Choosing parts for a computer builder can be a frustrating experience. Builders are always trying to find the best bang for their buck, and over spending for hardware they will not utilize is a great way to drain one’s budget very quickly. Since the i5 and i7 Sandy Bridge processors were released, there has been a bit of argument among builders on which to buy. The i7 is Intel’s high end processor, but is the price difference worth the cost?
Before pointing out the differences, it’s important to note certain similarities that both processors have. First of all, most versions of the i5 and i7 processors available have 4 cores.
Secondly, both use the LGA 1155 socket, so compatibility with your motherboard is not an issue if you are choosing between the two, because you most likely already have a 1155 socket motherboard.
Finally, they are both great processors. Don’t think the i5 is bad just because it’s not top of the line. The i5 series of processors are still some of the best out.
Here is where the real decision making begins. Examining the differences between these two processors will surely help you decide which one of these processors is right for you.
Turbo Boost And Clock Speed
Turbo Boost is Intel’s unique speed boosting technology which boost your CPU’s speed between 300 and 600mhz when available. This is available on both i5 and i7 processors. On the higher end i7 processors, the maximum boost is a bit higher than the i5’s. Other than the small clock difference, the speed of both of these processors are nearly the same.
The K Series
All of Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors come with an integrated graphics processor (IGP). There are two versions of the IGP, the 2000 and the 3000. The 2000 has 6 execution units, and the 3000 has 12. This makes graphics processing about 50% faster if you are not using a dedicated graphics processor. The 3000 is available on Intel’s K series processors (such as the i5-2500k
and the i7-2600k)
Other than the better IGP, the k series of processors also have unlocked multipliers for very easy overclocking. This means that an i5 2500k can be overclocked to be much faster than an i7 2600, for example.
Perhaps the most significant difference between the i5 and i7 processors is hyper-threading support. Currently, only the i7 processors support hyper-threading. Hyper-threading makes more virtual cores that don’t actually exist appear to Windows. For example, if you have a quad core i7 CPU, it will appear in Windows as having 8 cores.
But does this really matter? For most people, it will not. There are few applications that take advantage of more than four cores. Unless you are doing something very CPU oriented such as HD video rendering, you will not notice any difference with an i7 processor. Casual use and gaming will never utilize hyper-threading. If you aren’t even going to use more than four cores, what is the point of buying a processor that supports hyper-threading? There isn’t. Unless you need those additional cores, having hyper-threading will not boost CPU performance at all.
For most builders, the i5-2500k is the sweet spot for CPU purchases. The i5-2500k is a very fast processor and will suit the needs of almost anyone. Since it is a k series processor it is very easy to overclock which makes it popular with people interested in doing so. Even without overclocking, it offers a very fast base speed of 3.3 ghz. When the ivy bridge processors are out, this is likely to change.
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