Finding The Best Intel Core i7 Processor
The Intel Core i7 line is among the most popular of Intel’s Core series, and for good reason. Prior to the recent release of the i9 alongside the X-series, the i7 offered the best CPU performance in the hands of consumers. It became particularly popular among career YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and professional gamers.
Today, we’ll be discussing the Intel Core i7 series in detail, telling you everything you need to know before buying one. We’ll also dive deep into our top selections for those buying an i7 today, so you can find the right i7 for you.
Where does the Intel Core i7 excel?
The Intel Core i7 series excels in the following scenarios:
- General usage and heavy multitasking. The i7 will blast through not only general usage but heavy multitasking as well (provided the rest of your system can back it up). Thanks to its high core count and the addition of hyperthreading, your CPU will never be overwhelmed with all the things that you’re doing, provided you aren’t intentionally trying to overload it.
- High-level productivity. If you’re using applications with high CPU requirements and utilization, the i7 will function perfectly. It’s made specifically to handle intensive CPU-centric workloads, and as long as there isn’t a bottleneck elsewhere in your system, you’ll be fine.
- Hardcore gaming. Provided you have the GPU to match, the i7 is perfect in any high-end gaming rig, often leaving plenty of CPU resources unused by the games themselves. When this happens, you can dedicate those extra resources to things like live-streaming, which we’ll discuss in more detail below.
- Live-streaming on Twitch and other platforms. If you want to stream your gameplay in real-time without making dramatic sacrifices to your in-game settings and performance, an i7 is a great fit for you. While some adjustments may still be necessary for especially demanding titles, most of the time you should be able to live stream with no noticeable loss in performance.
- Frequent video rendering. If you need to edit and render videos on a regular basis- especially as an independent creator- an i7 is exactly what you’re looking for. Its high number of hyperthreaded cores will be utilized completely by any modern editing software, allowing for quick renders, quick iteration, and seamless editing.
Is the Intel Core i7 overkill for my usage scenarios?
If you are only doing the following, you should consider downgrading to an i5 processor:
- Gaming non-professionally. If you’re just someone playing video games, and you don’t particularly care for pushing ultra-high frames, live-streaming or making videos…you can probably go without this. We recommend downgrading to an i5 to maintain the same (rough) level of in-game performance.
If you are only doing the following, you should consider downgrading to an i3 processor:
- General usage. If you’re just doing regular stuff with your PC- web browsing, media consumption, etc- you really do not need an i7. You should downgrade to an i3, which will be amazing at those very tasks while only costing you a small portion of the money you’d have spent on an i7.
- Home theater PC. If you want a home theater PC setup, there are way cheaper ways to go about it than with an i7 processor. We recommend a modern i3 processor and a low-midrange low-profile GPU to do the job, like a GTX 1050 or GTX 1060. An i7 is for much more hardcore purposes than watching 4K Netflix.
- Core Count – 4 cores (8 with hyperthreading)
- Clock Speed – 3.6 GHz (base, turbo up to 4.2 GHz)
- Integrated Graphics – Intel UHD Graphics 630
The Intel i7-7700 is our top budget i7 pick, thanks to its stellar performance and fair price. While this is the cheapest of our lineup, its performance is very comparable to that of the 8700K we’ve listed below, just missing a few cores and lacking overclocking capabilities.
For most users, this is probably the best choice. It’s a modern i7 on an up-to-date slot and it has all the power necessary for whatever you want to do with it. Whether that’s live streaming, video rendering, or gaming, the i7-7700 has you covered with best-in-class performance.
Plus, it still has a humble integrated graphics chip. This means that you can either wait to buy your GPU when you first buy your PC, or you can dedicate the integrated graphics to other tasks while still using your main GPU once you have a graphics card installed.
Its main downside is the lack of overclocking capabilities. If overclocking is really important to you, then consider our next pick on this list.
- Core Count – 6 (12 with hyperthreading)
- Clock Speed – 3.70 GHz (base, overclockable)
- Integrated Graphics – Intel UHD Graphics 630
Next up is our best overall value pick, the Intel Core i7-8700K. Boasting 6 cores over the previous entry’s 4, plus the ability to hyper-thread for 12 threads, the 8700K is geared for intense multitasking and heavy multi-threaded workloads.
In day-to-day usage, the i7-8700K will sing. Unless the application you’re running is the most unoptimized garbage in the world or something made explicitly to kill your CPU, the 8700K will push through it nigh-effortlessly.
While its current pricing of $350 may be a little much for some users, it’s perfect for the audience it’s aiming for. If you do a lot of work with videos or streaming, for instance, your initial investment will be quickly paid off by the decrease in time spent rendering or dealing with lag in video editing applications.
Most importantly, this chip is capable of overclocking. If you’re able to invest in a cooler worthy of it, you should be able to push it pretty far- even Intel’s turbo boost can hit 4.7 GHz in some situations.
There’s even Intel UHD graphics embedded, provided you can find a use for them. At this tier of pricing, though, you probably don’t need them all that much. (More on this point in the next entry.)
Ultimately, this is our top pick for an i7 right now. While there are much more expensive i7s out there, this is pretty much the best value you can get out of a high-end productivity/streaming/rendering CPU.
- Core Count – 8 (16 with hyperthreading)
- Clock Speed – 3.6 GHz (base, overclockable)
- Integrated Graphics – N/A
Last but certainly not least is the Intel Core i7-7820X.
And Christ, this thing is powerful. Boasting eight physical cores, a high starting clock speed, and fully-unlocked overclocking capabilities, the 7820X is nothing to sneeze at. Aforementioned eight cores become sixteen threads with hyperthreading enabled, creating a truly insane machine for heavy-duty multitasking and intense multi-threaded applications.
Everything we said about the 8700K applies even moreso here. There is nothing that this CPU can’t blast through at Mach 5. Forget having trouble handling your renders and editing- you’re going to have trouble finding something to make this CPU scream at all.
This does come with a caveat, though. Namely…the price. Currently, this chip is retailing at a discounted $469.99 rate on Amazon, from its full MSRP of $599. Even if you take advantage of this sale, that is quite a lot of money to spend on a processor, more than we’ve ever recommended before.
But if you can afford that, and you’re sure you can make the money back with your day-to-day business, go for it. It’s an incredibly powerful chip, and it should do everything you need it to.
Another small caveat: no integrated graphics. But when you’re spending up to $500 on a CPU alone, is that really a problem anymore?