i5 vs i7 for Video Editing – Which is Better?

Professionals and intermediate users often compare Core i5 vs i7 for video editing. They are both very popular CPU series for professionals. However, differentiating their use-case can get a bit confusing.

The fact of the matter is that the Intel Core i7 CPU is generally considered the holy grail for video editing and for content creators in general. Video editing is one of the signature tasks that can utilize a high number of core count.

And what separates an Intel Core i7 from its Core i5 counterpart is that the former has a higher core/thread count than the latter, making the Core i7 an ideal deal for most video editors.

However, an Intel Core i7 is expensive to procure. Therefore, if you are budget conscious it may not be suitable for you  particularly if you are just starting out and have budget constraints.

To maximize the performance/dollar value you get from your CPU, you have to gauge your needs. If your video editing needs aren’t extreme, then even an Intel Core i5 can suffice.

In the following text I will talk in detail about Intel Core i5 vs i7 for video editing by looking at benchmarks, the intended audience for the CPUs and their overall value in general.

Importance of CPU for Video Editing

CPU is perhaps the most important elements for video editing. If there was a hierarchy of components needed for video editing organized by their importance, CPU would be at top, followed by RAM and then a dedicated GPU.

adobe premiere timeline decoding
As your import videos into the timeline, the prowess of the CPU becomes apparent. Fasters CPU can import and decode RAW footages faster.

The importance of the CPU for video editing becomes apparent as soon as the CPU starts decoding your raw video footages as you start importing video footage into the timeline.

But importing video is just one of many tasks the CPU is required for when video editing.

Decoding raw footage for manipulation, the actions and manipulations you perform in the workspace, the tasks relating to editing and adding effects, live playback during manipulation, and then finally encoding and rendering the footage into your desired codec are all governed by the CPU.

As such, you must always aim to go for the best CPU your budget can allow.

Pudget Systems have a very comprehensive benchmark report on how different CPU perform for video editing on Adobe Premiere Pro – arguably the most popular video editing software.

Pudget Systems CPU Score dec 2021 new
Image: Commercial Grade CPUs and their overall score in the Adobe Premiere Pro. Source: Pudget Systems
Pudget Systems CPU Score dec 2021 new workstation
Image: Workstation Grade CPUs and their overall score in the Adobe Premiere Pro. Source: Pudget Systems

You can see from the graphics above that Pudget Systems have tested Adobe Premiere Pro on various CPUs including not just the newer Intel Core i5 and Core i7 but also Core i9 and workstation grade CPUs.

There are many deductions that can be made from the graphics above which are summarized below.

Also Read: Budget Desktops for Video Editing?

Does Video Editing Benefit from More Cores?

Yes, to a certain extent it does. While the charts above show CPU benchmarks for Adobe Premiere, the same holds true for other popular video editing software as well as such as Da Vinci Resolve.

Basically, overall there isn’t an extraordinary benefit if you have an over the top core count.

Meaning, going from a 16 core Intel Core i9-12900K to a 32 core AMD Threadripper Pro 3975WX only gives a marginal improvement score i.e 1317 vs 1327 = 0.75% improvement (according to PudgetBench)

However, going from an Intel Core i5 to an Intel Core i7 can give you better overall results according to the PudgetBench. The Intel Core i5 11600K (6 c/12t) and Intel Core i7 11700K (8c/16) score 819 and 902 respectively.

With regards to Core Count, Adobe Premiere Pro specs clearly mention:

8 cores are ideal for Premiere Pro. The application can use more cores, but without significant added benefit. Depending on the task, Premiere Pro runs at 93-98% efficiency with 8 cores. – Adobe Premiere Pro

It must be noted that different benchmarks can give you different results. PudgetBench takes an overall score into consideration. It does not give Live Playback and Rendering scores separately.

If Live Playback and Rendering Scores are taken separately, the results will be quite different.

Live Playback is Single Core Oriented

Live Playback in the workspace, or the actual manipulation of the video, its editing and adding effects is mostly SINGLE CORE oriented.

Meaning, whether you have an Intel Core i5 with 6 cores or an Intel Core i7 with 8 Cores, you will see very little difference in performance. 

So if you have a Xeon processor with 24 cores, it would actually perform worse in Live Playback and in the workspace as compared to a 6 core Intel Core i5 11600K. 

CPU Specs CinebenchR20
Single Core
Multi Core
Intel Core
6 Cores
12 Threads
3.9-4.9 GHz
598 4320
Intel Xeon
24 Cores
48 Threads
2.7-4.6 GHz
437 9723

You can see from the Cinebench R20 scores above that while the 24 Core Intel Xeon W3265 has an excellent multi-core score, it has a worse Single Core score compared to the Intel Core i5-11600K.

Hence, despite being a very expensive CPU, the Xeon W3265 would have worse live Playback result compare to the Core i5 11600K. 

1080 preview
Source: PudgetSystems.com

You can see from the PudgetSystems study above on Adobe Premiere Pro CC 1080P Preview generation that it benefits greatly up to 4 cores, anything beyond this give you diminishing benefits.

On simple video, you would see even further diminishing benefits from a higher core processor.

Therefore, to improve the experience in the editor itself, you must aim to get a CPU with the best Single Core performance.

Rendering is Multi Core Oriented

Contrary to the Live Playback, video decoding, encoding and rendering are tasks that directly benefit from a higher core count.

The more cores you have the faster would be the rendering results.

Greg Salazar tested the video rendering through Adobe Premiere Pro specifically on Intel Core i5 6600K (4c/4t) and on Intel Core i7 6700K (4c/8t). According to his results, the Intel Core i7 rendered the videos 50% faster. 

Here is the video:

While this test is old and the CPU are long discontinued, the different in rendering performance still holds true.

Intel Core i7 still remains one of the best and most valued CPU when it comes to video rendering.

The more cores and threads you have, the better would be the video rendering times.

The amount of cores you need when exporting also matters on the software as well as on the codec you are exporting with.

H.264 export
Source: PudgetSystems.com

For instance according to PudgetSystems report on Adobe Premiere Pro CC (shown above), when using the H.264 codec, you will see maximum benefits with upto 10 cores, anything beyond that will give you benefit when encoding.

Read in Detail: Do You Need a Graphics Card for Video Editing?

Intel Core i5 vs i7 for Video Editing Benchmark Score Comparison

To better understand the similarities and differences between the performance of an Intel Core i5 and a Core i7 processor, it is important to benchmark them.

Relying on just the clock speed and core count to gauge a CPU’s performance is often misleading. As such, we use benchmarks instead.

The following graphs and tables show the benchmarks scores of some of the high end Intel Core i5 and i7 CPU from newer gen for both desktops and laptops.

Specs of 9th – 12th Gen i5 and i7 CPUs

Intel Core i5
3.70-4.60 GHz
Intel Core i5
4.10-4.80 GHz
Intel Core i5
3.90-4.90 GHz
Intel Core i5
3.70-4.90 GHz
Intel Core i7
3.60-4.90 GHz
Intel Core i7
Intel Core i7
3.60-5.00 GHz
Intel Core i7
3.60-5.00 GHz

Cinebench R20 Single-Core Benchmark

Cinebench r20 i5 vs i7 for video editing 3
Cinebench R20 Single Core score for select i5 and i7 CPUs.

Here you can see that in a given generation, the single core score of both i5 and i7 CPUs are almost the same.

Therefore, as far as, tasks relating to single core go, such as live Playback in video editing software, the i5 and i7 will perform more or less the same (if taken from the same generation).

Cinebench R20 Multi-Core Benchmark

Cinebench r20 i5 vs i7 for video editing multicore 2
Cinebench R20 Multi Core score for select i5 and i7 CPUs.

As expected, the Intel Core i7 CPUs have a much better multi-core performance owing to their higher core count.

As such, they are great for tasks dealing with video encoding and rendering or multi-tasking in general.

The Generation of the CPU Does Matter

When comparing i5 and i7, you must make sure that they are ideally from the same generation. 

In other words, you cannot take an Intel Core i7 CPU from 8th generation and compare it to an i5 from 11th generation. Not only does an i5 from the 11th generation have a better single core performance than an 8th gen core i7 CPU, but it also has a higher multi-core performance.

There must be parity in generation when comparing two CPUs.

Also Read: How is Processor Speed Measured?

The Model of the CPU Matters Too

All Intel Core i5 and i7 series in a given generation have multiple CPU models. Some are powerful, while others are weak.

Take for instance the 11th gen Core i5 CPU.

11th Gen Intel Core i5 for Desktop include:

CPU Specs CinebenchR20
Single Core
Multi Core
Intel Core
6 Cores
12 Threads
2.7-4.40 GHz
529 3888 Low performance i5
Intel Core
6 Cores
12 Threads
3.9-4.9 GHz
598 4320 High performance i5

In addition to that, laptop/mobile grade core i5 and core i7 CPUs are also far weaker than their desktop grade counterparts.

Therefore when comparing i5 vs i7 for video editing, you must make sure that you are looking at the right sample of CPUs. 

Also Read: What is a Good Processor Speed for a Laptop?

Intel Core i5 vs i7 for Video Editing – What Do I Recommend

For me the golden standard for video editing (and for all content creation in generation) is definitely an Intel Core i7 CPU from the newer generations.

An Intel Core i7 offers just the right amount of cores, threads and single core performance that a video editor would ever need.

The amount of cores an Intel Core i7 offers is neither over the top as compared to workstation grade CPUs nor too lacking.

However, procuring a top of the line Intel Core i7 can get expensive particularly for the budget conscious video editors.

Intel Core i7 11700K has an MSRP of about $400. Intel Core i5 11600K, on the other hand, has an MSRP of about $262. This difference in price tag between the two series holds true across all generations.

An Intel Core i7 is about 35% more expensive than an Core i5 at an average if you take the latest generation. 

You have to gauge for yourself the complexity of the projects you work and if the performance gains of a core i7 are worth the extra amount. 

Also Read: Can I Upgrade My Laptop Processor from Core i5 to i7?

Final Words

So when it comes to i5 vs i7 for video editing, the Core i7 takes the cake easily.

However, when you take the performance/dollar value, the Intel Core i5 isn’t a bad CPU at all. In fact, as far as single core performance goes, it is almost as good as an i7.

For applications that do not utilize a higher than 6 cores, you will be happy with a core i5. However, video editing can eat your core count particularly when rendering and thus for this reason, I highly recommend an i7 if your budget allows.

Also Read:

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Atif Qazi
Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGuide101. He is a digital nomad who loves everything PC. He is a PC builder, tech enthusiast, engineer, and a lover of single player lore-rich RPG games.

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