Intel i5 vs i7 for Gaming: Which Is the Best Processor?

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Choosing the best processor is an important consideration when building a gaming PC.

With the right processor and graphics card, your computer can easily outperform the latest generation of video game consoles.

The Intel Core i5 and i7 processors are two common options for gaming PCs, but which one is the best choice?

Use the following guide to compare Intel i5 vs. i7 processors and choose the best option for your gaming desktop or laptop.

Overview of the i5 and i7 Processors

Intel released the Core i7 family of processors in 2008, followed by the first Core i5 processors a year later. Both families of processors use 64-bit architecture, which means that they support 64-bit operating systems.

Intel developed the i7 as a high-end processor intended for applications that require more processing power, including gaming and video editing. The i5 bridged the gap between the budget Core i3 processors and the higher-end i7 processors.

Intel has also released multiple generations of both processors. The latest i5 and i7 processors are part of the 12th generation of Intel Core processors.

Older generations are still available for purchase and offer a more affordable alternative to the newest chips. However, Windows 11 only supports Intel Core processors that are at least 8th generation.

The 8th generation of Intel Core processors introduced multithreaded cores and DDR4 RAM support. Here is a list of suitable i5 and i7 processors for PC gaming:

  • Coffee Lake (8th Generation)
  • Coffee Lake Refresh (9th Generation)
  • Comet Lake (10th Generation)
  • Rocket Lake (11th Generation)
  • Alder Lake (12th Generation)

You can determine the generation of a CPU based on its name. The name of each model includes a brand modifier (i5 or i7) followed by a dash and the generation indicator.

For example, the Intel Core i5-12600K is a 12th-generation i5 CPU. The Intel Core i7-10870H is a 10th-generation i7 CPU.

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Intel continues to release new i5 and i7 processors every one to two years. The i5 remains the more affordable option while the i7 continues to provide superior processing power.

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Intel i5 vs i7: What’s the Difference?

The main differences between the i5 and i7 include:

  • Cores
  • Threads
  • Clock speed
  • Turbo Boost
  • Cache Size
  • Cost

Both options can run high-end graphics in video games. However, you are likely to notice subtle differences in speed, loading times, and responsiveness during a direct comparison.

Cores

The i5 processors include 4 to 8 cores while the i7 processors include 6 to 12 cores. When comparing i5 and i7 processors of the same generation, the i7 processors will have more cores.

Additional cores allow a CPU to complete more tasks simultaneously. A multi-core processor offers better performance when multitasking compared to a single core or dual-core processor.

Multi-core CPUs did not initially have much of an impact on PC gaming. However, the latest games now employ one or more extra threads for completing certain operations.

A CPU should have at least four cores for modern gaming. Popular first-person shooters (FPSs) and massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are more likely to utilize an extra core for processing game data.

While a four-core processor can handle modern games, it is not future-proof. A CPU with six to eight cores is more likely to keep up with the latest games for years to come.

Intel Core i5 10th generation and i7 8th generation and later releases offer at least six cores. Yet, the number of threads is equally important.

Threads

A CPU thread is basically a virtual version of a CPU core that allows processors to perform multi-threading.

Intel processors use hyper-threading, which is a type of multi-threading that breaks the physical cores into multiple virtual cores. As with multiple cores, running multiple threads allows a CPU to perform more tasks at the same time.

The i5 8th gen CPU had 2 threads per core for a total of 8 threads. The i5-12xxx models have up to 10 cores and 16 threads.

The i7 8th gen CPUs had 6 cores and 12 threads. The latest i7 releases include up to 16 cores and 24 threads.

This content was first published on GamersNotAllowed.com

As with the number of cores, the number of threads impacts gaming performance. The most resource-heavy games of the past couple of years work best on computers with at least four cores and eight threads.

Yet, having more threads may offer better overall performance and postpone the need to upgrade your CPU in the next year or two.

Clock Speed

The clock speed is a measurement of the number of cycles that a CPU can execute each second. You will find the CPU speed listed in gigahertz (GHz).

Before the release of multi-core CPUs – such as quad-core processors – the clock speed was the benchmark used to compare the gaming performance of CPUs. Modern games tend to run best on CPUs with clock speeds of 3.5 GHz to 4.0 GHz.

Yet, the latest generations of CPUs execute tasks more efficiently, allowing them to accomplish more with slower clock speeds. For example, the Core i5-12400 has a base clock speed of 2.5 GHz and is likely to outperform the Core i5-10400 with a base higher clock speed of 2.9 GHz.

Almost all Intel i5 and i7 processors include Turbo Boost Technology, which automatically boosts the performance of the CPU to deliver faster speeds. The i5-12400 has a base CPU speed of 2.5 GHz and a max turbo frequency of 4.40 GHz.

Again, the i7 processors are available with faster clock speeds compared to the i5 processors of the same generation. The i7-12800H is one of the top-performing Intel Core CPUs. It has a max turbo frequency of 4.80 GHz, along with 14 cores and 20 threads.

Turbo Boost

Turbo Boost (read: overclocking) allows you to boost clock speeds of your CPU faster than its base clock speed. You don’t need any fancy hacking skills to do this, as it is a built-in feature that comes with Intel CPUs that you can access directly from the BIOS.

Turbo Boost is a nice feature to have to get the most out of your system, but it comes at the cost of more heat and energy consumption.

Cache Size

A CPU cache is a small and fast memory that is located close to the CPU core. The CPU cache size helps reduce the time it takes to access data from the main memory (RAM).

Larger cache sizes make multitasking run better, so if you’ve got a lot of background tasks running while gaming (which you of course shouldn’t – save your web browsing for later!), they won’t affect your gaming experience as much.

The cache isn’t something you need to worry too much about, but generally bigger is better. And, within the same generation of any i5 and i7 CPU, the i7 will have a bigger cache than the i5.

Cost

When comparing i5 and i7 CPUs from the same generation, the i5 will cost less. Older generations are also likely to cost less. Yet, the price difference is often minimal.

The Intel Core i7-12700K retails for around $400. The older i7-10700K retails for about $350. The i7-9700 sells for between $275 and $350.

The Intel Core i5 processors tend to cost about $100 to $150 less compared to the i7 processors from the same generation. Several of the latest i5 CPUs retail for less than $400 while older CPUs may cost $150 to $200.

Which Generation of i5 and i7 Processors Is Best?

Intel first released the i5 and i7 processors over a decade ago. The lineup now includes 12 different generations of releases. The latest two generations offer support for technologies that are lacking from previous versions.

The generation of the processor directly affects the following details:

  • Architecture
  • CPU socket type
  • PCIe 4.0 support
  • RAM speeds

Choosing a previous generation i5 or i7 process saves money. However, the latest SSDs and RAM may not work with some of the older options. Here is a closer look.

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Architecture

Intel and AMD list the architecture used during the fabrication process for each type of CPU. The architecture of a CPU refers to the size of the transistors, which may range from 7nm to 16nm.

AMD started using a 7nm manufacturing process in 2019 with the release of the Ryzen 3000 Series CPUs. Intel continued to use 14nm architecture until the release of the 12th generation of Intel processors.

The latest generation of i5 and i7 processes use 10nm architecture. Using smaller transistors allows the new Intel processors to deliver more processing power without increasing the size of the chip.

The newer processors are also more power-efficient. They consume less power and produce less heat, which also increases your ability to overclock the processor.

CPU Socket Type

If you already have a desktop or laptop that you want to upgrade, pay attention to the socket on the motherboard. Newer generations of Intel Core processors use newer types of CPU sockets.

The 10th and 11th generation i5 and i7 processors use LGA1200 sockets. The 12th-generation processors use LGA1700 sockets. Many of the processors from earlier generations use LGA1151 or LGA1156 sockets.

PCIe 4.0 Support 

PCIe 4.0 support is another reason to consider getting one of the newer i5 or i7 processors. The 11th- and 12th-generation chips support PCIe 4.0, which offers twice the bandwidth compared to PCIe 3.0.

PCIe 4.0 support is also necessary for installing NVMe SSD drives. Non-volatile memory express (NVMe) technology takes advantage of the PCIe 4.0 bandwidth to offer up to four times the amount of input/output operations per second (IOPs) compared to traditional SSDs.

Faster loading is the main advantage of NVMe SSDs for PC gaming. Your games should install and load faster compared to using a standard SSD.

RAM Speeds

RAM impacts gaming performance, as memory is responsible for storing data when running applications. Slower RAM speeds result in slower performance and bottlenecks.

You should use at least 16GB to 32GB of DDR4 3200MHz RAM for modern PC gaming. If you want to maximize the gaming performance of your PC, consider getting one of the latest generations of Intel Core processors.

Each new generation of Intel Core processors supports faster RAM. For example, the 11th generation of processors increased support for DDR4 RAM speeds from 2933MHz to 3200MHz.

Intel included support for DDR4 RAM starting with the 6th generation of Core processors. The 12th-generation processors added support for DDR5 RAM with speeds up to 4800MHz.

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Advantages of an Intel i5 for Gaming

Cost is the main reason to choose an i5 processor over an i7 processor. Choosing an Intel Core i5 CPU may save $100 to $150 compared to buying an i7 CPU.

The most recent generations of i5 processors are also more than powerful enough for modern gaming. You can find i5 processors with 6 cores, 12 threads, and suitable clock speeds for running games that drain resources.

Advantages of an Intel i7 for Gaming

An i5 should run almost any modern game. Yet, Intel Core i7 processors offer better performance compared to i5 processors.

You get faster clock speeds, more cores, and more threads. An i7 processor can execute tasks faster and run more tasks simultaneously.

Choosing an i7 processor may also keep you from needing to upgrade too soon. An i7 processor should continue to exceed the minimum requirements for modern games for at least a few years.

An i7 processor is also a more cost-effective option compared to an i9 processor. The Intel Core i9 CPUs work best for resource-heavy applications, such as game development and video editing.

The i9 processors can cost $150 to $200 more compared to their i7 counterparts. Yet, the i7 CPUs already exceed the requirements for modern PC gaming, which means that you may not notice a major change in performance.

Should You Upgrade From an i5 to an i7?

If you already have an i5 processor, upgrading to an i7 processor may not offer a significant improvement, especially when sticking with the same generation of CPUs.

For example, if you recently purchased a computer with an 11th-generation i5 processor, a new i7 may not provide a noticeable improvement to your game-playing experience. The i5 will already give you solid performance, so save the extra money for a new mouse or microphone for streaming instead.

Yet, if you have an older i5 processor and need a new CPU to play the latest games, an i7 is often worth the extra cost.

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Conclusion

PC gaming is as popular as ever, thanks to a wide range of AAA games and increasingly sophisticated hardware. Using a powerful processor helps you take advantage of the latest technologies and ensures that your games run smoothly.

The Intel i5 and i7 processors are top recommendations but for different reasons. Because there are a few key differences to consider – especially if you’re using your computer for other intensive tasks such as video rendering, multitasking, and more.

The i7 models offer great gaming performance when paired with a powerful graphics card.

The Intel i5 offers more value for your money. The i5 is not as powerful as the i7 but also costs less. You still receive decent performance for gaming, especially if you use the money that you save to purchase a bigger GPU or more RAM.

You should also consider focusing on the 11th and 12th generations of Intel Core processors. The latest generations of processors offer more processing power and support for newer technologies, such as PCIe 4.0, Turbo Boost Technology, and faster RAM speeds.

The two latest generations allow you to install NVMe SSDs, which help load games faster and give you a much better gaming experience.

If you also do a lot of video editing – fx if you upload gaming videos to YouTube – the best CPU to get is an i9.

In the end, if cost is the biggest factor, choose one of the newer i5 processors. If you want the best performance for high-end gaming outside of getting an i9 processor, choose a 12th-generation i7 processor.