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Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is right for you?

Buying a laptop or building a gaming rig can be a task involving a lot of decision making, which includes selecting the right CPU to the proper storage solution; your journey of buying a laptop or building your dream rig can get overwhelming in a matter of seconds.

To make matters worse, Intel launches dozens of CPUs with new technologies every year and selecting the right one is no easy job.

Since a CPU is the brains behind managing all the processes running on your system, getting the right CPU for your machine is essential. Therefore, to make the process of getting the right processor for your needs simpler, we will be going over all the things you need to know to pick the right processor for your rig.

As Intel launched its 10th generation CPU series recently, we will be looking at all of its offerings — i3, i5, i7 and i9 — in this article.

Also read: Intellectual Property Rights and their types explained

Understanding the naming convention of Intel processors

There is a lot that the name of a processor can tell you, and understanding Intel’s naming convention can be helpful.

The name of the processor is enough to determine its generation, if it has dedicated graphics hardware and for which applications the processor is optimised to run. It looks like those complicated names were informative after all.

Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is the right fit for you?
  • Brand modifier: The brand modifier shows the series of the processor. There are four brand modifiers for the Intel core series, namely i3, i5, i7, and i9, and a higher number signifies a better performing processor for the same generation.
  • Generation indicator: As the name suggests, the generation indicator determines the generation of Intel processor. A higher generation uses newer CPU architectures and manufacturing technologies, making it better than the older generations. Therefore a processor having a higher generation indicator belongs to a newer generation of processors and will most likely outperform processors of older generations belonging to the same series.
  • SKU number: The digits after the generation indicator are known as the SKU number or the model number. Generally, a higher model number is assigned to a newer processor in the same series. Hence a processor with a higher model number will have improvements compared to older processors and will probably be better than the earlier models.
  • Product suffix: The product suffix indicates the tasks for which the processor is optimised. There are a lot of different product suffixes and the list for the same is given below.
Product suffixDescription
UProcessor is optimised for low power consumption for laptop devices
YExtremely optimised processors for lower power consumption. Have a lower clock frequency compared to U series to lower power consumption
SSpecial edition processor
KThe processor can be overclocked to boost performance by using cooling solutions.
HQHigh-performance processors with quad-core processors
HKHigh performance processors which can be overclocked
HHigh performance processors
TDesktop processors optimised for lower power consumption
GProcessors with discrete gaming hardware for a better gaming experience
FProcessors with no graphics hardware onboard and need discrete graphic solutions
G1-G7Processors with Intel ice lake architecture having Iris plus graphics. A higher number indicates better graphics processing

Now that we have a basic understanding of the naming convention of Intel processors we can start looking at some technical terms you should know when purchasing a CPU.

Also read: What is anti-aliasing in gaming?

CPU terminology you should know

Most people know what they want from their machine, but finding the right hardware to get the job done is always tricky. This is where having the know-how of CPU terminology can be helpful.

Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is the right fit for you?

CPU cores and hyper-threading

A CPUs core is its fundamental processing unit, and a single core can handle one task at a time. The CPUs core processes most computational tasks running on your machine. Therefore, a higher core count will help your PC handle multiple tasks at a time.

Up until 2005, CPUs had single cores and could execute only one task at a time. All that changed in 2002 when Intel introduced its Pentium 4 processor, which came with Intel’s hyper-threading technology that allowed a single core to act as two logical cores. Hyper-threading allowed a processor with a single core to perform like a dual-core processor and manage two processes simultaneously.

Every processor in Intel’s 10th generation CPUs comes with hyper-threading. Hence a 10th generation i9 processor with ten cores will deliver the performance of a twenty core processor. However, this brings up the question, do you need the computation power of a CPU with 20 cores? Well, probably not.

Cache memory

Running at Gigabit frequencies, your CPU can crunch numbers and process data in a matter of seconds. The RAM, on the other hand, cannot push data at such astonishing speeds and is capped at a certain MHz.

To solve this problem, CPU designers came up with the concept of cache memory, which is a high-speed memory embedded inside the processor. It acts as a buffer between the RAM and the CPU and helps provide data to the processor at high speeds. Due to its high-cost, cache memories on CPUs are only a few MBs in size.

The cache memory stores programs running on your machine and a larger cache size will allow the memory to store more data and supply it at higher speeds. Hence a more significant cache memory on your processor will make it faster.

Clock frequency

The clock frequency of a CPU is one of the most important parameters to look for when buying. It determines the number of instructions the processor can perform in a second, which means a higher clock frequency processor can execute more instructions in a second, making things faster.

When it comes to modern day processors there is a little more to the clock frequency of the CPU. It has a base clock frequency and a turbo frequency. The base frequency is a lower frequency and the CPU runs at this frequency most often. Due to the low frequency, the processor dissipates lesser power when it runs at the base frequency.

The turbo frequency, on the other hand, is higher compared to the base frequency and is used by the CPU only when there are a lot of tasks at hand. Due to the higher frequency, the processor consumes a lot of power when it runs at the turbo boost frequency.

CPU architecture

The CPU architecture of a chipset determines the number of instructions a CPU can process, the memory controller it supports and the manufacturing process it uses. With newer versions, Intel brings newer CPU architectures to make its processors better.

Intel offers two different CPU architectures — Ice Lake and Comet Lake — for its 10th generation processors. The Ice Lake architecture is limited only for mobile devices whereas Comet Lake is available for both desktop machines and laptops. This brings up the question, which line of processors is the right fit for you?

With Ice Lake processors, Intel improved the dedicated graphics by offering Iris plus graphics on its chipsets. Each Ice Lake processor comes with specialised graphics hardware and a product suffix between G1 and G7; with G7 offering the best graphic performance and G1 the least.

The G1 processors come with Intel UHD graphics, but with a higher number of graphical execution units when compared to older versions. The newest version of graphics hardware also offers adaptive sync, which can enhance the gaming experience offered by these chips.

The newer Ice Lake architecture comes with all-new 10nm manufacturing technology and is one of the first processors by Intel to use this lithography. With its new AVX512 instruction set, Intel’s Ice Lake processors perform better when it comes to encoding videos to newer formats like HEVC/h.256 codec. Not only this, with an improved IPC of about 18% the single-core performance of these chips is better when compared to older generations. Training neural networks with these chipsets is better due to an enhanced GPU and Intel’s Deep Learning boost technology.

All that being said, when it comes to clock speeds and core counts Ice Lake is behind Comet Lake and maybe it is one of the reasons why Intel uses Comet Lake architecture in its high-performance desktop and mobile chips.

So which one should you get if you are getting a laptop? Well, the answer depends on the kind of work your machine performs. If you don’t want to get a dedicated GPU for your computer and want to do some video editing, gaming or train some neural networks on your system an Ice Lake processor is probably the one for you. On the other hand, if you want to render 4K videos or perform 3D modelling, you are better off with a Comet Lake CPU, which offers more cores and clock speeds to handle such tasks better.

Now that we have a good understanding of some basic CPU terminology, let us look at the processors offered by Intel and which one you should get. As Intel offers different chips for desktops and mobile devices, it’s better to look at the processors separately.

Also read: TPU vs GPU vs CPU

Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is the right fit for you?

Intel i3 processors are the starting line of CPUs in the Intel Core series. With two cores and four threads, these processors will be a good fit for you if all you want to do is browse the internet, work on Microsoft Office, stream some music or run any lightweight app.

There are a lot of laptops in the market that use Intel’s i3 processors and if you are on a tight budget, this is probably the best for you.

Given below is a list of all mobile processors in the Intel Core i3 range.

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit
i3-10110U14 nanometerComet lake242.10 GHz4.10 GHz4 MB15W-25WDDR4-2666 MHz, LPDDR3-1333 MHz, LPDDR4-2933 MHzIntel UHD Graphics23
i3-10110Y14 nanometerComet lake 241.00 GHz4.00 GHz4 MB7W-9WLPDDR3-2133 MHz DDR3L-1600 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i3-1000G110 nanometerIce lake241.10 GHz3.20 GHz4 MB8W-9WLPDDR4-3733 MHzIntel UHD Graphics32
i3-1005G110 nanometerIce lake241.20 GHz3.40 GHz4 MB13W-15WDDR4-3200 MHz, LPDDR4-3733 MHzIntel UHD Graphics32
i3-1000G410 nanometerIce lake241.20 GHz3.40 GHz4 MB8W-9WLPDDR4-3733 MHzIntel Iris plus Graphics48

Looking at the table, one can understand that the Comet Lake processors offer higher clock speeds but have lesser graphical execution units. Therefore when it comes to CPU performance Intel’s i3-10110U outperforms the i3-1005G1 by 7% (Cinebench). Although when it comes to GPU performance the i3-1005G1 exceeds the i3-10110U by 79% (3D mark fire strike).

Looking at the comparison between the Ice Lake and Comet Lake processors, one can see that Ice Lake offers better overall performance. The CPU performance of the Ice Lake processors is also enhanced due to the faster memory controllers they support.

Now lets have a look at the i3 range of processors for PC.

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit
i3-1010014 nanometerComet lake483.60 GHz4.30 GHz6 MB65WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i3-1030014 nanometerComet lake 483.70 GHz4.40 GHz6 MB65WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i3-1032014 nanometerComet lake483.80 GHz4.60 GHz6 MB65WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i3-10100T14 nanometerComet lake483.00 GHz3.80 GHz6 MB25W-35WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i3-10300T14 nanometerComet lake483.00 GHz3.90 GHz6 MB25W-35WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24

With four cores and eight threads and clock frequencies of up to 4.40 GHz, the i3 range of CPUs is a great option for building a budget gaming rig. That being said, when it comes to graphics, Comet Lake does not offer a lot.

The integrated Intel UHD graphics on the chip are not enough for gaming. Therefore, if you are on a tight budget and want a gaming rig that can handle 60 FPS on Esport titles like Apex Legends, you will have to couple the CPU with a mid-range GPU like the GTX 1660 Ti or the GTX 1060. Using a high-end GPU with the i3 series is not recommended because the CPU will be a bottleneck and will not give optimum results.

Also read: What is GPU scaling? Types and how to enable scaling?

Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is the right fit for you?

If you are looking for a processor which is a jack of all trades, the Intel i5 series is probably the one for you. It offers the right balance of specs and price. The Intel i5 series will manage most tasks like photo editing, coding and gaming. If you are not a power user and want a processor that gets the job done, this series is the best for you.

So without further ado, let us look at what the i5 series has to offer when it comes to mobile devices.

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit
i5-10210U14 nanometerComet lake481.60 GHz4.20 GHz6 MB15W-25WDDR4-2666 MHz LPDDR3-2133 MHz LPDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24
i5-10310U14 nanometerComet lake481.70 GHz4.40 GHz6 MB15W-25W DDR4-2666 MHz LPDDR3-2133 MHz LPDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24
i5-10210Y14 nanometerComet lake481.00 GHz4.00 GHz6 MB7W-9WLPDDR3-2133 MHz DDR3L-1600 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-10310Y14 nanometerComet lake481.10 GHz4.10 GHz6 MB7W-9WLPDDR3-2133 MHz DDR3L-1600 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-1035G110 nanometerIce lake481.00 GHz3.60 GHz6 MB13W-15WDDR4-3200 MHz LPDDR4-3733 MHzIntel UHD Graphics32
i5-1030G410 nanometerIce lake48700 MHz3.50 GHz6 MB9W- 12WLPDDR4-3733 MHzIntel Iris plus Graphics48
i5-1035G410 nanometerIce lake481.10 GHz3.70 GHz6 MB12W-15WDDR4-3200 MHz LPDDR4-3733Intel Iris plus Graphics48
i5-1035G710 nanometerIce lake481.20 GHz3.70 GHz6 MB15W-25WDDR4-3200 MHz LPDDR4-3733Intel Iris plus Graphics64
i5-1038NG710 nanometerIce lake482.00 GHz3.80 GHz6 MB28WDDR4-3200 MHz LPDDR4-3733Intel Iris plus Graphics64
5-10300H14 nanometerComet lake482.50 GHz4.50 GHz6 MB35W-45WDDR4-2933 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-10400H14 nanometerComet lake482.60 GHz4.60 GHz6 MB35W-45WDDR4-2933 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24

Paired with a good GPU, the H series of processors are a great fit if you are looking for a gaming laptop. The G series, on the other hand, offer a more complete solution with a balanced CPU and GPU performance. Due to this reason, most ultrabooks like Microsoft Surface 3 feature this chipset.

In the desktop section, the i5 range offers a lot of power with six cores and 12 threads. Featuring a K series processor the i5 series of desktop processors lets you overclock your machine to hit peak performance.

The i5 series of desktop processors looks something like this

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit
i5-1040014 nanometerComet lake6122.90 GHz4.30 GHz12 MB65WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-1050014 nanometerComet lake6123.10 GHz4.50 GHz12 MB65WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-1060014 nanometerComet lake6123.30 GHz4.80 GHz12 MB65WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-10400T14 nanometerComet lake6122.00 GHz3.60 GHz12 MB35WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-10500T14 nanometerComet lake6122.30 GHz3.80 GHz12 MB35WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-10600T14 nanometerComet lake6122.40 GHz4.00 GHz12 MB35WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-10600K14 nanometerComet lake6124.10 GHz4.80 GHz12 MB125WDDR4-2666 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i5-10400F14 nanometerComet lake6122.90 GHz4.30 GHz12 MB65WDDR4-2666 MHzNANA
i5-10600KF14 nanometerComet lake6124.10 GHz4.80 GHz12 MB125WDDR4-2666 MHzNANA

If gaming is your primary objective, then using the i5 series in your rig is one of the best options. Although Intel offers its i9 series with higher core counts, the performance difference between the two when it comes to gaming is not so steep. Also, with the i5 series of processors, you can play most of AAA titles with a great FPS when paired with a good GPU.

For video editing and encoding, more cores on your CPU will reduce rendering time and a processor with more cores is the one you need. That being said, the six-core i5 processor would be an excellent fit for you if you are not rendering large 4k videos or simulating 3D models on your system.

Also read: All Intel processor generations compared

Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is the right fit for you?

When it comes to mobile processors the H series of the i7 lineup can offer up to eight cores. Therefore, if you are looking for a gaming laptop the i7 H series is right up your alley. Due to the higher core count, i7 can be a great fit for content creation and 3D rendering. Offering lower power consumption the i7 series can be seen powering a number of ultrabooks like the Dell XPS 13.

Although the H series offers six to eight cores, not all i7 series processors are equal. Most of the i7 processors have four cores and are at par with the i5 series. Not only this, but the clock frequencies for i7 series are also close to that of i5 processors. Only i7-10710U and i7-10810U offer six cores apart from the H series. So before getting an i7 processor, it is essential to look at the processor under the hood.

The table given below shows the specifications of all the i7 mobile processors available in the market.

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit
i7-10510U14 nanometerComet lake481.80 GHz4.90 GHz8 MB10W-15WDDR4-2666 MHz LPDDR3-2133 MHz LPDDR4-2933 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i7-10610U14 nanometerComet lake481.80 GHz4.90 GHz8 MB10W-15WDDR4-2666 MHz LPDDR3-2133 MHz LPDDR4-2933 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i7-10710U14 nanometerComet lake6121.10 GHz4.70 GHz12 MB12.5W-15WDDR4-2666 MHz LPDDR3-2133 MHz LPDDR4-2933 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i7-10810U14 nanometerComet lake6121.10 GHz4.90GHz12 MB12.5W-15WDDR4-2666 MHz LPDDR3-2133 MHz LPDDR4-2933 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i7-10510Y14 nanometerComet lake481.20 GHz4.50 GHz8 MB7W-9WLPDDR3-2133 MHz DDR3L-1600 MHzIntel UHD Graphics24
i7-1060G710 nanometerIce lake 481.00 GHz3.80 GHz8 MB9W-12WLPDDR4-3733Intel Iris plus Graphics64
i7-1065G710 nanometerIce lake481.30 GHz3.90 GHz8 MB15W-25WDDR4-3200, LPDDR4-3733Intel Iris plus Graphics64
i7-1068NG710 nanometerIce lake482.30 GHz4.10 GHz8 MB28W
DDR4-3200, LPDDR4-3733
Intel Iris plus Graphics64
i7-10750H14 nanometerComet lake6122.60 GHz5.00 GHz12 MB35W-45W
DDR4-2933
Intel UHD Graphics24
i7-10850H14 nanometerComet lake6122.70 GHz5.10 GHz12 MB35W-45WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24
i7-10875H14 nanometerComet lake6122.30 GHz5.10 GHz12 MB35W-45WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24

When it comes to performance, the i7 processor with the same number of cores will outperform an i5 processor due to the larger cache and higher clock frequencies. That being said, the difference is not that dramatic and an i5 processor should get the job done as well.

In terms of desktop performance, the i7 series offers more power then most people can use. With eight cores and clock frequencies of up to 5.10 GHz in an overclockable CPU, there is not a lot that the i7 can’t handle.

Given below is a list of all i7 desktop processors.

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit
i7-1070014 nanometerComet lake8162.90 GHz4.80 GHz16 MB65W
DDR4-2933
Intel UHD Graphics24

i7-10700F
14 nanometerComet lake8162.90 GHz4.80 GHz16 MB65WDDR4-2933NANA
i7-10700K14 nanometerComet lake8163.80 GHz5.10 GHz16 MB125WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24
i7-10700KF14 nanometerComet lake8163.80 GHz5.10 GHz16 MB125WDDR4-2933NANA
i7-10700T14 nanometerComet lake8162.00 GHz4.50 GHz16 MB35WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24

Be it rendering 3D models or large 4k videos, the i7 series will handle all the tasks in a matter of seconds. In terms of gaming, getting an eight core/16 thread processor is probably overkill as games do not use more than six cores due to the limitation of multicore architecture when it comes to gaming. That being said, the higher single-core frequencies of the i7 series will offer higher FPS and better gaming experience.

Also read: 7 ways to make the most out of your Google Assistant

Intel i3, i5, i7 or i9? Which processor is the right fit for you?

If you are looking for the best of the best, then the i9 series is the one for you. With eight cores and clock frequencies up to 5.30 GHz, the i9 series of processors can be seen powering the most powerful laptops like the Alienware M15.

Given below is a list of CPUs’ in the i9 series of mobile processors.

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit
i9-10885H14 nanometerComet lake8162.40 GHz5.30 GHz16 MB45W
DDR4-2933
Intel UHD Graphics24
i9-10980HK14 nanometerComet lake8162.40 GHz5.30 GHz16 MB45WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24

When it comes to desktop processors, Intel offers processors with 10 cores and 20 threads. Machines using these processors can be used to handle any kind of workloads. The computation hardware on these machines is so high-end that most applications won’t use all the cores which are available on the CPU.

The 10 core CPU will make everything on your machine super fast. From rendering to manipulation huge data sets the Core i9 series will obliterate any task you throw at it.

The core 19 series for desktops looks something like this.

Processor nameManufacturing ProcessArchitectureCoresThreadsBase clock frequencyTurbo frequencyCache sizePower usageMemory supportGraphicsGraphical Execution unit

i9-10900
14 nanometerComet lake10202.80 GHz5.20 GHz20 MB65W
DDR4-2933
Intel UHD Graphics24

i9-10850K
14 nanometerComet lake10203.60 GHz
5.20 GHz
20 MB125WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24

i9-10900K
14 nanometerComet lake1020
3.70 GHz
5.30 GHz20 MB125WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24

i9-10900F
14 nanometerComet lake10202.80 GHz5.20 GHz20 MB65WDDR4-2933NANA

i9-10900KF
14 nanometerComet lake10203.70 GHz5.30 GHz20 MB125WDDR4-2933NANA

i9-10900T
14 nanometerComet lake1020
1.90 GHz
4.60 GHz20 MB35WDDR4-2933Intel UHD Graphics24

Also read: How to factory reset Google Chromecast?

Which processor should you get ?

When it comes to selecting the right processor, your needs and workloads dictate which processor you should get.

If you are tight on budget and want to use the basic word processor on your machine the best option for you is to get an i3 processor.

The i5 series of processor might be right for you if you want to do some light gaming, coding and 2D rendering. They offer a sweet spot for both processing power and price and most of the general consumer needs can be satisfied by this processor.

If you are a power user and have to work with a lot of content creation or want to live stream games on high resolutions, then getting an i7 series processor is the best for you.

Getting the i9 series of processors will give you bragging rights for having one of the fastest processors and you probably won’t use all the power they have to offer.

When it comes to buying a laptop or building a workstation, the CPU is just one of the factors which will dictate the experience your machine offers. Pairing the right GPU, RAM and storage solutions with your machine will give you the best performance for your needs. Making an educated decision for what kind of hardware you need is very important on getting the most out of your machine. We hope that after reading this article you will be able to get the right CPU. If you have any doubts on which processor is right for you, feel free comment below.

Also read: How to import photos from your iPhone to MacBook?

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