In the last 25 years, technology advancements have stepped up another gear. We have had rapid shifts to the latest technologies resulting in the production of latest, most advanced products. One of the most prominent of these technologies is the computer. In the last three decades, the computer has gone from a desktop machine to handheld tablets and mobile phones. The key aspect of this change has been the development of the computer processor or CPU (Central Processing Unit) into a much smarter, efficient and powerful unit.
A Brief Introduction
Intel has been at the forefront of the development of CPUs. Starting out in the early 70s, they introduced the first processor at a commercial scale. The Intel 4004 was a 4-bit CPU, the most advanced at the time and was in reality more an IC (Integrated Circuit) than a CPU. As computers began to become household items, the demand for better processors became high and Intel has delivered regularly.
By 1996, Intel had launched its Pentium series, which included the models; Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III and Pentium 4, and which would go on to become household names. The Pentium series was followed by the “core” series where Intel introduced multiple cores in a processor. In this series, they introduced core i3, core i5, core i7 and recently core i9. In between these launches of these processor models, Intel has also introduced multiple other models like Celeron, Xeon and Pentium Dual Core.
Comparisons can be made between different generations of Intel’s “core families” based on different characteristics; number of cores, cache size, clock speed or frequency and price. But ultimately it is a combination of these factors which will be judged when purchasing. Intel also introduced the Turbo Boost in the “core series”, which is a feature that improves the processor performance by increasing the frequency of the processor in an event when multiple tasks are running on a computer. Intel Core i3
The core i3, launched in 2010, initially had the same number of cores as the Dual Core; two. It is divided into 9 generations, which are further divided into multiple models. Only in the 8th generation of core i3 did Intel introduce four cores and the Turbo boost while the previous 7 generations have only 2 cores and no Turbo boost. In terms of price at the time of release, model core i3-7350K of the 7th generation, with a frequency of 4.2 GHz, was the most expensive of the two core models at $168. Model core i3-9350KF of the 9th generation, which has four cores, frequency of 4 GHz, Turbo boost frequency of 4.6 GHz and cache memory of 8 MiB, was priced at $173.
Intel Core i5
The core i5 is also divided into 9 generations and these are further divided into different dual core (2 cores) and quad core models (4 cores). The 8th and 9th generations have models with six cores. All models of core i5 include Turbo boost but most model have relatively less frequency than the models of core i3. The core i5-9600KF having six cores, frequency of 3.7 GHz, and cache memory of 9 MiB was priced at the time of release at $263. Comparatively, model i5-7600K, with four cores, frequency of 3.8 GHz and cache memory of 6 MiB, had a release price of $242.
Intel Core i7
Intel’s core i7, like i3 and i5, is divided into 9 generations and further subdivided into multiple models based upon frequency and number of cores. Core i7 models have core sizes in 4, 6 and 8. Most of the model in 1st to 5th generations have four or six cores with frequency up to 4 GHz. Price depends upon number of cores, frequency and cache size; for example model i7-3930K with six cores, frequency of 3.2 GHz and cache size of 12 MiB was priced at $583 while model i7-3960X with six cores, frequency of 3.3 GHz and cache size of 15 MiB was priced at $999 at the time of release. Core i7 also has models like i76700K, having 8 cores, frequency of 3.2 GHz and cache memory of 20 MiB, priced at $1089 and i7-6950X, having 10 cores, frequency of 3 GHz and cache memory of 25 MiB, priced at $1723 which makes it by far the most expensive processor in the core i7 family. Intel Core i9
The latest core i9 family has had only a handful of models released to date which vary in the number of cores which range from 8 to 18 and frequency which goes up to 4 GHz but the frequency during Turbo boost is claimed go as high as 5 GHz in models such as i99900 which has 8 cores and cache size of 16 MiB, priced at $439 at the time of release. Due to the greater number of cores and hence better performance, core i9 family is the most expensive series of Intel processors. The most expensive processor in the i9 family is model i9-7980XE, which has 18 cores, frequency of 2.6 GHz and a price at the time of release of $1999!
Keeping in view, the different characteristics of different processors, the choice depends on what is required. Generally, the more cores a processor has, the more powerful it is. But computers with greater number of cores are more expensive as we have seen from the examples in this article. For simple tasks like internet browsing or working on a small software, computers with small number of cores can do a job. But for a heavy software or gaming, it is a must to have a computer with greater number of cores. Similarly, the frequency is important to the performance of a computer. Greater frequency is better but for processors with greater number of cores, the frequency is generally lower due to heating issues. Here turbo boost frequency comes in handy which can elevate the frequency of processor when multiple tasks are running on a computer. Ultimately, the decision will boil down to the budget the buyer has. Core i3 family was designed to be low cost but the core i9 family is very expensive and not affordable for many. In the end, the price of a processor will directly impact which processor the buyer will purchase.
Picture by: Fritzchens Fritz, Intel Sandybridge Xeon.