The Intel Core i3 series is the lowest end of Intel’s “Core” series of processors. This doesn’t mean that the i3s are bad or underpowered, however: the Pentium and Celeron lines still exist for low-end users, with the i3 line serving as more of an entry to the world of mid-range CPUs.
Because of this, i3 processors are particularly popular for budget-minded enthusiasts, who can’t afford to spend more than $400 or $500 on a custom PC build. The latest i3 processors are even getting better at keeping up with modern GPUs, thanks in part to hyperthreading, increased core counts, and unlocked overclocking capabilities on some chips.
Today, we’re going to discuss all you need to know about the Intel Core i3 series of processors and help you pick out the best one for your needs.
Where does the Intel Core i3 excel?
The i3 CPU series excels in the following contexts:
- General usage and productivity. Intel i3 processors should be able to manage your typical tasks- web browsing, listening to music, watching videos- with little-to-no issues. Unless you’re using Chrome with, say, 30+ tabs, you shouldn’t experience any problems with your i3 processor in day-to-day usage.
- Media consumption and HTPC usage. If you want to use an i3 in your Home Theater PC build, go ahead! It’s perfect for the job, with integrated graphics capable of handling HD video rendering and a low-power, low-heat profile. This also means i3 processors are great for long Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube marathons.
- Budget gaming builds. Running a GTX 1050 Ti or lower? An i3 processor will be great for you, providing the performance you need to push your graphics card to its limits without bottlenecking your system. However, you may still struggle with modern CPU-intensive games.
Is the Intel Core i3 too little for my usage scenarios?
Worried the i3 might not be enough for you? Here are some situations where it won’t be:
- Hardcore gaming. If you’re running a GTX 1060 or better, an i3 will bottleneck your system. If this is the case, you should either upgrade to an i5 or tone down your GPU selection and put the spare cash elsewhere in your budget, like an SSD or a larger HDD. Additionally, don’t expect to push eSports titles to 144hz or play modern games at high settings with reliable 60FPS performance.
- Streaming on Twitch. If you fancy yourself a livestreamer, you need to buy a high-end i5 or an i7. Streaming on Twitch while maintaining acceptable in-game performance would be pretty much impossible with an i3 CPU, and for that reason, we strongly recommend against it.
- Rendering video. Even outside of real-time scenarios, an i3 will be dreadfully slow for rendering video, especially when compared to an i5 or i7. It will work in a pinch, but you really shouldn’t do it if you need to render video on a regular basis.