Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

When picking out a new computer, the way that you are going to use it is more important than it's size. Sometimes, it is a compromise between budget and need.

Leo, I can't remember the article number where you discussed the difference between the various processor speeds. A slow i3 versus a similar core 2 duo on an i5, on an identical i3, etc. I bought a 17-inch laptop for a ridiculous price with an i3 running a slow 2.1 (I'm assuming you mean 2.1 Ghz). The department manager told me I should get the incredibly heavier and more expensive Dell that had been simultaneously, ridiculously cheap running an i5 2.5. She claimed you need the faster processor for a 17-inch laptop. But is this true? I got my cheapo unit delivered, but I haven't opened the box and I just would like you or a staff member to let me know the number of the article about processor speeds.

In this excerpt from Answercast #6, I discuss some of the considerations in buying a new computer, and whether or not the size of the computer has anything to do with it.

Search Ask Leo!

So the article is "What's the difference between i3, i5 and i7 processors?" and a quick search on Ask Leo! for (I think) i3 or i5 or both of them would have taken you directly to that article.

How much speed do you need?

So, the statement that you need a faster processor for a 17-inch laptop is either hyperbole or just flat out not true.

The size of your laptop doesn't dictate the speed of the processor that you need. What dictates the speed of the processor you will need are two things: the cost (in other words, how much you can spend, how much it's worth to you), and how you intend to use that laptop.

If all you're going to do is read email and surf the web, chances are the 2.1 Ghz is just fine. On the other hand, if you're doing things like video processing, or audio encoding, or a heavy-duty calculation in Excel or anything that's really CPU intensive, you're going to want a faster CPU.

It has nothing to do with what kind of computer you have; it has everything to do with what you intend to do with it. So, I hope that's helpful.

I really don't think that the i3 or i5 processor article is going to help you much because it mostly talks about how confusing the different nomenclature is.

What I would suggest is to think deeply about how you intend to use the computer and your budget. Then, try to make a halfway compromised decision between your budget and your need; to see if you can get a processor that will do what you need it to do down the road.

Back to - Answercast #6

Article C5169 - April 4, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Dave Markley
April 7, 2012 9:01 AM

First, the Core2Duo's and Core2Quad's are not available in new PC's as they were replaced by Intel's 'I' series processors. Originally, the I3 and I5's were 'dual-core' processors and the I7 was a quad-core. These had problems and Intel replaced this line with the 'Second-Generation', 'Sandy Bridge' "I" series. Now, the I3 is a dual-core and the I5 is a quad-core. The I7's are quad-core but now are even available in a 'six-core' model. Also, Intel did away with the 'front-side bus' and integrated the video chip into these "Sandy Bridge" models for a much faster response.
Unless you are a hard-core gamer or a graphics or game designer, even the slowest 2nd generation I3 will easily do what you need. The screen size really has very little, if anything at all, to do with your processor.

Hilary
April 11, 2012 7:23 AM

Wow, I didn't know that I3 was only dual-core! (See, that reaction is just engrained; if the president of Intel came to Ask Leo and said don't worry even if your 17" laptop is running the "slowest 2nd generation ID?" Wouldn't believe him. Maybe it's just human nature, or else the effectiveness of advertising + keeping up with the Joneses. I guess a stupid follow-up question to your response is: Will laptop manufacturers disclose whether the I3 you're getting a steal on is Sandy Bridge? Or is an I3 dual-core oldie-but-goody marketed as a Sandy Bridge I3?

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