How to Choose the Best Mac Based on Processor & Turbo Boost?

Confused between two Mac’s? Unable to decide which is the best? Wondering what difference a processor can make?

Worry not! In this guide, we will try to explain the difference a processor can make and why it matters.

When Apple releases a new device, be it MacBook, iMac, iPhone, etc. everyone gets excited. People stand in a queue, they pre-order the device. But don’t you think it’s too much?

Before investing in a new device, you should always know if it is worth it. Here in this article, we will explain about different components that make a difference. Once you understand it, you will be able to decide on your own what is best for you. Whether it is investing in a new Machine or keeping the old device. Moreover, if you are buying a MacBook for the first time, then also it will help.

So, let’s begin.

Before that here’s a quick glossary of terms we will use in this guide:


Cores – Individual CPU on the same chip e.g., if the chip has 6 cores, it means it has 6 CPUs. The more the CPU cores present, the better the processing.

GHz – It is the measuring unit for the clock speed. It denotes the number of operations performed by a single core. The Higher the clock speed, the faster the processor is.

Hyper-Threading – Intel’s trick to fool the software into thinking there are more cores than available. For instance, if your system has 4 core and 8 threads, you will see 8 logical CPUs in Activity Monitor.

Cache – Memory where processors can store data & reduce the need to access slower RAM on the motherboards

Turbo Boost – When processors run faster than the base clock speed it is called Turbo Boost. The disadvantage of higher clock speed is – battery drain and heat generation.

How to Choose Best Mac Based on Processor

Look for the Processor Generation

First thing first, look for processors and their generation. The number after the hyphen on the serial number of the processor explains the generation – for instance Intel® Core™ i77820… is 7th gen. Processor updated in 2019 are 9th generation

The processor is like a computer’s brain, aka CPU as the number of cores increases its power and multitasking abilities also improve. Intel Core processor is the most powerful and it comes in 4 categories:

Core i3 – Low-end processors with less RAM and fewer processor cores. If you are buying a MacBook for everyday computing tasks like video streaming, web browsing. Office work i3 will work great.

The latest generation has up to 4 cores and it helps watch content in immersive 4K and 360o viewing.

Core i5 – Used by multi-taskers, Core i5 processors are capable of handling extra memory. They have higher clock speed, larger processor cache, built-in graphics, and can support additional RAM.

Thanks to the latest generation it now has 6 cores. This line of a processor is generally used by designers, photographers, and beginner level PC gamers.

Core i7 – If you are into 3D modeling or advanced video editing, then i7 is the perfect processor for you. Gamers can also use it. The difference between i7 and i5 is not very drastic. Although you get more core, clock speed, performance gain but it does have that much gap as in i3 and i5.

Originally it comes with 6 cores and can create another 6 virtual cores.

Core i9 – It’s the latest and top-line desktop processor from Intel. With 18 cores and 36 threads, it is the most powerful processor. Core i9 offers extra processor cores, built-in graphics performance, fast clock speed, HyperThreading, and more cache.

Core i9 also includes Intel’s Core X, ultra-high-end desktop processors. With updated Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0, it elevates everything to a new dimension.

Core i9 can turn your Mac Machine into a studio from which you can produce 3600 or 4k video. Gamers will also not be disappointed. This is the ultimate processor for every task you ever want to perform


This processor is not used by individuals. Xeon is a workstation or server processor. It supports more memory than i5/i7/i9. The latest 2019 Mac Pro offers up to 1.5TB RAM and uses Xeon; not only this, you get up to 28-cores in the Mac Pro.

Each of these categories has unique specifications. i5 is better than i3 and so on

Core i3 Core i5 Core i7 Core i9
Codename Wolfdale Yorkfield Penryn Arrandale Lynnfield Clarkdale Lynnfield Clarksfield Boomfield Gulftown
Process 45nm 45nm 45nm 32nm 45nm 32nm 45nm 45nm 45nm 32nm
Platform Desktop Desktop Mobile Mobile Desktop Desktop Desktop Mobile Desktop Desktop
Architecture Core 2 Core 2 Penryn Westmere Nehalen Westmere Nehalen Nehalen Nehalen Westmere
Socket (LGA) 775 775 775 mPGA989 1155 1156 1156 mPGA989 1366 1366
Intel Chipset support P35, P43, P45, G35,G43, G45, Q35, Q43, Q45, X38, X48 P35, P43, P45,G35,G43, G45, Q35, Q43, Q45, X38, X48 GL40, GS45, GM45, PM45 Unknown P55,P57, H55, H57, Q57 P57,H57,Q57 (wfl require FDI for IGP) P55, P57, H55, H57, Q57 Unknown X58 X58
Cores/Threads 2/2 4/4 2/2 2/4 4/4 2/4 4/8 4/8 4/8 6/12
Hyper-Threading No No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Memory Dual-Channel Dual-Channel Dual-Channel Dual-Channel Dual-Channel Dual-Channel Dual-Channel Dual-Channel Tri-channel Tri-channel
Turbo Boost No No No Unknown Yes Unknown Yes Unknown Yes Yes
L3 Cache No No No 4Mb 8MB 4MB 8MB 6MB/8MB 8MB 12MB
45nm IGP No No No Yes No Yes No No No No
Availability Core 2 Duo Core 2 Duo Core 2 Mobile Q4 2009 Q3 2009 Q4 2009 Q1 2010 Q3 2009 Core i7 Q1 2010

At the time of wiring majority, Mac machines featured 8th generation processors. However, the 15-inch MacBook Pro is an exception as it offers a 9th generation processor, and the latest Mac Pro released on December 10th provides 8-28 core Intel Xeon E processors.

But it is too expensive. So, if you are looking for something similar, try the iMac Pro. It has a Xeon W old generation processor that ranges from 8-18 cores. It will not be the same as the iMac Pro, but it will be much better than other machines.

Now that we know about processor generation, cores let us understand how one processor is better than the other.

How to Choose Between Processors

Modern microprocessors are incredible; they incorporate multiple cores on one chip or CPUs, alongside they have graphics processors and cache. A processor can be better than another in two ways:

  • Power consumption
  • Time taken to execute a set of instruction

For most of us, the power used by the processor should be the deciding factor as it affects the battery and life of the system. However, if you are into video editing, 3D modeling, animation, scientific application latter should also be considered.

Power used by a processor affects a system in two ways:

  • Battery life
  • Heat

In simple words, the faster a processor, the more heat is discharged, and more battery is consumed. Therefore, a processor that helps reduce power consumption without affecting processing speed is the best. This explains why modern processors with smaller numbers of GHz are better.

As we move ahead, we will look at other factors like GHz, processor speed, Turbo Boost, different processor type, generation, number of cores, etc. All of this plays a vital role in deciding the best Mac processor.

To make things easy, here is a list of various processors you can find in the current Mac lineup.

MacBook Air MacBook Air 27-inch iMac iMac MacBook Pro MacBook Pro
Model Number & Identifier A2179 & MacBookAir9,1 A2179 & MacBookAir9,1 A2115 & iMac19,1 A2115 & iMac19,1 A2141 & MacBookPro16,1 MVVM2LL/A* & MacBookPro16,1
CPU Core i7 (I7-1060NG7) Core i5 (I5-1030NG7) i9 (I99900K) 9th generation Core i5 (I5-9600K) Core i9 (I9-9980HK) Core i9 (I9-9880H)
CPU frequency 1.2 GHz 1.1 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.7 GHz 2.4 GHz 2.3 GHz
Topology 1 CPU 4 core 1 CPU 4 core 1 CPU 8 core 1 CPU 6 core 1 CPU 8 core 1 CPU 8 core
L3 Cache 512k x4, 8 MB (on-chip) 512k x4, 6 MB (on-chip) 256k X 8/16 MB 256k x6, 9 MB 256k x8, 16 MB* 256k x8, 16 MB*
Single-Core Performance 5516 (1116 GB 5) 5168 (1073 GB 5) 6166 5775 5508 (1103 – GB 5) 5330 (1064 – GB 5)
Multi-Core Performance 15867 (2861 GB 5) 14450 (2735 GB 5) 32200 22664 29753 (6982 – GB 5) 28264 (6576 – GB 5)
Turbo Boost 3.8 GHz 3.5 GHz 5.0 GHz 4.6 GHz 5.0 GHz 4.8 GHz

CPU Frequency and Turbo Boost

As explained above, GHz is the number of clock cycles per second. This means a processor with 2.4 GHz CPU frequency will beat 2.4 billion times per second. Since all Mac machines vary on GHz speed just by looking at the GHz, you cannot decide which is the better Mac. To determine accurately, you also need to look at cores. More the number of cores, the better is the device.

Another thing worth noticing in term GHz is Turbo Boost. Turbo Boost, in simple terms, is a safe overclocking of cores on the processor. It gives a hint of how one generation processor is better than another.

Turbo Booster controller, while monitoring the demand made by the software, maintains temperature and power consumption. This means if power is available and the temperature is under control, overclocking can be done to speed up processing.

For example – A 8 core MacBook Pro with 2.4 GHz CPU frequency, if need be, can be pushed to 5.0 GHz. Whereas a MacBook Air with 1.1 GHz frequency can be pushed to 3.5 GHz.

So, you understand how Turbo Boost plays an important role.

Tip: i3 processor found in Quad-Core iMac and Quad-Core Mac mini does not include TurboBoost. This means you cannot ever overclock their speed. However, if you think you don’t need overclocking, then Turbo Boost won’t matter to you, and you can go for an i3 machine.

What is the Need for Turbo Boost?

When the application you are running doesn’t need multiple cores to increase the clock speed of the available cores, Turbo Boost is required.

However, if you are using a laptop, Turbo Boost might not sound interesting because it will consume more power.

CPU Cache

The cache is on-board memory, and it helps processors to deal with repetitive tasks. More the cache, the better is the processing power because the information can be stored in memory, and you can multitask.

By keeping these pointers in mind, you can easily decide which is the best Mac for you. Also, if you want to boost performance, a processor with Turbo Booster is best for you. But remember it will consume more power. It entirely depends on you and your budget, which machine is best, but you should invest in something that works in the long run.

We hope you find the information useful. If you think anything is missing, do let us know.

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