Intel Core i5 or i7 For Gaming – Which Should I Choose?

When you’re buying a new computer for gaming, one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make is which central processing unit (CPU) to get. The CPU is the part of the computer responsible for processing data, i.e., reading and processing instructions. The more instructions your computer can work on per second, the faster it will be. Most computers now have multi-core processors, which means that they have multiple CPUs and, therefore, can process multiple instructions at the same time.

Two multi-core CPUs that are often pitted against each other are the Intel Core i5 and the Intel Core i7. While the differences between the Core i3 and the Core i9, for example, are clear – the i3 is a budget option, whereas the i9 is for high-end users who’ll be working on content creation (e.g., video, 3D modeling) – the differences between the i5 and the i7 are less so.

In this article, we’re going to help you decide whether you need an i5 or i7 for gaming by laying out the differences and helping you to choose which specific model of the CPU you need.


The most obvious difference between the i5 and the i7 is cost. The i7 generally costs more than the i5 by several hundred dollars. When shopping for your machine, if all of the other specifications of your computer are kept equal, a Core i7-equipped PC will cost more than a Core i5-equipped one. Whether this extra cost is justified really depends on how well the two CPUs work in comparison to each other. We’ll cover more on this below.

Basic Head-to-Head Comparison

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You can compare the i5 and i7 CPUs on to see how they perform against each other head-to-head. As you can see, the i7 only slightly outperforms the i5, with an average bench of 98.6% versus 93.5%. But, whether the extra cost of the i7 is worth it really depends on a few other factors.


As a rule, the more cores a CPU has, the better it will perform. Core i5 and Core i7 processors from the 8th and 9th generations will usually have at least four cores. Many of the later models will have 6. Only i7 CPUs from the 9th generation or newer can come with eight cores.

How many cores you need depends on what you’ll be using your computer for. 4 cores should be enough for most mainstream users but, if you want a high-end gaming experience, you’ll need to go for eight cores, which means getting an i7 CPU.


Another difference between i5 and i7 CPUs is their Hyper-Threading capabilities. Hyper-Threading technology allows each core to work on two processing threads at the same time, effectively doubling the speed of your computer. This is useful if you’re running multiple programs at the same time, if you’re doing content creation (e.g., transcoding and rendering), or even sometimes when you’re surfing the web (so that different page elements can be loaded simultaneously).

While newer generation i5 and i7 CPUs have Hyper-Threading technology, not all 8th and 9th generation models do. It depends on the specific model of CPU that you’re buying. You can check whether your model has Hyper-Threading using Intel’s ARK product specifications database.

If you’re going to be playing high-powered games, then you might want to consider having Hyper-Threading because some games will not perform well unless there are eight processing threads available. This means you’ll either need a CPU with eight cores, or you could have a CPU with fewer cores but with Hyper-Threading.

Turbo Boost

Turbo Boost is a feature that allows some of the CPU’s cores to run faster than their base speed (“clock speed”) when only one or two of the cores are needed. This is also known as “overclocking.” Both i5 and i7 processors can come with Turbo Boost, but i7 processors generally achieve higher clock speeds.

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In terms of gaming, overclocking can reduce rendering times, and increase in-game performance, so it might be a feature that you want to look for in your CPU. Each processor that you’re considering will have a rating for its base and boosted clock speeds so that you can look out for this.

That said, while higher clock speed is usually better, it also depends on how long the processor can sustain boosted speed for and on how many cores. This is affected by the design and the cooling capabilities of the processor.


The cache is used to transfer data between the CPU, memory, and all of the components inside your computer. It stores data so that future requests for that data can be served faster. The larger the cache, the more efficiently your computer will run.

Currently, Core i5 CPUs generally have up to 9MB of level 3 cache, while Core i7s generally have up to 12MB. If you’re going to be multitasking, then you might want to consider a CPU with a larger cache. Usually, when you’re playing games, though, that’s all you’re doing. So if you’re only going to be using your PC for playing games and not other high powered tasks such as designing, then you might not need to think about cache.


Another consideration in terms of whether to go for the i5 or i7 is the graphics processing unit (GPU). Processors come with their own integrated graphics card for processing the images that appear on your screen.

That said, if you are using your PC for gaming, then the integrated graphics card won’t be enough. You’ll need a separate GPU, known as a discrete graphics card. So, if you’re serious about PC gaming, don’t worry about the integrated GPU of your processor, and focus on getting a discrete graphics card. In this instance, it doesn’t really matter whether you have an i5 or an i7 CPU.

What to Buy

So, when choosing between the i5 or the i7 for gaming, it’s more important to look at the individual specification of the CPU that you’re buying. You’ll most likely need one with eight cores that support Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost, and that has a large cache. As the i7 is the option that comes with all of these features, for the best performance, we recommend choosing an i7 processor.

If you’re more of a casual gamer, then a cheaper i5 CPU could work just fine for you. You can save yourself some money and still have a great gaming experience. That said, when buying your PC, play around with the online configurator to see if you can afford a Core i7 powered machine. The extra cost might be small enough to make it worth the investment.

Something that may be more important to take into account when choosing a CPU would be the generation of the processor. To make sure you’re getting recent technology, try to find a processor with the naming structure Core ix-8xxx, Core ix-9xxx, or even Core ix-10xxx. Also, to get better performance within each generation and each class (i.e., i5 or i7), it’s usually best to go for a processor with a higher model number. For example, the i7-9700K processor has a higher model number and so will generally perform better than i5-9600K. You’ll still want to look out for other capabilities, such as Hyper-Threading and Turbo Boost, though.

There’s also Core X-Series processors to consider. The Core X-Series desktop processor family is aimed at high-performance users, such as extreme gamers and video editors, e.g., the Core i7-7820X. At well over $500 for one of these chips, this is only really worth the investment for super serious gamers.