Does it matter i5 vs i7?

Looking at busy a used MacBook Pro. Wondering about the difference between the i5 and i7 chip.
Anyone have thoughts about that?

The short version: you’ll notice it in some workloads, and not in others.

Will you notice it browsing this forum in Safari, or reading in Mail? Probably not.

Will you notice it in a CPU-heavy workload like compiling some code? Yeah, you might.

So the real question is: what activities do you use your Mac for?


I went with i5 in my Retina 27" iMac after reading numerous reports from people (on Macrumors forum as well as Reddit) complaining that the fan kicked in too much with the i7, even when scrolling sometimes. (More precisely, it’s not that the machine necessarily gets louder but that it gets hot/loud early - and earlier than previous models.) It was a good decision for me, as speeds are fine in everything (including my most demanding apps: Lightroom, Photoshop and Ableton Live) and in 18 months I’m not sure I’ve even heard my fan go on.

Ah, found it! Read this (3-month-late) statement from Intel as a result of complaints that people were getting fans turning on when merely scrolling with computers using the then-new i7 chip. Complaints before, firestorm after:

I agree with everything @bowline mentioned. I got my iMac with i5 and I believe that was the correct decision.
You will not probably notice any differences between both processors. In other words, if you are running really intensive CPU process, and the i5 is not really up to the demand, then probably you won’t notice huge different with i7, and you might be probably better off with iMac Pro.

I know I might get some firebacks on that comment, but this is what I believe :slight_smile:

If @Annamarie actually needs the mobility of a laptop, even if she is doing CPU-intensive tasks… Why would she be better of with a desktop?

(Also, if somebody’s looking at a used MBP, they are probably not in the market for an iMac Pro. Let’s be real here.)

It also depends on which generation of MBP we’re talking about. some generations make a bigger difference than others.

That’s what I mentioned, if the i5 is not delivering then the i7 won’t be the world better. The iMac Pro comment is not a recommendation for purchase, it’s basically this processor family will not be delivering for you.

In our office, we have iMacs with i5s and i7s. They all have 16GB of RAM. You cannot tell which machines are which. We are not doing CAD or Photoshop, but there is no noticeable difference between the machines.

The biggest thing will be your use case. For the most part, if you don’t know why you need an i7, you don’t need an i7.

The biggest advantage of an i7 is the higher thread count thanks to hyperthreading which isn’t available for the i5. This benefit can be seen in serious multitasking, video editing, or development.

Another advantage could be better single thread performance. This can be seen in any workflow, but won’t really be noticeable in a laptop.

Since you are asking if an i5 or an i7 is right for you, I am willing to bet that you can save the money and comfortably use the i5.


That and the larger cpu cache and faster clock speeds.

@Annamarie - A recent episode (#734) of the “Mac Geek Gab” podcast contains an excellent description of the i5 vs i7 processors. Note that there are various versions of i5 and i7 processors; this discussion specifically addresses the versions of those processors used in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models. Go to time stamp 27:06 of the podcast; link is below. A link to Intel documents is included in the show notes.

Link to MGG 734 podcast:

Very true. Useful for apps that can use it - like Final Cut Pro - but less so for other apps, like Lightroom. I made my decision for the i5 after seeing that Lightroom, the DAW I use (Ableton Live) and the word processing apps I mainly use wouldn’t be substantially faster with an i7. That plus the issue with the fan and i7 mentioned above made it a simple choice for my own needs.

Thank you all. I’m a heavy user in terms of many apps open, web pages etc. but don’t compile code. Sounds like the i5 is fine for me.

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty details, it should be noted that in the latest generation of chips (used in the current MacBook Pro lineup) Intel changed which features the i5 and i7 get, compared to previous generations.

However, the bottom line message remains that you probably won’t benefit from an i7 unless you’re using some very CPU-intensive workloads.