The New Intel Processors: Core i3, i5 And i7

Here's a quick little snippet of information for those who haven't been paying attention to recent chip moves. Intel's latest and greatest processors aren't Pentium processors, and they're not the Core 2 brand either. Intel's latest chip-line is the 'Core i' brand. Here's an overview for system builders and solutions providers.

Dave Courbanou

February 16, 2010

3 Min Read
The New Intel Processors: Core i3, i5 And i7

intel-core-i5-661_largeHere’s a quick little snippet of information for those who haven’t been paying attention to recent chip moves. Intel’s latest and greatest processors aren’t Pentium processors, and they’re not the Core 2 brand either. Intel’s latest chip-line is the ‘Core i’ brand. Here’s an overview for system builders and solutions providers.

Quick recap: the last line of processors that you may be familiar with are the Core 2 processors. It was pretty straight forward: you had a Core 2 Duo (two processor cores on one chip), or the Core 2 Quad (four processors on one chip). But now things are getting different. A little more complex, too. The title of the chip doesn’t exactly detail what’s going on behind the scenes; and instead of mainly two chips to chose from, there’s 3 now.

But first, launch history: Intel introduced the Core i7 chip in 2008 but it the Core 2 brand was still going strong. The i7 caught the attention of enthusiasts for the high-end desktop processor range, but it wasn’t that big yet. Fast forward to September 2009, and Intel launches the Core i5, which is then followed shortly by the Core i3 in January of 2010. The complete family is here.

As you might already have gathered, the lower the number, the less intense the chip. The i3 is intended to be the base-line processor, an entry-level chip. Since the Core 2 line is officially ‘retired’ now, expect to see the the i3 popping up in a lot more computers. The i3 is delegated to being a ‘dual-core’ processor only, as in, only two cores on one chip.

Then there’s the i5. This is your main-stream consumer Intel chip. The best bang for the buck. The work-horse. The sedan of processors. Everyone has at least one in their family. The i5 currently has two implementations that are ‘quad-core’ but the rest remain ‘dual-core’. The quad-core version of this chip is based on a different sized chipset. If you’re building a mid-range PC for some video games and a little video editing on the site, this is going to be your go-to unit.

Finally, the eldest, and biggest, the i7. The i7’s are currently relegated to ‘quad-core’ only right now, and come with price tags that sit just under $300 all the way to $999. Like in 2008, this is still your enthusiast processor. That isn’t to say it wont find favor in the mainstream. The lower-end versions of the i7 will find themselves in beefy versions of consumer products, and hardcore PC gamers alike. Even ‘pro-sumer’ setups and servers could be running i7’s.

Now here’s the interesting thing: all the new i3’s and the latest versions of i5 and i7 have integrated GPU’s on-board. What does that mean? It means instead of the traditional setup of having a separate chip on the motherboard for driving your basic display, it’s all on the processor. That won’t drastically change the face of how PCs work, since most desktops have dedicated video cards, but it could be a game changer for the mobile-workplace, though it’s still too early to tell.

But do you need all this? Well, if you’re running a Core 2 Duo or Core 2 Quad (like myself) don’t fret. Your CPU’s are still very much capable, and even though ‘retired’, Intel will be shipping them for quite awhile still. But the wave of the future is very much here, so when considering your next purchase, future-proof it and have no fear going with an i3, i5 or i7. I think it’ll be worth the investment.

Of course, we do need to give AMD equal time on the topic of chip roadmaps. We’ll be sure to do so in the weeks ahead.

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