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Laptop Processor Comparison: Intel Core i5 vs i7

Updated on May 02, 2016

As I explained in my previous laptop buying guide, your processor’s performance is not something you can afford to disregard if you are serious about your notebook computer’s speed and ability to multitask.

Every type of processor comes with its set of specifications, which enables advanced users to assess their capacities even without trying them out. If you take into consideration the general public opinion however, chances are, you’re aiming for Intel’s microprocessors targeted at businesses and high-end consumers. In other words, Intel Core is most likely your go-to brand.

Intel’s official website and Wikipedia both have exhaustive lineups of Core processors from different generations and codenames. That is plenty to choose from; but if you are not tech-savvy, the pile of information illustrated on these sources will immediately scare you off.

Thankfully, you don’t need to learn about all the brand names before knowing the type of processor that will suit you best. The logic is quite simple. If you’re running away from Core i3 because you don’t plan to use your laptop only for basic tasks such as surfing the web, then you will need an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.

Now, that’s where things get interesting, as we are about to find out what the differences between these CPUs are.

Generally, mobile processors are less powerful than their desktop-only equivalents.
Generally, mobile processors are less powerful than their desktop-only equivalents.

Overall performance comparison

Intel Core CPUs are differentiated into performance tiers, making it possible for laptop buyers to know which ones they should consider.

Core i5 = Mainstream user
Core i7 = High-end user

Unlike “weak” Core i3 processors, which are aimed at budget systems, fast i5 processors are built for more powerful use. Aside its support for daily routines such as browsing or creating and editing Microsoft Office documents, Core i5 works well for gaming and heavy usage, which involves using many applications at the same time without experiencing glitches or freezing.

Core i7 is even faster; it comes with better graphics and is built for the most demanding tasks, including running high-end video games, video editing and audio rendering.

Not totally impressed? Here is a fact that will close the argument: With a good amount of RAM, laptops or notebook PCs equipped with Core i7 processors can let you run all these demanding tasks while letting your download programs and browsing windows remain open without any risk of crashing… And all this, while your resource-sucking antivirus program works in the background to keep you protected to the maximum.

Falling for i7 already? Just keep in mind that this type of microprocessors comes with huge price tags.

Rate your current processor

3.5 out of 5 stars from 72 ratings of your i5 or i7 CPU

Prices comparison

Good mobile processors – in this case, those that are fixed in mobile PCs – come at affordable prices. The best ones, however, can only be grabbed with significant extra cash.

Below is a table comparing a few released 4th Generation Intel Core processors and their prices (information courtesy of Intel’s official website).

Processor number
Cache and Frequency
Tray Price in USD
i5-4200H
(3M Cache, up to 3.40 GHz)
$250.00
i5-4250U
(3M Cache, up to 2.60 GHz)
$337.00
i5-4350U
(3M Cache, up to 2.90 GHz)
$337.00
i5-4200M
(3M Cache, up to 3.10 GHz)
$225.00
This table lists selected i5 mobile processors (4th Gen)
Processor number
Cache and Frequency
Tray Price in USD
i7-4550U
(4M Cache, up to 3.00 GHz)
$448.00
i7-4650U
(4M Cache, up to 3.30 GHz)
$448.00
i7-4700HQ
(6M Cache, up to 3.40 GHz)
$378.00
i7-4900MQ
(8M Cache, up to 3.80 GHz)
$568.00
This table lists selected i7 mobile processors (4th Gen)

So clearly, Core i7 processors are far more expensive than their counterparts. Yet, if your experience means more to you than your money, you should be setting your eyes on their specifications and forget about the numbers after the dollar sign.

Let’s go into the more techy side of things, shall we?

Quad-core or Dual-core?

Scan through Intel’s generations of i5 and i7 processors and you’ll find that there are dual-core and quad-core processors in both categories. Gone are the days when CPUs were manufactured with a single core.

Overtime, thanks to the evolution of technology, the addition of more cores allowed for the increment of CPU power – hence improving performance. In Matt Bach’s words, “each core is basically a whole new processor”.

Nevertheless, there are debates as to whether quad-core processors provide better system performance than dual-cores. This is simply because quad-core processors require more energy to run and a more complex algorithm than dual-cores, so not many applications take full advantage of quad-core processors.

This could cause a quad-core-equipped PC user to run mainly on two cores, although his processor would still have to process more calculations.

At the end of the day, you can console yourself with the fact that the number of cores isn’t everything. Core i5 and i7 multi-core processors will both let you enjoy decent speed, so you can just move on to other specs.

Cache size comparison

CPU cache is used by the processor to access memory with speed, so size is important. Think of it as the key behind your processor’s ability to deal with repetitive tasks faster.

Indeed, CPU cache helps with multitasking; therefore, the larger the cache, the faster a user can navigate between his tasks back and forth.

As of November 2013, all Intel Core i5 mobile processors have 3MB of cache, compared to Intel Core i7 mobile processors, which generally have 4MB or 6MB of cache. Remarkably, the i7-4900MQ processor has an outstanding 8MB of cache.

Clock Speed comparison

The clock speed or frequency of a CPU tells you how fast a processor can perform an activity. In order words, how many instructions it can process per second. Clock speed rates are reported in gigahertz (GHz).

Note that if you tend to jungle around with many tasks rapidly on your laptop, then a processor with a base clock speed of 2.4 GHz should be fast enough for you.

Currently at 2.8 GHz, the Core i5-4200H and i5-4330M are the two 4th Generation (Haswell) mobile processors with the highest base clock speed.

The mobile Core i7-4600M is even faster, with a base clock speed of 2.9 GHz.

Turbo Boost Technology

Intel Turbo Boost Technology allows processor cores to run faster than their normal frequencies. It acts as a temporary overclock that increases the CPU’s base clock speed. Power, current and temperature levels are factors taken into consideration prior to the automatic activation of this feature.

The good news is that both Core i5 and i7 processors support Turbo Boost. Then again, the latter achieves higher speeds than the former. Among Intel’s mobile 4th Generation Haswell i5 processors that have a maximum Turbo Frequency above 3GHz, the i5-4330M and i5-4200H processors are the ones that stand out with rates rising at 3.5 GHz and 3.4 GHz, respectively.

Amazingly, all 4th Generation Haswell i7 mobile processors can reach 3 GHz in Turbo Boost mode. In effect, the i7-4800MQ can be clocked at 3.7 GHz, whereas the i7-4960HQ and i7-4900MQ can both reach a record 3.8 GHz.

Hyper-Threading Technology

Traditional processor cores can only perform one task at a time, but Hyper-Threading Technology allows cores to handle two tasks at a time. This technology, which lets applications perform many tasks simultaneously, elevates a CPU’s potential through advanced multi-tasking power.

The benefit is that a user can thus run several demanding applications at the same time, without experiencing system responsiveness issues.

All Core i5 and i7 mobile processors from Intel’s 4th Generation family support Hyper-Threading Technology.

Conclusion

Core i7 processors provide the best graphics, speed, power and overall performance. They’re basically the best CPUs you can have, regardless of how extreme you are. It really doesn’t matter if you are into movie production, music making, video game development, design... Just see Core i7 CPUs as do-it-all components.

But because they are so advanced and effective, they are also very expensive. As a result, it is up to you to decide if you should spend big once and for all, or if you should save towards second-best items.

All in all, don’t forget that Core i5 processors will very likely be perfect for you if you have nothing to do with technology or the media industry; plus, they are great if you want a balance between your laptop’s performance and its price.

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    • isaacasante profile image
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      Isaac Asante 5 weeks ago from Accra, Ghana

      @Hemanth That's a lot of power that you need! Are you sure you'll need that much? Anyway, I say an i7 is your best bet. Try searching for "i7 laptops" on eBay or Amazon... You should get some good suggestions.

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 5 weeks ago from Accra, Ghana

      @Jon Yes, i5 iMacs are pretty robust and you should be able to carry on that task easily. Of course, depending on how large the video is, the rendering process might take a while and it may add pressure on the CPU, hence making the PC not too usuable while the process is underway. However, I think you should be good, especially if you're not aiming to carry video editing activities on a regular basis. If you have the money though, there's never any harm in going for the high-end i7 version of the iMac, just so you know you'll not run into challenges if ever you decide to edit videos more often.

    • profile image

      Jon 5 weeks ago

      Hello. I want to edit video with an imac 21.5. I'm sure I will just do one thing at a time. Well, maybe edit and open a window to preview film before I load it into final cut x. Do you feel a i5 quad core processor will handle the load at a decent speed?

    • profile image

      Hemanth 7 weeks ago

      Hi Isaac, need a suggestion on Laptops with i5 & i7 processor.

      I need a processor which would be good to run 4 VMs on top of windows. I planning have 32 Gig of RAM. Do you think a Laptop with i5 processor would support such load ? or should I just go for a Laptop with i7 processor.

    • isaacasante profile image
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      Isaac Asante 2 months ago from Accra, Ghana

      @Mehernosh Hey man, thanks! So I think I've got the exact answer to your CPU comparison answer here: http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core-i7-6700HQ-vs-In...

      Note however that when it comes to gaming, the graphics card is what you'll want to look at very closely. The GTX 960 is not up there with the best graphics cards when we talk about high performance gaming with high-end titles, but you should still be able to enjoy some decent gaming like FIFA 17, PES 2017 and the likes.

    • profile image

      Mehernosh L Bharucha 2 months ago

      Hello Isaac, very informative, straightforward, easy to understand and you kept the interest flowing. Now for the meat of the matter. I am looking at purchasing a brand new laptop of an extremely world wide popular brand. It has an intel i7-6700hq i could not find any with the i7 mq chip. The other option is an i7-7200u. The laptop is 1200$ and includes: nvididia gtx 960 4gb video ram , 1tb hdd, 8gb of ram, again it comes with i7-6700hq.

      Canyou please tell me wich of the 2 i7 chips i mentioned is faster, better, more powerful for web design graphics, watching streaming videos, and of course gaming, video conferencing and multitasking projects via the Internet.

      Thank you and great article. You have made me a follower.

      Mehernosh L Bharucha

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 6 months ago from Accra, Ghana

      Hey Derek, note that 3.3GHz is actually the clock speed. Bottom line is that, if you're looking to play games, I'd recommend an i7 laptop, especially if the games you want to play require top PC performance. I'd recommend you check your favorite game's minimum and recommended PC requirements to make a decision as to what CPU you're going for in your next PC.

    • profile image

      Derek Erzoah 9 months ago

      What to know the difference between Intel core i5 vs 3.30 ghz ... Or which one is good for playing game

    • profile image

      Mustafa kuwait 24 months ago

      Thanks 4 nice tep

    • TTGReviews profile image

      TTGReviews 2 years ago

      Nice comparison overall. It's easy to get confused when going to laptop CPU's because they are so different in terms of cores, hyper-threading etc..., when compared to their PC counterparts.

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 2 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      @Socratesk Thanks! Good feedback. Happy to know you enjoyed the article... I'll be making more hopefully.

    • profile image

      Socratesk 2 years ago

      Love giving credit where credit is overwhelmingly due.

      Thanks for what would have to be one of the best guides to comparing processors I've ever read. There are a myriad of reasons why I think your article is so good: for example clear, concise, accurate, well organized and laid out, and best of all no technobable.

      I'm currently researching the best laptop to use for developing eLearning programs, which involves tasks such as video and audio editing, as well as a lot of multitasking. As a result, I've been reading a lot of articles and I have to say yours beats all of them hands down.

      One of the most helpful things about your article is that unlike others, rather than focusing primarily on the processor, you've given us an excellent overview of the main factors that determine laptop performance: all in a very easy to follow step by step format.

      Prior to reading your article I already knew I'd be looking for a laptop with an I7 processor. However, what I didn't yet fully comprehend was how other elements, such as Cache and Turbo Boost Technology, factored in. Thanks to you now I do.

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 2 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      My first answer is that I didn't miss the i7-4800MQ... I randomly picked some processors to review. For the place where you can buy a 4700HQ's, check these links:

      - http://www.upgradebay.com/Products/ProductInfo.asp...

      - http://www.memory4less.com/m4l_itemdetail.aspx?ite...

      I hope I helped.

    • profile image

      You seem to be missing something 2 years ago

      Where is the comparison for Intel i7-4800MQ?

      You jump from 4700 to 4900....

      Also, do you know anywhere currently selling the 4700HQ's? I'm looking to upgrade my GP60 2PE i5-4200H to the 4700HQ since it has same powerconsumption and is the currently used processor of the i7 series of GP60's

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 2 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      Yah, I get it. Hopefully you find the right product! And feel free to ask me anything in case you're confused.

    • pradiiphira profile image

      Dr Pradip Hira 2 years ago from Ahmedabad-India

      @isaacasante

      Thanks for your nice tip,

      I go through the link in your post, but as I am from India shipping from amazone.com would be costly so I prefer amazone.in I will check there.

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 2 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      @pradiiphira, you can buy directly from the laptop links I've put in my articles from Amazon. They're available at this moment, and very cheap.

    • pradiiphira profile image

      Dr Pradip Hira 2 years ago from Ahmedabad-India

      I was thinking to buy new laptop for my home use but I was little bit confuse,but thanks for the detail information

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 2 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      @Hezekiah Nice, and how are you enjoying your i7 processor?

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 2 years ago from Japan

      Nice Hub, I tend to play a lot pf games at home so I definitely went for the Core i7 processor and a high end graphics card.

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 2 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      Thanks WestelCS... The bottom line though is to assess your needs before selecting your type of processor.

    • WestelCS profile image

      Tim Anthony 2 years ago

      Nice hub and very well explanation of i5 and i7 processors and their capabilities. Though i7 is best, i5 quad-core processors are also smooth while working in media sector, business communication services or even in IT development.

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 2 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      @Livingoom, thanks! I've got another hub coming up...

    • Livingoom profile image

      Ashadur zaman 2 years ago from Bangladesh

      good hub

    • isaacasante profile image
      Author

      Isaac Asante 3 years ago from Accra, Ghana

      @mohanad, Thanks!

    • profile image

      mohanad was 3 years ago

      thanks a bunch for the awesome info

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