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Is Intel i3 better than i5?

Is Intel i3 better than i5? Let's find out

Updated: Jan 23, 2023 1:05 pm
is the i3 better than the i5

If you’re a gamer or otherwise into PC building, you’ve probably heard of Intel’s core i3 and i5 series before. Is Intel i3 better than i5?

They’re two of the more popular CPU series from Intel, mainly because of their budget-friendliness and low barrier to entry. Users in the entry-level segment often end up having to compare CPUs from the i3 and i5 lineups. 

Now read: Intel i3 vs i5

For those of us who don’t closely follow the happenings in the world of processors, things can get a little confusing. The elaborate naming conventions Intel uses to name its processors only make matters even more complicated. 

For example, one question that pops up quite often among novice PC builders is: Is Intel i3 better than i5? Today, we’ll be putting some very capable processors from both lineups against each other to give you an exhaustive answer to this question. 

By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly which of the two processor lineups is better for you. 


Intel i3 vs. Intel i5 – what’s the difference?

Let’s draw an objective comparison between the two CPU lineups by comparing specs. 

Intel i3

Intel’s i3 series is targeted at the entry-level market. 

Processors released within the last few years have 4 cores and 8 threads. They typically feature relatively low clock speeds at sub 4GHz base clocks and boost clocks barely topping 4GHz. 

However, i3 processors have excellent thermals and power efficiency. They use very little power for the performance they offer. 

For this comparison, let’s use the most recent i3 processor. The core i3-13100. A raptor lake CPU that was released only recently, in Q1 2023. 

Here are the CPU’s base specs:

  • 4 cores with 8 threads.
  • A 3.7 GHz base and 4.5 GHz boost clock.
  • 12MB smart cache. 
  • A 58-watt average and 89-watt max TDP.

Intel i5

Intel’s i5 series is budget-friendly but not exactly entry-level. It’s definitely a cut above the i3 series in terms of price. Mid-range would be the best way to define where i5 processors fall on the affordability spectrum. 

Modern-day Intel i5 processors have much more cores than they used to just a few years back. We’re now seeing i5 CPUs have 10 to 16 cores and up to 20 threads. That’s over twice the threads offered by i3 CPUs. 

The difference between the two lineups is already starting to show, and it only increases from here. 

Intel i5 CPUs also typically have higher clock speeds and more cache. They have more of every performance-determining element there is in a CPU. 

Take the i5-13400

  • 10 cores
  • 6 hyper-threaded performance cores with a 2.5GHz base and 4.6GHz boost clock. 
  • 4 efficiency cores with a 1.8GHz base and 3.3GHz boost clock. 
  • 20MB smart cache. 
  • A 65-watt average and 148-watt boost power. 

Is Intel i3 better than i5?

Now that we’ve had a look at the specs typically offered by both processor series, let’s compare them. 

Raw performance

The i5 clearly wins here. Core i5 CPUs simply have faster cores and more of those faster cores. Unfortunately, there’s no way an i3 CPU can make up for a physical lack of cores on its chip.

Intel i5 processors outperform i3 processors by a fair margin. Both in single-threaded and multi-threaded workloads. 

Power usage

Power usage goes to i3 CPUs here. They’re designed with efficiency in mind and hence consume very little power for the performance they offer. This also means they run cooler

Now, that’s not to say that the i5 CPUs are inefficient. They’re very efficient too when compared to processors from the i7 and i9 series. The Raptor Lake i5s offers an incredible amount of performance at a moderate TDP. 

Budget friendliness

Intel i3 wins in terms of budget-friendliness. Core i3 CPUs are the cheapest from Intel’s core lineup since they’re made for entry-level gamers and PC builders. 

The core i5 series costs a fair bit more but is still relatively affordable overall. For example, the above i3-13100 launched at an MSRP of $134. The i5-13400 launched at $221. 

Price to performance

Intel i3 and i5 CPUs are pretty much neck and neck when it comes to price to performance, or in other words, value for money. You would have to compare individual processors from these series to end up with marked differences in this category.


Final Word

Intel i3 is not better than i5, at least, in terms of raw performance. Intel i5 has more cores that run at a faster clock speed. 

However, depending on your use case, an i3 processor may be better for you. For example, if you’re on a budget and want to spend the absolute minimum that will allow you to game at 60FPS, the i3-13100F is perfect. 

If you have the extra dollars to spend, consider going for an i5. 

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