CPU Types – How much power does my new computer need? – Part 1

Intel i3, i5 & i7 CPUs


When looking to buy a new PC, it can be quite difficult to find your way through the hundreds of options to find the right model for you. One of the most integral parts of a computer is the CPU or Central Processing Unit. It is this part that, more than any other, that determines the power and capabilities of a computer. In this 3 part series, we’ll take you through all you need to know about CPUs before buying a new computer. We’ll explain how to decipher the model number of the Intel CPUs so that you can quickly and easily work out the right product for you.  Of course, there are brands of CPU other than Intel (like AMD for example).  However, Intel is the leading CPU manufacturer for desktop and laptop machines, so we’ll focus on their products.

i3, i5, i7 – Which CPU do I need?


The first and most important part of a CPU’s model number is the ‘series’ number: i3, i5 or i7. For example, the i3-4170, the i5-6400K or the i7-7700T. There are other series as well (such as the Pentium or Xeon series) but these are normally for highly specialised computers and not relevant for the vast majority of people.


i3 Series

These processors are the cheapest, most basic in the range and are very much designed with a budget in mind. They sell for approximately $150 – $200 AUD each and are normally paired with more basic components of computer systems. These CPU’s only have 2 physical cores which means they’re not designed for multitasking. A classic example of multitasking is watching a video whilst downloading a file or running a virus scan. They’re also fairly low powered (low GHz) which means they can’t handle the more demanding tasks very well either. Intel’s i3 CPU’s are designed for very basic machines where cost is the primary factor, like a terminal that connects to another system to do all the work. Unfortunately, this makes them unsuitable for most home users with very few exceptions.


i5 Series

These processors are the workhorses of the Intel range and are designed for the average computer user. They sell for approximately $250 – $350 AUD each and are the part of choice for a standard system. These CPU’s have 4 cores which means they respond quickly to most multitasking requests. Their power is the middle of the Intel range which means they’re up to handling all but the most demanding of normal tasks. Intel’s i5 CPU’s are designed for standard workhorse machines where a balance between costs and power is required. Most home and business users would be best served with this CPU.


i7 CPUi7 Series

These processors are the powerhouses of the line-up from Intel. They sell for approximately $400 – $500 AUD each and are designed specifically for high end systems. These CPU’s have the same multitasking ability as the i5 units but with a lot more power. This makes them the ideal component for people who have power hungry programs such as designers, gamers or engineers. Though even the average user will get a boost from having an i7 CPU over an i5 or i3 model. This is because the extra power means the computer will ‘age’ less quickly leading to a longer lifetime for your system.


In the next article in the series, we’ll explain how to decipher the ‘generation’ part of the model number (ie: i7-7700T). For more detailed specification on the latest generation of CPUs, see Intel’s page here. If you need further advice on CPUs (or anything else IT related), just Contact Us on 1300 ATOM IT (1300 286 648) or shoot us an email at info@atomit.com.au.

Posted on: April 12, 2017, by :