i5 vs i7: Which Processor Should You Go For?

large Intel Core i5 vs i7

Whether you’re building yourself a new gaming PC, buying a new laptop, or prebuilt computer, the processor you go for is usually one of the biggest points for consideration. If you are looking at using an Intel processor, then we know it can be easy to get confused between the Intel Core i5 and i7, as they are incredibly similar, with small rather subtle differences. So i5 vs i7, which is best for you? Well, it obviously comes down to budget and, of course, what you plan on using your computer for.

Knowing the essentials should clear up Intel’s confusing naming conventions, and hopefully assist you in making the right choice when you buy a new CPU. Let’s get stuck into the key differences between these two highly popular CPU families!

Intel Core i5 vs i7: What’s The Difference?

Until AMD’s recent triumphs in the market, the i5 and i7 processor lines were two of the most popular for gaming and general computer usage. These processors offer a wide range of abilities at various levels of affordability and are, generally speaking, household names in the processor world.

9th Generation 

The 9th generation of Intel CPUs saw the successor to the 8700K stripped of Hyper-threading. While the 9700K still outperforms most CPUs in Intel’s range, the line lost one of its best features (hyper-threading), and the only reason we can think of to justify this was to help the sales of their flagship i9-9900K.

8th Generation

With i7’s geared towards PC enthusiasts and high-end builds, it isn’t surprising at all to see higher base clock speeds and impressive boost options too. 

Core Concept

A CPU core is a CPU’s processor, relating back to the days when every CPU was made up of a single core. Regular desktop CPUs now have anything between two to sixteen cores, and each individual core is able to tackle a different task.

A high percentage of Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors from the 8th and 9th generations feature at least four cores. For general computer usage, four cores are probably considered to be the sweet spot – but even six-core CPUs are easily affordable now. The latest i5 models tend to feature six cores – apart from the multi-threaded i5’s used in laptops, which will usually come with four. many of the later i5 and i7 models will feature six cores, with the higher end models shipping with eight.

What’s The Cache?

Alongside faster clock speeds and extra cores, i7 CPUs generally have large caches too. The cache is the CPUs onboard memory and helps the processor deal with tasks and access data faster. The larger the cache size, the better equipped you are to deal with multitasking, but it isn’t a stand out specification that most concern themselves with. The difference between the previous two generations of processors is just on size, with Core i5’s featuring 9MB of L3 cache and i7’s with 12MB.

Hyper-Threading

The main difference between the i5  and the i7 is the i7’s Hyper-Threading capability. Hyper-threading is a technology by Intel that increases the processor’s performance on multithreaded tasks. Hyper-threading makes it seem like an individual core has been doubled, letting each core address two threads at the same time. This technology comes in very handy when dealing with work that depends heavily on multitasking, like rendering.

Until the latest 9th generation of CPUs, the i7 models came with Hyper-threading, whereas only the lower core count i5 chips are available with this technology. Generally speaking, a CPU with Hyper-threading will be much more capable than one without. If your general computer usage is all about multitasking then hyper-threading is probably a must for you. It isn’t always easy to see what the number of cores and threads are on a CPU but you can head over to our CPU hierarchy to find more information and compare specifications.

Turbo Boost

Turbo Boost is essentially an overclocking feature from Intel that will automatically run the processor core faster than its base clock speed. Regardless of what Intel CPU you have, they will each come with a base and boost clock speed. It is important to note your boost clock speed and ensure you have adequate cooling for the job if you plan on overclocking. How high your clock speed can go is all down to the design of the chip and how long it can sustain the boosted speeds.

Quick Word On Integrated Graphics

There is a reason we see Intel CPUs at the helm of the majority of laptops, its for the integrated graphics. As your standard laptop is not designed for gaming, there is little need or room for a dedicated graphics card. These machines rely on what is known as integrated graphics or Intels HD/ UHD Graphics. 

As the graphics are integrated with the CPU, this generally saves power and is a smart graphical solution for laptops. Integrated graphics naming conventions work generally in the same numerical way the Intel processors work, the higher the number, the better. Despite this, it is worth noting that if you truly want to enjoy gaming at 1080p and above, then you need to go for a dedicated graphics card.

So Which CPU is best for you?

This should be taken with a pinch of salt, but generally speaking, the Core i5 CPU is geared towards the budget-minded masses who care about performance. The flip side is that the i7 would generally be for enthusiasts or gamers with expensive rigs. 

So why consider an i5? well, they are generally cheaper and one of the most mainstream processors on the market. For generic computer users who browse the web or use the odd light application, the i5 is pretty much perfect for your needs.

If you are someone who works with demanding applications such as the Adobe suite or is looking to do some high-end gaming, then the Core i7 could be the better way to go. Regardless of what processor line you choose, you can expect an array of options to cover various needs and budgets but the bottom line is: for gaming, go for an i5 as games don’t utilize the Hyper-threading technology and for multitasking, aim for an i7.

Is it worth upgrading from i5 to i7?

That depends on what you want to do. For most standard PC gamers, the answer is probably not – the i5 is probably fast enough and slick enough to keep your pixels warm, if not fuzzy, throughout any gaming session you set your heart to.

Where you might find the bonus capabilities of the i7 useful though is if you’re not simply gaming, but streaming your gameplay to Twitch, Youtube or any similar channel.

Why? Because the i7 is rocking a whole lot more cache than the i5, that’s why. An upgrade from 6MB to 8MB of cache gives you slicker, smoother streaming with less 80s gaming lag. If you’re streaming to platforms and channels as live, you might also find that the i7’s hyper-threading capabilities makes your streaming faster and closer to real-time.

If that’s you, then yes, the upgrade might make your gaming life smoother and easier. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your money.

What is the advantage of i7 over i5?

If you feel the need for speed, the i7 will call to your gaming soul. Not only is its base clock faster than the i5’s, you can turbo boost it so it handles more tasks per eye-blink. What does that mean? Means faster action, smoother command-flow, and slicker action, that’s what it means.

And then there’s hyper-threading.

Hyper-threading is the computer core equivalent of juggling faster with more balls at once. The i7’s hyper-threading functionality means it can do a lot more things at the same time than the i5 can. Result? More speed, without loss of precision or task-completion.

The boost in cache from 6MB to 8MB means you can store more system data for easy access at any one time. That’s like having more frames per second in a video image. The more you can access seamlessly, the more smoothly your computer can process all the data it needs to give you a higher grade of performance.

Can you upgrade i5 to i7?

Technologically? Sure, no problem. They’re based on the same chipset, so you can upgrade from one to the other. Watch out, though. Newer chips may require additional upgrades – for instance, DDR4. So, take a good look at your configuration and understand how it will be affected by simply dropping an i7 into the mix.

The more pressing issue is when you do this. The component market is like a mouse on a wheel – there are sweet spots in the cycle when changing up will give you maximum futureproofing. Get the moment wrong, and you find you’ve upgraded at a point when the next big thing is on its way.

So yes, you can. Know your way around both your configuration and the cycle of development. Get a sense for what’s coming when. But then, sure, if you want to, and you feel it will upgrade your gaming life, switch out your i5 for the i7.

Does i7 last longer than i5?

If they’re of the same generation, then the useful lifespan of the i5 and the i7 should be around the same. It’s the generation, rather than the chipset that determines how long a processor will last, because it’s the generational change that gives you improvements on component lifespan.

The difference you’ll most likely find is between what you can do with each processor during its similar lifespan, rather than any great difference in longevity.

That said, if you’ve upgraded to the i7 for specific reasons of streaming or smoothness, your mind may play a trick on you where it seems like the i7 lasts longer than the i5, because the gaming industry moves on to need higher specifications within a generation of processors, and with an i7, you’ll be significantly closer to what’s required for hardcore gaming and streaming for a lot longer than you would with an i5.