Article 57 - Intel Sandy Bridge i7 vs i5 vs i3

Having a chance to use all three versions of the Intel Sandy Bridge can be a big advantage in understanding the marketing of Intel's product line.

The biggest question asked is whether it is worth grabbing the i7 over the i5, and is it worth saving money for the i3 over the i5.

So how does each run?

i3

Let's start with the i3. It runs like a Pentium. In fact, one may ask, is this a rebranded Pentium? It may very well be a remodelled Pentium architecture.

Using i3 in Windows is a chore, it bogs down on most commands. Despite having 2 physical cores and supporting 4 threads, the machine hangs when you have a small limited number of windows opened.

It has been tested that when using Flash in Internet Explorer, such as watching videos, trying to open another Internet Explorer browser can open lead to the infamous hourglass waiting. For some reason, some instruction code is being force to wait for another instruction code to be executed. This occured in the Pentium line of Intel products.

i5

The next model up, is the i5 series. Most i5 have 4 physical cores and 4 threads. While you don't double on the threads, you double on the cores from the i3. The i5 is typically about 40% more expensive than an i3. For example, an i3 runs at about $120, where as an i5 costs about $190.

Is it worth the price, most definitely yes. At least the i5 doesn't stall as long as the i3. The i5 still stalls but only under extremely heavy utilization. Whereas the i3 stalls on even the slightest activity.

If the number of times that an i3 stalls out of 100, is about 30%, roughly 30 times, than i5 stalls about 10% or only 10 times.

i7

The king of the i-core series. What can we say, it's good.

The i7 features 4 physical cores but 8 threads. It's not the doubling of the threads per core but the speed and responsiveness of the i7. Truly, the i7 outperforms the i5 not on raw power, we do not care about that, but instead on instantaneous response.

When you need to be quick, when you need to open a browser, when you need to hack away at your job, you will not have to wait for the application to open. The i7 is snappy, it is fast.

Verdict?

The i7 runs at about $300 a piece, that's almost 3x the price of the i3. But in the long run, you get what you pay for. The i7 is considered a true i-core series. Whereas the i3 and i5 are slight variations of the Pentium model and possible a toned-down of the i-core or Nahelem cores.

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