Intel Core i9 vs. Core i7 vs. Core i5: Which CPU Should You Buy?
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The reports of the desktop PC’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Intel and AMD are back in a new battle of processors, with Intel launching a new series. It’s called the Core i9, and it’s the fastest consumer desktop processor ever.

The Core i9 has a lot going for it. It starts with a 10-core CPU for $999, the Core i9-7900X, and goes all the way up to the Core i9-7980XE for $1,999 with 18 cores. That’s far higher than the dual-cores and quad-cores What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? What Does "Dual Core" & "Quad Core" Mean? A long time ago, your CPU came with a single core. These days, most CPUs are at least dual core, and more likely quad core. But what does dual, quad, or octo-core even mean? Read More we are used to. So far, only the base-level 7900X is available for sale.

Apart from more raw speed, the Core i9 series makes small changes under the hood. It rebalances the cache hierarchy, introduces a new Turbo Boost, supports four-channel DDR4 RAM, and Intel’s Optane Memory 10 Reasons Why Intel’s Bleeding-Edge Optane Drive Is a Rip-Off 10 Reasons Why Intel’s Bleeding-Edge Optane Drive Is a Rip-Off Thinking of buying Intel’s Optane technology? Think again. Optane suffers from unbelievable problems. Don’t trust the hype -- it’s a rip-off for what they’re charging. Read More . If you want to know more, we have a detailed article explaining what makes the Core i9 the fastest processor What Makes the Intel Core i9 the Fastest Processor and Should You Buy It? What Makes the Intel Core i9 the Fastest Processor and Should You Buy It? The Intel i7 has long topped the consumer CPU-pile. However, Intel have finally released a new generation of CPUs. Let's take a look at the beasty 18-core Intel i9 series. Read More today.

intel core i9 x series

Along with the Core i9, Intel also launched new models of the Core i5 and Core i7 processors. They’re part of Intel’s Skylake-X series, which runs on the new X299 chipset –– the same as what the Core i9 series uses. This means you will need a new motherboard if you plan to use any of these new processors.

A series of new processors leads to the natural question: should I buy this? Intel continues to sell its Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 series of processors, along with the new X299 Core i9. So which CPU should you buy? Though not completely necessary, to truly understand, you will want to know what CPUs are and what they do What Is A CPU and What Does It Do? What Is A CPU and What Does It Do? Computing acronyms are confusing. What is a CPU anyway? And do I need a quad or dual-core processor? How about AMD, or Intel? We're here to help explain the difference! Read More .

The Office Goer

“I want a simple laptop that does the basics.”

Common Activities: Browsing the web, email, social networking, Microsoft Office, sometimes watching movies.

which intel core office goer

The trusty old Intel Core i3 should be able to serve all your needs efficiently. It is a low-cost processor and is also energy-efficient to give you longer battery life. I’d recommend the Intel Core i3 7100, one of the best-reviewed starter processors.

Intel Core i3-7100 7th Gen Core Desktop Processor 3M Cache,3.90 GHz (BX80677I37100) Intel Core i3-7100 7th Gen Core Desktop Processor 3M Cache,3.90 GHz (BX80677I37100) Buy Now At Amazon $125.00

The Core i3’s onboard graphics chip is perhaps its biggest limitation. While it’s decent enough to watch movies, you might see some lag while skipping back and forth on a 1080p movie file.

You should also consider a device running Intel Core M Intel Core M: What's so Great About the Processor? Intel Core M: What's so Great About the Processor? The Intel Core M is the most hyped processor in years, and with good reason: it's at the heart of a new revolution in laptops. Read More , a power-optimized processor with a better HD 5300 graphics chip. Its cost falls between a Core i3 and a Core i5, and is available in laptops or Intel’s palm-sized NUC computers.

The Student

“I want to do a whole lot of things simultaneously, and get my assignments done.”

Common Activities: Watching movies, listening to music, social networking, browsing the web, Microsoft Office, some gaming, specialized software depending on the course.

which intel core student

For students, we would suggest either the Intel Core M or the Intel Core i5, depending on your needs.

If you won’t play games, carry your laptop around campus all day, and don’t have any graphics-intensive needs, then the Intel Core M should be fine. Plus, its energy efficiency makes it ideal to use for long periods in a day. We also recommend checking out the best laptops for students, by major The Best Laptops for School by Major in 2016 The Best Laptops for School by Major in 2016 What are the best laptops for school? It depends on the student's academic focus. Engineering majors don't need the same laptop as liberal arts majors. Here's what you need. Read More .

But most students should stick to the Intel Core i5 series of processors. These are built for performance, and even offer some graphics oomph if you want. The i5 series also supports Turbo Boost to speed up tasks at the right time.

If you’re building a desktop PC, get a Core i5 quad-core processor. Even the base level Core i5 7500 should do for this, and it’s a tremendously popular choice among PC builders.

Intel Core i5-7500 LGA 1151 7th Gen Core Desktop Processor Intel Core i5-7500 LGA 1151 7th Gen Core Desktop Processor Buy Now At Amazon $238.00

The Gamer

“I want to play the latest games with no drop in framerates.”

Common Activities: Gaming, screen recording, internet chat, intense multitasking.

which intel core gamer

If you’re building a gaming rig, there are two possible scenarios. Either you are starting from scratch, or you are upgrading your current processor.

Those who are upgrading their CPU but don’t want any other investment should look away from the new X299 chipset processors. Any of those will invariably mean upgrading your motherboard, and maybe other parts too. In fact, you might want to build an eight-core gaming rig with cheap server parts How to Build an 8-Core Gaming PC from Cheap Server Parts How to Build an 8-Core Gaming PC from Cheap Server Parts Want a beefed-up gaming or video-editing PC with dual Intel Xeon processors for under $200? The parts are out there, but finding and putting them together could prove difficult. Read More .

If you are building a new high-end gaming PC, then start with the new Skylake-X series, since it will make you future-compatible. On the other hand, for those building within a modest budget, the Core i3, Core i5, or Ryzen (what’s Ryzen? What Is So Good About the New AMD Ryzen? What Is So Good About the New AMD Ryzen? The AMD Ryzen just landed, and the world of CPUs just got interesting. What is the hype all about, and is it right for you? Read More ) processors might be more appropriate picks.

The starting point in this is the Intel Core i5-7640X for $250, which has a quad-core processor but no hyperthreading. If you aren’t upgrading, then the previous generation’s Core i5 7600K comes for the same price and is unlocked for overclocking.

Intel Core i5-7640X Processor Intel Core i5-7640X Processor Buy Now At Amazon $243.91

Those looking for more oomph from their gaming build’s processor should get the Intel Core i7-7800X for $400. The six-core CPU has hyperthreading for 12 virtual cores and supports up to 28 PCI Express lanes. Whether you’re gaming, streaming, or even playing virtual reality games with a headset, this one can handle it all.

Intel Core i7-7800X Processor Intel Core i7-7800X Processor Buy Now At Amazon $396.35

The Professional

“I want a beast that handles my intense workload.”

Common Activities: Coding, video editing, 3D modeling.

which intel core professional

There is one lot of users who are looking for workhorses. From graphics designers and video editors to coders and architects, some people need pure horsepower. If you’re one of these, get the Intel Core i7-7820X for $680.

Intel Core i7-7820X Processor Intel Core i7-7820X Processor Buy Now At Amazon $512.00

The main reasons to go with the Skylake-X series over an Intel Xeon or existing Core i7 is the cache and the RAM.

Processor cache is one of those little-known parts that slow down PCs 5 Little-Known Specs That Could Be Slowing Down Your PC 5 Little-Known Specs That Could Be Slowing Down Your PC We'll take a look at five lesser known factors that affect your computer's performance, and show you how you can always get maximum bang for your buck when upgrading. Read More . The new Skylake-X series changes how it handles cache so that it’s faster than anything on current Intel processors. Plus, you’ll get a whopping 11 MB of L3 cache.

The second point, RAM, is something most people already know about. The Skylake-X series allows for four-channel DDR4 RAM, theoretically letting you add up to 64 GB of RAM. That’s far better than normal processors, but Xeon users might want to double-check their needs.

Some professionals cannot afford the slightest bit of corruption of any data. Xeon processors support ECC RAM, which prioritizes data safety and correction. Only a few specialist jobs require this though, so unless you’re a system administrator for a large corporation, you can look beyond it.

The Enthusiast

“I want the best of the best of the best.”

Common Activities: Wanting the best.

which intel core enthusiast

This one is pretty simple, isn’t it? If you want the best, that means you go buy the best. And right now, that’s the Intel Core i9-7900X for $1,240.

Intel Core i9-7900X Processor Intel Core i9-7900X Processor Buy Now At Amazon $904.26

This is about having the latest and greatest. Sure, it’s the best, but the improvements you will see are negligible for most daily uses.

Be warned that the Core i9 has some trouble with the current line of top-range graphics cards, according to Anandtech. It should be resolved with time, but it’s something to keep in mind for now.

Which Motherboard Should You Use?

Unless you are sticking with the current line of processors, the Skylake-X series is a reason to upgrade your motherboard 5 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your PC Motherboard 5 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your PC Motherboard Not sure when you should upgrade your motherboard? Here are a few guidelines to help you out. Read More . And there aren’t that many cheap motherboards that support the X299 chipset right now.

Right now, the Asus Prime X299 Deluxe seems to be the best, while the MSI X299 TOMAHAWK is the value-for-money choice, especially for overclockers.

Which motherboard and processor combo are you eyeing?

Now that you’re in the know about processors, have you followed the latest developments regarding Intel Optane Memory Is Intel Optane Memory Cheap DDR3 RAM? Is Intel Optane Memory Cheap DDR3 RAM? Wondering what Intel's Optane memory is all about? Is it cheap RAM, or something more? Here's what you need to know. Read More ? No matter which CPU you get, make sure you know about the Foreshadow vulnerability What Is Foreshadow? How This Intel CPU Vulnerability Might Affect You What Is Foreshadow? How This Intel CPU Vulnerability Might Affect You Foreshadow is yet another vulnerability to hit Intel CPUs. Here's what it is, how it works, and what it means for your computer. Read More .

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  1. Lot
    September 13, 2017 at 7:09 pm

    Intel are not who they appear to be. Why? Intel: Anti-Competitive, Anti-Consumer, Anti-Technology.

    Can Intel use illegal tricks to be the only company allowed to make & sell processors? And Intel pays Dell, HP, Sony, Acer, Samsung & many others to not buy AMD's processors? And keep all their practices secret? Then AMD spends ALL of its money trying to sue Intel since 1987?

    Intel's compiler software? Written to perform fast ONLY on Intel CPUs.

    Tablets? Makers paid to use Intel's CPUs.

    Watch carefully, 35-minute talk made after decades of research:

  2. shaoul
    August 23, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Also a faster and more powerful cpu is important for games and gamers, the video card (gpu) is also a more than significant element. should i mention that your power supply should be able to power it all without difficulties (low-cost psu are not able to handle fast cpu and even less high-end gpu). be prepared to have a central heating system sitting next to you.

    investing in a quiet efficient cooling system could be a great idea unless you want to simulate a 747 at lift-off permanently (you will not get the 747 but the noise level)

  3. Jeffrey Dahmer
    August 12, 2017 at 4:41 am

    Answer: None, buy Ryzen or Threadripper.

    If all you do is gaming, buy a 7700K or wait for coffee lake. In any case there's literally no circumstance where buying X299 is a good decision right now, unless you need a space heater and a computer in one package.

  4. likefunbutnot
    August 12, 2017 at 12:35 am

    Previous-generation Xeon E5s on X99 or C206 motherboards are a ridiculously good deal if you want a lot of threads and support for a great deal of RAM. They're the clear way to go for your big-boy CAD or video editing project, or if you do a lot of system virtualization. Asus and Asrock make very credible workstation-class motherboards. The only down side compared to contemporary Kaby Lake consumer products is that you'll have a limited amount of NVMe slots, but only the most expensive motherboards have more than one M.2 slot anyway.

    An SMP Xeon E5 with 128GB RAM and support for 24 or 32 threads can be as inexpensive as ~US$600. Outside of gaming, there are relatively few workloads where the more-than-four cores of an i7 or i9 will be more significant.