What Does Intel i3 i5 and i7 Naming Actually Means? Here’s the Guide!

what does intel core i3 i5 i7 cpu naming means

I love Intel as much as anyone. They make incredible products and engage in a lot of community stuff. But man, when it comes to confusing product naming schemes, I think core i3, core i5, core i7 takes the cake.

I mean, great question! What is core i7 479GK? We will get to that. But first, a bit of background about why we need product names for the processor. Wouldn’t it be simple to just label them with how many gigahertz they run at and call it a day? 

Simple, sort of, but at times it actually becomes even more confusing.

For example, when the Pentium 4 launched and equivalently clocked, Pentium 3 was actually faster because it could do more work with each cycle. 

As a customer, I would expect the product with the higher number to be the better one. And therein lies the problem.

Not all megahertz and gigahertz are created equal. And rating products that way is about like rating the performance of a car based on what RPM the engine runs at. It’s not actually an accurate indication of how fast the processor is!

But it happened.

Now one of the AMDs attempts to move away from this started in the early 2000s with their PR or “performance rating naming scheme”. Their processor was given a four-digit model number that enthusiasts believed was based on performance. AMD felt that they delivered compared to the intel CPU of that clock speed.

But this fixed nothing.

They were still indirectly naming according to clock speed. 

It wasn’t until intel introduced the core series, a line of CPU’s that dramatically outperformed their predecessor at a much lower clock speed, that the megahertz war ended. Because intel needed to shift the marketing from frequency.

So here’s what we have today.

Core i3 Processors

Other than the very bare bone Pentium excuse, the Core i3 will be your most basic option with two processing cores and hyperthreading. It will have a smaller cache, consume less power, and generally perform worse than core i5, but it will cost less.

Core i5 Processors

intel core i3 processor cores

Which leads to core i5. I wish I could say it was as simple as, well, Core i3s have 2 cores, and core i5 have 4 cores. The number of cores equals N minus one, where N is the number after small i. But it’s not that simple.

Mobile core i5s have two cores, and hyper-threading whiles desktop ones have 4 cores and no hyper-threading. But what they all have in common is improved onboard graphics and turbo boost for temporary performance enhancement when your system is overloaded. [Read: Best Intel i5 8GB Laptops under 40,000 in India]

Core i7 Processors

intel core series naming scheme
More on the naming here

And with overloading in mind comes core i7s. Number one, all Core i7s have hyper-threading for a heavy workload and number two, get ready for an explanation.

A core i7 can have anywhere from two processing cores in an ultrabook all the way up to 8 in a workstation. It might support anywhere from two sticks of memory all the way to eight, and it can have a TDP all the way from 10 Watts to all the way to 130 Watts. So there is a ton of variety here.

And that’s for a reason. The i7 tends to have more cache, faster turbo boost and better onboard graphics than the lower tier processor. 

And now there’s even a core i9 processor, which is even more robust, let alone the talks of core i11. 

Also read about: What are Gsync and freesync technologies?

And I guess, other than that I the best summary I can give is this:


 The core i7 is the best product intel to build for personal computing for a given use case, with the most significant drawback being a higher price tag. So when you boil it down. That’s what all the i number represents. 

Good, better, best, legend, god in the given segment. Beyond that, on their own, they are pretty much meaningless.

The numbers and letters afterwards sort of mean something if you use the guide from before. The safest way to shop is to dig around Intel ARK and look at the features, core counts and clock speeds of the CPUs you compare to figure out how they stack up.

The good news is that as long as you compare within the same brand within the same generation, the metrics will actually mean something. 

Rakesh Sharma
I am tech enthusiast and engineering passout living in Pune. Most of the time you will find me either writing tech guides and testing new PC products or eating my favorite pepperoni pizza at local Dominos.