While you might presume that the Intel i7 came after the Intel i5, you’d be wrong. Rather than the Intel i7 being billed as an improvement upon the Intel i5, the Intel i5 is being marketed as a mainstream version of the i7, which is designed for business and high-end users. The main difference you’ll notice between the Intel i5 and the Intel i7 is the price. But what is the same between the i5 and the i7? And which features did they have to cut in order to bring this processor within the budget of everyday consumers? Find out below.
The Nehalem Architecture
The Intel i7 introduced the Nehalem microarchitecture to Intel’s line of processors, representing the next evolution beyond the Core microarchitecture. This advancement brings a number of performance and power advancements to the table. The Intel i5 processor has the same Nehalem microarchitecture, meaning that it enjoys many of the same boosts in speed and power consumption.
One of the Core i7 processors claims to fame was its ability to go into “turbo mode,” which essentially allowed the processor to overclock itself (i.e. operate at a speed faster than its nameplate rating) when some cores were not being used. This is particularly useful for applications that only use a single core. The Core i5 processor also has this ability.
Triple-Channel DDR3 and Dual-Channel Memory
The i7 uses triple-channel DDR3 memory (RAM). As such, i7 users need to buy RAM sticks in multiples of three in order to get the best performance. The i5, on the other hand, is a dual channel processor, meaning that RAM can be bought in pairs. This is a benefit to mainstream users, since it significantly lowers the upfront cost of buying a computer with an i5 processor. On the other hand, triple-channel memory will get you more speed and performance.
Most Core i7 and Core i5 processors are quad-core processors. However, through hyper-threading, processors can simulate multiple cores. For example, the i7 processor is seen by Windows as an eight core processor. The i5 processor, on the other hand, does not have hyperthreading for all of its models. The dual-core i5 does support hyperthreading, while the quad-core model currently does not. As such, i5 processors cannot exceed four cores, as of now.
Overall, the Intel i5 and Intel i7 processors are very similar. They are both improvements upon previous processors, such as the Core 2 Duo. The Intel i5 comes in a dual-core model with hyper-threading, which boosts it to four cores, or a quad-core model without hyper-threading. Both i5 and i7 processors also feature the turbo boost enhancement. For everyday users, the Intel i5 will undoubtedly be sufficient—especially given the differences in price. The Intel i7’s advanced features and hyper-threading for higher end models will make it useful for high end users and business users. But in essence, these two processors are simply two Nehalem processors that are well-suited to the markets that they are targeted at.