What Does Intel i3 and i7 Mean?

By Andy Josiah

The Intel i3 and the i7 are references to the Intel Core i3 and the Intel Core i7, respectively. They are both entries of semiconductor company Intel Corp.'s premier Core brand of consumer-oriented processors, or central processing units, which go on desktop and laptop personal computers. The i3 is the entry-level CPU of the brand, while the i7 represents the top-level division.


The Intel Core i7 kicked off the beginning of production of the Core i-series CPU when Intel Corp. introduced it in 2008. It replaced the previous production cycle, dubbed Core 2. The Intel Core i5 followed in 2009 as the i7's lower-level counterpart. In 2010, however, Intel Corp. debuted the Intel Core i3, which relegated the i5 to mid-range status. The arrival of the i3 confirmed the retirement of the Core 2 brand.


The Intel Core i3 is strictly a dual-core chip. This means that it has two cores, or processing units. The Intel Core i7 also has dual-core CPUs. However, it also offers quad- and six-core chips; these versions are thus greater in processing power than the dual-core chips. Each in their second generation of production, the i3 uses the 32-nanometer manufacturing process, while the older i7 chip uses both the 45-nm and 32-nanometer manufacturing processes.


Each Intel Core i3 and Intel Core i7 CPU has a processing speed, which is the rate at which the chip executes its fundamental tasks; and a data transfer speed, which is the rate at which the processor conducts transmission of data with the motherboard. At the time of publication, the i3 has a processing speed range of 1.2GHz to 3.33GHz, while that of the i7 is 1.06GHz to 3.46GHz. Each first-generational i3 and i7 chip has a data transfer rate of 2.5 gigatransfers per second, while the second-generational processors offer twice that rate. The enthusiast-focused i7 Extreme CPU, however, top them all with 6.4GT/s.


As 64-bit processors, the Intel Core i3 and Intel Core i7 processors have technologies such as Hyper-Threading for enhancing multitasking, SpeedStep for boosting performance while saving power, and Execute Disable Bit for anti-virus protection. Also, each chip has an Intel Smart Cache for providing high-speed access to the computer's most frequently used data. The second-generational chips have an Intel HD Graphics chipset for providing basic graphics processing. Intel adds Turbo Boost technology on the i7 chips, which increases the processing speed when the operating system demands it for optimal performance. This feature enables the i7 to reach processing speeds as fast as 3.73GHz.