i5 or i7: Which CPU is Better for Gaming in 2021?

i5 or i7: Which CPU is Better for Gaming in 2021

i5 vs. i7: Coffee Lake processors at a glance

i5 or i7? This has been a discussion in the community for a long time. Intel CPUs are still ahead of the game in gaming due to their lower latency. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of rumours about the CPU topic circulating in the community.

Many of you are very interested in whether it is really worth buying or upgrading from i5 to i7 for gaming. We will give you detailed answers to this question and show you what is important. We are also clearing some rumours about the “i5 vs i7” issue.

i5 or i7? TLDR response

Only get an i7 if you want to build a high-end rig and run two graphics cards in SLI mode (or have the money you need). Intel Core i5 processors are more than sufficient for mid-range systems and “normal” gaming. However, i7 processors generally have a bit more power than their i5 colleagues (without overclocking, of course). But with an i5, you are in good hands!

Update: Even with the 9th generation of Intel CPUs, nothing has changed in our result. A Core i7 CPU like the 9700K only makes sense if you want to perform more. Or for everyone who frequently wants to play AAA games at high frame rates, run sophisticated software, edit videos, or render 3D objects.

This means that the i5 will continue to be the best choice for most gamers in price performance in 2020.

Even a Core i7 9700K only marginally beats the i5-9600K, and even an i9-9900K makes little difference in performance when gaming. So if you don’t really need that last bit of performance, then there’s no reason for an i7-9700K or even an i9. At least not for current PC games.

But of course, it’s not that simple! Read on to find out what the main differences between i5 and i7 CPUs are. Precisely because Intel recently unleashed its 9th processor generation with the Coffee Lake CPUs, it makes sense to find out more. 


i3 vs. i5 vs. I7: the main differences explained briefly

In this section, you will learn in a nutshell were the main differences between the processor series i5 and i7 lie. This gives a rough overview, and you can better understand the following section.

The following table shows you the rough technical differences between the i5 and i7 generations (desktop CPUs!). Note that the number of cores and threads can vary depending on the model, but these values ​​are applicable for the desktop CPUs.

CPU FAMILYPROCESSOR GENERATIONNUMBER OF CORES / THREADS
Core i78th generation (Coffee Lake)6 cores / 12 threads
Core i77th generation (Kaby Lake) and lower4 cores / 8 threads
Core i58th generation (Coffee Lake)6 cores / 6 threads
Core i57th generation (Kaby Lake) and lower4 cores / 4 threads

The Coffee Lake generation of the i5 series short and compact

The eighth-generation Core i5 is a great option for anyone who has to find a compromise between price, multi-thread performance, and clock speed. The i5 can’t keep up with the Core i7 in terms of 3D rendering, video editing, or video coding, but will serve you just as well for gaming or lightweight applications like Photoshop (assuming the same clock rate, of course). With six cores, you are better equipped for newer games as soon as they benefit from multithreading.

The Coffee-Lake generation of the i7 series briefly explained

The six cores and 12 threads of the 8th generation Core i7 are ideal for anyone who can take full advantage of this power. Although Intel has been selling six-core CPUs for years, previous six-core chips were more expensive than the Core i7-8700K, generally required more expensive motherboards, and traded the clock speed for the number of cores. However, it’s important to make sure your applications can take advantage of all six cores and 12 threads before pulling the trigger on an 8700K.

Intel’s i3 Coffee Lake processors – what’s behind them?

Intel’s Core i3 chips are the cheapest Coffee Lake consorts. They have four cores with no Hyper-Threading, but they also have no Turbo Boost, unlike the i5 – another feature removed to justify their lower prices. To compensate for this deficit, Intel ensured that the i3-8350K and the i3-8100 run with solid base clocks of 4 GHz and 3.6 GHz. What is also really delicious are the prices. You’re already here with a good 100 € or 170 €.

Here is an overview of the most important Intel Coffee Lake CPUs:

CPU CORES THREADSBASE CLOCKTURBOCACHETDPPRICE
Core i7-8700K *6th 12th3.7 GHz4.7 GHz12 MB95 Waround 430 € (boxed)
Core i7 8700 *612th3.2 GHz4.6 GHz12 MB65 Waround 420 € (boxed)
Core i5 8600K *6th6th3.6 GHz4.3 GHz9 MB95 Waround 300 €
Core i5 8400 *6th6th2.8 GHz4.0 GHz9 MB65 Waround 230 € (boxed)
Core i3 8350K *4th4th4.0 GHzno6 MB91 Waround 180 €
Core i3 8100 *4th4th3.6 GHzno6 MB65 Waround € 105

i5 or i7 Monster: Direct comparison & performance check of the flagships (Coffee Lake)

Let’s go straight to a basic comparison. How do the currently fattest i5 and i7 CPUs fare in certain disciplines? We look at general performance, specs, and bottlenecks.

General performance: a rough overview

Let’s look at the two currently thickest i5 and i7 models’ performance in a current benchmark. Ok, admittedly, this is not the most precise way to determine a CPU’s performance, but you still get an overall impression of what it looks like in practice.

i5 and i7 models

For gaming purposes, the i7 only brings you slight increases in performance (data from CPU.Userbenchmark.com )

What immediately catches the eye: The performance of the two CPUs is very close to each other. The i7 only slightly outperforms the i5. The i5 only has to give up when it comes to multitasking. Let’s take a look at the essential technical data of the two CPUs below so that we can compare them more precisely:

INTEL I5 8600KVSINTEL I7 8700K
LGA 1151 v2baseLGA 1151 v2
3.6 GHzBase clock3.7 GHz
4.3 GHzturbo4.7 GHz
6thCores6th
6thThreads12th
YesIs multiplier available?Yes
9 MBL3 cache12 MB
Intel UHD 630Internal GPUIntel UHD 630
95 WTDP95 W
77903D-Mark graphic score (with GTX 1080)8074
73113D-Mark total score (Non-OC)8258
NoHyper-threading?Yes
€ 240-290price€ 350-380

You can see the biggest difference immediately: the price. In this country, the Top Coffee-Lake i5 costs roughly a smooth 110 € less than the Top i7. You have to think carefully about whether you want to spend that much coal.

As you can see, the two CPUs do not differ that much from a technical point of view: The basic clocks are almost identical, the i7 gets a little more out in turbo mode, and the i7 is also ahead in terms of the L3 cache. The i7 also supports Hyper-Threading, which is particularly noticeable with memory-hungry software. The i7 surpasses the i5 in the 3DMark benchmarks, of course, but the two are again quite close in the benchmarks.

Bottlenecking – Does the i5 poop compared to the i7?

Bottlenecking means that your CPU can no longer tell the GPU exactly what and when to render something. This can cause stuttering, or your graphics card can no longer give full throttle.

Is that the case with an i5, and should you worry about it? For most of you, the answer is no. You only have to worry about bottlenecking if you want to get a graphics card that is much newer than your current CPU. Bottlenecking is also an issue with the i5 if you want to operate several graphics cards at the same time!

Otherwise, you don’t need to worry about it. On Bottlenecker.com, for example, you can see that even the older i5 series will hardly have any problems with a GTX 1080 Ti.

You hardly notice slight bottlenecking: Also, keep in mind that even minor CPU bottlenecks (which can occur when combining an i5 with a high-end graphics card) are no big deal. It’s definitely better to have a slightly bottlenecked (lol!) GTX 1080 than tossing an i7 with a GTX 1070 together. The fact is that the i5-8600K does not bottleneck even a GTX Titan XP in most games.


Are there FPS differences in certain games?

That’s what interests us most anyway. How do the two top models perform in certain games? Let’s look at the (Ø) FPS numbers:

i5 or i7
Which CPU is Better for Gaming in 2021
i5 or i7 Which CPU is Better for Gaming in 2021
 Which CPU is Better for Gaming in 2021
i5 or i7

Ok, ok, I think you understood what we’re getting out of here. We could go on like this forever. Nothing changes with GTA 5, Far Cry Primal, or Project Cars 2 either. As you can see, the i7 is, of course, always slightly ahead (without OC), but the i5 has more than enough performance for all current games.

However, if you play many RTS games, you might be better off with an i7 (especially with Ashes of Singularity). We have deliberately only looked at somewhat “more demanding” games here. For CS: GO and Overwatch, you don’t need a strong processor anyway.


i5 or i7 on desktop PCs: other differences

Desktop Core i5 and i7 CPUs can usually be distinguished by the number of supported threads and clock speeds. While both tend to have the same number of processor cores (six for the eighth and ninth generation and four for older ones), some support additional threads thanks to Intel Hyperthreading Technology. By doubling the number of threads, these CPUs get better at multitasking.

Normally, all Core i7 CPUs support hyperthreading for desktop chips, but Core i5s do not. This was still the case with the 8th generation chips (like the Core i5-8600K and the Core i7-8700K). However, in the ninth generation, hyperthreading is only reserved for the Core i9 series, so the i7-9700K only supports eight threads.

With i5 CPUs like the i5-8400, you will usually find lower clock rates, but not significantly lower. Also, there are smaller cache sizes, which means that i5 CPUs do not perform repetitive tasks.

With additional threads, higher clock speeds, and more cache memory, Core i7 CPUs like the 8700K perform better, but that comes at a higher cost. High-end i7 chips are a lot more expensive than entry-level models such as the newer Core i5 9400F.


i5 vs i7 on laptops

Mobile processors in gaming laptops are a slightly different story. While desktop i5 CPUs do not offer hyperthreading, some mobile versions can be used. Nevertheless, Core i7 CPUs are still more powerful, even with laptops. While eighth-generation Core i5 CPUs have four cores and support eight threads, most Core i7 chips have six cores and 12 threads.

You can usually recognize a mobile chip by its naming convention. In a high-end gaming laptop, for example, you will find a Core i7-8750H. Like the desktop version (8700K), it has six cores and 12 threads, but the clock speed is significantly lower to allow lower temperatures.

Older mobile CPU generations have a smaller number of cores and threads. However, the differences in performance between Core i5 and i7 CPUs are roughly comparable across generations: the number of cores often remains the same, but fewer threads.

Core i7 processors’ clock speeds tend to outperform their Core i5 counterparts, and just like desktop chips, Core i7s often have larger caches.

Sometimes Core i5 CPUs can also have higher clock rates than an i7 chip. What does that mean?

A high-speed quad-core beats a low-speed six-core in applications that don’t use many cores. However, the six-core processor is faster in applications that do this and can multitask better. If the six-core has more cores and a higher clock rate, it is always faster.

As with desktop chips, Core i7 CPUs are usually much more expensive for laptops too. The same principle applies here: Only get a gaming laptop with an i7 processor if you really need the extra performance.


i5 or i7: Do I Really Need More Cores and More Threads?

Overall, Core i5 and Core i7 chips differ in how they process information.

i5 processors usually have fewer cores and can therefore support fewer simultaneous “threads.” These “threads” are used by programs to manage multiple tasks rather than queuing everything individually simultaneously.

In other words, i5 CPUs aren’t that good at multitasking. Still, they are great for most of us and perfectly adequate for gamers in particular. For this reason, we often recommend the Core i5-8400 as a good Intel CPU for beginners (or now the newer i5-9400F).

Hyperthreading on i7 CPUs doubles the number of threads that the CPU can process. Although these “virtual cores” are not as powerful as physical cores, they still achieve a performance gain. If your computer performs several processor-intensive tasks simultaneously, CPUs with many cores and many threads perform better.

Accordingly, you don’t necessarily “need” this additional service for gaming, but it’s definitely a nice extra.


Which i5 processor is best for gaming?

We praise the i5 in the sky, but which processors do we recommend you now? Check out the following CPU tips if we want to know which models are currently worthwhile in the i5 range:

i5 9600K: The high-end Coffee-Lake processor for performance freaks

i5 9600K

The i5-9600K is the current flagship of the i5 series. You don’t get anything stronger here now, and the part can easily keep up with any i7. We have an absolute buy recommendation for everyone who has the necessary change and wants to treat themselves to something. With this monster, you are first equipped and have your peace.

i5 9400F: The NEW price-performance king in the Coffee Lake for non-overclockers

i5 9400F

The new i5-9400F offers you a small upgrade to the i5-8400 and is often even cheaper. Currently THE gaming CPU for new entry-level builds.

This should be your first choice if you want to get a bargain.

i5 8400: The old price-performance king in the Coffee Lake for non-overclockers

i5 8400

To quote PCGamesn.com: “Forget all the lurid overclocking values, the i5 8400 is THE processor for gamers. The i5’s K series makes little difference when it comes to gaming ”. The fact is: the i5 8400 will still be a top gaming CPU for most of you for years to come. For those who don’t want to overclock: A good alternative to the 9400F.

Intel Core i5-7600K: Kaby Lake price-performance recommendation

Intel Core i5-7600K

If you still have an “old” Z270 motherboard and want to upgrade your processor, we recommend the i5-7600K. The new Coffee Lakes only run with the new Z370 chipsets. Even for people who don’t feel like overclocking, the i5-7600K from the Kaby-Lake generation is still a top tip!

There really is no such thing as a “budget” i5, so you probably have to go down to an Intel Core i3-8100 so that you can be there with around 100 €. The i5 is a mid-range CPU. If you plan to build a new system anyway, take a look at our current CPU comparison. There we also give alternative recommendations for i7 CPUs and AMD Ryzen processors.

Which is better – i5 / i7 of the 7th (Kaby-Lake) or 8th (Coffee-Lake) generation?

To answer this question, have a look at the following table. The table shows what performance improvements you can expect if you upgrade your i5 or i7 from Kaby to Coffee Lake. The result is quite sobering for us gamers:

YOUR CURRENT CPUPROCESSOR GENERATIONMAIN USAGE CPUPERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT?
Core i57th generation (Kaby Lake) and lowerDesktop gamingLittle to none
Core i57th generation (Kaby Lake) and lowerOffice work, surfing, Word, Excel, UniNone
Core i57th generation (Kaby Lake) and lowerMulti-threading applications / softwareHigh
Core i77th generation (Kaby Lake) and lowerDesktop gamingNone
Core i77th generation (Kaby Lake) and lowerOffice work, surfing, Word, Excel, UniNone
Core i77th generation (Kaby Lake) and lowerMulti-threading applications / softwareMedium to high

Summary: If you really want to gamble on your PC, then an eighth-generation Core i5 will hardly offer you any advantages over the previous quad-core chips. Current games barely scale beyond four cores at the moment. It looks the same for the i7, although it’s even more blatant, mainly because of the price. Extremetech.com speaks of a performance increase of 4-8% for every 2 generations between your current CPU and the Coffee Lakes.

But be careful: The new DirectX 12 will definitely make gaming more multi-core friendly in the long run.

Means for you: If you are currently already on a Core i5 / i7 of the 6th or 7th generation, an 8th generation chip will probably bring you little performance in terms of gaming and hardly improve the performance.

If you want to upgrade anyway or build a new computer, we, of course, recommend the new i5 generation with 6 cores instead of the older quad-core version.

Update: The same applies to the 9th generation i5 processors – these are definitely worthwhile with new PCs. Upgrading is not worthwhile here.


When is an i7 worthwhile?

Now we have so flamed the i7 here. Are the parts worth it at all? But of course, i7 processors are especially recommended if you plan to do the following with your PC:

  • Operation of 2 graphics cards at the same time in the SLI or X-Fire network
  • Extreme overclocking in high-end gaming PCs
  • You feel like doing sick work
  • Sophisticated image editing, video editing, 3D rendering
  • You want to do all of this at the same time
  • Streaming: i7 CPUs are generally better suited for streamers
  • You play a lot of demanding RTS games or simulations

Conclusion: should you buy an i5 or an i7?

The o4g conclusion

That depends entirely on your preferences, as both processor types have advantages and disadvantages. We clearly recommend the i5 for most of you, especially since the i5 CPUs of the new generation (Coffee Lake) are comparable to the old i7s from the 7th generation. While many individual factors determine your system’s overall performance, a Core i5 processor will usually not limit your gaming performance, and the difference to the i7 is small.

When an i7 makes sense: A Core i7 only makes sense if you don’t mind paying more money for more performance. Or, of course, for users who often run extremely sophisticated software and stream full-time. An i7 is particularly noticeable when it comes to 1080p video encoding and when you run many applications simultaneously and stream at the same time.

Hyper-Threading is nice-to-have, but not necessary: The effect of Hyper-Threading on an i7 on your system performance is noticeable, but it depends heavily on the software. Only applications that are specifically designed to use multiple threads will benefit from the increase in performance. When gaming, you usually don’t (yet) notice anything.

Which CPU do you recommend for new systems? If you are building a new system, we recommend Coffee Lake CPUs anyway, as the price differences to Kaby Lakes (7th generation) are not really big. At Coffee-Lakes, you get more for your money and are prepared for the future. More power-hungry games that use more than 4 threads will be happy about your new Coffee Lake.

Leave a Comment