When you are going to buy a computer or configure your PC, you need to first choose the CPU or microprocessor that you are going to use, since it will be what everything else revolves around. However, Intel has several types of processors in the market and sometimes there are some problems to know what are the differences between them. Here you can learn what makes an i3, i5, i7, or i9 different, among other products from the American firm.
Processor nomenclature and identification
Intel uses a fairly easy nomenclature to interpret if you know how, although it can be chaotic if you don’t control it. To make it easier for you, you can follow these instructions:
- Brand (brand): this is the registered trademark for the range of products, in this case, Intel Core, although it can also be Intel Pentium, Intel Celeron, Intel Atom, or Intel Xeon. This already lets you see what the processor is intended for, since Intel Xeon is for HPC, while the others are for home use.
- Brand modifier: can be i3, i5, i7, and i9. The higher the number, the more powerful the processor. For example, the i3 is from the entry range, for less demanding users. While the i5 is recommended for most users who do a bit of everything on their computers. While the i7 is for those who seek higher performance, for example for gaming, and the i9 is for heavier loads.
- Serial number: can be subdivided into several parts, for example:
- The first one or two digits are the generations. That is, it is indicating the microarchitecture. For example, an Intel Core i7-9000 would be the 9th generation and a 13th generation Intel Core i7-13000. The more current it is, the better the performance of the chip.
- Then the SKU would come, which is a modifier that determines the performance within that same generation. For example, a 13600 underperforms a 13900.
Regarding the suffixes, we have the following:
- H – Has a high-performance Intel iGPU embedded in the processor.
- HK – Similar to H processors but overclockable, i.e. not locked.
- K: processor unlocked for overclocking.
- KS: It is not very common, but it is a K processor with a higher Boost frequency.
- KF – Overclockable processors with integrated graphics
- T: corresponds to processors optimized for very low-power desktop processors.
- X – Dedicated to HEDT-type higher-performance processors.
- XE – A chip dedicated to HEDT performance processors, but they are also Intel-certified “Extreme Edition”.
- XS: similar to what happens between K and KS, that is, an X with a higher Boost.
- U: Very low-power drives, typically found in ultrabooks and tablets, slower than laptop chips.
- And: low power, designed for less powerful mobile phones and laptops.
On the other hand, it is important to note that not all processors are sold the same. For example, those intended for desktop computers are usually sold in boxes and may bring the heatsink and fan in some cases, although not all include it.
Differences between i3, i5, i7 and i9 processors
There are a number of differences between Intel Core i3, i5, i7 or i9 processors that we must take into account and understand when choosing one or the other. Not only does the price change, but there are also other notable differences, as I have already pointed out before, such as performance and the number of cores available. However, this is not something that is indicated solely by this flag modifier, as it can also depend on the generation.
For example, in recent generations, more cores have been added, but one must distinguish between P-cores and E-cores, that is, high-performance, higher-power cores and smaller, lower-performance, and also more energy-efficient cores.
- Intel Core 10th Gen:
- i3: 4 cores
- i5: 6 cores
- i7: 8 cores
- i9: 10 cores
- Intel Core 11th Gen:
- i5: 6 cores
- i7: 8 cores
- i9: 8 cores
- Intel Core 12th Gen:
- i3: 4 cores
- i5: 6 cores to 10 cores (6 performance and 4 efficiency)
- i7: 12 cores (8 for performance and 4 for efficiency)
- i9: 16 cores (8 performance and 8 efficiency)
- Intel Core 13 Gen:
- i3: 14 cores (6 for performance and 8 for efficiency)
- i5: 14 cores (6 for performance and 8 for efficiency)
- i7: 16 cores (8 performance and 8 efficiency)
- i9: 24 cores (8 performance and 16 efficiency)
Another big difference between different Intel products is the amount of cache memory. Keep in mind that all these chips from i3 to i9 are the same chip, only due to manufacturing defects, some will have more or less active cores and will be clocked at a certain value. This is how you get all the types and SKUs available.
Having more or fewer cores also has more or less cache, which also matters. For example, an i3 will always tend to have less cache memory than an intel core i5, since having fewer cores will also have disabled some areas of this internal memory.
Another interesting aspect is HyperThreading (HT), which is not always available on all cores. That is to say, it is an SMT technology patented by Intel that makes the physical cores unfold into two logical cores to be able to process two threads at the same time. This increases performance. For example, some E kernels will not have HT, so they work with only one thread at a time.
Also, the frequency of the processor is important (the number of clock cycles that a processor can perform in one second). The older it is, the faster it will be, especially in video games. Remember that video games take better advantage of single-core performance than multicore, as they are not optimized to take advantage of all available cores. And, of course, the frequency is not only the base or nominal, you should also look at the Turbo Boost, which is a maximum frequency to which the processor can go up for a limited time if a series of consumption conditions are met and temperature to provide higher performance if needed.
I also would not like to forget the TDP. This value refers to both the power consumption of the CPU and the heat it generates while working. The bigger it is, the worse it is, since it will mean that it will get hotter and that it will consume more electricity to work. However, it is clear that the more powerful the processor, the more TDP it will have, this is normal. In case of a very high TDP, you will have to improve the cooling to make it sufficient, and if you overclock, you may have to think better about liquid cooling.
Other Intel processors
As you know, there are not only the brands mentioned above, there are also others. For example, one of them is the Intel Atom, which are low-power, low-performance chips intended for cheap laptops, IoT, or mobile devices. Something similar happens with the Intel Core M.
On the other hand, we also have the Intel Celeron and Intel Pentium, which will be capped versions of the Intel Core i. For example, when they only have 2 assets or a functional core, then Intel renames them like this in order to take advantage of them and sell them at a lower price. These chips may be intended for low-performance laptops or desktop PCs, even below the i3.
Generally, Intel Celerons only have one or two active cores and do not have HT. While the Intel Pentium will have about 2 cores and some will have active HT. Both Celerons and Pentiums are usually intended for laptops, cheap desktop PCs, and even mini PCs.
How to see all the characteristics and differences
If you want to consult all the technical characteristics of the different Intel products, you can do it in a very easy way. You just have to follow these steps:
- Go to the Intel website
- Choose the brand of processor you want to consult. For example, Intel Core.
- Then a menu is displayed with all the available brand modifiers, and you choose the one you want to consult again. For example, Intel Core i9.
- Then click on the Products tab.
- A table will appear with all the available models or SKUs, where you can choose the final version that you want to consult. For example the Intel Core i3-1215UL.
- Now you will come to a very complete page with all the information available on this product. And if you wish, on the top right you have a button to Download Specifications if you wish.
In step 4 you can also go to the Downloads tab to download software or drivers, and even to the Documentation tab, where you can find PDF documents with all the information about the product you need.
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Abram left his e-business studies to devote himself to his entrepreneurial projects. In 2017, he created the company Inbound Media and wrote articles about high-tech products for his Chromebookeur site. In 2019, Chromebookeur was renamed Macbound and became a general purchasing advice site. Today, Abram manages the development and growth of Macbound, surrounded by a young and talented team.