What’s the difference between… Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and i9?
QI’ve been looking for a new PC. I’ve seen processors like Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and i9. I get that the higher numbers are probably better, but even looking at just one type, there are loads more numbers attached (‘Core i5-6300u’ and ‘Core i57300U’, for example). I’m a bit bamboozled. Can you explain the differences in a way that a normal human might understand? Oliver Parsons
AIntel’s processor names can seem impenetrable. For an easy life you should indeed just focus on the first bit. Intel describes ‘Core’ as the ‘brand’. The two-digit alphanumeric code right after that (i3, etc) is the ‘brand modifier’. You’re broadly right in your assumption that a higher brand modifier means a better processor. However, there’s information concealed in the seemingly meaningless codes that come after the brand and modifier — and knowing a bit about their make-up could help you pick up a bargain.
The first number is the ‘generation indicator’, or version number. So, the Core i5-6300u is the sixth version of the i5, while i5-7300u is the seventh. Intel’s latest version of the Core processor is the eighth generation. While the details are incredibly complex, each new generation typically improves energy efficiency and speed, but usually incrementally rather than substantially. So, if you see two machines that are otherwise identical but one is much cheaper because it has a previousgeneration processor, that might actually be the better buy.
The letter at the end indicates the ‘processor line’, or how Intel intends or expects the particular chip to be used. The ‘U’, for instance, indicates an ultra-low-power chip for laptops. Intel publishes a full list of its processor-line suffixes at www.snipca.com/25733.
That just leaves the three digits between the generation indicator and processor line. These represent Intel’s internal SKU (or stock-keeping unit) code rather than any information obviously decipherable to customers. However, if you visit https://ark.intel. com, type the full processor name into the search box at the top right and hit Enter, you’ll be shown detailed information about the SKU’S speed, cache, integrated-graphics capability and so on.
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