i5 vs i7: Which Is Better For Gaming?

Every gamer needs the right gaming equipment to maximize fun and minimize lag time. The CPU or processor of a gaming system is one of the most crucial things to consider when it comes to creating the ultimate gaming experience. In fact, the processor is the core of any gaming system, doing all the complicated computing required to make the system tick.

Are you looking to buy a gaming computer or build your own gaming PC but are struggling to choose between a Core i5 and i7 processor? If that’s the dilemma you’re currently facing, you’ve come to the right place.

This review will take you through what you need to know about the two types of processors so you can make an informed decision regarding which processor-type is right for you. But before discussing about the two types of processors in greater detail, it is important to have a general idea about the codename “i”.

Overview Of The Core “i” Ranges Of Processors 

When talking about desktop computers and laptops, the codename “i” denotes Intel’s current assortment of Core-branded processors that come in three ranges, with each range consisting of several models. These ranges include the entry-level Core i3 (also known as Core m3), the midrange Core i5 and the top-end Core i7.

While Intel’s current naming system generally seems simpler to make out than before, singling out the processor that can match your exact gaming requirements can be an intimidating task.

Intel’s Core “i” ranges of computer processors are designed to meet the needs of different computer users, but they come with model numbers that don’t make it particularly easy to identify the processor that suits you.

Aside from the fact that you’ll have to pay more for an Intel Core i-branded computer with a greater code number, the differences between the Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 aren’t at all obvious.

With that said, here’s a discussion on features you will need to consider before choosing between a Core i5 and i7 processor.


i5 vs i7: Cores

What’s a core? A core can be regarded as a single processor. When you hear terms like a dual-core processor or a quad-core processor, they reveal that a particular CPU comes bundled with two or four internal processors respectively. Single-core processors have quickly become a thing of the past, thanks to advancements in modern computing.

Generally speaking, more cores are desirable when you need to perform multiple applications at the same time. With a quad-core processor, for example, you can run up to four different applications concurrently, with each application effectively running on its own dedicated processor.

Both Core i5 and i7 processors are equipped with four cores, meaning they can efficiently handle up to four tasks without compromising the performance of the entire system.

Quad-core processors are standard for modern gaming PCs. These processors will help keep your gaming system running powerfully even if you have applications, such as software updates running in the background.

While there are Core i7 processors that feature six or eight cores, most gaming applications can’t utilize all the cores at the same time. Therefore, the performance boost from having additional cores isn’t so significant.

Intel Core i5-8400 Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.0 GHz LGA 1151...
  • 6 Cores / 6 Threads
  • 2.80 GHz up to 4.00 GHz Max Turbo Frequency / 9 MB Cache
Intel Core i7-8700K Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.7GHz Turbo...
  • 6 Cores / 12 Threads
  • 3.70 GHz Max Turbo Frequency / 12 MB Cache; Memory Types: DDR4 2666; Bus Speed 8 GT/s DMI3

i5 vs i7: Clock Speed

In the computer world, clock speed refers to the speed at which the CPU or processor of a computer executes instructions. Clock speed can be expressed in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz).

The greater the clock speed, the faster and more efficiently each core can work. For example, a Core i7-6500U processor runs at 2.5GHz and it would be slightly faster than a Core i5-6300U processor, which runs at 2.4GHz.

Check the recommended hardware specs for the games you play and make sure you choose a CPU that matches the required frequency. A processor with a lower frequency rating will make your computer run too slow, thus adversely affecting your gaming experience.

i5 vs i7: Turbo Boost

Turbo Boost Technology can be regarded as Intel’s method of automatically overclocking a CPU in order to make its clock speed go above the default setting. The processor keeps track of its temperature so that it can apply the overclock when it is running cool enough. Both Core i5 and i7s feature this technology.

True to its name, Turbo Boost drastically boosts the clock speed of Core i5 and i7 processors when greater power is needed. However, the more a processor overclocks, the greater the amount of heat it will generate. As a result, processors can only efficiently Turbo Boost when they remain within a given temperature range.

Only consider the GHz figure when you are comparing Intel Core i-branded processors from the same families and generations. The bigger the figure, the faster the speed of the processor.

You should, however, keep in mind that gaming can be pretty intensive and demanding. Thus, your CPU can heat up quite fast. For this reason, you should ensure your CPU’s cooling system has the capacity to handle its thermal requirements and keep the entire system running properly for a longer duration.

i5 vs i7: Processor Cache

All computer devices automatically create and store cached data over time. A significant amount of the cached data is usually accumulated in computer processors.

All Core i5 and i7 processors get 6MB and 8MB cache respectively. If you want to get even more cache memory, you can opt for ultra-top-end Core i7 Extreme processors. So, does the size of processor cache matter?

A larger cache memory means the processors will need to retrieve data from the computer’s slower RAM less often, thus resulting in faster system performance.

With that said, Core i7 processors tend to outperform their Core i5 counterparts due to their larger cache memory capacity.

i5 vs i7: Graphics Chip

All Intel processors come with a graphics card (GPU) integrated into them. This means that the entire range of Intel Core i-branded processors are CPU-GPU fusion designs. However, not all the integrated graphics chips are the same.

For example, HD Graphics 4400 chips are ideal for playing classic games that aren’t graphics-heavy, while the Intel HD Graphics 4600 line is particularly good for light gaming. If you’re looking for graphics chips that can stream video games faster, processors with Intel Iris Pro chips integrated into them would be a great option.

i5 vs i7: K Models

You already know that our computer can automatically overclock if it has Turbo Boost technology. But are you aware that you can overclock a Core i-branded processor yourself? Some Intel Core processors offer that technology.

If you see any Core i-branded processor model ending with a K, it indicates that the processor is unlocked. Hence, you can use BIOS settings to increase the clock speed of the CPU yourself. You can realize significant performance boosts this way.

i5 vs i7: Hyper-Threading        

Thanks to Intel’s Hyper-Threading Technology, it’s possible to make your gaming computer’s OS run as if it had twice the number of cores than it actually has. In other words, the technology is used to create two functional cores within each physical core.

Hyper-threading is vital to increasing the performance of computer systems used for multi-tasking and running multi-threaded applications. However, the performance boost it delivers isn’t as significant as that provided by additional ‘real’ cores.

This technology is available for Core i7 processors. Core i5 models, on the other hand, lack it.

i5 vs i7: Socket Compatibility    

All computers require a motherboard, and all motherboards require a processor. In short, none can do without the other. Socket compatibility is all about ensuring that the processor integrated into the computer system is compatible with the motherboard’s socket. This is especially important when you’re building your own gaming PC.

i5 vs i7: Which Core i Processor Is Better For Gaming?

Even though everything from the storage, to graphics component, to system memory, and motherboard of your gaming computer matters, it's your processor that makes all the decisions required to execute instructions.

So, which of the two Core i-branded processors is better for gaming? The answer to this question varies depending on your specific gaming needs. Intel’s Core i processors of the same families and generations are basically the same in terms of architecture. The differences in performance result from which capabilities are incorporated or left out.

Instead of trying to figure out which of the two Intel Core families is better for gaming, you should focus on determining which combination of features or capabilities would be the best match your gaming requirements.

For instance, if you are looking to take advantage of hyper-threading and increase the clock speed of your gaming computer yourself, you’ll be better off investing in a Core i7 processor ending with a K. A Core i5 model ending with a K wouldn’t be the best option because it doesn’t support hyper-threading.

Simply choosing the fastest or most expensive Core i5 or i7 processor for your gaming PC, without taking time to assess your particular needs, ultimately wouldn’t solve your problem.

All in all, you’ll need to invest in a dedicated GPU if you're a serious gamer, regardless of whether you choose a Core i5 and i7 processor.

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