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Pentium vs Core i3, which makes more sense?

Intel Core i3 Boxed

Amy in North Pole, Alaska listens on KFBX 970 AM is getting a new laptop and wanted to know how a modern day Pentium compares to the Core i family:

I have a question about a laptop I’ll be getting. One says Intel Pentium, and one says Intel Core i3. The price difference is $110. Which one is better to have inside my laptop?

A modern Pentium processor is not the kind that came out in the 90s, and is not that far behind an i3 for simple tasks, but if you do several things at once, the i3 might be better for you.

The Pentium will likely only be able to handle 2 threads at once, to the i3’s 4 threads, so on single tasks the performance will be similar, but if you’re running complex software, or several things at once, you’re likely to get better performance from the i3. The modern Pentium is basically a low end version of the i3 with some features such as Hyper Threading disabled, and with less cache and worse video support.

$110 is a pretty big price difference though, we’ve seen i3s listed for around $100 to $150, and that’s the whole price. There are many different models, some more expensive than others, but $110 difference is pretty surprising if all that’s different is the processor itself.  The i3 is probably a better choice. Although, if you don’t do anything too complex, you may be just fine with the Pentium.

It’s always worthwhile, when deciding what specs you want in your next computer, to begin with the question of what tasks you want it to perform. For web browsing and email, and running the basic Microsoft Office apps, nearly any processor will do. A Pentium, as we said, will be fine.

It’s not all about the processor!

That being said, there is also the issue of user experience. How long does your computer take to do something? How quickly does it respond? The processor is less important in this than the storage device (an SSD vs. a traditional hard drive), but it is still a major contributing factor.

So, while you might be able to use the Pentium and save the $110 over the cost of the Core i3, we really believe that it might be penny wise and pound foolish, given how much snappier the performance of the i3 will be. Unless, of course, the Pentium is in a laptop with an SSD and the Core i3 is in one with a traditional hard drive. In that case, the Pentium will run rings around it’s newer, faster cousin.

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Written by Dave Graveline

Dave Graveline is the founder, Host & Executive Producer of "Into Tomorrow" in addition to being President of the Advanced Media Network".

Dave is also a trusted and familiar voice on many national commercials & narrations in addition to being an authority in consumer tech since 1994. He is also a former Police Officer and an FBI Certified Instructor.

Dave thrives on audience participation!

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  1. How does Dave eat? Two bricks in one golden podium or Arkansas tambourines in doggy brocades. Dog meat, anyone? I know I don’t make sense, but my comment is cryptically interesting.