What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween… In­tel Core i3, i5, i7 and i9?

Computer Active (UK) - - Problems Solved -

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.

Want to know the dif­fer­ence be­tween tech­ni­cal terms? Email us at no­prob­lem@ com­put­er­ac­tive.co.uk.

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