Intel Core i3 vs i5: Best CPU For You?

Kenny Trinh Updated on June 9, 2020
i3 vs i5

Buying a computer or laptop is a tedious task, there are a plethora of options available in the market. One must consider the type of processor that the machines come with and if you are not familiar with the type of processors available in the market. It may be hard for you to choose the right machine that fits your needs and budget.

There are many factors that affect the price tag of a PC, one is the processor that is embedded in it. There are processors that are better than other processors and the main factor is the price, the higher the price tag the better the processor which is true but does not apply to all cases.

Let us get to know more about the Intel Core series processors, specifically the Core i3 and Core i5. What do they can offer and what processor should you go for based on your computing needs and of course your budget range.

How fast is i3 vs i5?

There are different generations of Intel CPU, two 10th generations, a 9th generation, and the 8th generation. Each generation has unique aspects of differences that cause more confusion to its users.

We will give you general knowledge about these CPUs, the oldest is the 8th generation and could have the worst performance and efficiency compared to other generations. The 9th and 10th generations would be faster, but keep in mind that a Core i5 8th gen chip could still beat the 10th gen Core i3 chip.

The 9th and 10th generations would be faster, but keep in mind that a Core i5 8th gen chip could still beat the 10th gen Core i3 chip.

In terms of a desktop computer, the 9th gen is pretty robust. Although, the 8th generation desktop is powerful enough to do higher computing tasks. The new release 10th gen would be a great deal for power-hungry users who need powerful machines for power-hungry tasks.

In the case of laptops, Core i3 processors are perfectly acceptable and could suffice general web browsing and entry-level gaming. The latter generations are faster but the graphics are not that good. The Core i5 is more capable and suffices for heavy editing tasks and they are excellent for gaming because they have greater clocks speed.

Is i3 sufficient for home use?

Core i3 of any generation could suffice entry-level gaming, general web browsing, and any minnow computing tasks which involve everyday home uses. Also, Core i3 is good for people who want a PC that is faster than Atom-powered machines which are pretty slow compared to Core i3. 

But, for future proof performance and more threads, the Core i5 would be a better choice. If you can stretch out your budget a little bit, it is more than enough computing power for daily usage and could be good for gaming if you plan to add GPU too.

Is i3 enough for students?

Core i3 is the best budget option and if you are a student it is pretty decent to give you enough power that could suffice basic requirements as a student. But still, depending on your use-cases i3 may be enough or not, for students that don’t require heavy tasks then i3 is enough even if you study programming i3 is good to go. For students that need to do heavy tasks, i3 may not be the best option.

i5 is recommended for students that need much more multitasking and productivity work without getting a laggy performance. There is a great difference in performance in terms of i3 and i5 in regards to CPU and as a student getting the higher processor could be an advantage in the future.

Why go with Core i3

Introduced in 2010, Core i3 had been improved since then through multiple microarchitecture updates. The Core i3 is considered the budget option of the Intel Core series, which is capable enough and can be found on a wide-range laptop offering in the market.

Well, Core i3 is less expensive than those that are embedded with Core i5 processors. Although it is not safe to assume that a laptop or desktop computer’s processor type is simply based on price, the processor construction, and tech specs would greatly affect the overall performance. Some i3 models might be faster than some lower-end i5 processors.

So, go for Core i3 if you are seeking an affordable laptop that could offer superior computing power compared to something like a Notebook or tablet. Core i3 may be the right choice for you.

Why go with Core i5

If you seek greater performance, go for Core i5 or the latter processors. Core i5 was first introduced in 2009 and have undergone a series of improvements since then, Core i5 is generally faster than Core i3 counterparts. This CPU series is better suited for multitasking, content creation, multi-media consumption, and complex computing tasks.

Difference between Core i3 and Core i5 processors

The Core i3 and i5 processor differ on the number of Cores that each contains, most i3 processors have two cores or dual-core, while the i5 processor contains four cores and has support for turbo boost overclocking.

The Core i3 and i5 processor differ on the number of Cores that each contains, most i3 processors have two cores or dual-core, while the i5 processor contains four cores and has support for turbo boost overclocking.

Obviously, a quad-core processor will outperform a dual-core and it is true to almost any case. The computing difference could be noticeable when running memory-intensive software programs, and could barely be seen when performing minor tasks on both processors. 

But still, we must consider the following factors below:

Cache

Core i5 processors have a larger cache that helps the processor to deal with repetitive tasks faster, your CPU needs to load the framework of tasks faster and to do that a cache will help the processor to instantly get that previous data of your work. Larger cache means better help in your CPU in multitasking, cache plays a big role in switching applications on one window to another.

Intel’s Core i3 processors had either 3MB or 4MB of cache, while Core i5 had either 4MB or 6MB of cache. You may think that 3MB or 6MB is very little as storage, well, 3Mb to 6MB is enough to store previously used data for faster retrieving if it is ever needed again.

Turbo Boost

This is a feature that is built-in in processors, the Turbo boost that refers to Intel’s overclocking feature. The Turbo Boost allows the processor to run faster than its base clock speed when a task only uses one or two cores instead of the four cores the Turbo Boost would allow the used cores to boost its process. 

For example, Core i5’s base clock is 1.9GHz but when tasks allow it for Turbo Boost, the processor could dynamically up its clock on cores for up to 2.9GHz. Core i3 doesn’t feature a Turbo Boost.

Hyper-Threading

Then comes Hyper-Threading. This means that one core of the processor can act as two cores if the processor is overloaded, but only for a short period of time. For example, a dual-core processor can act like a quad-core. The i3 and i7 series support it.

This process is used to increase performance at multithreaded tasks if you are running multiple programs all at once or doing multi-media operations these types of processes take advantage of Hyper-Threading.

Integrated Graphics

The version of graphics that comes with the processor also affects its speed, older graphics versions are typically built onto the motherboard chipsets. While newer versions are embedded in the processor itself which makes it more efficient.

You can find older and newer versions of graphics both on i3 and i5, the current top graphics for i5 is the Iris 6100 that lets you do heavy computing and plays a game on the moderate setting, which of course depends on the game you are playing.

What does your processor name tell you?

The names of each processor may also end with letters, and these letters have different meanings.

U: Ultra-Low Power. The U rating is only for laptop processors. These draw less power and are better for the battery.

Y: Low Power. Typically found on older generation laptops and mobile processors. They take less power than a U processor.

T: Power optimized for desktop processors.

Q: Quad-Core. The Q rating is only for processors with four physical cores.

H: High-Performance Graphics. The chipset has one of Intel’s better-integrated graphics processors in it.

K: Unlocked. This means you can overclock the processor above its rating.

Price and architecture difference

Both Core i3 and Core i5 are Nehalem microarchitecture bases, which means that they both have integrated DDR3 memory controllers and QuickPath Interconnect or PCI express. Older cores feature Front Side Bus but were replaced with Direct Media Interface on newer core releases.

The Core i3 is considered the low-end processor but not as low as compared to Celeron. Although Core i3 doesn’t have a Turbo Boost, all i3 models have an integrated GPU. A Core i3 processor CPU clock rate ranges from 2.933 GHz to 3.2 GHz and has a price tag of $133.

While the Core i5 processor falls on mid-level and supports dynamic overclocking of the CPU to enhance performance which Core i3 lacks. The only i5 processor that has integrated CPU is the Core i5-6xx, A Core i5 processor CPU clock rate ranges from 2.4 GHz to 3.33 GHz when overclocked it would reach up to 4.5 GHz. Core i5 is price ranges from $176 to $256.

Codename(microarchitecture)ProcessorL3 cacheSocketTDPI/O Bus
ClarkdaleCore i3-5xx4MBLGA 115673 WDirect Media Interface, Integrated GPU
ArrandaleCore i3-3xxM3MBµPGA-98935 WDirect Media Interface, Integrated GPU
LynnfieldCore i5-7xx8MBLGA 115695 WDirect Media Interface
LynnfieldCore i5-7xxM8MBLGA 115682 WDirect Media Interface
ClarkdaleCore i5-6xx4MBLGA 115673-87 WDirect Media Interface
ArrandaleCore i5-5xxM3MBµPGA-98935 WDirect Media Interface
Direct Media InterfaceCore i5-4xxM3MBµPGA-98935 WDirect Media Interface
Direct Media InterfaceCore i5-5xxUM3MBµPGA-98918WDirect Media Interface

Power Consumption

When it comes to how much power this two processor takes, well, Core i3 setups on stress test would consume 89 watts or 95 watts in prime. While the Core i5 pulled 119 watts, that means Core i3 consumes 25% less power than Core i5.

Can you upgrade i3 to i5?

Let’s just say, you have a Core i3 laptop or desktop PC and you want it to be upgraded into Core i5. Well, it is a good move since Core i5 is faster than Core i3 and upgrading is a good way to improve performance. But is it possible to upgrade Core i3 to i5 and even if it is possible is it recommended?

There are several factors that hurdle an upgrade of Core i3 to i5:

The first factor is that the processor may be integrated into the motherboard, which means it is impossible to replace it since the motherboard is not designed to run a Core i5 processor.

Second, the processor socket may not be compatible. Depending on the specific processor model that you have, the socket may not fit both Core i3 or i5.

Lastly, the motherboard may not be compatible. This means that even if the socket match, there is a very good chance that the processor and motherboard are not compatible and could affect performance.

But don’t lose hope, if the factors above are not your problem then you could probably upgrade your Core i3 to i3. But here’s the catch, you should check everything if there is no compromising issue and that it supports it. There are also necessary steps to take in case you successfully upgrade your Core i3 to i5 like you may need to update your BIOS setting or alter jumper on your motherboard. Which is very hassle.

You might as well keep yourself out of this headache and replace your computer or laptop, by doing so, you can make sure that all is good and there are no bottlenecks which would like to happen when upgrading.

Bottom line

Overall, Core i5 will give you much better performance and value for the price than Core i3. But sometimes, there are instances that Core i3 with better components could be the better option, so check out each system’s performance numbers before placing any orders to make sure you got what you really want and that would suffice your computing needs.

Kenny Trinh
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Building his first desktop at the age of 10, start coding at 14 years old, Kenny knows a thing or two when it comes to finding a good laptop and he aims to share everything he knows. Current go-to laptop: Apple Macbook Air 2019.

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