Ryzen 7 vs i5: Which CPU is the better choice for you?

For people who aren’t tech-savvy, choosing the right processor can be difficult. The first step to buying the right CPU is to narrow down the CPU family. 

Here, we’ll be comparing two versions, Ryzen 7 vs i5. While both appear similar, they are greatly different in function, purpose, and processing speed.  

Ryzen 7 vs i5 – Quick Comparison

The Ryzen 7 CPU is AMD’s answer to a performance-based laptop. It’s currently in its 4th generation and is designed for games and intensive applications. 

On the other hand, the Intel Core i5 is a CPU designed for the mainstream user. So it’s good for those who have to handle multiple tasks simultaneously and need a good computer for office work. 

AMD Ryzen 7Intel Core i5
Cores4, 84, 6
HyperthreadingYesYes
Base clock speed1.7-4.4 GHz1.30-3.90 GHz
Sockets AM4, FP5, FP6LGA1151, LGA1156, BGA1449, BGA1787, LGA1200, BGA1598
CacheL1, L2, L3 L2 only
Integrated GraphicsAMD Radeon Vega graphicsIntel UHD graphics, Intel Iris Xe graphics
RAM CompatibilityDDR4-3200/2667/2933, LPDDR4 DDR4-3200, LPDDR4x-4267
TDP35-54 W15-65 W
Intended forHigh-end usersMainstream user

Intel Core i5

Core i5 9600k processor box
Intel Core i5 9600K

Pros

  • Compatible with faster RAM
  • Lower heat output
  • Comes with integrated graphics
  • Good for mainstream users

Cons

  • Not for high-end applications
  • Slower clock speed

AMD Ryzen 7

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

Pros

  • Made for high-end users
  • Faster clock speed
  • Superior 3-level cache
  • Available without integrated graphics too

Cons

  • Higher heat output
  • Not for mainstream users

Key Specifications

Cores

Cores are independent subdivisions of the processor. Think of them like mini-processors inside the bigger processor. Each core works independently of the other. However, they often share cache memory (more on that later). 

Older processors consisted of only a single core. But modern processors are comprised of 2, 4, 6, 8, and even 10 (or more) cores. More cores signify more processing power. But that doesn’t mean you just go all out and get a processor with the most cores. 

How many cores you need depends on your requirement. More performative computers, made to run games and play videos, usually use CPUs with 4-8 cores. On the other hand, computers used for light office work and household usage need just 2 cores. 

With that in mind, the Ryzen 7 is available in both octal and quad-core versions. However, most of the newer Ryzen 7 CPUs feature 8 cores. Only the older versions feature 4 cores. But if you don’t require more processing power, you can try out a quad-core Ryzen 7. 

Intel’s case is entirely different. The Intel i5 processors are available in two core options: quad-core and Hexa-core. The fact that it doesn’t have an octa-core variant is evidence of its lower capabilities. 

However, that doesn’t mean the Core i5 is unsuitable for demanding applications. Intel designed it for the mainstream user. So it’s not as efficient at, say, playing power-hungry games. But it’s undoubtedly a good choice for those who like to open multiple tabs at once and stream movies on their devices. 

Winner: Ryzen 7

Clock Speed

Clock speed is the speed at which the CPU processes information. To put it in simpler terms, it is proportional to the number of operations the CPU can perform in a second. The higher the clock speed, the faster the CPU will run. 

Each CPU has two frequencies, the base frequency and the max frequency. The base frequency is the speed of the CPU under normal conditions. And the max frequency is the highest frequency it will boost itself up to without any modification. 

In the Ryzen 7 processors, you can find clock speeds ranging from 1.7 GHz to 4.4. GHz. Their mobile processors usually run under a lower frequency range, about 1.7 GHz. However, some of their most modern mobile CPUs have incredible base frequencies up to 4.4 GHz!

As for the Intel Core i5, the base frequencies range from 1.30 GHz to 3.90 GHz. The range isn’t as extensive nor as high as that of the Ryzen 7 processors. However, considering it’s made for the average user, the frequency range seems justified. 

If we were to declare a winner, it would be the Ryzen 7. This is because it has a wider clock speed range. And the highest base frequency you can find is 4.40 GHz. 

Winner: Ryzen 7

Threads

Each CPU core can be divided into virtual cores called threads. And there can only be a maximum of 2 threads in each core. Threads enable multitasking and allow the processor to effectively run twice as fast.

All the Ryzen 7 CPUs utilize a technique called “hyperthreading.” This simply means that each core has exactly 2 threads. 

Specifically, the octa-core Ryzen 7 models have 16 threads, whereas the quad-core models have 8 threads. 

Intel’s Core i5 processors also utilize the same technique, where each core has two threads. The hexa-core models have 12 threads, while the quad-core models have 8. 

Since both the CPU families use hyperthreading, there is no clear winner here. However, Ryzen 7 certainly is faster. 

Winner: Ryzen 7

Socket

When you’re mounting the CPU onto the motherboard, your motherboard will have a socket. The socket is just what it sounds like. You can plug the CPU directly into the socket with no soldering required. So the connection isn’t permanent, and you can replace the CPU any time you like. 

It is crucial to read the specs of the processor or the motherboard socket and make sure they are both compatible. 

In this regard, Ryzen 7 uses the AM4, FP5, and FP6 sockets. On the other hand, Intel’s Core i5 processors use the LGA1151, LGA1156, BGA1449, BGA1787, LGA1200, and BGA1598 sockets (is dependant on the generation of the i5). 

Since each processor requires its socket, there is no clear winner here. Just be sure to get the motherboard with the right socket. 

It’s a tie

Cache

When your CPU needs to access memory temporarily, such as when you open a tab or watch a video, it would need to be retrieved from RAM. The only problem is that RAM is not built-in. And communication with the RAM often takes a lot more time than expected. And that’s where the cache comes in. 

A cache is a temporary memory that is present on the CPU itself. It’s used when the CPU needs to retrieve or store data immediately. In modern CPUs, the cache is present in 3 “levels” L1, L2, L3. 

Long story short, on CPUs with two-level cache, L1 is the cache present on each core. And L2 is the cache that is shared between the cores. However, many modern CPUs use a three-level case. In this, the L1 and L2 caches are specific to each core. And the L3 cache is shared between the cores to transfer workloads. 

AMD goes all out with its Ryzen 7 processors. All the processors come with a three-level cache. The cache can be found in 4 MB, 8MB, 16 MB, and 32 MB variants. Remember that the capacity of the cache that is mentioned is that of the L3 cache only. 

Unlike AMD, however, Intel has taken a different approach. It sticks with its Intel Smart Cache Technology. The technology is a two-level cache where the last-level cache (in this case, the L2 cache) is shared between the processors. While this does allow for better processing and core syncing, an L1 and L3 cache would have made it even better. 

So, comparatively, Ryzen 7’s cache technology is better. However, you must consider that the i5 processors are not meant to be as powerful as the Ryzen 7 CPUs. 

Winner: Ryzen 7

Integrated Graphics

CPUs do the majority of the processing work. But there’s another unit solely dedicated to processing images, videos, and 3D objects, the GPU. Short for the Graphics Processing Unit, the GPU is an integral part of any computer. And some CPUs have a graphics processor built-in, a combination called an Accelerated Processing Unit (APU). 

And that’s where the Ryzen 7 processors lead the way. While not all of its CPUs have integrated graphics, a majority do. They purposely didn’t include the GPU on some processors, so those who don’t need it don’t have to buy it.

If you buy a Ryzen 7 processor with integrated graphics, you’ll get AMD’s Vega graphics. 

Intel does not adopt the same strategy. Instead, it includes integrated graphics on all of its processors.  Most of their CPUs use Intel Iris Xe graphics or Intel UHD Graphics. 

Additionally, Intel’s GPUs feature various sophisticated technologies. These include Intel InTru 3D and Intel Clear Video. These provide a better video playback experience.

Unfortunately, there is no clear winner. Ryzen 7 offers CPUs without integrated graphics. But it’s for high-end users who probably already have a discrete GPU they want to install. The i5, on the other hand, is best used by people who don’t need a discrete GPU.

It’s a tie 

Ram Compatibility

As stated earlier, when the CPU needs to store files temporarily, it stores them in RAM. RAM is the workspace of the CPU. Think of it as a workbench where you can keep your files and folders. The bigger the bench is, the more work you can get done. 

When deciding on a CPU with good RAM, you have to consider two things: capacity and type. 

Regarding capacity, Intel leads the way. The Ryzen 7 processors vary greatly in RAM capacities. But the highest capacity for laptop processors is 64 GB. And the highest for desktop CPUs is 128 GB. 

As compared to that, the Intel Core i5 offers support for more RAM capacity on laptop CPUs. Most of the Intel Core i5 processors have a RAM limit of 128 GB. A few support capacities of 32 and 64 GB. This comes as quite a surprise since the Core i5 is meant to be a lower-power processor than the Ryzen 7. 

Now, moving on to the RAM types. Some older models of the Ryzen 7 are compatible with DDR4-2667 and DDR4-2933 RAM. However, almost all of the newer models are compatible with DDR4-3200 RAM. Additionally, some are compatible with LPDDR4 RAM, a lower-power version of the DDR4 RAM. 

In contrast, all Intel Core i5 processors are compatible with either DDR4-3200 or LPDDR4x-4267 RAM, or both. 

So with that in mind, the Intel Core i5 takes the cake in this round. 

Winner: Intel Core i5

TDP

Thermal Design Power (TDP) is the maximum amount of heat that the cooling system of the CPU can dissipate. Heat kills electronics. It can lead to processor malfunction and melting of the solder. So naturally, the lower the TDP, the better. 

However, there is usually a huge trade-off for lower TDP: lower processing power. You just can’t have a CPU that runs games at full resolution and feels ice cold to the touch. 

With that being said, AMD has put a lot of effort into lowering the TDPs of its Ryzen 7 processors. Older models had TDPs as high as 95 watts. And there’s one model that dissipates as much as 108 watts of heat. However, most of the newer models have a TDP of between 35 and 54 watts.

But even better than AMD’s optimization is Intel’s. A majority of the Intel Core i5 processors have a TDP as low as 15 watts. This is in line with what is expected from a CPU made for a layman. But the number is still incredibly low. 

Of course, there are some models with TDPs as high as 65 watts. And there are exactly two processors with an incredible TDP of 125 watts. But these are mostly the higher-end ones, where the TDP is justified. 

Winner: Intel Core i5

Manufacturing Process

Lots of people pay no attention to the manufacturing and fabrication process. But there’s a reason companies spend so much on developing new architectures. Each CPU microarchitecture is designed with a clear purpose in mind. Oftentimes, the goal is lower power consumption, higher speeds, and a faster interface. 

All of the AMD Ryzen 7 processors use the Zen microarchitecture. Currently, Zen is in its 3rd generation. This generation brought better cache utilization and superior processing speeds. In addition, the 3rd generation Zen processors had a new IO die that enabled faster connection to peripherals. 

The Intel Core i5 processors are available in 11 generations. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll talk about the last three. The 9th, 10th, and 11th generations use the Coffee Lake, Comet Lake, and Cypress Cove architectures, respectively. The latest generation supports DDR4-3200 RAM. And it has enhanced SpeedStep, Turbo Boost, and Hyper-threading. 

Standout Features

Although the AMD Ryzen 7 and i5 have a lot of differences, some stand out:

Intel’s Turbo Boost Max Technology

Sometimes, you want to squeeze just a bit more juice out of your CPU. And overclocking is a major part of that. It’s when you program the CPU to work beyond its base frequency. Of course, there are some trade-offs, such as higher heat production. 

And that’s where Intel comes in. It uses its Turbo Boost Max Technology. What this does is that, instead of overclocking each core, it only overclocks one core. This saves the other cores from the general trade-offs that are associated with overclocking. And the result? Lower heat production and a processor that will last a lot longer. 

Ryzen’s Precision Boost Overdrive Technology

Intel certainly has expert control over overclocking, but Ryzen has a few tricks up its sleeves too. Mainly, Ryzen has its Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) Technology. It’s an extension of the Precision Boost Technology. This is an automated system that raises certain power thresholds to make room for overclocking. By controlling what limits are raised, PBO optimizes the overclocking process. 

Intel’s Enhanced SpeedStep Technology

Enhanced SpeedStep is an Intel-original technology that allows for effective frequency scaling. It’s a collection of technologies that includes SpeedStep, SpeedStep II, and SpeedStep III. Through this, the speed of the clock can be adjusted using the software. It allows for more dynamic frequency scaling and lets the processor change its speed depending on the load. 

Example Comparison: i5 9600K vs Ryzen 7 2700X

Here’s a comparison to give you a better idea of where the two processor families stand. We’re comparing the Intel Core i5 9600K and the Ryzen 7 2700X.

Intel Core i5 9600K

The 9600K is a 9th generation Intel Core i5 CPU built upon the Coffee Lake microarchitecture. It features 6 cores without any hyper-threading and a base frequency of 3.70 GHz. The frequency is quite impressive for an i5 model, but the lack of hyper-threading reduces its processing power. 

But that’s not all. This processor uses Intel Smart Cache with 9 MB and has a max memory capacity of 128 GB. It’s only compatible with DDR4-2666 RAM, so higher-speed options are not available.  And it uses an older Intel graphics card – Intel UHD Graphics 630. That, plus the 95-watt TDP, makes it a good processor for casual use but not for gaming or intense programs. 

AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

The AMD Ryzen 7 2700X is a more powerful alternative to the i5. It has 8 cores with 16 threads and a three-level 16-MB cache. So right off the bat, you can tell that it’s a lot faster and can process more instructions at once. Add the 3.7 GHz base clock speed, and you get a CPU made for high-end applications. 

It does have its downsides, of course. It has a very high TDP of 105 W, meaning more heating. And it doesn’t have integrated graphics, so not for the layman, unless you already have a GPU.

Conclusion

To summarize, here’s what we conclude from our Ryzen 7 vs i5 comparison

Use AMD Ryzen 7 if you

  • Like to play heavy-duty games
  • Work on power-hungry applications
  • Prefer better video encoding
  • Need faster processing speeds

Use Intel Core i5 if you

  • Need a cheap solution to your everyday hustle
  • Want a laptop for light office work
  • Have to multitask and open multiple tabs
  • Love to watch UHD videos and shows
About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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