The 5 Best Intel Core i3 Laptops in 2017

Surely most Intel Core i3 laptops are fast enough for basic tasks but finding the best i3 laptop that can do far more while being affordable at the same time can take days , if not weeks, of research.

Why?

The market is flooded with Intel core i3 laptops since they are the cheapest laptops we can get today without sacrificing too much speed or performance .

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of older models still being sold and most of the time these are not even worth to look at. Even modern core i3 laptops may have specs that can actually be pretty bad even for today’s basic tasks.

Yeah, it’s true most Intel Core i3 laptops will let you deal with internet surfing, editing word documents, making presentations, watching movies, etc.

But just check out how many choices you have out there to do just that.  Which one of these will do all of the above  without any lag? 

Most importantly..

Many of you also want to max out on their performance to be a able to domore without breaking the bank. Perhaps gaming, multimedia editing and perhaps throw in some intensive multitasking.

So, Which i3 laptops can be pushed to do that too?

You have to take into account the design behind its components,  its cooling technology and how recent/fast are their other components : (RAM & Storage).

And of course, the processor itself. Not all core i3 processors are the same, as you probably know, their processors vary widely among generations (4th,5th 6th or 7th) , lines ( core i3 U vs. core i3 M processors ) and model numbers.

If you don’t know the terminology or  how to read their labels, it’s going to be a total nightmare to distinguish which offer the snappiest performance or even which ones aren’t 5 years old.

How can this article help?…

If you stick with this article, not only will you find the best i3 laptop that’s out there for your budget  but you’ll also learn everything you need to know about the Intel Core i3 processors.

In other words, you’ll know how to look for the best i3 laptops yourself.

For that I have divided this article in two parts, a selection of the current best i3 laptops as of 2017 and a complete guide on how to pick them up yourself.

If you have the time and do not know much about them (what each of them can do), you’d be better off reading the guide first. If you are ready to buy then reading these small reviews should be enough.

Top 5 Best i3 Laptops

Since most of you don’t have the time to read the entire guide or already know what to look out for. I’ve included the guide and everything else you need to know about the Intel core i3 processors after this list. You can use the table of contents to jump to that section now or jump to it as you try to find the best i3 laptop for you from this list if there’s something unclear.

Whatever your purpose or whatever your budget is you should find the best i3 laptop for you from this list: one with longest battery life, the fastest performance, the most durable or just something cheap but reliable, etc. There’s traditional laptops and convertible/touchscreen laptops and a few laptops within the core m3 line. 

Just keep scrolling down and you’ll find something that rocks your core.

Laptops with processors labeled as Core m3 or Core Y3  are mainly designed for portability and basic tasks while the core U laptops are designed for those looking for higher performance from their core i3 laptops. More details on the guide below


1. Acer Aspire E15

The Best i3 Laptop Deal

Acer Aspire 15 best i3 laptop

Processor Generation Cores Threads Speed Cache Size
Core  i3-7100U 6 2 4 2.4 GHz 3MB

RAM: 4GB DDR4  | Storage: 1TB 5400RPM  |
GPU:
 Intel HD
 | Display: 15.6″ full HD (1366×768)

 Performance

Starting with the CPU, as you can tell it is the 7th generation “Kaby Lake” and the latest one released by Intel in October. The advantage is not a significant increase in performance from the 6th generation you’ll see from most i3 laptops out there but nonetheless you get the small boost in speed and better power consumption for a good price.

The RAM is DDR4 , the latest and fastest on the market today will allow your CPU to quickly access data to boost its speed further.  

Although only sitting at 4GB RAM which should be plenty for basic tasks and decent multitasking with web browsers and office documents, it’s easily upgradeable to 8GB RAM which should cost you 20$ if you ever feel the need to run more intensive applications including high end games at the lowest settings, heavy Photoshop editing and some video editing.

You can add +8GB RAM or more but as explained in more detail in the guide below you’d get a better increase in performance if both memory sticks are of the same technology and same size (4GB RAM) roughly speaking this allows your processor to access both memory sticks simultaneously to pull out your data faster.

Even if you did add 16GB it would be pretty pointless as your CPU won’t be able to use all of that efficiently since the apps you’ll be running won’t require that much memory, the ones that do would need a far higher end CPU and a dedicated graphics card which are almost non existent on core i3 laptops.

The Storage is a slow 5400 RPM drive however it does have an insane amount of capacity and you’ll probably never ran out of it even if you store all of your favorite movies and a lifetime of photos. To further increase the performance in the future you can easily upgrade it to an SSD or  add an SSD on top of the 1TB HDD which allow you to have two hard drives. Ideally storing your OS programs and files you mostly use in the SSD will give you an insane increase in loading times and performance while the HDD can pretty much serve as a repository to store all of your other important and heavy files.

The graphics cards like all laptops shown here is integrated (with the CPU) however as explained in the guide having the latest processor or a high end processor pretty much translates to having the latest and more powerful card too.

What can you expect from this laptop?

Even without the upgrades you can pretty much run most popular online games at low settings without hiccups (Overwatch, World of Warcraft, CS, MineCraft, Sims, etc) which usually need a high end laptop with a dedicated card way out of the prices of i3 laptops.

Schoolwork software which includes excel with dozens of pages & calculations, MatLab, programming environments, etc, will have no problems as well. Of course you can also heavily multitask with your internet browser too without feeling slow down.

 Display & Sound

Despite the price and the fact that it only has a core i3 processor the displaying features are nothing short of amazing. It has a full HD screen resolution which will allow you to have multiple windows open at the same time and the LED backlit technology consumes less power ( meaning more battery lifetime).

Plus it also comes with a matte display instead of the glossy finish you end up with most laptops today. This will allow you to use it in highly illuminated rooms and protect your eyes from unwanted glare that may not let you see anything on the screen. Brightness levels and color representation are decent too. Lastly, the sounds coming from the stero speakers are clear and loud enough for music listening.

 KeyBoard & TouchPad

The keyboard is surprisingly good too. It’s responsive and the keys are smooth to press on which also include a backlit feature where each key’s light turns on when pressed (and off when unpressed).

Includes a keypad for heavy duty number crunching in excel or collecting data faster if you are an accountant or taking courses that require heavy input data. 

The trackpad works quite well too but doesn’t have the old school left and right click buttons just one big touchPad where you can left click by pushing the entire touchpad.

 Battery Life & Weight

As you can probably guess by now the battery life is superb and the longest one this list due to its efficient display and the latest ultra low power processor. You can pull off nearly 12 hours at the lowest settings and light PC Usage while regular brightness settings and decent multitasking should give you anywhere from 7 to 10 hours. While the weight is not the lightest it’s still decent for a 15 inch laptop at 5.3 pounds. 

 Design

Lastly the design might be the only drawback as it’s made full of plastic although the colors and chassis make it look as if it were made of aluminum. The overall built however feels solid and sturdy which you can notice when you try to hold the laptop. Another plus side is the fact that it’s very easy to open up and access its  components for you to upgrade it yourself(RAM & SSD).

 Summary 

As you can see this is an all around laptop that has nearly every good feature going on. The performance is enough to have your heavy applications & games run at lowest settings and if you ever feel a need to increase the performance as you explore move into heavier applications that require more processing power you can easily upgrade the RAM & Hard Drive. The display & sound are also superb for entertainment purposes while the portability is unrivaled due to it’s extremely long battery life. Without doubt the best i3 laptop out of this list.

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2. ASUS F556UA-AB32

Full HD Laptop

Best i3 laptop ASUS F55UA

Processor Generation Cores Threads Speed Cache Size
Core  i3-6100U 6 2 4 2.3 GHz 3MB

RAM: 4GB DDR4L SDRAM | Storage: 1TB 5400RPM  |
GPU:
 Intel HD
 | Display: 15.6″ full HD (1920×1080)

This is another great i3 laptop at a reasonable price. As you’ll see ASUS models can offer you a few more features that may be worth the investment. Let’s start with what we all care about:

 Performance

The core i3 processor is the U series and a good one at that it doesn’t come too much power so it does not run hot and stays cool.

The processor itself being of the 6th generation is actually near as fast as the new 7th generation (7100U) shown in the laptops below or other sites. In fact, it might not be worth to spend extra cash with  a 7th generation processor as other upgrades would make your i3 laptop faster. A 5th generation processor performance is significantly less compared to 6th or 7th generation processors. 

The RAM is only 4GB but this is easily upgrade-able to 8GB. Since this is a newer model the RAM is also quite recent in technology: DD4L meaning you’ll get faster memory readings from your CPU for responsiveness when multitasking. It’s also upgradeable so you can have 8GB RAM for heavy duty apps and ultimate multitasking while surfing the web online. Again it’s recommended you stick with the same size and technology when upgrading RAM. This brand and size is a good option for this model.

The storage although still an HDD as found on most core i3 and budget laptops can be upgraded with an SSD. Upgrading both the RAM and SSD are quite easy on this laptop too.

Overall, you can expect this laptop to handle your everyday multitasking and basic apps without any hiccups be it for school or work. PhotoShop, LightRoom and high graphic games at low settings will perform decently.

*Running a dozen or more tabs simultaneously in google chrome however will require an upgrade to 8GB RAM just like any laptop shown here as chrome itself is quite demanding on RAM as opposed to other web browsers.

 Design

The strong point of this laptop however is the design behind the fitting of its components. ASUS has been known to do fairly well when it comes to putting together a laptop and giving it a great cooling system. As a result even this budget laptop will never get hot and become exposed to damage from overheating even under heavy computer usage. You can expect a greater lifetime from this particular model.

Like all laptops shown here it is mostly made out of the plastic but unlike the rest it has a premium look to it and shiny chassis all around it. The top lid in particular has a pretty looking metal finish while the bezels around the display are quite thick and chunky.

You get all the ports you need with this model too:   2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0 Port, USB-C, HDMI, Latest Bluetooth 4.1 protocol, SD Card reader, VGA Port, HDMI Port, LAN port, VGA Camera and a DVD writer. The latter being unexpected coming from a core i3 laptop that’s quite affordable. 

It also comes with a USB-C port the latest and soon to be port of choice with modern external devices which few modern laptops have.

 Display & Sound

You also get a full HD resolution which is again unheard from laptops at this price. Movies and text are crisper and sharper compared to the competition and the full HD will allow you to work with multiple windows comfortably.

It does not come with an IPS panel so viewing angles and color reproduction might not be as good as the more expensive choices you have below.

Sound quality is surprisingly great. Though not macbook level quality, sounds and music are loud and clear enough to distinguish between the bass, vocals and all instruments.

 Battery Life & Weight

Battery life on the ASUS is poor compared to other models, this is mostly due to huge display and the processor being high end but with not enough lower power consumption as the 7th generation and the mechanical hard drive behind it.

It averages 4 hours among moderate usage.  An upgrade to an SSD will significantly increase its battery lifetime however.

On the flip side, although relatively heavy is light enough for a 15” inch laptop at 5lbs which makes it much easier to carry around to school/work than its competition. The size also makes it more convenient for watching movies and lectures or just gaming with it.

 KeyBoard & TouchPad

Both are of decent quality. The Keyboard is of full size which includes a numerical keypad for heavy number crunching on it. Keys are of chicklet type, large and well spaced to make typing comfortable even with low travel.

The touchPad works flawlessly with single finger gestures. It only may become a problem when using two finger scrolling as it may not register the action appropriately sometimes.

 Summary 

This is another great choice with nearly every feature you can ask for the price. The processor and RAM are fast enough to handle every task you throw at it even high end games at low settings or heavy editing programs. You also get the latest connectivity with it (USB Type C) without the need to deal with adapter as it also supports the old school USB Ports.

Best of all, the performance and the durability are further increased by the design behind it as it will run cool enough during every type of usage to last you more than your average budget laptop can.

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3. ASUS Zenbook UX305CA

ASUS ZenBook UX305CA best intel core i3 laptop

Processor Generation Cores Threads Speed Cache Size
Core M3-6Y30 6 2 4 2.2 GHz 4MB

RAM: 8GB DDR3L SDRAM | Storage: 256GB SSD  |
GPU:
 Intel HD
 | Display: 13.3″ TouchScreen QHD (3200X1800) IPS

Lastly out of the core i3 traditional laptops , for those who were are looking for a lightweight option, this is your best alternative in terms of portability while keeping up with almost the same performance as the ASUS& ACER as far as basic computing tasks go. It does come with a few more premium features however which will increase its price significantly most notably the display and its resistant design.

 Performance

The CPU is the lower end side of core i3 processor, being of the M series, it supposedly performs below the core i3 ultralow power we’ve shown above. However this is the processor of choice to make a laptop as ultraportable as this one.

It may come to surprise that it’s actually quite fast and as good as the core i3 processor shown which is really an exception among the general rule. But that’s for basic computing applications and tasks, intensive tasks and high end games may show you a different performance between the two types.

Benchmark tests however shown that this laptop’s processor isn’t that far below in terms of performance from the core i3 within the DEL XPS 13 (a far more expensive and premium laptop), scoring 20 000 vs 22 000 in octane scores.

Although it is a DD3RL technology, the RAM is maxed out to 8GB RAM unlike most laptops shown here. 8GB RAM is really all you will need from a core i3 laptop,for all the applications, software, games and more heavy apps you’ll throw at it.

The storage is already upgraded with an SSD with decent capacity to store all of your files without the need of external cards. Though not as good as a 1TB from HDD, 256GB from an SSD is quite a good deal since they can’t offer with much capacity but the increase in overall speeds (booting up times, workflow with most software, reading/writing file speed) is worth the cash and the smaller capacity.

Due to the SSD, maxed out RAM and the peculiar M3 core processor you can expect this laptop to perform just as good as any laptop shown here when it comes to basic apps, light gaming, running a dozen tabs in web browsing apps, some heavy development with programming software(iOS, Android app development) and be able to handle a few intensive editing programs such as photoshop.

 Design

The design is the strongest point from this laptop is the design and probably the main reason why you want to invest on it. 

Since the SSD and core m3 processor are both optimized not to rely on fans and operate without moving parts. This laptop is absolutely silent. The only sound you’ll get from it is if you start typing.

It’s made of all aluminum unlike any of the laptops shown here which makes it more resistant to physical damage for those constantly on the go too. It can go as far as feeling a little cold to the touch getting just to regular temperature when turned on (it never gets hot and you’ll never feel it is on your lap).

While you don’t get the newest port around the block (USB Type C which is built for future compatibility and devices). You do get all the ports you ever need from a laptop today : x3 USB 3.0 ports, full Size SD Card reather and mini HDMI.

 Battery Life & Weight

It remains extremely light similar to a full blown tablet at 2.6lb which is almost half the weight of the traditional laptops shown here.

As expected from the processor and storage device, the battery life is extremely long. It can go as far as 11 hours of moderate usage at low brightness (Word editing, excel, browsing the internet with a music playlist on the background). On regular usage and brightness it can go up 9 hours.

 Display & Sound

The display is another reason to spend on this laptop. It’s full HD, has an IPS panel which is better than the Acer for better viewing angles and far more color accuracy. Some models may come uncalibrated with a yellowish tint but this is just a settings configuration misplaced which you can easily solve by going to the display settings on panel control. After doing that you’ll get the best viewing experience from a core i3 laptop.

Brightness levels are very high enabling you to not care too much about visibility issues in bright areas. Plus the color accuracy covers the entire gamut of sRGB space. Needless to say you also get the best photo editing & movie watching experience with it.

It’s not over yet, it comes with a matte finish too. Meaning you’ll be able to safely use it on areas that may have a strong glare and damage your vision and viewing quality.

On the so-so side, the sound is clear at all volumes but quite. In other words the volume doesn’t go very high for you to blast your music for everyone in the floor to listen to.

 KeyBoard & TouchPad

Both the keyboard and touchpad are more reasons to spend on this one. It offers the best quality among the laptops shown on this list.

The keys have an excellent travel, typing on it will feel just as good as the MacBook Air (which has the best keyboard on the market as far as I’m concerned). The keyboard build quality is nothing cheap either. While many of the laptops shown here do  have a flex when you press hard on the center of theirs this one has none,zero, nada.

The trackPad is smooth, accurate and responsive for every gesture and function you do with it too.

 Summary 

In summary, this is the best i3 laptop you can get if you care about portability more than performance. Though the performance doesn’t compare with processors beyond the core i3 family,  the performance from this one is just as good as any of the laptops shown here for basic tasks and multitasking which are also in core i3 series.

For the extra cash you are paying, you get the best quality features all around it: best display, keyboard, touchPad and most of all the portability.

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 Best 2-in-1 i3 Laptops

4. Acer Aspin

Best 2-1 i3 Laptop
Acer Spin 5 Best core i3 laptop

Processor Generation Cores Threads Speed Cache Size
Core  i3-7100U 6 2 4 2.4 GHz 3MB

RAM: 4GB DDR4 | Storage: 128GB SSD  |
GPU:
 Intel HD
 | Display: 13.3″ full HD (1920×1080) IPS TouchScreen

While many would label the Dell Inspiron i3158-3275SLV best 2-in-1 i3 laptop , this is another great option which is just as good more portable at a more reasonable price.

 Performance

The CPU is nearly the same as the Acer Aspire 15, 7th generation generation to give you an increase in speed and a more efficient power consumption. Do note that despite being a tablet like laptop it does not come with a core m3 mobile processor (which leans more towards basic tasks) but a core i3 ultra low power processor just like the acer aspire which will allow you to push it beyond basic computing tasks.

The RAM is also of the latest technology DDR4 and sitting at 4GB RAM enough for multitasking and running several tabs open on chrome or firefox. Despite being a tablet laptop it’s also upgradeable and can go as far as 16GB though that may be a little too expensive and unnecessary as mentioned before.

The storage device luckily is better than the Acer Aspire, a solid state drive. You might only need  to upgrade it if you find the space to limiting later on. The drawback is worth it however since an SSD will give you fast start up times and fast launching of most of your apps and increase in FPS into our favorite games (due faster access to gaming files from ur laptop)

The GPU performance the same as the Acer aspire due to having the same processor and latest generation Kaby Lake.

Web browsing, online doc editors , netflix , youtube or pandora running in the background as you program or use a word editor, etc, should cause no problems or hiccups. Since all its components are pretty much the same as the Acer aspire and will allow you to run just about the same software and apps at low settings (3D high end games) however with an increase in loading up/accessing your apps and making your applications run faster due to the SSD technology. 

 Design

The design is what it is for a budget laptop, made mostly of all plastic with a sleek look to it. The only part that’s made of aluminum is the top lid however the rest of the chassis is quite thick and solid which doesn’t feel cheap and won’t scratch that easy.

It’s thin enough to just throw it in your backpack and carrying it around everywhere but grabbing with one hand can leave some fingerprints on it in which case a microfiber cloth can do the trick.

It has every port you may need : x2 USB, x1 USB 3.0, HDMI , SD Card Reader, headphone jack but does lack an ethernet port like all convertible laptops  to ensure portability and thinness above all.

 Battery Life & Weight

Despite being a touchScreen energy draining laptop the battery life is pretty good at 8 hours with light use enough to last you an entier working day. It’s not as portable it’s competition at 3.5lb nonetheless portable enough to be carried around everywhere.

 Display & Sound

The Display comes with a full HD resolution for better productivity and crisp images along with an IPS for better color accuracy and viewing angles just like the Acer Aspire 15.  Its multitouch feature is also pretty responsive and can be paired with a digitizer pen.

It does suffer from low brightness levels. It is not meant to be used outdoors or in bright environments as you may not be able to see what’s on the screen. If you stay in doors using it for school or work, then this should pose no problems. 

The sound speakers are quite loud and clear as long as there is no obstruction to them which are located below no complains there but instruments and details can get distorted as you approach full maximum volume.

 KeyBoard & TouchPad

The keyboard quality is  good but can appear shallow for some , the keys have a short travel with the bonus of being very quiet when typing. However they provide a good amount of resistance for you to type fast, accurately and again quietly. It also comes with a backlit feature with two stages of brightness.

The TouchPad surprisingly is of decent quality too. Although made out of a plastic it does accurately register all types of manipulations and gestures. 

 Summary

This is a convertible that’s quite fast for a core i3 laptop. You can pretty run most games or programs at the lowest settings, throw in some heavy multitasking with software and multimedia in the background. If you ever feel the need for a boost in performance you can upgrade both its RAM and SSD as well. It can be a little heavy for a convertible laptop but still portable nonetheless with enough juice to last an entire day of productivity.

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5. HP Spectre X2 12

HP Spectre x2 best detachable i3 laptop

Processor Generation Cores Threads Speed Cache Size
Core m3-6y30 6 2 4 .9 GHz 3MB

RAM: 4GB LPDDR3 SDRAM | Storage: 128GB SSD  |
GPU:
 Intel HD
 | Display: 12.0” IPS Full HD TouchScreen

This is the best next option for those who can’t quite afford the acer spin. Another convertible laptop with enough power for your basic computing needs.

 Performance

CPU

This is a mobile CPU but since this is a convertible it’s the best choice for portability and power consumption. The Core m3 however is just as good as the more premium ASUS ZenBook shown above: 6th generation and the same model number.

RAM

The RAM is only 4GB which is enough for basic tasks usage of heavy programs and simple games. It is not upgrade-able unfortunately since the RAM is soldered into the motherboard however that may not be necessary as you’ll see shortly.

Storage

Luckily the storage is already upgraded to an SSD ,  though the capacity is small you can opt to buy an SD Card and increase it to nearly 200GB.

Usage

Despite the low RAM capacity you can expect this thing to fly when multitasking with web browsing tabs and basic computing tasks (music playlists, Microsoft Office, streaming videos, etc). You can also throw some photo editing with photoshop and run 3D modeling software that does not rely heavily on a dGPU. Popular 3D Games should be able to run at the lowest settings thanks to both the processor and the SSD. Just beware this is not meant to replace a computer for full blown video/3D applications or high end gaming but you can run such apps at the lowest settings and work with simple projects in 3D.

 Design

As you are probably aware of this is a touchscreen  tablet laptop with a digitizer. You can draw, take notes with it as accurately as you would with a real notebook.

The design is just like the Surface Pro, the kickstand can be adjusted to pretty much any position you may find comfortable for reading a document or viewing a movie. The part that really matters (the top lid) is made of full aluminum except near the end where it’s made out of black glass , while the display is of course made entirely of glossy glass surface.

Due to the processor and the SSD, this is also noiseless mostly because the core i3 processor does not use a fan (or heat up) under high load. You can go as far as using it under any type of surface and still won’t heat up.

The ports might be an issue if you do really heavily on old school USB devices it only comes with USB Type C port which only will work with few and future devices. Fortunately, it does come with a free adapter in case you still want to use USB memory sticks instead of Cloud storage or for external peripherals (mouse).

 Display & Sound

The display , although has been mediocre on past versions, the latest one shown here is a far improvement that can match up its competitors.

You don’t get the same resolution as the king of convertible laptops (the surface pro): 3000×2000 but the full HD resolution and  IPS panel gives great reading experience and everything remains visible from just about any angle. The only caveat from the display are the brightness levels which are mediocre and not really usable on the outside or highly illuminated areas.

The sound quality on the other hand is not as good as its more expensive competitors. It’s not as loud as one would hope and can be hard to listen to if there is too much background noise even on full volume. A pair of headphones is a must for students who are constantly on the library and wish to listen to a lecture as adjusting the settings and playing with drivers may not return much improvement.

On the flip side, it does come with a 3D Camera to take shots in 3D for you play around with upcoming software.

 KeyBoard & TouchPad

The keyboard is actually quite good along with the trackpad. It has a decent travel and is responsive. There is enough feedback for you to hit your highest typing speeds and doesn’t feel shallow as any cheaper options. It does come with a back-light feature which is perfect when trying to get work done at night and on the go.

 Battery Life & Weight

Under moderate usage the battery life is great clocking at 8 hours which is a couple more than its more expensive competitor(the surface pro) and actually quite good for an energy draining touchscreen laptop.

Lastly, the weight is low enough to be taken anywhere nearly having the same weight as a tablet or the surface pro at only 2.7lb.

 Summary

This is a great alternative to higher premium convertible laptops capable of handling more than just your basic tasks and software while also being a note taking device.

I would definitely recommend this one if you are a student on a budget who can’t afford the insane prices of the surface pro but would love to get the best of both worlds: performance and portability. While the surface has nearly the same specs but has a higher quality all around for multimedia experience (better display & sound),  this is several hundreds of dollars cheaper and comes with the keyboard included.

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How to Find The Best i3 Laptops

As mentioned before, to find the best i3 laptops yourself you are gonna have to learn quite a bit about Intel core processors and how to read the numbers you see on their labels. However I rather keep all the details about the entire line to a different article and focus this section only on i3 core processors since you already made the decision to roll with them. Alternatively you can watch this video to have a general and quick understanding behind them or read my other two articles which deal with Intel Core i5 and Intel Core i7 laptops for better options (yet still affordable) and more detail about the Intel Core line of processors.

This section however and everything said here should be sufficient for you to pick the best i3 laptop.

Processor

There are three sections to worry about when shopping for Intel’s sneaky and misleading labels: the generation (gen indicator), the series (line suffix U or Y) and the model number (the numbers after the generation number or the SKU Numeric Digits as shown below).

intel core i3 processor label

U vs. M Lines: Warning!

Core i3 processors today come in two flavors: the M-Series and the U-series. The M series stands for mobile while the U series for ultra low power.

All you need to know about these two are the fact that the M-series does not offer any advantage and it’s actually worse in both performance and battery life than the U series. M core i3 processors have been designed to fit in into very small devices, hence the name “M” for “mobile”. They are suitable for ultra lightweight and small laptops like the new MacBook.

They’re still good enough for basic tasks and general computer needs but not near as fast or powerful as the U series.

Which one should I pick M or U line?

If you care about performance and high speeds settle down with the U series. If portability is an issue and you really want a the smallest laptop out there capable of doing just basic tasks(email, word editing and web surfing) without having any lag, the M series is for you.

Features

Intel core i series have the following features: multiple cores, hyper-threading & turbo-boost.

Number of Cores

All i3 core processors have two cores. Each core can be considered a different CPU.

If you are running several programs all at once, instead of having all of these using the same “brain” or CPU as in single core processors. A dual core will handled it more efficiently if all the programs you are running can be shared between the two just like having two computers or two people working on two different tasks or (even the same task).

If you are playing a game, using discord or Skype and lightning to a song. One core can take care of two programs (Skype and a music playlist) while the other core can run your game.

Hyper Threading

If you have a single core processor but you still need to have two cores, hyper-threading will allow you to artificially have “two cores”. They are “virtual cores” because in reality you only have one physical core. In total you would have “two virtual cores” to handle your programs all at once rather than one single core. You can read how hyper-threading works here.

Likewise if you two cores, hyper-threading will allows you to have “four virtual cores”.

In summary, with hyper-threading you can have more programs open and run them faster too.

Luckily, all Intel core i3 processors have this feature.

Turbo Boost: warning !

Turbo boost simply means your processor (or rather each “physical core”) will increase its clock speed on its own (therefore making your computer faster) only when there’s a need to do so: mostly when the computer is at an allowed temperature (turbo boosting with a computer already hot will damage its components as it will increase the temperature further) and you actually need that increase in performance (to run a heavy game or software).

But there’s no turbo boost in i3 core processors except with the M series (it actually needs it since it’s already slower than the U series). Even with turbo boost the M series performance is not as near as the U series. 

Since you are buying this laptop for basic tasks and a few heavy apps, having no turbo boost is ok it is more useful for 3D modeling software and heavy multimedia editing applications and very intensive 3D games.

Generations: 5th, 6th and 7th 

These are the most up to date and common generations you’ll find within core i3 laptops. Although each model and each generation can perform differently. This is a good general guideline to follow:

  • There isn’t much difference in battery life and performance between a 7th and 6th generation processor and may not worth paying more money.
  • The increase in performance and battery life, especially performance, is significant going from 5th to 6th generation. Might be worth an investment.
  • 2nd, 3th and 4th generation processors are not worth looking at or considering even if they are offered for free. Their performance is very low since they are extremely outdated.
  • The higher the SKU number by each generation, the better the increase in performance. The difference is significant going from 6000 to 6100 while staying nearly the same if the last 3 digits are in the same “hundred”: 100, 110, 120,etc.

You can reach the same conclusions by following the rating numbers next to each processor here.

Only worry about the processor after you have maxed out on all other specs. Avoid most Y/M series if speed and running far more than basic tasks is what you’re after ( there are a few exceptions though as shown above).

Do I need a i3 core processor ? Which should pick ? The M line or the U line series?

Nearly all core i3 processors will give you enough performance (even the M line series) for basic tasks. Going beyond basic tasks such as “light photo editing” , some “gaming” and other more intensive apps or a lot more multitasking will require the core i3 U line over the M line.

Battery life is much better with the U line as well but portability may not be as good as laptops with core m3 processors since they can fit in very small laptops and do not use fans to cool them down.

How do I increase the performance beyond to what I already have?

Even if you have the slowest CPU out of the entire i3 family, you can still have a great performance if you focus on other features (RAM and Storage for example) rather than spending all your money on more “powerful core i3 processors”.

RAM

Aim to have at least 4GB RAM so your processor can perform at its best. A boost to 8GB RAM will allow you to increase the overall performance of your laptop and is highly recommended to ensure you never face any tiny amount of lag when multitasking with basic apps. 8GB will also allow you to use a little more heavy software such as some light photo or video editing.

If you ever find a laptop with 16GB RAM (ever), you can go for it , it’s cheap but you won’t see much improvement in performance if any with apps or even multitasking. It’s always nice to have a laptop with a 16GB RAM sticker on it though (sold separately).

Storage

The increase in overall performance from having a Solid State Driver for storage can be far greater than spending more cash for a higher end processor. You should seriously consider having one if you want to push your processor and computer beyond its limits.

The only issue is the fact that they do come with low storage capacities and more so on i3 laptops with most of them having only 128GB.

But if you are stuck with basic programs, apps and so on you can do just fine with a regular HDD which has far more storage in i3 laptops (500GB). This is more useful if you want to store all of your high resolution photos, videos and tons of games with your laptop.

Graphics

If you want to get the best graphics card from your core i3 laptop, even if its integrated, then aim for the latest generation processor you can  afford. Graphics cards (integrated) are always improved with every model even though there may not be much improvement with the processor itself.

How to Read Graphics Cards Labels

Reading graphics cards can be frustrating and mind boggling even for experts. But here’s a good guideline to follow:

Generally we would think that : Intel Iris Pro > Intel Iris > Intel HD

However that depends on the processor more than the card “label” and number.

According to this guide let’s take for example. An Intel HD 520, Intel Iris 550, Intel HD 530 and Intel Iris Pro 580. You would think that

Intel Iris Pro 580> Intel Iris 550 > Intel HD 530 > Intel HD 520. 

In reality is more like this:              

Intel Iris Pro 580>  Intel  HD 530 > Intel Iris 550> Intel HD 520

How do you deal with this? Just focus on the processor and not the graphics card, the more recent processor will have a better graphics card over its predecessor within the core i3 family.

Battery Life

You probably know that there are huge differences between various i5 and i7 models. For the most part, the faster they are the more power they consume (and the shorter the battery life they have). When it comes to i3 processors, however, they are all of a very similar performance. In other words, you shouldn’t worry too much about small differences in specs between processor model if you want to consider battery life.

If you do want to maximize battery life, the latest 7th generation will give you better battery life . If you pair up whatever processor you end up with a nice SSD, your battery life will also increase significantly.

Games & Software

MineCraft

Minecraft will run on almost any computer as long as you set the graphic settings appropiately. Most regular laptops aimed at the general consumer will not be able to withstand high graphic settings. However optimization software such as OptiFine can bring your FPS back up while allowing you to play at decent settings.

Regardless, With core i3 laptops if you want to hit high FPS you will need to go easy on the settings: lightining, textures, rendering distance and the size of the screen and take out the mods and plug ins you have installed.

You can achieve higher FPS if you do find a core i3 laptop with  8GB RAM however. Aim at least for 4GB to make it playable.

Other games & Software

Similarly other games that you want to run on your core i3 laptop will benefit more on more RAM  than an SSD or a higher end processor. If you maxed out on RAM (8GB RAM), then you can focus on better core i3 processor which have better integrated graphics card.

Ergonomics: keyboard, trackpad, design

There are not many reviews for i3 core laptops but they do review their counterparts with higher models, this should be enough for you to find out what they’re really like without stepping into the store and look at them yourself.

Benchmarks

You can use the following benchmark tests if you are unsure which core i3 processor offers the best bang for your buck:

Note Book check

Geek Bench

CPU Boss.

Just ignore all the jargon and go right straight into the final rating after you plugged their labels or found them within their lists. Use CTRL+F and find your processor and the one you want to compare it with if their site provides you with a list.

For example:

The i3-7100U is one of the latest releases by Intel. This is one of the most recent processors which has been released in October 2016 and as you can see is of the 7th (latest) generation.

If you use benchmark studies, you will find this processor generation brings significantly faster performance than the previous Skylake generation i3-6100U. If you do compare it with other i3 6000 models you may find that the boost in performance between the two may not be worth it!

Bottom Line

The best core i3 laptop isn’t necessarily the one with the latest generation. As long as you stay away from core m3 series (if you want to run more than basic apps and throw some serious multitasking), they all have about the same performance.

Maxing out on RAM and never picking up one less than 4GB RAM is the way to go. If you can find one with 8GB RAM, then grab it as soon you can or upgrade yours if it’s possible. That way you’ll never lag with most applications and even run some decent games with the right configurations. Going for 16GB RAM is pointless as you core i3 processor will not be able to take advantage of all that memory, money will be better spend on having an SSD which will give you a significant boost all around.

You can then worry about having the latest generation and model for your core i3 processor which in turns will give you the best graphics card (integrated) too.