The Intel Core series consists of mainstream central processing units (CPUs), while the Core X series is made up of pricier high-end solutions aimed primarily at enthusiasts and professional users.
In most cases, the performance and price of computers with Intel Core processors is much better suited to gaming.
There are a lot of different CPU lineups and brands out there at the moment, so it’s easy to get confused as to how some of them are different from one another if you’re building a brand-new gaming PC in 2022 or just looking to upgrade your CPU.
The Intel Core and Core X series of central processing units (CPUs) fall into this category, and in this article, we’ll provide a brief overview of the key differences between these two brands and conclude which is the superior option for gaming.
The first Intel Core Solo and Intel Core Duo processors appeared in the middle of the 2000s, marking the beginning of Intel’s Core series of mainstream desktop and laptop CPUs. Intel renamed and categorized them as follows in terms of performance and cost in 2008:
- Budget/low-end Intel Core i3
- Mid-range Intel Core i5 processor
- Intel’s top-tier Core i7 processor
But in 2017, Intel released the first Intel Core X CPUs, which were meant to replace the Intel Core i7 Extreme family as the company’s flagship enthusiast and workstation product line. However, not all Core X CPUs were branded as i9 when they were first released; today, i9 CPUs are also a part of Intel’s mainstream Core lineup.
Simply put, Intel Core CPUs are aimed at the mass market, while Intel Core X CPUs are aimed at the high end of the market; as a result, Intel Core X CPUs have superior performance but are more expensive.
Even so, the question of what distinguishes the Core X models from the rest remains unanswered.
What Defines An Intel Core X CPU?
Skylake-X, the brief-lived Kaby Lake-X, and the current Cascade Lake-X are the three architectures upon which Core X CPUs have been based. Even though all the currently available Cascade Lake-X CPUs are labeled as i9, previous generations of Intel’s Core processors included the i5, i7, and i9 families.
The i9 brand has been present in the mainstream Core series since 2019 with the introduction of the refreshed Coffee Lake-S lineup, and it is also present in the new Comet Lake-S lineup.
At this time, direct comparisons between Core and Core X CPUs should focus on performance, cost, and socket type.
Core X solutions are high-end CPUs that use the LGA 2066 socket and are powerful and expensive. They have more cores than their mainstream counterparts. Core counts changed over time, but these processors were always superior to the mainstream Core CPUs of the time and all supported hyperthreading. Prices started around $400 and went up to over $2,000, depending on the item.
On the other hand, you can get everything from Core i3 budget CPUs to some very powerful Core i9 solutions in the current lineup of mainstream Intel Core processors, which retail for anywhere from around $100 to $500. The LGA 1151 socket was Intel’s mainstream until very recently, when it was supplanted by the LGA 1200 socket, which is used by all Intel Core processors.
Intel Core vs Intel Core X – Which Is Better For Gaming?
After considering the foregoing, it is clear that the Intel Core X CPUs provide more total processing power and have higher core/thread counts than the mainstream Core models released at the same time.
The cheapest i3 model of the forthcoming 10th generation Comet Lake desktop CPUs, for instance, offers 4 cores and 8 threads, while the i5 models have 6 cores and 12 threads. The most powerful i7 processors have eight processing cores and sixteen threads, while the most expensive mainstream i9 processors have ten processing cores and twenty threads. As was previously mentioned, the prices of these CPUs range from $100 up to $500.
Cascade Lake-X i9 processors, meanwhile, range from 10 to 18 cores and 20 to 36 threads. Obviously they provide superior performance, but at the moment their prices range from $600 to $1000, which is a lot more than the standard models.
In spite of this, it is undeniable that the Core X models provide superior performance; however, more cores and greater overall processing power do not necessarily translate to better in-game performance or indicate good value when gaming.
Is it true that Intel Core X processors offer superior performance when playing games compared to their standard-issue Core counterparts? In a nutshell, no, and for several crucial reasons that we’ll discuss below.
Pricing and value are the first and most pressing concerns. We have determined that Core X processors are considerably more costly. More importantly, if you’re constructing a PC specifically for gaming, you won’t get a good return on investment from purchasing any of these products. Why?
Simply because your GPU should be your primary concern when selecting a CPU for gaming. There will be wasted processing power if the CPU is taking too long to issue instructions to the GPU. The same holds true for CPU performance; if the CPU is faster than the GPU, then the CPU is the one whose processing power isn’t being used to its fullest potential.
Pairing a $700 CPU with a $700 GPU, however, may not result in noticeably better performance than teaming the same GPU with a cheaper $400 i7 model. Going with a more powerful CPU may still yield some minor benefits, but they are almost certainly not going to justify the additional cost.
Therefore, there is little reason to splurge on a Core X processor if you are constructing a PC for gaming purposes only.
It’s not necessary to get an i9 unless you also plan on running some CPU-intensive software; an i3 is sufficient for budget builds, an i5 is a great fit for most mid-range setups, and an i7 will be able to handle the majority of high-end gaming configurations.
It’s true that Core X models have more cores and threads, but modern games and most modern GPUs don’t require that much processing power.
Finally, think about the plug in the wall. The LGA 2066 socket is required for Core X CPUs, as mentioned above; however, LGA 2066 motherboards are relatively expensive, which would increase the total cost of the build without adding much value.
Best Intel processor: Core i3, i5, i7 and i9 explained
Best Intel processor for budget gaming desktops: Intel Core i5-11400F
If you need a processor for a gaming PC but are on a tight budget, the Intel Core i5-11400F is worth looking into. It requires an external graphics card because it lacks a central processing unit. However, this is a cheaper alternative to the regular i5-11400.
Although we haven’t tested it, this CPU seems to have the highest relative generational improvement of the 11th Gen desktop series, and it pairs reasonably well with high-end graphics cards like the Nvidia RTX 3080. It’s true that a CPU that costs £150 can be paired with a GPU that costs anywhere from £649 to £2000, but only if you time it right and have some luck at the store.
Extreme PC gamers would disagree, especially given that the Intel Core i4-11400F is not an unlocked processor and therefore cannot be overclocked in an effective manner. On the other hand, it’s a worthwhile investment for many people.
Best all-rounder performance CPU: Intel Core i5-10600K
For enthusiast PC builders without an unlimited budget, my go-to Intel CPU recommendation is the Core i5-10600K. When paired with the most powerful graphics cards, it will only be a minor bottleneck.
There is good performance for the weight, and since it is a “K” series card, you can overclock it quite a bit if your case can handle it. Also, it has native UHD 630 graphics. You can use it even if you don’t have a graphics card, which is great if you’re waiting for the price of such a component to drop.
Intel’s most powerful mainstream desktop CPU: Intel Core i9-11900K
Ryan Jones, our computing editor, does not have high praise for the Intel Core i9-11900K. Unfortunately, it cannot compete with AMD’s offerings in terms of multithreaded performance and is also prohibitively expensive.
In contrast, its single-core performance is stellar, and it requires a processor from the 11th generation of Intel or the Ryzen 5000 series in order to use PCIe 4.0. This is necessary if you want to get the most out of the speed of modern SSDs.
However, the older Intel Core i9-10900K should still be considered by some performance enthusiasts. It’s much less expensive than the newer processor and, in many cases, more effective due to its 10 cores compared to the Intel Core i9-11900K’s 8 cores.
Best laptop CPU to look out for: Intel Core i5-1135G7
While the Core i5 is the CPU I recommend for laptops, the choices available to you will depend in large part on the specific model you end up purchasing. Unfortunately, not every laptop is available with every processor type.
However, the 11th Generation laptops with the i5-1135G7, i7-1165G7, i5-1185G7, and i7-1185G7 mobile processors are the highlights due to their Intel Xe graphics.
These chipsets are superior to the graphics processing units (GPUs) found in their desktop equivalents, making it possible to run games that were previously only possible on bulkier machines. Games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance and The Witcher 3 are what I’m referring to, not Skyrim or any other true classic.
Choosing between an Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and i9
Whether you’re looking for a laptop or desktop, an Intel Core i5 is a solid choice. With the latest 11th generation chipsets, an i5 is a safe bet. They have enough processing power for professional-level gaming, photo- and video-editing, and other resource-intensive tasks. They are nice because they consume less power than a Core i7 or i9.
Intel’s Core i7 processors are superior to its Core i5 counterparts. Core i9 chipsets are, as you might expect, superior to Core i7 chipsets in terms of performance.
Although Intel’s Core i3 processors are rarely mentioned these days, they are still available and make a fantastic pick for budget home computers and cheap gaming rigs. Unfortunately, the 11th-generation Core i3 is not (yet) on the market, so you’ll have to settle for a 10th-generation model, the i3-10100.
If you want to compare an Intel Core i3 to an i9, how do you do it mathematically? In this article, I will focus solely on core count and clock speed, avoiding benchmark results and other technical jargon.
A human comparison works perfectly here. Having more cores means more people can work on a task at once. Each of these employees will be able to complete tasks at a faster rate if the clock speed is increased.
A smaller number of very fast cores can be more beneficial for certain tasks than a larger number of slower cores, especially in games. However, some tasks, like video editing, benefit greatly from having a multi-core processor because they are built to take advantage of all the CPU cores. Typically, games will drain your graphics card’s resources without offering you anything in return.
For your convenience, we’ve listed the number of cores, base clock speeds, and turbo clock speeds of the 11th Generation desktop CPUs.
|CPU: Intel Core i5-11400||6 cores||2.6GHz||Boosted to 4.4 GHz|
|CPU Model: Intel Core i5-11600K||6 cores||3.9GHz||The 4.8GHz Turbo|
|processor based on Intel’s Core i7-11700 architecture||8 cores||2.5GHz||Boosted to 4.9 GHz|
|i7-11700K Intel Core i7||8 cores||3.6GHz||5 GHz Overclocked|
|Chipset: Intel Core i9-11900K||8 cores||3.9GHz||Accelerating to 5.3 GHz at Full Turbo|
|Computer processor with a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 chip||4 cores||3.6GHz||A Turbo Speed of 4.3 GHz|
To get to the bottom of performance differences in years past, we would have had to define yet another term: hyperthreading. However, hyperthreading is present in every major 11th Generation processor.
To further stretch the metaphor, this is the part where you get to assign each worker to do double the normal amount of work. The workers in question need to form a union.
Looking a little deeper into the upgrades
The Intel processors that are considered high-end also have more cache memory than their mid-range and low-end counterparts. This is the fast memory where data that the CPU cores will soon need to access is kept. There are 6MB for the Intel Core i3-10100 and 12MB for the Intel Core i5-11600K.
Top-spec Central processing units (CPUs) like the Intel Core i9-11900K and the Intel Core i7-11700K have 16MB. The i9-10900K, however, has 20MB, making it the current flagship processor. Since the newer version has fewer cores, this is understandable, but it’s still something that makes some tech-savvy people look down on Intel’s 11th Gen Core i9.
How to choose an Intel CPU: What the names mean
The choice between a Core i5, i7, or i9 processor may appear straightforward at first. This is a case of “good, better, best.” Before you head to the register, however, you’ll want to make sure you’ve paid attention to the final letters in a CPU’s official name.
Let me explain what they imply.
For those who intend to overclock their CPUs, seeing the letter “K” indicates that the CPU has been unlocked. An overclocked processor is one whose clock speed has been increased beyond factory settings by the user in order to achieve higher performance at the expense of increased thermal output. A properly cooled desktop is essential for gamers, and gamers will always prefer an unlocked CPU.
Processors with a final ‘F’ do not include a graphics processing unit. Consequently, they require a dedicated graphics card in order to see Windows at all. Those putting together a gaming PC should think about getting one of these because of the money they’ll save.
T – The vast majority of you probably don’t need a ‘T’ central processing unit. In order to reduce power consumption, these operate at reduced clock speeds. Which begs the question: why would you want one? They run cooler than traditional CPUs, making them an excellent choice for compact PCs with limited ventilation.
G – This indicates that the central processing unit (CPU) incorporates a passable graphics unit into the CPU itself. Even though the ‘G’ in the stacks of Intel’s Core i series laptops used to mean something, the number that follows has rendered the ‘G’ almost meaningless. A laptop with the “G4” designation has a subpar Intel UHD graphics chip. The “G7” designation indicates that it has decent Intel Xe graphics. You can play games that are surprisingly taxing on them.
H – The letter H denotes exceptional efficiency. These processors bring you closer to the power of desktop PCs, but at the expense of significantly increased battery consumption and thermal output when under load. They are utilized in larger and heavier notebooks that feature superior cooling systems. Nonetheless, most of them aren’t practical for daily use as handbag additions.
Intel’s 11th-generation laptop CPUs don’t include the letter ‘U’ in their names. Nonetheless, it is useful to be familiar with it because it was ubiquitous in the past and legacy processors will remain in use for some time. ULV is an abbreviation for “ultra low voltage,” which means it helps preserve battery life. Intel’s “G” series of laptop CPUs follows this trend, with a focus on portability.
Should you go below the Core i series?
The Intel Core i3 series is followed by the Pentium series and the Celeron series.
Both Gold and Silver versions of the Intel Pentium CPU are available. Pentium Golds are desktop CPUs and are a fine choice for a computer that will primarily be used for office software, streaming media, and web browsing. Or as a low-end or mid-range component of a cheap gaming PC.
However, with only two processing cores, they cannot compare to the highly recommended Core i5-11600 and Core i5-11400. Newest in the Pentium Gold family is the G6605. Pentium Silver chipsets, such as the N6000, are designed for use in laptops and are not powerful enough for anything but the most basic tasks. If upgrading to an 11th generation Intel Core i3 processor is affordable, you should do so.
It is not advised to use a Celeron, the least powerful Intel processor. Typically, laptops equipped with such processors will be quite sluggish. In a desktop build, you should at least invest in a Pentium Gold processor.
Should you wait for the 12th Gen Intel series?
In comparison to the current 11th Gen, Intel’s next CPU generation will feature significant improvements. Alder Lake, the next generation of desktop CPUs, will feature both ‘power’ cores and efficiency cores in paired configurations. This configuration is like the Apple M1 processor found in the most recent MacBook Air. This is a radical shift.
In comparison to the eight cores of today’s Core i9 CPU, the next generation is expected to feature sixteen cores, including eight “big” cores and eight “little” cores. To recover some of the ground Intel has lost to Apple in the laptop space, the company is hoping to release a high-end processor that can compete with the industry-leading AMD Ryzen 9 5900x/5950X.
The next generation of Intel’s central processing units (CPUs) will be much more exciting than the 11th generation. However, you’ll also need a new motherboard because of the different socket they use for connection. If you want to know everything there is to know about Intel’s upcoming processors, you should read Trusted Reviews.
For the duration of this article:
- Intel’s mainstream offerings are its Core processors, which span the price spectrum from the more affordable i3 to the more expensive and powerful i7 and i9 models. They’ve all been using the standard LGA 1151 socket up until now, with Intel’s debut of the new LGA 1200 socket coinciding with the release of its 10th-generation Comet Lake processors. When building a gaming PC, these CPUs are a solid choice.
- The newer Intel Core X CPUs are more expensive than the more common Core series, but they have higher core counts and superior multitasking performance. They also require an LGA 2066 socket, which is found on fewer and more expensive high-end motherboards. Aficionados and experts can benefit from them in the end.
We hope that this article has been informative and has helped you better understand the distinctions between Intel’s Core and Core X series of central processing units.
Our list of the top-rated CPUs for gaming in 2022 is a great place to start if you’re in the market for a new processor right now.