Intel Core i3 vs. Core i5 vs. Core i7: A Worth and Efficiency Evaluation

When building a new computer, price is often the factor that determines which components you buy. Setting a budget is usually the easy part, while choosing the right hardware to meet this limit is the real challenge, especially with game systems, since both the CPU and GPU put a heavy burden on the total cost.

Those who build an Intel machine these days have a variety of options. Desktop CPU prices range from just $ 60 to well over $ 600. The Core i3 is intended as an entry-level option, the Core i5 is designed for mainstream use and the powerful Core i7 is intended for high-end systems and enthusiasts.

Looking at the current Haswell product range, we have Core i3 processors ranging from suggested retail prices from $ 122 to $ 149, Core i5 chips with prices from $ 182 to 242, and Core i7 parts between 303 and 339 U.S. dollar. Of course, Haswell e-chips are available for $ 389 to $ 999, but let's not worry for now.

All three core processors are based on the same architecture. So where they really differ is the number of cores / threads and the cache size. There are other factors like operating frequency and built-in graphics, but for the most part, it's the cores and cache that matter.

Core i3-4160 Core i3-4350 Core i5-4690 Core i7-4790
Price
Cores

2nd

2nd

4th

4th

subjects

4th

4th

4th

8th

frequency

3.6 GHz

3.6 GHz

3.5 GHz

3.6 GHz

turbo

– –

– –

3.9 GHz

4 GHz

L3 cache

3 MB

4 MB

6 MB

8 MB

GPU model

HD graphics 4400

HD graphics 4600

HD graphics 4600

HD graphics 4600

GPU frequency

350-1150 MHz

350-1150 MHz

350-1200 MHz

350-1200 MHz

TDP

54 W.

54 W.

84 W.

84 W.

The table above compares the three core series. As you can see, the Core i3 series has two dedicated cores, but they support four threads using hyper-threading. Depending on the model, they have 3 or 4 MB L3 cache, and Intel's Turbo Boost is not activated, so the frequency is between 3.4 GHz and 3.8 GHz.

The Core i5 processors differ significantly from the Core i3 processors because they contain four physical cores. However, since they lack hyper-threading, only four cores / threads are offered. All Haswell Core i5 processors have a 6 MB L3 cache (50-100% more than the Core i3 chips) and Turbo Boost. While the basic frequencies are between 3.0 GHz and 3.5 GHz, some models can run under load depending on the 3.9 GHz.

The Core i7 family offers an additional 2 MB L3 cache, a total of 8 MB, in addition to the Core i5 series, in addition to eight-thread hyper-threading, which can significantly increase the multitasking potential.

For graphics, the Core i3 series uses either the HD Graphics 4400 or 4600, while the Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs only use the HD Graphics 4600. Both versions have 20 execution units, the 4600 only clocks more aggressively under heavier loads and therefore uses more power.

With all this information, many builders will wonder which one is right for them. Do you need a Core i7 or is the Core i5 just as fast for your requirements? Should they spend less on a Core i3 and spread the savings elsewhere, or is the Core i5 worth a premium?

To make your buying decision a little easier, we will see how the core series behaves in different applications, video coding scenarios and of course when playing. We will not only look at the integrated gaming performance, but also at the discrete graphics performance with GPUs in the middle and upper price range.

Memory bandwidth performance

All four processors were coupled with DDR3-1866 memory, which allowed 22-23 GB / s. The Core i5 and Core i7 processors were only 700 MB / s faster than the Core i3 models.

Although the bandwidth between system memory and processor was not very different from model to model, the cache performance is the same. The Core i5 and the i7 fit together quite well – the i7 is only 5% faster when measuring L1 performance. The Core i3, on the other hand, is considerably slower and offers almost half the performance of the more expensive i5 and i7 models.

Application performance

The Core i7-4790 only took 4 seconds to do the workload. It was 48% faster than the i5-4690, while the i5 was 69% faster than the Core i3-4350, which outperformed the i3-4160 by 5%.

This time we see that the Core i3-4350 was 8% faster than the i3-4160. The Core i5-4690 was 46% faster than the i3-4350 and the Core i7-4790 was 33% faster than the i5-4690.

Intel's Hyper-Threading works well with WinRAR and therefore the Core i3 processors offer similar performance to the Core i5. The i5-4690 was only 5% faster than the i3-4350, but the i7-4790 was 93% faster than the i5-4690.

The Core i7-4790 only took 16.7 seconds to complete our Photoshop CC workload – 53% faster than the i5-4690. The i5 was 42% faster than the i3-4350, which was 12% faster than the i3-4160.

Adobe's InDesign CC uses insufficiently more than two threads. As a result, Core i7 and i5 delivered the same result. In fact, the i7 was only 0.8 seconds faster than the i3-4160.

The Core i7-4790 was only 5% faster than the i5-4690, while the i5 was 38% faster than the i3-4350.

Adobe Illustrator CC is another application that cannot use additional threads and therefore has similar performance on the Intel Core processors.

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