I'm planning on buying a new macbook pro 13inch and I've got the choice between a 2.3ghz intel core i5 or an 2.7ghz intel core i7 for an extra €300 (= $430).

Can someone explain me what the difference is between i5 and i7? Would it be worth it to updgrade (eg will the performance be better)?

I would mainly use the laptop for matlab simulations (and other simple 3D simulations) and data processing. Some of these calculation are highly recursive and take a long time (fractal computation etc) on my current machine.

  • I had the same question when I ordered an iMac two weeks ago, but in the end I ended up going for the fastest processor, though the choices here were 3.1GHz i5 and 3.4GHz i7, so my difference was just 0.3GHz in that respect. I didn't go for any benchmarks, though I probably should have, but I considered that this machine is going to be my workhorse for the next 3-4 years so I justified it that way. Also, the difference here was just 1640 NOK ~ $300 (not €300), so slightly cheaper, and thus only $100 or $75 per year (3-4 year.) Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 7:47

4 Answers 4


There is no simple answer. IMHO, the question is not about 0.4 GHz. (BTW, it is 17% above 2.3).

The real questions are:

  • do you have external USB or any other backup solution?

    • no - consider buying an external HDD first!
    • yes, I have - next question :)
  • have you already max. memory in your config?

    • no - consider investing into more memory first
    • yes, already max. memory - go to the next question
  • is there a config with better graphics performance?

    • yes - consider it first
    • no - next question
  • are you a heavy emulated Windows user (Parallels, VMware, VirtualBox etc)?

    • yes, go for the 2.7
    • no - next
  • do you need every millisecond of power (because of, for example, gaming, video editing, etc.)?

    • yes - buy the high-end one
    • no - next question
  • are you a bit paranoid (meaning, planning to use the FileVault encrypting for your $HOME folder)?

    • yes - buy the high-end one
    • no - next
  • how often are you upgrading your Mac?

    • every 18 months (one generation) - don't buy the high-end one, because usually they are a bit overpriced
    • every 2 years or more? - buy the high-end

misc. ;)

  • do you already own an iPad?

    • no?! - consider saving another 300 euros on notebook and buy an iPad - trust me, it is much better for browsing in the bed... ;)
  • is your girlfriend a technical geek?

    • yes - the high-end is a MUST! :)
    • no, bring her to somewhere for 300 EUR :)

misc 2 :)

  • Have iPad, no girlfriend - and have you decided to save 300 euros based on this answer? Consider sending me 50% ;) :)

The two processors in question are the i5-2415M and the i7-2620M. The nitty-gritty tech-spec details can be compared here.

The main difference, besides clock speed, is that the i7 has a bigger cache and includes Intel vPro Technology which theoretically provides faster AES decryption and other magical buzzwords.

Of course, what you really want are benchmarks, and then decide if the 3 seconds you save on a one minute photoshop action is worth three hundred Euros.

  • According to your benchmark link, it's only 3s in Photoshop, but 13% faster at importing photos into Aperture (17s off of 2.2 minutes). That can add up -- just depends on what you're looking for.
    – Michael H.
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 19:06
  • @khedron Certainly I'm not arguing that saving 3s here and 17s there doesn't add up or isn't worth it for some people. If you value your time and perform dozens of PS actions or a few imports a day I could see how the upgrade pays off after a few months. I just think the majority of people would hardly see a difference. You'd notice a far bigger difference investing that money in a SSD upgrade.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 21:16

The speed differences aren't very important -- the big difference is that the i7 had Intel VT-D technology, which improves VM IO performance, especially if you use multiple VMs simultaneously.

If you see alot of work with VMs in your future and have the money, go for it. Otherwise, the i5 is more than adequate.

The i7 also has hardware AES acceleration.


To keep it for "human beings":

i7 is better for video editing.

If you do not plan to make it everyday the i5 will make you happy.


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