Intel i5 series comparison: 13th Gen Intel® Core™ Desktop Processors — 1

Best Intel processor: Core i3, i5, i7 and i9 explained

What’s the best Intel processor?

If you’ve already sided with Team Blue in the Intel vs AMD debate, then we’ve provided a rundown of all the best Intel processor options here, as well as multiple explanations if you’re not well rehearsed in CPU lingo.

The first thing you need to know is that Intel is now in its 11th Generation for both laptops and desktop chips. 11th Gen laptop CPUs (aka Tiger Lake) have been around for some time now, and are great for someone who wants a slim and light laptop that can do some light gaming.  

11th Gen desktop processors (aka Rocket Lake) are much newer, and a mixed bag. The higher-end chipsets disappoint, struggling to compete with AMD Ryzen rivals, and even Intel’s last generation 10th Gen CPUs.  

But what are the best Intel processor options you should buy. Let’s start with a few recommendations for different scenarios.  

Best Intel processor for budget gaming desktops: Intel Core i5-11400F

Consider the Intel Core i5-11400F if you want a processor for a gaming PC and have a tight budget. It doesn’t have its own GPU, so needs to be paired with a graphics card. But this saves you a little cash over the standard i5-11400.  

We haven’t reviewed this processor, but the specs suggest that it probably offers the biggest proportional generation jump in performance of the 11th Gen desktop series, and is not a bad pairing even for very high-end cards like the Nvidia RTX 3080 with most games. That’s right, a £150 CPU can be paired with a GPU that costs £649-£2000, depending on timing and luck when you try to buy a graphics card.  

Hardcore PC gamers would disagree, not least because the Intel Core i4-11400F is not an unlocked processor, meaning it cannot be overclocked properly. But it’s a good buy for many.  

Best all-rounder performance CPU:

Intel Core i5-10600K

The Intel Core i5-10600K is the Intel CPU I am most likely to recommend to enthusiast system builders who do not have a limitless budget. It’s powerful enough to act as, at most, a mild bottleneck when paired with the most powerful graphics cards.   

Performance per pound is sound, and this is a “K” series card, giving you the option to overclock substantially if you have the cooling to match. And it has baked in UHD 630 graphics. You can use it without a graphics card, handy if you’re waiting for prices to cool down a bit before buying.  

Intel’s most powerful mainstream desktop CPU:

Intel Core i9-11900K

Our Computing Editor, Ryan Jones, is not a huge fan of the Intel Core i9-11900K, with good reason. It’s expensive and doesn’t match its AMD rivals for multi-threaded performance.  

However, its single-core performance is excellent and you need one of these 11th Gen Intel or Ryzen 5000 chips to get PCIe 4.0 support. This is required to max-out the speed of the latest SSDs.  

Some of the performance fiends out there should still consider the older Intel Core i9-10900K, though. It’s significantly cheaper and actually outperforms the newer processor in quite a few situations because it has 10 cores, to the Intel Core i9-11900K’s eight.   

Best laptop CPU to look out for:

Intel Core i5-1135G7

I’ve picked the laptop Core i5 as the laptop CPU of choice, but your options are likely to determined in part by the model you choose. Not all laptops come in all varieties of processor.  

However, the i5-1135G7, i7-1165g7, i5-1185g7 and i7-1185g7 mobile processors are the 11th Gen laptop highlights as they have Intel Xe graphics.  

These chipsets are better than the integrated GPUs of their respective desktop cousins, and let you play games once thought of as ultra-demanding on a thin and light laptop. I’m talking about titles like Kingdom Come: Deliverance and The Witcher 3, not genuine oldies like Skyrim.  

Choosing between an Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and i9 

An Intel Core i5 is a sensible place to start whether you plan to buy a laptop or desktop. You can’t really go wrong with an i5, particularly with the 11th generation chipsets. They have enough power for high-end gaming, intensive image editing work and video editing. And they use less power than a Core i7 or i9, which is nice.  

The Core i7 is more powerful than the Core i5 series. And the Core i9 chipsets are, you guessed it, more powerful than the i7s. 

Intel’s Core i3 CPUs are usually the least-discussed these days, but they still exist and are a great choice for low-cost family PCs and ultra-budget gaming desktops. However, at the time of writing you’d have to buy a 10th Gen i3-10100 as an 11th Gen Core i3 is not available (yet).  

So how do you quantify the differences between an Intel Core i3 and an i9? I’m going to stay away from benchmark results and too much deep tech talk, and stick to two factors: cores and clock speed.  

I can use a human analogy here. If you have more cores, you have more workers to do a job. And a higher clock speed means each of these workers can get stuff done at a quicker pace.  

Some tasks, like gaming, benefit more from a few fast cores than an increased number of them. But others like video editing love a processor with lots of cores, because the applications are designed to exploit all the available CPU power. Games are, for the most part, miners of graphics card power.  

Here’s a run down of the core counts, base clock speeds and turbo clock speeds of the desktop 11th Gen CPUs, for reference.  

Intel Core i5-11400  6 cores 2.6GHz 4.4GHz Turbo
Intel Core i5-11600K 6 cores 3.9GHz 4.8GHz Turbo
Intel Core i7-11700 8 cores 2.5GHz 4.9GHz Turbo
Intel Core i7-11700K 8 cores 3. 6GHz 5GHz Turbo
Intel Core i9-11900K 8 cores 3.9GHz 5.3GHz Turbo
Intel Core i3-10100 (10th Gen) 4 cores 3.6GHz 4.3GHz Turbo

In previous years we would have had to explain another term to get to the root of performance differences, hyperthreading. But all the main 11th Gen have hyperthreading. 

This is where you (to torture the metaphor a little more) get to give each of the workers two jobs at at time instead of one. Those folks should unionise.  

Looking a little deeper into the upgrades 

Higher-end Intel processors also have more cache memory than mid-range and low-end ones. This is very fast storage used to hold the data the CPU cores are about to need. The Intel Core i3-10100 has 6MB, the Intel Core i5-11600K 12MB.  

Top-spec CPUs like the Intel Core i9-11900K and Intel Core i7-11700K have 16MB. However, the last gen i9-10900K has 20MB. Intel can justify this as the newer version has fewer cores, but it’s another reason why some techies look down on the 11th Gen Core i9. 

How to choose an Intel CPU: What the names mean 

Choosing whether to buy a Core i5, i7 or i9 can seem pretty simple. It’s one of those “good, better, best” scenarios. But you also need to pay attention to the letters at the end of a CPU name before you head to the checkout.  

Here’s what they mean.  

Desktop letters 

K – This means the CPU is unlocked, which is essential if you plan on overclocking. This is where you manually increase the speed of a processors cored beyond their defaults, for better performance at the cost of more heat. Gamers who pay attention to the cooling in their desktops will always want an unlocked CPU.

F – Processors with an ‘F’ at the end do not have an integrated graphics section. This means they absolutely need some form of standalone graphics card, or they won’t even be able to display Windows. Those building a gaming PC should consider one of these, as it saves you a small amount of cash, which can be spent elsewhere.  

T – Most of you probably don’t want a ‘T’ CPU. These use lower clock speeds in order to consume less power. Why would you want one? They also create less heat, so are a good fit for cramped mini PCs.  

Laptop letters 

G – This means the CPU has its own half-decent graphics section built into the CPU. However, Intel now puts ‘G’ in stacks its Core i series laptop, making it next to meaningless without also looking at the number that follows. “G4” means a laptop has an Intel UHD graphics chip, which is pretty poor.  “G7” means it has Intel Xe graphics, which are kinda great. They let you play some surprisingly demanding games 

H – ‘H’ stands for high performance. These processors get you closer to desktop PC power, but also use a lot more of battery and create more heat under strain. They are used in thicker, heavier laptops that can accommodate better cooling systems. But you probably wouldn’t want to carry most of them around every day.  

U – You don’t see the ‘U’ in Intel’s 11th Gen laptop CPU names. But it’s an important one to know because it was everywhere beforehand, and older processors will float around for a while. It stands for Ultra Low Voltage — battery-saving, in other words. Intel’s “G” laptop CPUs are in the same mould, made largely for thin and light laptops. 

Should you go below the Core i series? 

There are two rungs below the Intel Core i3 series: Pentium and Celeron.  

Intel Pentium CPUs come in Gold and Silver versions. Pentium Golds are desktop CPUs, and are not a bad fit for a computer that will just be used for Office apps, video streaming and browsing. Or as part of a budget gaming PC with a low-end or lower-mid-range graphics card. 

However, they only have two cores and are not close to the recommended Core i5-11600 and Core i5-11400 in performance. The G6605 is the latest Pentium Gold processor. Pentium Silver chipsets, like the N6000, are laptop processors and are only well suited to the basics. If the jump to an 11th Gen Intel Core i3 does not cost too much, make that jump.  

Celerons are the weakest Intel processors, and are not recommended in general. Laptops with these processors are usually noticeably slow. You are better off spending a little more on at least a Pentium Gold in a desktop build.  

Should you wait for the 12th Gen Intel series? 

Intel’s next generation of CPUs will offer more dramatic changes than the 11th Gen. The 12th generation of desktop CPUs is known as Alder Lake, and will use sets of ‘power’ cores and efficiency cores. This arrangement is similar the Apple M1 CPU used in the latest MacBook Air. It’s quite a dramatic change.  

Where today’s Core i9 CPU has eight cores, the next will likely have 16: eight ‘big’ cores and eight ‘little’ cores. The hope is for a high-end processor that can beat the standard-setting AMD Ryzen 9 5900x/5950X, and make up some of the ground Intel has lost to Apple in the laptop space.  

Intel’s next generation of CPUs will be far more interesting than the 11th. But you’ll also need a new motherboard as they will connect using a different socket. Stick to Trusted Reviews for all of the latest news on Intel’s upcoming processors. 

i3 vs i5 — Difference and Comparison

Intel’s Core i3 and i5 processors are among the newest from the company. i3 is low-end (like Core 2), i5 is mid-level and i7 is high-end (like Xeon).

Both Core i3 and Core i5 are based on the Nehalem microarchitecture, which includes an integrated DDR3 memory controller as well as QuickPath Interconnect or PCI Express. The Front Side Bus used in all earlier Core processors has been replaced with Direct Media Interface. The processors have 256 KB L2 cache per core, plus up to 12 MB shared Level 3 cache.

Comparison chart

i3 versus i5 comparison chart
i3 i5
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Launch date January 7, 2010 September 8, 2009
Positioning Low-end Mid-level (between the mainstream i3 and Core 2, and the high-end Xeon and i7)
Price $133 $176 to $256
Turbo Boost Core i3 processors do not support «Turbo Boost» Core i5 processors support dynamic overclocking of the CPU (Turbo Boost) to enhance performance.
Integrated GPU (graphics processor) All models of Core i3 have an integrated GPU Core i5-6xx processors have an integrated GPU; others do not.
CPU clock rate 2.933 GHz to 3.2 GHz. 2.4 GHz to 3.33 GHz; Max. CPU clock rate 3.6 GHz Overclocked up to 4.5 Ghz

Architecture and Specifications

The first Core i3 processor was launched on January 7, 2010. It was Clarkdale-based, (desktop) with an integrated GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and two cores.

Intel Core i5 was launched on September 8, 2009. The first such processor was Core i5 750, a quad-core Lynnfield Desktop processor. Later, dual-core mobile processors based on Arrandale microarchitecture were released, followed by Clarkdale-based Core i5-6xx processors. These i5-6xx processors are very similar to cheaper Core i3 processors, with Turbo Boost being the main feature that is missing in the i3.

Codename
(microarchitecture)
Processor L3 Cache Socket TDP I/O Bus
Clarkdale Core i3-5xx 4 MB LGA 1156 73 W Direct Media Interface,
Integrated GPU
Arrandale Core i3-3xxM 3 MB µPGA-989 35 W
Lynnfield Core i5-7xx 8 MB LGA 1156 95 W Direct Media Interface
Core i5-7xxS 82 W
Clarkdale Core i5-6xx 4 MB 73–87 W Direct Media Interface,
Integrated GPU
Arrandale Core i5-5xxM 3 MB µPGA-989 35 W
Core i5-4xxM
Core i5-5xxUM 18 W

Turbo boost

Turbo boost is the technology that automatically speeds up the processor when the PC needs extra performance. This is done by «dynamic overclocking» i.e. increasing CPU clock-speed. This technology is available in Core i5 processors and does not exist in any of the i3 processors.

HD graphics and Hyperthread technology

Hyperthread technology is a four-way multi-task processing that allows each core of the processor to work on two tasks at the same time. HD (High Density) Graphics and Hyperthread technology is available in both i3 and i5 processors except Core i5 750.

Video Explaining the Differences

References

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Core
  • i3 — intel.com
  • i5 — intel.com
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Core_i5
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Intel series i5 vs i7: Which is better?

Taking a deep dive into both the i5 and i7 series of Intel processors to determine which one is right for you.

Updated: Jul 18, 2022 3:36 pm

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12th Gen LITTLE. big cores explained

Intel Core i5 vs i7: What’s the difference?

Core concept

What is CPU cache?

Hyper-Threading

Turbo Boost

A quick word on Integrated Graphics

FAQs

Is it worth upgrading from i5 to i7?

What is the advantage of i7 over i5?

Can you upgrade i5 to i7?

Does i7 last longer than i5?

So which CPU is best for you?

Whether you’re building yourself a brand new gaming PC, buying a new laptop, or a prebuilt computer, the processor you choose is one of the biggest points for consideration

It should be known however that i7s do draw a considerable amount of power in comparison to AMD CPUs which due to the power hungry processor may be taxing to your power bill too!

READ MORE: AMD’s AM5 socket and it’s release date, RAMP tech & more

If you are looking at using an Intel processor, then we know it can be easy to get confused between the Intel Core i5 and i7’s, as they look similar on paper, with rather subtle differences. So i5 vs i7, which is best for you?

Well, it comes down to budget and, of course, the use case you have for the PC itself.

Knowing the essentials should clear up Intel’s confusing naming conventions, and hopefully assist you in making the right choice when you buy a new CPU. Let’s get stuck in, what are the key differences between these two highly popular CPU families?

12th Gen LITTLE. big cores explained

Before we head into the differences between i5 and i7 series Intel CPUs we need to ensure we have laid out the new way in which 12th generation Intel CPUs work, as they are now vastly different from the other CPUs Intel has created in the past.

Intel has now decided to split it’s CPU cores into two categories, “E-cores” and “P-cores”. Splitting cores using ARM’s LITTLE.big technology was Intel’s 12th generation’s biggest talking point when it was announced.

The way LITTLE.big technology works is fascinating.

How the split P-cores (performance) and E-cores (efficiency) work exactly is the performance cores are both hyperthreaded and clocked at high clock speeds. These are the cores that do all the heavy lifting hence the name ‘performance cores’.

Then there are the E-cores, which are not hyperthreaded and are clocked at lower speeds to be both power efficient and performance efficient. This is achieved because E-cores aren’t forced to share resources as they aren’t hyperthreaded.

In the case of Windows, the operating system delegates tasks to either E-cores or P-cores based on a pre-scan of an instruction set by a task scheduler. It saves power by not running P-cores on tasks that aren’t that heavy and don’t require a lot of power.

So internally, 12th generation Intel CPUs are much different than the older generations. Their cores were all identical and didn’t have specific jobs to fulfil within the processing subsystem.

This new direction Intel has taken offers more efficiency and power when it’s needed most. a serious point of consideration for a new 12th gen CPU.

A list of our best 12th gen CPUs can be found here.

Intel Core i5 vs i7: What’s the difference?

Until AMD’s recent triumphs in the market, the i5 and i7 processor lines were two of the most popular for gaming and general computer usage.

These processors offer a wide range of abilities at various levels of affordability and are, generally speaking, household names in the processor world.

Here’s an example of both the i5 and i7 series of Intels 12th generation of CPUs. So you gain an understanding of how they differ, when a CPU belongs to a higher series it is usually better than the best of the previous series.

The ‘best’ means more cores, threads and higher turbo frequencies.

Core concept

A CPU core is a CPU’s processor, relating back to the days when every CPU was made up of a single core. Regular desktop CPUs now have anything between two to sixteen cores, and each individual core is able to tackle a different task simultaneously.

All of Intel’s Core i5 and i7 processors from the 12th generation feature at least four cores. For general computer usage, four cores are probably considered to be the sweet spot as you won’t be doing too much multitasking.

Six core CPUs are also a very valid option, the latest i5 processors tend to feature six CPU cores. unless we’re speaking about Intel’s mobile i5s that tend to feature four cores.

Six core CPUs are geared more toward performance, and whilst these CPUs are more of a middle ground between gaming and productivity, they really hold their own when it comes to gaming.

What is CPU cache?

Alongside faster clock speeds and extra cores, i7 CPUs generally have large caches too. A CPU’s cache is an extension of system RAM, constructed close to CPU cores to facilitate fast access speeds.

The cache acts as a buffer to feed CPU cores instructions from RAM- the faster the cache the faster it can feed CPU cores instructions. Modern-day CPUs are constructed with three cache levels in mind.

The cache is split into three levels and they follow alphanumerical order.

Level one cache is the cache located close to the CPU cores and has the greatest access speeds but also the smallest capacity. This is the level reserved for only the most vital data

Level two cache is a middle ground between level one and level three cache, with median capacity and median speed, reserved for your less vital data,

Level three cache is where most of your regularly accessed data is stored, such as programs and file paths. This has a very large capacity in comparison to the other two levels of cache but is also much slower. 

The latest i5 CPUs feature 18MB of L3 cache and the latest i7s feature up to 20MB. While cache speed is important, capacity is just as important as a larger cache means more stored instructions.

Hyper-Threading

Both of the CPU series’ contain CPUs that are multithreaded Intel calls this Hyperthreading. This is a technology that allows one CPU core to process and execute two instructions simultaneously.

This means that the operating system is able to see and utilize your CPU as if it had double the number of physical cores. The collection of cores and threads are labelled logical processors by operating systems. 

These threads are known as V-cores and are virtual, so named because they do not physically exist or occupy space on the CPU die. These virtual cores have to share resources with the physical cores and threads suffer slower processing speeds as a result. 

Again Hyperthreading relies on software integration and compatibility but it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have. Most modern software has multithreading integration and support. 

Hyperthreading just basically means that the number of logical processors is double the CPU core count if each CPU core is configured to use multithreading.

Turbo Boost

Turbo Boost is essentially an overclocking feature from Intel that will automatically run the processor core faster than its base clock speed. Regardless of what CPU you have, whether it’s Intel or AMD, they will each come with a base and boost clock speed.

It is important to note your boost clock speed and ensure you have adequate cooling to support overclocking.

This is because boosted speeds are considered overclocking, even if it’s handled automatically by your PC. All the same overclocking rules apply.

How high a clock speed your CPU can achieve is all down to the design of the chip and how long it can sustain the boosted speeds – we sometimes call this ability the silicon lottery.

A quick word on Integrated Graphics

There is a reason we see Intel CPUs at the helm of the majority of laptops, its for the integrated graphics. As your standard laptop is not designed for gaming, there is little need or physical space for a dedicated graphics card.

These machines rely on what is known as integrated graphics or Intels HD/ UHD Graphics. With the latest being Intel’s UHD 770 integrated graphics.

As the graphics are integrated with the CPU, this generally saves power and is a smart graphical solution for laptops. Integrated graphics naming conventions work generally in the same numerical way the Intel processors work, the higher the number, the better.

Despite this, it is worth noting that if you truly want to enjoy gaming at 1080p and above, then you need to go for a dedicated graphics card.

This does offer its downsides however, Cramming a GPU die into a CPU packet along with a CPU die is going to create some space limitations, which means the CPU die is often scaled back from its full potential

To accommodate for the spacial and power requirements of the GPU die.

Because of this, the CPU portion of CPUs with integrated graphics is also limited in its performance. this is the reason we don’t recommend picking up a CPU with integrated graphics if you’re going to opt for a dedicated GPU later.

FAQs

Is it worth upgrading from i5 to i7?

That depends on what you want to do. For most standard PC gamers, the answer is probably not – the i5 is probably fast enough and slick enough to keep your pixels warm, if not fuzzy, throughout any gaming session you set your heart to.

Where you might find the bonus capabilities of the i7 useful though is if you’re not simply gaming, but streaming your gameplay to Twitch, Youtube or any similar channel.

Why? Because the i7 is rocking a whole lot more cache than the i5, that’s why. An upgrade from 6MB to 8MB of cache gives you slicker, smoother streaming with less 80s gaming lag. If you’re streaming to platforms and channels as live, you might also find that the i7’s hyper-threading capabilities makes your streaming faster and closer to real-time.

If that’s you, then yes, the upgrade might make your gaming life smoother and easier. Otherwise, it’s probably not worth your money.

What is the advantage of i7 over i5?

If you feel the need for speed, the i7 will call to your gaming soul. Not only is its base clock faster than the i5’s, you can turbo boost it so it handles more tasks per eye-blink. What does that mean? Means faster action, smoother command-flow, and slicker action, that’s what it means.

And then there’s hyper-threading.

Hyper-threading is the computer core equivalent of juggling faster with more balls at once. The i7’s hyper-threading functionality means it can do a lot more things at the same time than the i5 can. Result? More speed, without loss of precision or task-completion.

The boost in cache from 6MB to 8MB means you can store more system data for easy access at any one time. That’s like having more frames per second in a video image. The more you can access seamlessly, the more smoothly your computer can process all the data it needs to give you a higher grade of performance.

Can you upgrade i5 to i7?

Technologically? Sure, no problem. They’re based on the same chipset, so you can upgrade from one to the other. Watch out, though. Newer chips may require additional upgrades – for instance, DDR4. So, take a good look at your configuration and understand how it will be affected by simply dropping an i7 into the mix.

The more pressing issue is when you do this. The component market is like a mouse on a wheel – there are sweet spots in the cycle when changing up will give you maximum futureproofing. Get the moment wrong, and you find you’ve upgraded at a point when the next big thing is on its way.

So yes, you can. Know your way around both your configuration and the cycle of development. Get a sense for what’s coming when. But then, sure, if you want to, and you feel it will upgrade your gaming life, switch out your i5 for the i7.

Does i7 last longer than i5?

If they’re of the same generation, then the useful lifespan of the i5 and the i7 should be around the same. It’s the generation, rather than the chipset that determines how long a processor will last, because it’s the generational change that gives you improvements on component lifespan.

The difference you’ll most likely find is between what you can do with each processor during its similar lifespan, rather than any great difference in longevity.

That said, if you’ve upgraded to the i7 for specific reasons of streaming or smoothness, your mind may play a trick on you where it seems like the i7 lasts longer than the i5, because the gaming industry moves on to need higher specifications within a generation of processors, and with an i7, you’ll be significantly closer to what’s required for hardcore gaming and streaming for a lot longer than you would with an i5.

So which CPU is best for you?

This should be taken with a pinch of salt, but generally speaking, the Core i5 CPU is geared towards the budget-minded masses who care about performance. The flip side is that the i7 would generally be for enthusiasts or gamers with expensive rigs. 

So why consider an i5? well, they are generally cheaper and one of the most mainstream processors on the market. For generic computer users who browse the web or use the odd light application, the i5 is pretty much perfect for your needs.

If you are someone who works with demanding applications such as the Adobe editing suite or someone who is looking to do some high-end gaming, then the Core i7 could be the better way to go.

Regardless of what processor line you choose, you can expect an array of options to cover various needs and budgets but the bottom line is that more cores and threads are always going to be advantageous as the industry gears toward larger-scale multithreaded CPU usage.

You wouldn’t be making a mistake picking up a more powerful CPU, as this offers some future-proofing in addition to more power.

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Intel 12th-gen P-series vs U-series CPUs for laptops: Key differences

Intel followed up its 12th-gen Alder Lake desktop parts with the new mobile CPUs for laptops at CES 2022. Not only are these new mobile chips faster than the previous-gen processors, but they also carry the same new hybrid architecture using dedicated Performance (P-cores) and Efficient (E-cores). This performance hybrid architecture, in case you are wondering, is similar to ARM. The P-cores handle the task at hand, while E-cores manage the background applications and use substantially less power.

Intel breaks its 12th-gen Alder Lake mobile chips into three main categories:

  • H-series: For the 45W workhorse and prosumer enthusiasts notebooks.
  • P-series: For the performance thin and light laptops.
  • U-series: For next-gen ultralight laptops and foldables.

While Intel’s CES 2022 keynote mainly focused on the 45W H-series designs, there’s a lot happening this time in the ultraportable low-powered CPU space too. So in this article, we’re going to take a look at the comparison between Intel 12th-gen P-series vs U-series mobile CPUs for laptops to find out the key differences between the two lineups:

Understanding the product name: P-series vs U-series

We’re used to Intel typically addressing the ultraportable laptop chips as its U-series processors, meaning all processors powering these notebooks have U in the product name. These processors scale starting with dual-cores 9W chips, all the way up to quad-core 28W chips based on the configuration. Well, Intel is changing that with the 12th-gen Alder Lake mobile chips.

We now have the Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake P-series with 28W processors with BGA Type3 or UP3 package size. These processors will be powering the performance thin and light notebooks in 2022 and beyond. Laptops like the new Dell XPS 13 Plus will be powered by the P-series processors. Be sure to check out our Dell XPS 13 Plus hands-on article while you are here. It’s a pretty cool laptop with a very unique design and some other interesting features.

There are six P-series processor designs in total ranging from a Core i7 to Core i3 with different hybrid core configurations. These processors all have the “P” suffix in their name and you’ll see a lot of them in the high-end ultrabook market. We suggest you keep an eye on the ultrabook designs from manufacturers including HP, Lenovo, Dell, and even Microsoft, as we expect one of these P-series chips to end up in one of the new Surface laptops sooner or later.

The U-series, on the other hand, has both 9W and 15W processors. Starting with the low power processors at 9W, these are essentially the same as the ultra-low-power Tiger Lake processors that use BGA Type4 or UP4 Intel design. This particular design combines both the CPU and the chipset on the same package, and it’s the smallest package that Intel offers right now. At 15W, we have a design that’s very similar to the older U-series processors that we’re familiar with.

These U-series processors will directly be replacing the older 12-28W chips like the Core i7-1185G7, for instance. We’re essentially seeing a fundamental change in the way Intel is classifying its low-powered mobile processors in the 9/15/28W power brackets. These processors will no longer be identified with G7, G4, or G1 suffixes. Instead, Intel is now signifying them with just P or U, based on the power. We think this is a great change as it makes things a lot easier to understand.

P-series processors will be seen inside high-performance thin and light notebooks while more modern thin & lights notebooks and smaller devices such as foldable will get U-series. It’ll either be a 15W UP3 or a 9W UP4 design based on the form factor and the requirement. All the U-series chips have the suffix “U” in their names, but you can distinguish between the 15W and 9W chips easily as Intel is putting ‘5’ as the last digit in every 15W processor, while it’s ‘0’ in every 9W chip.

The difference in Hybrid core configurations

Starting off with the P-series, we’re looking at the UP3 form-factor with larger, more powerful silicon than the U-series. The P-series chips have up to six P-cores and eight E-cores, along with a 96EU graphics engine. The Core i7-1280P is at the top of the stack and we’re looking at a peak turbo frequency of 4.8GHz for this one along with a max turbo power consumption of 64W. There are two other Core i7 parts in the P-series but they only get four P-cores instead of six but have a higher base frequency on both P as well as E-cores. This essentially makes the Core i7-1280P the cream of the crop in the low-powered space, and we expect to see it inside a lot of ultrabooks.

The mid-range Core i5 processors in the P-series also have the same 4+8 core configurations as most of the Core i7 parts. However, we’re looking at slightly slower peak turbo frequency, among other things. Lastly, there’s also the Core i3-1220P, which we think is more in line with the U-series processors. But this one’s rated for 28W power draw which means it’s going to churn out slightly better consistent performance and won’t be as efficient as the U-series chips at 15W.

Here’s a quick look at the Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake P-series 28W processors:

Specification Intel Core i7-1280P Intel Core i7-1270P Intel Core i7-1260P Intel Core i5-1250P Intel Core i5-1240P Intel Core i3-1220P
Cores 14 (6P + 8E) 12 (4P + 8E) 12 (4P + 8E) 12 (4P + 8E) 12 (4P + 8E) 10 (2P + 8E)
Threads 20 16 16 16 16 12
Base Frequency 1. 8GHz (P-core) | 1.3GHz (E-core) 2.2GHz (P-core) | 1.6GHz (E-core) 2.1GHz (P-core) | 1.5GHz (E-core) 1.7GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core) 1.7GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core) 1.5GHz (P-core) | 1.1GHz (E-core)
Max Turbo Frequency 4.8GHz (P-core) | 3.6GHz (E-core) 4.8GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core) 4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.4GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core)
L3 Cache 24MB 18MB 18MB 12MB 12MB 12MB
Default TDP 28W 28W 28W 28W 28W 28W
Max Turbo Power 64W 64W 64W 64W 64W 64W
Processor Graphics 96EU 96EU 96EU 80EU 80EU 64EU

The 15W U-series chips, as we mentioned earlier, are similar to the traditional U-series processors that we’re familiar with from the Tiger Lake series. These chips also have the same UP3 design as the P-series chips. This allows the OEMs to make a UP3 laptop and equip it with either a P-series or a 15W U-series processor. Think of it as the same laptop having different configurations based on the pricing.

The 15W U-series chips have two P-cores and up to eight E-cores, along with 96 EUs for the graphics. Replacing the existing crops of 15W Tiger Lake chips, it’ll be interesting to see how the new 15W U-series processors will perform as they now have fewer performance cores.

Moving further down the line, we have low-powered 9W U-series chips that top out at two P-cores and eight E-cores along with up to a 96EU graphics engine in the silicon. These 9W processors, as we mentioned earlier, use UP4 design which means they’ll be powering an entirely different category of devices. We’re expecting these chips to be fitted inside the next-gen form-factors like foldables.

When it comes to the U-series processor family, we have the Core i7-1265U on the top with two performance cores and eight efficiency cores. We’re looking at a turbo frequency of up to 4.8Ghz and a 96EU graphics engine running at up to 1.25GHz for this chip. We also have the Core i5 and the Core i3 with appropriate reductions in clock speeds and execution units.

The U-series also has the Pentium and Celeron processors that are worth taking a look at. These chips have a five-core configuration with half the P-cores, E-cores, and even execution units. The 9W U-series chips are also the same, except we’re looking at lower base frequencies along with a max turbo power consumption of only 29W.

Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake U-series 15W processors:

Specification Intel Core i7-1265U Intel Core i7-1255U Intel Core i5-1245U Intel Core i5-1235U Intel Core i3-1215U Intel Pentium 8505 Intel Celeron 7305
Cores 10 (2P + 8E) 10 (2P + 8E) 10 (2P + 8E) 10 (2P + 8E) 6 (2P + 4E) 5 (1P + 4E) 5 (1P + 4E)
Threads 12 12 12 12 8 6 6
Base Frequency 1. 8GHz (P-core) | 1.3GHz (E-core) 1.7GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core) 1.6GHz (P-core) | 1.2GHz (E-core) 1.3GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core) 1.2GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core) 1.2GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core) 1.1GHz (P-core) | 0.90GHz (E-core)
Max Turbo Frequency 4.8GHz (P-core) | 3.6GHz (E-core) 4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) N/A
L3 Cache 12MB 12MB 12MB 12MB 10MB 8MB 8MB
Default TDP 15W 15W 15W 15W 15W 15W 15W
Max Turbo Power 55W 55W 55W 55W 55W 55W 55W
Processor Graphics 96EU 96EU 80EU 80EU 64EU 48EU 48EU

Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake U-series 9W processors:

Specification Intel Core i7-1260U Intel Core i7-1250U Intel Core i5-1240U Intel Core i5-1230U Intel Core i3-1210U Intel Pentium 8500 Intel Celeron 7300
Cores 10 (2P + 8E) 10 (2P + 8E) 10 (2P + 8E) 10 (2P + 8E) 6 (2P + 4E) 5 (1P + 4E) 5 (1P + 4E)
Threads 12 12 12 12 8 6 6
Base Frequency 1. 1GHz (P-core) | 0.8GHz (E-core) 1.1GHz (P-core) | 0.8GHz (E-core) 1.1GHz (P-core) | 0.8GHz (E-core) 1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core) 1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core) 1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core) 1GHz (P-core) | 0.7GHz (E-core)
Max Turbo Frequency 4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core) 4.7GHz (P-core) | 3.5GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) 4.4GHz (P-core) | 3.3GHz (E-core) N/A
L3 Cache 12MB 12MB 12MB 12MB 10MB 8MB 8MB
Default TDP 9W 9W 9W 9W 9W 9W 9W
Max Turbo Power 29W  29W  29W  29W  29W  29W  29W
Processor Graphics 96EU 96EU 80EU 80EU 64EU 48EU 48EU

P-series vs U-series: Memory configurations & Other key differences

When it comes to the memory configurations, all the P-series processors support LPDDR4-4267 and LPDDR5-5200 as well as DDR4-3200 and DDR5-4800. This allows the OEMs to fine-tune the memory configuration and even have different SKUs that differ in terms of memory. On the U-series side of things, only the more powerful 15W chips have support for both DDR and LPDDR configurations. The 9W processors only support LPDDR4-4267 and LPDDR5-5200.

Support for DDR, as you probably already guessed, also means double the memory capacity. This means the 9W U-series chips top out at 64GB of LPDDR4/LPDDR5 memory, while the 15W and the 28W chips support up to 128GB DDR4/DDR5. Again, this makes sense because these processors have a different form factor and will be able to take advantage of more memory.

Another interesting thing about the 12th-gen Alder Lake P-series mobile processors is that they also support Intel’s Turbo Boost Max 3.0. This means, one of the P-cores in these chips can turbo up higher than others. The max turbo frequency depends on the configuration of the chip. The Intel Core i7-1280P, for instance, can turbo to 5.0GHz instead of topping out at just 4.8GHz.

Both the 28W P-series and the 15W U-series share a lot of the same features due to the same package design. The 9W U-series chips, on the other hand, have a smaller package and they largely differ from the other two. Here’s a quick look at some of the key differences between the two:

28W P-series & 15W U-series 9W U-series
50x25x1.3mm package 28.5x19x1.1mm package
LP4x, LP5, DDR4, DDR5 LP4x, LP5
4x Thunderbolt 4 2x Thunderbolt 4
2×4 PCIe Gen 4 1×4 PCIe Gen 4
X12 PCIe Gen 3 x10 PCIe Gen 3
10x USB 2, 4x USB 3 6x USB 2, 4x USB 3
WiFi 6E (Gig+) WiFi 6E (Gig+)
x2 SATA 3.0 N/A

Intel 12th-gen P-series vs U-series mobile chips: Final Thoughts

Intel has managed to show a strong presence in the thin and light laptop space with its 11th-gen Tiger Lake mobile parts. While AMD also has competing chips for this space, we’re yet to get our hands on many of these new machines to see if those chips from Team Red really are any threat to Intel in the thin and light and other low-powered form-factors. It’s also worth pointing out that Intel’s EVO platform offers big benefits and things are looking more promising than ever as Intel now has an Evo spec for foldable-display PCs too.

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