Among today’s CPU models, Intel Core i7 are at the very peak of performance. With notable exceptions such as the server/workstation oriented Intel Xeon, there is not a single type of CPU for personal computers with higher clocking speed, better multi-threading capabilities, and overall better performance. Consequently, even though i7 laptops cannot exactly match the power of i7-based desktop PCs, they are nonetheless at the forefront of the computer race. You may buy a computer with an i5, an i3, or whatever AMD model, and they would probably do their job perfectly fine. However, if you want sheer power, there’s the i7, and there’s everything else. That’s about it when it comes to i7 processors. What follows is a very practical list of i7 laptops, if you decide to buy one. You can pick one of our models or take this list as a starting point and find something of your own.
1. New Alienware 17 R4 AW17R4-7352SLV-PUS
You can’t say “gaming” without saying Alienware, and this model shows exactly what Alienware is capable of when they mean to do business. It’s quite a wonder how the relatively quiet and decent Dell owns this sheer lunacy. The new Alienware 17 models, barely released in 2017, have all the components you’d want from an epic gaming rig, from looks to guts.
Speaking of which, the core of this extraterrestrial intelligence is a latest-generation Core i7-7820HK, quad-core, 8MB cache, base frequency 2.9GHz, super-overclocked by Alienware up to 4.4GHz. Must we say anything else? If yes, here’s what we have to say: a nVidia GeForce GTX 1080M with 8GB GDDR5, 32GB DDR4 RAM, 256GB SSD, and 1TB HDD. Add to that a fantastic UHD IPS display (Alienware displays are crazy good, let us tell you), and you will not regret for a single second the price you will spend on it.
2. MSI GE62VR Apache Pro-001
When we say we like gaming, you better be sure we mean it. While MSI is a relatively new name on the laptop market, having been in business for only a few years now, the success it has enjoyed is epic and well-deserved. This model is in every respect as good, if not better than an equivalent Alienware or Asus ROG and it looks and feels exactly like what a shiny gaming model should.
This model includes the most common current high-power gaming CPU, an i7-6700HQ, 2.6GHz and up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost, as well as an incredible GTX 1080M with 6GB GDDR5, 16GB RAM (upgradable to 32 for another $100), 512GB SSD and 1TB HDD. For about half the price of the Alienware 17, you get almost the same components and astonishing performance.
3. Asus ROG Strix GL502VM
We just HAD to include an Asus ROG in our list of i7 laptops for gaming. This particular model doesn’t exactly look the part, unlike the other two, but you know what they say: the beauty is on the inside. Not that this ROG Strix is not beautiful on the outside as well, being just as slim and light as a classic laptop and bearing fewer marks of a gaming laptop.
The setup on this laptop is relatively similar to the Apache Pro, with the same i7-6700HQ and 16GB DDR4. It “only” has a GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5, due to space limitations, and a 1TB HDD. All things considered, it’s quite worthy to be on this list of epic i7 gaming laptops.
4. Lenovo Y700 80NV00Q9US
A more affordable option for gaming, yet not lacking the least bit of quality, this Y700 model from Lenovo shows that they’re doing their best to make a move on this part of the market as well. It certainly has the looks, and the overall construction is designed with gaming optimisation in mind. Of course, that comes with a certain weight and thickness, but that really can’t be helped. After all, it’s not like you’ll be playing those games on a 12-hour international flight.
The Y700 has the same i7 processor we’re used to, the 6700HQ model, paired with a GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5. It also has 16GB DDR4 RAM, as well as a 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD. For the price, this is more than reasonable as a gaming setup.
5. MSI WT72 6QN-218US
We did say in the beginning “consumer-grade workstations”, didn’t we? Well, there’s an exception to that. This big bad boy from MSI was probably made for multiple people to use at the same time. Otherwise, we can’t explain why this VR-ready machine can accommodate no fewer than three external displays simultaneously and has the sheer power to do it perfectly. Not to mention its beautiful UHD IPS display.
The processor powering the WT72 is about on the same level as the Alienware above, an i7-6920HQ, 2.9GHz base frequency and overclocked up to 3.8GHz. This crazy metal heart is accompanied by a workstation-oriented nVidia Quadro M5500M with 8GB GDDR5, as well as 16GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and 1TB HDD. We wish it had a bit more RAM and storage, but those are relatively cheap to upgrade anyway if you decide to get this monster.
6. Asus ZenBook Pro UX501VW
When you say “workstation”, you’d normally think of something bulky, kind of like a gaming laptop. However, in spite of sharing the same i7 processor, the ZenBook Pro couldn’t be more different from, say, an Alienware. It’s an astonishingly slim design, worthy of competing for the most beautiful in this class, and it’s our top recommendation for consumer-level workstation users.
Besides the already expected i7-6700HQ, this computer benefits from the power of a GTX 960M with 2GB GDDR5 VRAM, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and a neat 512GB SSD. It comes with an astonishing UHD IPS 10-finger multitouch display, which comes already color-calibrated by Asus – exactly what you’d need from something you mean to use for photo and video editing and 3D graphic design.
7. Acer Aspire V17 Nitro Black Edition VN7-792G-709L
A rather gaming-oriented model, this i7 laptop is included in the workstation category instead due to its UHD display. It’d be difficult to play games on native resolution, but such a great screen is perfect for graphic design, as well as photo and video editing. It is itself a very classy model, closer to the ZenBook Pro than it is to the WT72, with sharp black lines and silver highlights.
Besides having 4GB DDR5 VRAM instead of 2, the setup of this Aspire Nitro model is perfectly identical to that of the ZenBook Pro. We would have preferred a touchscreen, honestly, but besides that, it’s just as good as any other – perhaps even better since it’s more prepared to handle some heat than a couple of other models.
8. Dell XPS 15 Touch
Regarding sheer aesthetics, this model can easily compete with both the ZenBook above and the MacBook downstairs. It’s a bit more expensive than the former, which we find quite annoying, but that’s not enough to stop you from getting it if you consider its UHD IPS Infinity Edge display, unquestionably one of the best in the i7 category.
The setup is also identical to the ZenBook, except for the other annoying fact that it has a 256GB SSD instead of 512. However, if you need storage, you can get a 3TB external HD for less than $100, and you’ll have enough room to store all the 76,863 pictures you took at your 2nd cousin’s wedding.
9. MacBook Pro 15 MLW72LL/A
If you’re in search of a pretty laptop that artists and hipsters use, you can stop here. This is the one. Jokes aside, this is one of the competitors for the “best looking i7 laptop”, and Apple can be proud of the Retina display they managed to implement on this beautiful silver (or gold) frame, as well as the significant components they succeeded in squeezing inside.
There’s yet another i7-6700HQ in there, but this time it’s only accompanied by the integrated graphics chip Intel HD Graphics 530. What it does have is 16GB LPDDR3 and a nice 512GB SSD, as well as one of the most virus-safe operating systems in existence. Exactly what you need for all the office chores in the world and corporate meetings (if you’re the CEO), and the occasional Photoshop.
10. Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK
Enough with the overpriced items already. This nice model from Dell looks indeed like a Dell, unlike the Alienware branch. It’s classy, with its satin black finish, it’s budget, and it’s all ready to do whatever you want to do with it, whether it’s gaming, graphic design, programming, or database management.
The same i7-7600HQ is this time joined by a GTX 960M with 4GB GDDR5 VRAM, as well as 8GB DDR4 and a hybrid drive storage – 1TB HDD + 8GB SSD. It also has an FHD 10-finger multitouch display, which is useful for whatever you want to use it for.
11. Lenovo Flex 3 80R40006US
Another cheaper model, only a tad bit more expensive than the Inspiron, this Flex 3 is great in that it’s a 2-in-1 model, i.e. it can be a laptop or tablet, whichever you need at a certain time. It has both one of the best keyboards around and an FHD touchscreen. What’s more, it’s the lightest and slimmest among our favorite i7 laptops, at only 0.87” thickness and 4.62lbs. The black, slightly rounded lines only emphasize the premium look.
Just like the MacBook Pro, this comes with the i7-6700HQ and the subsequent Intel HD Graphics 530, also featuring a sufficient amount of 8GB DDR3L SDRAM and 1TB HDD. You like casual tablet gaming, but you also have to finish indexing all those annoying archives? Here’s something that might help you.
12. Acer Aspire F15: F5-573G-78R2
The true budget model around here. It has the most classic design among all these models, while still maintaining a perfectly premium aspect due to the sharp black lines and aluminum case components. Performance-wise, it cannot be on par with the best models here, but it can still hold its own against some of the more expensive ones.
This Aspire F15 is powered by an i7-6500U, dual-core, 2.5GHz and overclocked up to 3.1GHz, 4MB cache, with Intel HD Graphics 520. It has a nVidia GTX 940MX, a mid-range graphics card with 4GB GDDR5, as well as 8GB DDR4 and 1TB HDD. The perfect laptop if you don’t want to be suspected of gaming while you’re supposed to finally finish indexing all that stuff.
What is exactly so special about an i7-based computer?
To begin with, it’s the intrinsic performance that an i7 offers. Compared to both the other Intel models and most AMD models, it offers higher base frequency, meaning each one of the CPU cores operates at faster clocking speed. The i7 also has higher Turbo Boost rate – in other words, compared to other CPU models, its speed increases more when overclocked.
Of course, that depends on the micro-architecture generation. The four i7 CPU generations which are currently available on the market (excluding second-hand and refurbished laptops) are Haswell, Broadwell, Skylake, and Kaby Lake, with the serial numbers i7-4XXX, i7-5XXX, i7-6XXX, and i7-7XXX respectively. In general, the newer the generation, the higher the clocking speed. Also, the CPU will be smaller and more power-efficient, as well as emitting less heat. For instance, the i7-5500U is not as good in these aspects as the i7-7500U.
There are different models within a single generation as well. As such, the i7-7500U is a low-power dual-core, 2.7Ghz and overclocked up to 3.5GHz, while the 7920HQ is a high-power quad-core, 3.1GHz and up to 4.1GHz overclocked. If you’re a hardcore gamer or a workstation enthusiast, you will probably need the latter, while the former is better for those who want their battery to last longer than 10 minutes.
There’s also the multi-threading issue. In more practical terms, it’s about how well the CPU can multitask. In general, even a single-core CPU can handle multiple tasks at the same time, but the more cores it has, the better. I7 models are either dual-core or quad-core, and they also benefit from the hyper-threading technology which allows every physical core to function as two logical cores, i.e. a quad-core processor works as if it has eight cores.
Finally, it’s about the integrated GPU. Most of the recent CPUs (Xeon excluded) come with an integrated graphics chip, and those that come with i7 models are the best. In fact, i7 laptops can work perfectly well without a discrete graphics card, as long as they have enough RAM. With modern integrated chips, you can even do moderate-level gaming without blowing up your machine.
Considering all these things, it’s quite easy to figure out who needs an i7 laptop. There are two main categories, gamers and consumer-grade workstation users, and if you belong to any of these, we highly recommend you to purchase such a device. It’s true, there’s a minimum budget limit for these things, but you can’t do what you want if you’re not prepared to invest a bit of cash.
There are also those who deal with heavy-duty office tasks, dealing with archives, databases, indexing software and so on, and they would also benefit from such a computer. This category has the advantage of not requiring a discrete graphics card at all, or a super-awesome display for that matter, which allows for a sizeable budget reduction.
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