We discover and explain the various differences between the Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 Haswell processors.
As a simple thumb rule, an Intel Core i3 processor is impeccably powerful enough to browse the web and use Microsoft Office – but if you’re planning to tackle more demanding jobs, such as photo editing and video rendering, a Core i5 or i7 will give better performance.
Intel’s current processors, Pentium and Celeron-branded are based on the Atom-class Bay Trail architecture, rather than Haswell. For a tablet or very lightweight laptop, it might be powerful but we have to steer clear of them for serious work.
Internally, though, all of these chips are actually based on the same fundamental architecture, (dubbed Haswell in the current generation).
The differences in their performance characteristics are due to variations in the configuration of each processor at the factory: some have more cores than others, some run at higher speeds, and so forth.
Unfortunately, we cannot simply say that all models within a family share a particular set of features. Intel has divided its i3, i5 and i7 ranges into subgroups to suit different roles, e.g., a Core i5 processor which was designed for laptops will be less powerful than a desktop model. You can identify what sort of chip you’re dealing with by checking for a suffix after the model number – the Core i5-4200U, for example, is a part intended for Ultrabooks.
We have basically detailed the key technical differences between the major Intel processors of the fourth-generation.
Here’s what the columns signify:
Cores: With everyday usage of a computer, you won’t notice any difference between a dual-core and quad-core system, and when it comes to running lots of programs all at once or using multithreaded applications that split their workload across several cores, e.g., Chrome Browser, a quad-core chip will give you a much smoother ride.
Hyper-Threading: Hyper-Threading allows each core to divide its time between two different jobs. This can help keep things responsive when you have lots of processes running at once – but it doesn’t give your CPU any more actual computing power, so heavy workloads won’t see much benefit.
Base clock: There are various factors that affect overall system performance, but the CPU base speed still plays an important part in keeping things snappy.
Max Turbo: On Core i5 and i7 processors, when processes are much or many Applications running at once, Intel’s Turbo Boost technology automatically increases the speed of individual processor cores. The extent of the boost varies depending on the precise specification of the processor, and on how much power the other cores are consuming at the time. Our table shows the highest speed boost offered by any processor model in each family of chips. On a few high-end desktop chips (denoted with a K suffix) the Turbo multipliers are unlocked, so you can make the processor run as quickly as you like – although if you go too far, the chip may overheat, or automatically dial down the speed to avoid a crash.
Cache: The Loading of program and data code from system memory into the CPU is relatively slow; computer’s performance can be greatly improved by equipping the processor by using its own super-fast RAM cache. The larger the cache, the less time the CPU is likely to waste waiting for the data it needs.
GPU: Intel’s on-chip graphics processor comes in a variety of configurations. The basic HD Graphics 4200 GPU is fine for desktop tasks; higher numbers reflect more processing power, meaning better performance in 3D games and GPU-accelerated tasks such as video encoding.
As you can see, there’s a lot to weigh up if you’re looking for a processor to match a specific workload and budget. The good news is that even the lowliest Core i3 offers plenty of power for everyday computing, and high-end chips are much cheaper than they were a few years ago – so whichever end of the market you are targeting, it is very hard to make a costly mistake.