There are numerous choices you need to make when purchasing a PC. The most critical one is the type of CPU the PC will have. Intel is one of the most popular brands in processor manufacturing, and its range of Core i3 and Core i5 processors are the most commonly used.
Distinguishing what each processor offers will be vital in helping you pick a PC that will execute all the tasks you have in mind without unnecessarily going over budget.
In this article, we compare the Core i3 and the Core i5 processor from Intel to help you make the right choice when buying a PC or simply upgrading the processor.
Each of the processors has very similar models. If you're unsure what you're looking for, going through the different models can feel very confusing.
Each line of processors comes with various specs and benchmarks that are critical in helping you pick the right one. You just need to know what to look for.
Intel Core i3
The Intel Core i3 is a remarkable processor for casual gamers and often features in most budget gaming PCs. It’s also suitable for menial processing tasks like web browsing and word processing.
The i3 line has five models. Each has its own niche to fill. The lowest powered processors in the line-up are marked with at (T), and the overclockable models are marked with a (K). there are also some non-modified models you can consider.
Because the i3 processor is basic and designed for budget gaming, none of its models comes unlocked for Turbo Boost (more on this later). Therefore, they won’t auto-overclock with overbearing processing loads.
Core i3 processors line-up include:
|Core i3 8100T||4(4)||3.1 GHz||N/A||35 W||No|
|Core i3 8100||4(4)||3.6 GHz||N/A||65 W||No|
|Core i3 8300T||4(4)||3.2 GHz||N/A||35 W||No|
|Core i3 8300||4(4)||3.7 GHz||N/A||62 W||No|
|Core i3 8350K||4(4)||4.0 GHz||N/A||91 W||Yes|
Intel Core i5
Like the Core i3 series, the Core i5 also has various models in its line-up. It features non-modified models, low power (T) models and overclockable (K) models.
One of the first differences you notice between these two sets of processors is that the i5 series features Turbo Boost unlocked processors in its line-up. These allow for better efficiency because the processors can idle at lower clock speeds when they're not in use.
One such process is the i5-8400T. It packs a mere 35W TDP and can idle down to 1.7GHz to save energy while maintaining enough power to run most games.
The TDP is a critical factor to consider because the lower it is, the lower the power the processor will consume, and the less heat it generates.
Core i5 line-up includes:
|Base Clock Speed||Turbo Clock Speed||TDP||Overlocking|
|Core i5 8400T||6(6)||1.7 GHz||3.3 GHz||35 W||No|
|Core i5 8400||6(6)||2.8 GHz||4.0 GHz||65 W||No|
|Core i5 8500T||6(6)||2.1 GHz||3.5 GHz||35 W||No|
|Core i5 8500||6(6)||3.0 GHz||4.1 GHz||65 W||No|
|Core i5 8600T||6(6)||2.3 GHz||3.7 GHz||35 W||No|
|Core i5 8600||6(6)||3.1 GHz||4.3 GHz||65 W||No|
|Core i5 8600K||6(6)||3.6 GHz||4.3 GHz||95 W||Yes|
Other than the unlocked Turbo-boost, another notable difference is the additional two cores that give a huge boost to performance along with better and faster speeds.
Typically, you will get better CPU performance from Core i5 processors over Core i3. All Core i3 processors are dual-core, while i5 processors come in dual-core and quad-core variants.
Other than the cores and threads, you will also need to consider the generation of the processor. Newer generations are better designed for gaming and offer improved performance.
Although the new generation CPU will cost more, they will also give you more service and better performance before becoming obsolete.
If performance is your sole concern, one of the best ways to overcome Core confusion is by simply picking the latest generation in your preferred processor class and take the highest model number.
Processor cache is critical to performance. The cache allows the processor to quickly access files needed to complete tasks that are already opened. The more the cache, the more the files the processor can store in the short-term memory and the faster it can complete tasks.
Core i5 processors have a larger cache that ensures the processor can expedite tasks faster. This makes i5 processors perfect for running various tasks like editing and calculating spreadsheets in addition to gaming.
For multitasking PCs, the cache is going to be a vital consideration. Currently, Core i5 CPUs have a 6MB cache of L3 cache while i3 processors have 3 – 4MB of L3 cache.
Turbo Boost is also Intel’s “overclocking” feature, which is built into the processors. This feature allows the processor to run faster than its base clock speed. The base clock speed is the speed the processor can run with minimal load. Turbo Boost kicks in when processing demand increases.
Most core i5 processors have Turbo Boost. A good example is the Core i5-4300U processor. It has a base clock speed of 1.9GHz. But under heavy load, the processor will dynamically boost its cores up to 2.9GHz. Unfortunately, Core i3 processors don’t have the Turbo Boost feature.
Hyper-threading is a unique technology that allows processors to handle more tasks faster and with ease.
Intel’s Hyper-threading uses a multi-threading technology that makes the processor appear to have more cores than it actually has to the applications and the operating system. This technology is used to increase performance allowing you to run various multi-threaded tasks like running multiple programs simultaneously.
Multi-media operations like rendering and transcoding also benefit from hyperthreading. A Core i5 dual-core CPU with hyper-threading acts like a four-core chipset.
Both core i5 and core i3 chipsets support hyperthreading which opens you up to a world of opportunities and pushes the capacity and performance of your processor.
The Westmere generation of Core processors introduced various new features and benefits. Among them was integrated graphics built into the processor core itself.
Previously, the integrated graphics card was built onto the motherboard chipsets instead of the processor.
Overall, the i5 processors with integrated graphics will generally perform better than their Core i3 counterparts. But this is not always the case. It depends on the generation of the processor and the release. As a general rule of thumb, the latest release from the latest generation will often perform the best.
Obviously, the price has a substantial impact on the processor you choose. Expectedly, i3 processors are less expensive than their i5 counterparts. But, the i5 processors have more capabilities and are a better option for media creation, gaming and multi-tasking. If you regularly complain about your PC being slow, an i5 Processor will deliver an impressive performance boost.
Core i3 processors, on the other hand, focus on longer battery life and are common in slimmer, fanless PCs. It goes to show that both options, despite the price difference, have a niche and a target market. It's about what works best for you.
Which is better, i3 or i5?
A: From a technical perspective, i5 chipsets are better than i3 processors. But from a user perspective, what build you choose entirely depends on the applications you have in mind. If you run multiple heavy applications and overclock often, the i3 processor could be underpowered, not to mention it doesn't have vital features like unlocked Turbo Boost, and some models also don’t work with manual overclocks.
Core i3 processors still have their place in the market and have numerous benefits. They are cost-effective and amazingly energy efficient. Some models are unlocked for Turbo Boost, and for gaming, you can push beyond 60FPS in 1080p for most games. When the price is a painful thorn, and you're only thinking of casual gaming, the i3 processor could be the ultimate solution.
Frequently Asked Questions About Core i3 Vs i5 Processors
Can you upgrade from i3 to i5?
If you already have a rig running on a core i3 processor, you can upgrade the processor to an i5 to get more frames per second and increase the efficiency and capabilities of the system. However, it’s not a straightforward process.
You have to consider the type of PC in question. Laptops come with an integrated chip that cannot be replaced. You will also need to consider the type of socket and motherboard compatibility to find the right processor for an upgrade.
Is core i3 good enough for gaming?
Core i3 processors are not a popular choice for AAA titles, but they will still run most of your other gaming titles. Don't expect the processor to put out the best frames, but it will deliver a decent performance with the right gaming settings and hardware.
Core i3 processors are perfect for budget gaming, especially on an entry-level build. It's a great place to start if you're starting on PC gaming.
From the above analysis, it's easy to see that there's no definite winner between the two processors. While the core i5 is a superior series, there are instances when you're better off with a core i3 variant. Carefully considering what you would like to use the PC for will go a long way in helping you choose the right processor to deliver exceptional results for the applications you will be running.