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Intel Core i5 vs i7: Which is the Best Intel Processor?

Published 28/05/2024

When shopping for Intel processors, or any computer components really, it’s easy to assume that a higher model number is better. And while yes, an Intel Core i7 has more cores, threads, and is generally faster than an Intel Core i5, this doesn’t necessarily make it better in every regard. The real answer depends on your needs, budget, and other factors – not just specs and benchmarks. So you can make the right purchasing decision, let’s break down the differences between Intel Core i5 and i7 processors – not only in terms of performance, but also price and their intended use cases.

Contents

Intel Core i5 – Balanced Power

Intel Core i5 14600K

Intel Core i5 processors are known for their great balance between price and performance. They typically come with six high-performance “P” cores and a handful of energy-efficient “E” cores (more on that later), making them suitable for a wide range of tasks. From everyday computing to office work, gaming, and even a bit of content creation, Intel Core i5 processors can do it all. i5s may not do it with the speed of i7s, mind you, but in most instances they’re more than capable.

Honestly, we’d wager that most people would be more than happy with an Intel Core i5 processor in their system. Modern Intel Core i5s are especially impressive for their price. Take the Intel Core i5 14600, for instance. With six P cores and eight E cores boosting up to 5.2GHz, this Intel processor is a fantastic choice for those who need a versatile, powerful processor without breaking the bank.  

Intel Core i7 – High-End Power

Intel Core i7 14700K

However, many gamers and enthusiasts don’t just want to play a game – they want to experience it at the highest quality settings, at the fastest frame rates. That’s where Intel Core i7 processors come in. Intel Core i7 processors are designed for users who demand more than middle-of-the-road performance from their systems. Equipped with more cores and threads than i5s, i7s are ideal for heavy multitasking, high-end gaming, and professional content creation.

Modern Intel Core i7 processors, like the 14th-gen Intel Core i7 14700, typically boast eight of Intel’s P cores and 12 E cores for backup. With Hyper-Threading enabled, which splits one physical core into two virtual cores (called threads), i7s offer up fantastic performance in multi-threaded programs. Tasks like video editing, software compiling, and computer-aided designed are where i7s truly shine.

These are not processors for basic, day-to-day tasks. If all you need a processor for is everyday computer, you’ll be well-served by an Intel Core i5 or even an Intel Core i3, as covered in our i3 vs i5 blog.

Believe it or not, there’s actually another tier of Intel processor above i7s: i9s. Be sure to check out our i7 vs i9 blog to learn how these ultra-high-end Intel processors set themselves apart from i7s.

Price Comparison

Price is up there as one of the most important factors when buying a processor, right alongside performance. Because, yes, while an Intel Core i5 is slower, it doesn’t really matter if you can’t fit an Intel Core i7 in your budget in the first place.

Most i5 processors used in do-it-yourself PC builds range from £200 – £250, with some unlocked, overclockable models (denoted by a “K” in the model name) costing up to £300. If you’re shopping for an off-the-shelf desktop or laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor, these start as low as £450. This makes i5s an attractive option for those shopping for performant yet budget-friendly systems. Intel Core i5-powered laptops are one of our most popular categories of laptops, however. Take a look at the massive range of i5 laptops over at ebuyer and you’ll find certain gaming and premium thin-and-light models hitting the £1,000 mark. Prices can be highly variable for i5 laptops and desktops.

By comparison, Intel Core i7 processors are available around £350 – £400, depending on the generation and model. When on sale, you can pick up a last-gen Intel Core i7 for more around the £300 price point. This is worth notating as even though it’s older, a last-gen but higher-core-count i7 may still be faster than a current-gen i5. We know we’d take the extra couple of P cores if the difference in price wasn’t that big. For i7-equipped laptops, you’re looking more at a starting price of £600. This is for older, last-gen models, however. Those with the latest-and-greatest i7s regularly start at £1,000, stretching up to £2,000.

There’s quite a big jump in price from i5s to i7s, so you need to evaluate whether the higher performance justified the higher price. If your day-to-day tasks are relatively light, you will find better value in an i5. On the flipside, if you frequently use resource-intensive programs, then an i7 will be well worth the investment.

Intended Use Cases

Understanding your typical workflows and performance needs will help you decide which Intel processor is best for you.

Although it’s not as fast as an i7, an i5 can still handle all sorts of tasks. We’d describe it as an all-round processor for the average user, while an i7 is targeted more towards enthusiasts, power users, and professionals. So if you need your computer to be able to do a little bit of everything (without blowing up your budget), an i5 is an excellent choice.

If you engage in more demanding tasks like image editing, video rendering, and 3D animation, an Intel Core i7 is the better choice. Its additional cores and threads allow for smoother performance and faster processing times in resource-intensive applications. Professionals who rely on their computer for work will benefit from the extra performance of an i7.

For gaming specifically, the choice between an Intel Core i5 and i7 depends on the types of games you play most. If you’re always there day-one to play the latest titles with cutting-edge technologies, then it only makes sense to buy an i7 to guarantee the best experience possible. If, on the other hand, you find yourself playing more indie and older games (rather than the hottest AAA releases), they’ll run just fine on an i5. An i7 would be way overkill for a 2D roguelike deckbuilder, for example.

Real-World Scenarios

To better illustrate the practical benefits of i5s and i7s, let’s look at a couple of real-world scenarios where one CPU may be better than another.

  • Max, a Gamer: Max is looking to build their very first gaming PC but is on a tight budget. To make the most of his money, Max buys an Intel Core i5 processor and invests the rest in a high-performance, gaming-grade graphics card. After all, it’s usually the graphics card which has the biggest impact on gaming performance. An i3 would’ve been too slow for modern triple-A games. And while an i7 would’ve been nice to have in these CPU-heavy games, when on a budget, leaning more in favour of the graphics card is the wiser choice.
  • George, a Streamer: George needs a processor that can handle both gaming and streaming simultaneously. While an i5 is a good choice if you’re just looking to game, it can struggle when running streaming software on top of already CPU-intensive games. So to ensure a smooth, stutter-free stream for his viewers, George opts for an Intel Core i7 processor. An i7, with its extra cores and threads, delivers the performance needed to game, stream, and also edit highlights from his streams to upload to social media.
  • Anya, a Video Editor: Anya runs a YouTube channel and edits large 4K video projects every day. An i5 can handle a bit of light content creation, but not the kind of projects Anya works on. It’d just slow down her workflow. An Intel Core i7, on the other hand, not only allows for a smoother editing experience but also reduces rendering times – a win-win.

Technical Comparison

 

Total Cores

No. of “P” Cores

No. of “E” Cores

Total Threads

Max Turbo Frequency

Cache

Base Power Usage

Turbo Power Usage

Intel Core i5 14600

14

6

8

20

5.2GHz

24MB

65W

154W

Intel Core i7 14700

20

8

12

28

5.4GHz

33MB

65W

219W

As you can see in the table above, Intel Core i7 processors consume more power and, in turn, generate more heat than Intel Core i5 processors. So not only does an i7 itself cost more, you will need to invest more into the rest of the PC to keep the CPU cool. For the most part, you can use a stock cooler or another basic air cooler with an Intel Core i5. The same can’t be said for an Intel Core i7. With these power-hungry processors, a hefty, towering air cooler or, better yet, an all-in-one liquid cooler is much preferred. This will allow all its cores to hit those high turbo frequencies without getting too hot and thermal throttling. And if energy efficiency and power consumption are a concern, an Intel Core i5 will be the better choice.

Should You Buy i5 or i7?

In summary, choosing between an Intel Core i5 and i7 depends on your needs and, of course, budget. While an Intel Core i7 is the better of the two when it comes to speed, not everyone will need this kind of performance on tap. Sometimes, going for the slower – but cheaper – processor is the best option. The money you save can then be reinvested in areas of a computer which are more important to you, such as storage capacity or a higher-performance graphics card.

  • Buy i5 if… you need a reliable processor for everyday tasks, moderate gaming, and light content creation – all without breaking the bank. Out of Intel’s Core lineup, i5 processors offer the best balance between performance and price, making them a great choice for most users.
  • Buy i7 if… you’ve got a high-end graphics card and want to ensure a rock-solid experience in the latest games. Compared to i5s, i7s are a worthwhile step up in performance for content creation and professional workloads, live streaming, video editing, and 3D rendering.

Whether you opt for an Intel Core i5 or i7, head over to ebuyer and explore our wide range of Intel processors and Intel-powered laptops and desktops. You’re sure to find the best deal for your needs.

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