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Which processor should you choose while buying a computer?

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I feel you, the process of buying a good computer is a tiring work. It can be a very crafty job to find the right computer with right specifications that will work for you. Because everyone’s different needs. Of course, if you have extra cash to throw around, you could get yourself a very high-end computer and not worry about it. However, most of us have a limited budget to spend on computers.

Choosing the right processor is one of the most important and tricky things because unlike RAM and Hard Disk, you can’t judge a processor by just numbers . There are a lot of other factors like Cache, Hyper-threading, Cores to consider. Plus, money is also another essential element because the processors are expensive. If you don’t need a very powerful processor, why waste your hard earned money on it?

So, how do you choose which processor to buy? Don’t worry, I will guide you thoroughly in this article. After reading this post, even a non-technical person can find choosing the best-fit-for-your-need processor to be an easy-peasy job.

First of all, if you live Nepal, you can choose from two brands: AMD or Intel. However, Intel is more readily available in the market. Therefore, I will be talking about Intel processors only (I don’t want you to be more confused. So, let’s stick with Intel).

There are two types of Intel Processors available in Nepal: Celeron and Core series. The i3, i5, and i7 processors fall in the core series.

The cheapest ones are Celeron processors. They are not good! Some shops might say they are but I would suggest not to buy them. Your computer will perform better with the cheapest core series instead. Here is what Celeron processor looks like :

Interl Celeron processor
Intel Celeron

Okay, now let’s talk about the real deal! The core series. There are three core series available in the market– i3, i5 and i7. These core series also have different versions. The latest core series is 7th generation called as Kaby Lake. Of course, it is best to buy the latest generation but it might not be easily available in the market. So, a 6th generation core series will also be good.

HOW TO IDENTIFY GENERATIONS

When you go to the market to buy yourself  the latest system, you might not be able to tell the difference between the generations of i3, i5 or i7. Here’s how to identify them.

  1. Look at the Intel sticker (simple as that!).

intel 5th gen core series
5th Generation
intel 6th gen core series
6th Generation
intel 7th gen core series
7th Generation

The 5th generation has a border on the top. The 6th gen has a blue border surrounding it. And, the 7th gen has 7th Gen written on it! (Thanks Intel, for making things easy!)

Now, if you are trying to buy a desktop, sorry guys, 7th generation is available only for Laptops.  Laptop users buy 7th generation if it is available in the market. But, don’t buy processors below 5th generation.

2. Look at the processor serial number.

For this, you need to boot the computer and look at the computer properties. There you will see processor numbers.

Intel Processor Number
PC: Processor Number

The number after i3, i5 or i7 is the generation. For instance, in the picture above, the processor names are “Intel Core i7-7500 U” and “Intel Core i7-7Y75”; the number 7 after i7 means it is a seventh-generation processor. If it was 6th generation, the processor number would be “Intel i7 6XXXX”

Now that the problem of identifying the generation is resolved, let’s look at the difference between i3, i5 and i7.

Difference Between i3, i5 and i7

No, the numbers 3, 5 and 7 don’t represent the number of cores or processing speed (GHz). These numbers just show the relative performance based on the number of cores, clock speed (in GHz), the size of cache memory, Turbo Boost and Hyper-Threading. Well, in short i7 is better than i5, which in turn is better than i3.

Number of Cores: i3 has two cores, i5 has 2 or 4 cores and i7 2 or 4 cores. However, a higher core doesn’t mean better performance. Intel has introduced features like Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost that cannot be overlooked. But, the size of cache memory matters as well.

Hyper-threading: Thread is a process in simple term. Usually, one core can perform one task (thread) at a time. But with hyper-threading, Intel can process two tasks in a single core. Which means the two physical cores act as four cores (virtual), thus increasing speed. So, your dual-core i3 will act like it has four cores.

The Intel Core i3 series and the Intel Core i7 series support hyper-threading. The Intel Core i5 series (quad-core) does not support it (But, remember physical cores are better than virtual cores).

Turbo Boost: If you buy i5 or i7, your processor can increase its clock speed (GHz) when needed. This is called Turbo Boost by Intel. For example, if you are playing a game and your system requires some extra power, Intel processor will activate Turbo Boost to make the game run smooth. Unfortunately, i3 doesn’t support Turbo Boost.

Cache Memory: Cache is a memory (like RAM) inside the processor. So, the greater the cache memory size, the better the processor will perform. i3 has 3 MB of cache, i5 has 3-6MB and i7 has 4-8MB cache.

difference between i3, i5 and i7 in a nutshell
Difference between i3, i5 and i7 in a nutshell

I know, this all sounded too techie and you are still confused. You are probably still wondering…which one do I buy?

Which processor type is best for you?

First of all, it depends on what you plan to do with your system (laptop). But, worry not! I will tell you more about processor types and the tasks it can do.

i3 – Good for basic tasks with decent multitasking. If all you do on your computer is surf Internet, use Word, Excel etc., play simple games, and make video calls, then i3 is for you. You will get a cheap computer for all your needs.

i5– This is good for someone who is Intermediate and active user (someone who wants to do simple video editing, graphics designing). Good for gaming if it has integrated graphics. Basically, if you want better performance at a cheap price, go for i5. In my opinion, this is the best choice because you never know when your needs might increase.

i7 – This is the best processor Intel can make. It is similar to the flagship phones. It performs very good but is expensive. If you don’t need to do high-end video rendering, well, don’t waste your money (if you have a limited budget, that is).

Hope this loooong post helped clear your dilemma.

So, which processor will you be choosing while buying a computer? Let us know in the comments below.