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Which Processor Is The Better Choice For Your Laptop: Intel Core i5 or Core i7?

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By Matt Smith

When you purchase a new laptop, deciding which processor is best can be a little overwhelming. Given the fact that most mainstream laptops are equipped with either the Intel Core i5 or Intel Core i7 processors, you’d likely have to settle for one or the other. So, which one is the best, or more pertinently, which one offers the most value for money?

There’s no straightforward answer to this question, particularly when you consider the fact that differences between them are not very pronounced. In the end, the decision may have to boil down to what you plan to do with your laptop and of course, your budget. We’ve tested and compared both processors against each other, to help ease your decision making.

i5 vs i7 cpu

Overall i5 and i7 CPU Performance Comparison

While the Core i7 laptop invariably performed better than the Core i5 in all areas we tested, the differences were marginal. The Core i7 boasts faster base clock speeds than the i5 and with Turbo Boost, you can get the i7 to work even faster. Other than this, and their prices, the differences between both processors are not significant. In a nutshell, if you’re going to be using your laptop for normal productive tasks and for surfing the web, the i5 is perfect. However, if you need your PC to perform heavier, more demanding tasks, you probably should consider choosing the Core i7.

We had both processors perform some video transcoding, spreadsheet, and gaming tasks in order to gauge their overall performance. For the former task, the i7 processor was the first to record a complete job, although it just edged the i5 CPU by a few minutes. The Core i7 CPU also trumped the spreadsheet task, although the difference was similarly marginal. Unsurprisingly, both processors performed below average at the gaming task, since you’d need a dedicated GPU for any serious gaming. Nevertheless, the i7 performed slightly better here again, although the difference between both is unlikely to affect the quality of gameplay very much. 

We also tested the power consumption values of both processors and there’s not much difference between them here too. We used laptops equipped with either of these processors to surf the web continuously over a WiFi network. The laptop with the i5 chip lasted longer, but only a matter of minutes longer. Basically, unless you run the i7 at higher clock speeds and push it hard, there won’t be any major difference in power consumption between the two processors. Check here for a detailed list of laptop processors and their overall performance scores. 

Price Comparison

Being the superior piece of technology, the i7 chip is unsurprisingly pricier than the i5. An Intel i5 processor with 4MB Cache memory and up to 3.60 GHz frequency costs around $304, as listed on the Intel website. By comparison, an i7 processor with the same specifications will set you back $393. There’s a clear difference between both sets of prices, and things only get more heated the further you go up the spectrum.

intel core i5

Is It Better To Have A Quad-core Processor Or A Dual-core Processor

These days, it’s pretty rare to find a laptop that runs on a single-core processor. Only older generation computers and ultra-thin laptops operate a single-core processor. The relationship between processor cores and CPU performance can be summed up by this simple fact: the more the cores, the better the performance. In other words, more cores increase the power of the CPU, which will produce the ripple effect of faster, better performance.

However, the jury’s still out as to whether laptops with quad-core processors perform much better than laptops with dual-core processors. Most laptops that are equipped with a quad-core processor end up making use of just two cores, because apps find their complex algorithms prohibitively difficult to work with. Quad-core processors also need a lot of energy to run smoothly.

At the end of the day, there’s not much difference in terms of performance between a quad-core and a dual-core processor. Both will offer decent speeds.

Comparison Of Cache Size

CPU cache is where your CPU stores recurrent and frequently used data so it doesn’t have to keep referring to your hard drive for simple tasks. The cache helps the computer perform simple tasks faster and also aids multitasking. So, a large cache size can actually be advantageous.

The average cache size of most i5 processors is between 3MB-6MB, while the average for Core i7 is 4MB-8MB. However, as technology advances cache sizes continue to increase. These days, you can find i5 processors with up to 12MB cache size, and i7 processors with 16MB cache size.

Comparison Of Clock Speed

A CPU’s clock speed relays information as to how fast a processor can perform a specific task. Measured in Gigahertz (GHz), it tells how many instructions the CPU can process every second. i5 processors have a base clock speed between 1.2-3.6 GHz while the base clock speed of i7 processors is between 1.3-3.5 GHz.

A base clock speed of 2.4 GHz will do very nicely, even if you like to cycle through a lot of tasks rapidly on your laptop. Therefore, base clock speed should not be a big deciding factor in your calculations.

Turbo Boost Technology

You may be able to tell from its name that this feature gives the CPU’s base clock a significant, temporary boost. Basically, it’s a temporary overclock that gives the CPU’s base clock speed a massive boost and lets you complete single-threaded tasks much quicker.

Both i5 and i7 CPUs are equipped with this feature, although i7 processors can generally reach higher speeds. For comparison, Intel’s i5-8600K CPU can reach a Max Turbo Frequency of 3.60 GHz, the highest recorded. On the other hand, all 8th Generation i7 processors can attain speeds of 4 GHz when boosted.


Hyper-Threading Technology

Hyper-Threading Technology can give the performance of your processor a real boost. Put simply, this technology enables a processor’s cores to handle two cores simultaneously. In essence, it helps your system multitask and multithread smoothly, without any lull or drop in performance levels and speeds. 

Most PCs do not provide information about the presence or absence of Hyper-Threading Technology on their list of specifications, so the information may be a little difficult to come by. However, from the 4th Generation upwards, all i5 and i7 processors feature this technology.

Integrated Graphics

Both i5 and i7 come with integrated graphics that perform a majority of mainstream productivity and display tasks. Integrated graphics are also the more power-effective option since there are no extra graphics chips draining power on your computer’s motherboard.

However, integrated graphics will struggle with PC games, especially the high-end ones even when you toggle the settings to the lowest. To enjoy smooth gaming or video editing, you may need to get a discrete graphics card.


Once again, before deciding on either of these processors it’s a smart idea to know what kind of user you are and importantly, know what you’ll mostly be interested in doing with your laptop. If you’re an average user, mostly interested in surfing the web, performing a few multimedia tasks, working on Word documents, or relaxing with light games, you should consider getting a laptop with an i5 processor. On the other hand, if you’re a high-end user looking to push the CPU to its limits with heavy tasks and heavy games, the i7 CPU is for you.


Q: Is it worth upgrading from i5 to i7?

A: That depends on your purpose for the switch. If your quibble with the i5 is based on performance, it’s important to know that the i7 will only provide marginal performance upgrades, which may not be worth the significant outlay.

Q: Does i7 last longer than i5?

A: It may take longer for a Core i7 processor to wear out and slow down than a Core i5 processor. 

Q: In Which situations will Core i5 be better than i7?

A:  The Intel i7 processor performs better than the i5 processor in almost every area except battery consumption.