HP tries its hand at another gaming desktop PC with the HP HPE h9 Phoenix line. Now that HP’s Voodoo PC division is for all intents and purposes in cryogenic freeze, the h9 Phoenix is Hewlett Packard’s answer to the mid-level Acer

Predators and Dell XPS 8300 systems in the high-end multimedia and gaming desktop PC space. It has some aggressive styling cues and (some) high-end components, but it’s still more sedate than systems from Alienwar

e or the old HP with VoodooDNA brand.

Design and Features

The HPE h9 chassis uses the same internal structure as the multimedia-oriented HP HPE h8 tower, though the h9 has newly styled exterior panels that give the system a more assertive look. The side panel is perforated and lit so you
The h9 Phoenix has a plethora of options for AMD FX or Intel four and six-core processors, four DIMM slots with a capacity of 16GB of DDR3 system memory, support for 250W graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia, up to three hard drives, options for SSD, top mounted USB 3.0 ports, HP Beats Audio, HP LinkUp software, 7.1 surround sound capability, and optional liquid cooling. Other options include HDTV tuner, wireless keyboard and mouse, Bluetooth, and up to two DVD or Blu-ray drives. can show off the liquid cooled processor, the front panel comes with menacing red accent lighting, and the top panel features a “landing pad” on the top of the system to park your smartphone or media player and headphones. The top also features a pair of super speed USB 3.0 ports for syncing and charging. It will certainly stand out on a store shelf compared to the basic HP Pavilion PCs, but the h9 Phoenix is still understated compared to systems like the Acer Predator. To really stand out, HP needs to take a page from their history and release a truly stunning system like the HP Blackbird 002 or the Firebird.

The HP HPE h9 Phoenix starts at $999.99 for a system with an eight-core AMD FX-8100 processor, 8GB of system memory, 1TB hard drive, 1GB AMD Radeon HD 7670 graphics card, Blu-ray reader, 802.11n Wi-Fi, 15 months of Norton Internet Security, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Look for a review soon.

AMD updates Catalyst drivers, Battlefield 3 beta begins today


Hot on the heels of the latest GeForce beta driver release, AMD has issued its own update to the Catalyst driver series optimized specifically for the Battlefield 3 beta. The Catalyst 11.10 preview driver is essentially a hotfix release and includes better Battlefield 3 performance for 5000 and 6000 series users (single GPU and Crossfire), 5×1 Eyefinity support, and improvements to the Vision Engine Control Center (previously known as Catalyst Control Center). Here’s the full list of changes:

  • Improves performance in Battlefield 3 Open Beta release for both non-Anti-Aliasing, and application enabled Anti-Aliasing cases on the AMD Radeon HD 6000 and AMD Radeon HD 5000 Series for single GPU configurations
  • Improves performance in Battlefield 3 Open Beta release for both non-Anti-Aliasing, and application enabled Anti-Aliasing cases on CrossFire configurations using the AMD Radeon HD 6000 and AMD Radeon HD 5000 Series
  • Enables support for Eyefinity 5×1 display (portrait and landscape) configurations using the AMD Radeon HD 6000 and AMD Radeon HD 5000 Series
  • Vision Engine Control Center: User Interface enhancements have been implemented for the CrossfireX, GPU Overdrive, and Information Center pages.

You can download and install the AMD Catalyst preview driver here. The Battlefield 3 open beta isn’t set to kick off fully for another couple of days but, as promised, those who pre-ordered the game through Origin or purchased the Limited Edition of Medal of Honor will be getting early access today — check Battlefield 3’s system requirements here.

Players will be limited to the “Rush” game mode on the map “Operation Metro,” where one team must attack two M-Com stations while a defending team tries to prevent them. Since the beta is multiplayer-only, gamers will have to wait until the full game launch on October 28 to play the single player campaign.

Razer Blade Review: World’s Best Gaming Laptop


We’ve been expecting for the Razer Blade to come on the market for more than one year. Rumored to be the world’s best gaming laptop, Razer Blade is the the result of no less than 3 years of hard work. What’s so special about this laptop? First of all, it’s only o,88 inches thick and has under the roof some powerful hardware parts. Basically, it comes equipped with a 2.8GHz Core i7 2640M CPU capable of running most of the modern applications on HD games. As well, it comes with a GeForce GT 555M video card, asides of 2 GB GDDR5 of memory. The bast part about it is the fact that the 17.3” display is 100% compatible with a 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution, fact that makes out of this laptop a real beast. Consider the Razorblad the Megatron of all the laptops that have ever existed.
Razor Blade will also come equipped with 3 USB slots as well as with a HD cam perfectly positioned on the middle of the top screen.

world's best gaming laptop

Although it hasn’t been launched yet, the tech forums are also fired up about this subject. However, since the laptop is meant to be used only by the elite gamers or even by businessmen, the price will also be quite high: a fully equipped Razer Bladewill cost about $2,800 (shipping and VAT fees included).
Even if the price may be high for the average user, keep in mind that this one is definitely the Ferrari of all the laptops. Moreover, it hasn’t been launched yet; Considering that theRazer Blade‘s official release date is still unknown, but rumored to be in the final days of December, you’d better start saving from this moment if you want this laptop. This way, you can shoot two rabbits from one shot: not only that you will get to have the world’s best laptop, but you will also get a nice present for Christmas.

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO


 

Big news out of the tech world tonight is that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has just resigned. Instead of CEO, Steve will serve as Chairman of the Board, director, and Apple employee. He has nominated Tim Cook to replace him as CEO of Apple.

Although the reason for his resignation hasn’t been revealed, it was probably due to health reasons. As you probably know, Steve has been battling pancreatic cancer since 2003. He has taken multiple leave of absences since he was diagnosed, and continues the battle.

Android vs. iOS aside, we really hope that Steve will be alright and that his health didn’t take a turn for the worse. Below you will find a letter of his resignation.

Best of Luck, Steve
The DroidMatters team

PRESS RELEASE: Letter from Steve Jobs

August 24, 2011–To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO


 

 

 

Big news out of the tech world tonight is that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has just resigned. Instead of CEO, Steve will serve as Chairman of the Board, director, and Apple employee. He has nominated Tim Cook to replace him as CEO of Apple.

Although the reason for his resignation hasn’t been revealed, it was probably due to health reasons. As you probably know, Steve has been battling pancreatic cancer since 2003. He has taken multiple leave of absences since he was diagnosed, and continues the battle.

Android vs. iOS aside, we really hope that Steve will be alright and that his health didn’t take a turn for the worse. Below you will find a letter of his resignation.

Best of Luck, Steve
The DroidMatters team

PRESS RELEASE: Letter from Steve Jobs

August 24, 2011–To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.