Are Intel i5s Good for Video Editing?
By G. Alan Jacobson
You can never have too much power for video editing, but you may be satisfied with enough, and the Intel Core i5 series of processors provides that if not more. The Core i5 is a line of mainstream CPUs, about in the middle of Intel's lineup in terms of power, that you'd typically find in mid-powered, recent-model computers as of 2012, so it's designed to handle essential home multimedia tasks, such as video and photo editing, which still require a great deal of processing power. There are several Core i5 models, some faster than others for editing videos. The processor isn't alone in handling video, so more RAM and more powerful video cards can also help.
Number of Cores
Video encoding makes use of multiple processing cores; the more cores you have, the faster you can manipulate and encode videos. Core i5 processors have either two or four cores. Desktop models will usually, but not always, come with four cores, while mobile models will have only two cores. Dual-core Core i5's include Intel's Hyper-Threading technology, which enables each core to act as two cores. Though Hyper-Threading does help speed up video editing, it's still not as good as having four physical cores.
Intel includes Quick Sync technology on second-generation Core i5's and later, with a few exceptions. Quick Sync enables hardware acceleration of video encoding through the CPU's integrated graphics processor, which results in significantly faster video editing, especially if you're not using a dedicated graphics card to accelerate encoding. A few current Core i5 processors, in addition to all first-generation models, don't have Intel HD graphics and therefore don't include Quick Sync. The generation is often specified with the architecture name: first-generation Core i5's are built on the Nehalem architecture -- subdivided into Lynnfield and Clarkdale -- and the second and third generations are Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge.
Clock Speed and Cache
Though not as important as core count or hardware acceleration, higher clock speeds and, to a lesser extent, larger cache sizes help to speed up video editing. Desktop Core i5s usually range from 3.0 GHz to 3.4 GHz, but mobile and power saving models can be much slower. Model numbers ending in "K," such as Core i5-3570K, designate processors with unlocked clock multipliers, meaning you can overclock them to much higher speeds, provided you cool them sufficiently. Additionally, more recent generations will generally be faster than older models with the same clock speeds.
Like all Intel processors, Core i5's are tested, rated and must meet certain standards of quality before they're sold. For most consumers, those standards are sufficient, including for video editing. However, if you perform video editing professionally, on a tight schedule, and your computer constantly works on heavy loads with almost no break, then you may instead need a workstation-class processor, such as an Intel Xeon. Xeon processors are rated for continual use with minimal downtime, though they incur a higher price.
Gary Alan Jacobson has worked primarily as a professional software developer for the past decade. His experience with writing professionally includes creating documentation for software, code, and project proposals. He also has experience in essay writing and research in an academic setting across a variety of topics.