When you’re buying a laptop these days, you’re always advised, if possible, to get an Intel Core i-something CPU. The reason why is fairly obvious when you look at the actual performance statistics – the Core i3, i5, and i7 are by far the best processors the market has to offer (except for the Xeon model, which is meant for servers and workstations). AMD’s modern CPUs are not bad either, but it’s agreed that the overall performance of the Core i- is better.
Of course, you have to consider the budget when shopping for an i5 laptop. Unfortunately, you won’t normally find i5 laptops for any less than $400 or so. If you do, it’s either a great offer or a hoax. To provide you with some sure-fire options, we’ve done our research and prepared a list with our favorite i5-based models. Take a look and see if you like anything!
1. MSI GL62 6QF-1277
Can you get a gaming laptop with an i5 CPU? Of course, you can, and this MSI model is here to prove it. This big boy is a designed for gaming, and you can see it at a single glance: with an FHD 15.6” display and a rather massive body, the GL62 is exactly what you’re thinking about when you want to fuel your inner thirst for great gaming. It’s a bit massive, at 1.3” and 6lbs, but what else can you expect, taking the performance into account?
The CPU here is a Skylake generation Core i5-6300HQ, quad-core, 2.3 and up to 3.2GHz with Turbo Boost. It’s accompanied by a nVidia GeForce GTX 960M, 2GB GDDR5, which is commonly found in medium-to-hardcore gaming rigs. It also displays an impressive 32GB DDR4, as well as a 256 GB SSD + 1TB HDD. All things considered, this is the most powerful laptop here and it won’t disappoint you even facing the latest releases.
2. Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series – i7559-763BLK
While our top pick was a gaming laptop in every respect, including size, and weight, this one seems a lot more moderate when it comes to design, being no different than a simple, classic laptop. It nonetheless looks really neat, with its straight and sharp lines and matte black finish, and it hosts a most impressive surprise for a gaming-oriented laptop – a battery which is supposed to last for 10 hours.
This Inspiron model is powered by a very similar setup to the MSI GL62, at least when it comes to CPU and graphics card. It only has 8GB DDR3L and a 256GB SSD, which is not unexpected considering it’s much cheaper. Among the i5 laptops, this is one of our favorite models, and you can successfully use it both as a gamer and as an artist.
3. Asus VivoBook Pro N552VX
We were saying that to properly use image and video modification software, as well as graphic design software; it’s necessary to have a proper display. This is exactly what Asus offers you with this model: an astonishing UHD 4K touchscreen, integrated into a beautiful brushed aluminum body. It’s surprisingly heavy for its size, even half a pound heavier than the MSI GL62, and it’s our top pick for workstation purposes.
Just like the first two models, this one uses an i5-6300HQ, paired with a nVidia GTX 950M, 2GB GDDR5, 8GB DDR3 SDRAM, 256GB SSD, and 1TB HDD. The perfect recipe for gaming, image processing, and multimedia content of whatever type, and one of the prettiest (if not the lightest) i5 laptops on this list.
4. Lenovo Yoga 710
Sometimes you just want a simple laptop. For those times when you don’t, the Yoga 710 can provide you with a really neat alternative. Usable in a laptop, tablet, tent, and stand modes, this 2-in-1 shows that while Lenovo can preserve a long-standing tradition (as with the ThinkPads), they can also show a surprisingly modern approach. Indeed, nothing shows modernity better than a 14” FHD 10-finger multitouch display on a classy silver mount.
This particular Yoga model uses the latest generation i5-7200U, 2.5 and up to 3.1GHz with Turbo Boost, the first generation of processors with native support for the ultra-fast USB 3.0 and 3.1. It comes with the integrated graphics chip Intel HD 620, as well as 8GB DDR4 and a nice 256GB SSD. The whole thing weighs only 3.4 lbs and is 0.7” thick, which is very little for a convertible laptop.
5. Asus F556UA-AB54 NB
Considering not everyone needs or affords a laptop worth $1000, it’s a great thing that Asus decided also to make a couple of budget i5 laptops. This is one of them and, in spite of the way lower price, it looks quite similar to the more expensive VivoBook. The gold-colored brushed aluminum frame emphasizes the slimness and classiness of the design, with sharp edges and rounded corners. It has a great FHD display and all the necessary ports, including the future-proof USB 3.0 Type C.
This model has a setup entirely identical to the Yoga 710 model, in every respect. However, since it’s a traditional laptop and not a 2-in-1 model, we believe it can draw a bit more power from a CPU that doesn’t have to deal with a touchscreen.
6. Acer Aspire E15: E5-575G-57D4
Another cheaper i5 laptop, this Aspire E15 is one of the best Acer models we can think of and excellent value for the money. It’s based on a well-known Acer design, improved by a couple of aluminum parts instead of the usual plastic, and it is what you need if you’re planning to do some light gaming, use Photoshop, and edit your videos before uploading them to YouTube.
The E15 is powered by the same i5-7200U, with 8GB DDR4 and a 256GB SSD. However, unlike both the budget Asus and the Y710, it has a discrete graphics card, a Nvidia GTX 940MX with 2GB GDDR5. We believe that considering the price range, this is one of the best setups you can find.
7. Dell Inspiron i5559-4682SLV
The cheapest model on our list, this laptop is what we’d choose if we wanted a classic design with a couple of surprises. That is, not only is it a touchscreen, but it also has the RealSense 3D camera, an innovative implement from Intel which allows for actual user-computer communication via gestures, as well as certain augmented reality features. Rather surprising for an i5 laptop, especially for something so cheap.
This time, the processor is an i5-6200U, 2.3 and up to 2.8GHz, which comes with the integrated graphics chip Intel HD 520. It has 8GB DDR3L, as well as a 1TB HDD. All in all, an excellent budget model if you don’t care for a discrete graphics card.
8. Apple MacBook Air 13 MMGG2LL/A
We just had to have a tinier model as well, and this is what we got. Finding an i5 laptop smaller than 14” can be quite a challenge, but Apple took that challenge and did it justice with this little silver jewel. It’s not a secret that MacBooks are pretty and the MacBook Air has the added advantage of being slim and light too. It has a 13.3” HD+ LED display, which, in spite of not being Retina, is still one of the brightest around.
This mini-laptop has an i5-5200U, 2.2 and up to 2.7GHz, with Intel HD Graphics 6000, and it features 8GB DDR3L and 256GB SSD. The battery life is the absolute best on this list, with a 12-hour rating, most likely because of the smaller display.
9. Dell XPS XPS9350-4007SLV
Our third Dell model is this time, another 13-incher. It’s no less expensive than the MacBook Air, even a bit more pricey in fact, but we believe it’s totally worth the money if you can pay them. It has a beautiful QHD+ (3200×1800) Infinity Edge touchscreen, second best in our list after the VivoBook Pro, and a machined aluminum case which makes it as aesthetically pleasant as it is high-performance.
This small beauty is powered by an i5-6200U, 2.3 and up to 2.8GHz, with Intel HD 520. It has 8GB LPDDR3 SDRAM @1866MHz, as well as the omnipresent 256GB SSD.
Why an i5? The reason, again, is obvious if you just look at the numbers – i5 is right between the other two, and that’s simply because it’s middle ground between them. Though still performing better than, say, Celeron and Atom models, not to mention Pentium, the i3 is not exactly what you need for the more demanding applications and games. That’s especially since i3 models don’t come with Turbo Boost, so there’s no extra speed when you need it. Conversely, i7 processors are the mother of all gaming rigs, and they are quite a bit more powerful than all the rest. However, the problem is that they are both more expensive and more power-hungry.
Newer i5 models, belonging to the latest two or three generations (i5-5xxx, i5-6xxx, i5-7xxx) perform very well, even under a certain amount of pressure, and they don’t consume as much battery life as their higher-end counterparts do. They are equally usable for medium-level gaming rigs, workstations, and simple PCs for day-to-day tasks. Laptops, in particular, benefit from these advantages more than desktop PCs do. What’s more, due to them not being as powerful as i7 models, these CPUs also produce less heat, which is great for laptops as they cannot have the same cooling capacity as desktops.
So, who’s going to buy an i5 laptop? There are a few categories of people who may prefer this particular CPU instead of other options. To begin with, if you’re just entering the world of computer games and you either can’t afford or simply don’t want to spend too much money on a heavy gaming laptop, an i5-based model should do the trick just fine. You probably won’t be able to play Far Cry Primal on ultra, but that’s something for hardcore gamers anyway. The same goes for beginner graphic designers, video editors, and Photoshop users: as long as you get something with a discrete graphics card and a good display, a Core i5 laptop will do exactly what you need.
More demanding office tasks, such as programming, archiving, creating databases and so on will also benefit from the power of a latest-generation i5 CPU. You won’t need a dedicated graphics card, in that case, just enough RAM and storage capacity and a comfortable keyboard. If you prefer working while you’re on a trip or simply enjoy doing things outdoors, yet still require a bit more oomph for whatever imaginable reason, you’ll find yet again that an i5 laptop will do everything you need for quite a long period. In fact, especially if you don’t need a discrete graphics card, you will find that certain models have 10-hour rated battery life, which is great.