A late generation Core i3 laptop CPU has enough power not only for basic everyday tasks but also for AAA games, video and photo editing and even let you multitask with these operations.
However, the whole point of looking for what people call the best i3 laptop is to get as much power without spending anything more than 500$.
It’s not easy to nail down which of these have the best bang for your buck because there are gazillions of these.
So for most people finding the best i3 laptop deal is is going to be harder than looking for a needle in a coal mine.
That’s right several thousand of results.
Out those results, there are a LOT of ANCIENT core i3 laptops that will run nothing more than MS Paint and PacMan.
Don’t believe me?
Check this one out, a 6th generation processor? We are in the 11th generation now and the 12th generation is only two months away.
Even after you weed out all the old laptops, prices of 10th and 11th gen Core i3 laptops can be all over the place despite having the same hardware.
The point is…
YOU want to get the maximum performance for your budget.
So, how can you do this?
You just need to know a few things about Intel Core i3 CPUs (nothing too technical just basic mumbo jumbo).
Next, you HAVE to know what you SHOULD be getting for a given budget (Ex: 350$ is plenty of cash for an 11th gen Core i3 laptop).
Before we go over the 5 best Core i3 Laptops in 2022. I’ll outline these things you need to keep in mind when shopping for one just in case you find these models out of stock.
Best Core i3 Laptop Specifications
Let’s start with the basics of how hardware (RAM & Storage) can increase performance then we’ll talk about CPUs briefly.
4GB: It’s not enough for any kind of work with Windows 10 Home. Fine for Chrome OS/Windows 10 in S Mode/Linux.
8GB: The perfect amount for Windows 10 Home. Any heavy lifting like gaming, 3D work, Photo/Video editing.
16GB: no Core i3 laptop will have this much but MOST will be upgradeable to 16GB (though it may only be useful for HEAVY duty photo/video editing).
Fail to get one and Windows will run slow no matter how fast your CPU is.
128GB SSD: Extremely common on Core i3 laptops especially on those below 400$.
256GB SSD: Much less common but found on laptops above 500$ (it’s much cheaper to do the upgrade yourself, we’ll get to that).
4th,5th gen CPU: These are over 10 years old and only avaiable at museums. Don’t get these even if they’re free.
6th, 7th gen CPU: Can still be found on renewed/refurbished laptops. You should only be paying 200$ for these. They’re fast for everyday tasks.
8th: These are much much faster and this is the starting point to run heavy duty applications. Prices can be fair depending what else you get with it. 400$ with 8GB RAM.
10th gen CPU: Most common after 11th gen CPUs. Not necessarily faster than 8th gen CPUs but they support the fastest RAM memory available. Pay no more than 400$ unless you get other cool specs: IPS panel, 256GB RAM [/tip]
11th gen CPU: Significantly faster than 10th. Lowest configuration sells for 350-400$ (4GB RAM + 128GB storage).
Lastly, you’ll find Core m3/Y3 CPUs on convertible 2 in 1 TouchScreen laptops, these are fine for those devices.
GPU (Graphics Card)
Don’t worry about GPUs, all Core i3 laptops have an integrated GPU and they will all perform more or less the same. However, the more recent the generation the faster the iGPU (though only slightly)
TN HD Display: Most common display on core i3 laptops. Not very good for multitasking, try to avoid this unless you can’t shell out +350$.
IPS FHD Display: Not that uncommon, 370$ is enough cash to make sure you have this much resolution.
Top 5 Best Core i3 Laptops in 2022
Finding an AFFORDABLE Core i3 laptop with a recent processor and all the computer goodness we went over AND a FHD display is like finding kryptonite in your backyard so it’s not really /*-something your entitled to have. Worst case scenario, you’re going to have to upgrade the RAM or give up something else (we’ll talk about it soon).
Best i3 1115G4 Laptop
Intel Core i3-1115G4
Intel UHD Graphics
15” full HD IPS
|Clock Speed||Turbo||Generation||Cores||Threads||Cache Size|
This year, I’m also placing an Acer Aspire 5 first because it still is the cheapest laptop with the most recent Core i3 CPU on it.
That’s the main reason it became the best selling laptop on Amazon for the past few years.
However the title has now been taken over by the Acer Aspire 5 with a “Ryzen 3” CPU, which you may want to take a look.
But basically if you compare specs side by side, you’ll notice both of these laptops have the exact same hardware except for the CPU.
If you want to know the truth, the Core i3 CPU , especially this 11th gen CPU, is moderately faster than the Ryzen 3 CPU. Both are suitable to run the most popular AAA games at low settings though: OW, WoW,Sims 4,etc.
Low graphics games like MC, LoL, CS GO, Dota 2 will run at medium settings.
RAM: The main issue with the cheapest laptops that have the latest Core i3 on board (or Ryzen 3) is that they only come with 4GB RAM. Which like I said, it’s plenty for any operating system except Windows 10 Home and of course Windows 11.
Windows 10 in S mode:
4GB is plenty of memory to run Windows 10 in S with all the everyday tasks you have in mind (simultaneously) : Zoom,MS Office, Word, Excel, Chrome, FireFox, Adobe Reader, Code editors. Which are by the way all availble for free on the Windows App Store.
Windows 10 Home / Windows 11:
If you want to install third party software or the games I’ve mentioned you will have to switch to WIndows 10 Home.
8GB RAM: What you will have to do is update the RAM to at least 8GB otherwise you WILL lag with Windows 10 Home and the situation will only get worse if you buy a license for Windows 11.
Luckily, RAM sticks are very cheap these days. It’s much more cost friendly to do the upgrade yourself (or ask someone to do it) than buying the upgraded 8GB RAM Acer Aspire 5 version.
If you don’t want to do any upgrades and use Windows 10 Home or Windows 11 check out the following laptops.
One problem with the cheapest laptops with a fast and recent Core i3 is that their display’s resolution is pretty low for any serious multitasking. They will have HD+ or HD resolutions for the most part. Check out this 2022 HP laptop which has the same CPU more RAM but an HD display.
The problem there is that RAM can be upgraded but YOU CANT UPGRADE the display (well you can but it’s really really expensive time consuming and difficult) so you’re better off buying this Acer Aspire 5 which ALREADY HAS A FHD resolution display and an IPS panel at that (IPS panels vastly improve viewing angles and add a little more spice to the colors rendered on the screen).
Best Core i3 Laptop – 11th generation
Intel Core i3-1115G4
8GB RAM DDR4
Intel UHD Graphics 620
256GB PCIe NVMe SSD
15.6” FHD IPS Panel
|Clock Speed||Turbo||Generation||Cores||Threads||Cache Size|
This is 30$ more expensive despite having the exact same CPU as the Acer Aspire 5 but that price change is well justified:
Yup, exact same CPU and the latest as of Februrary 2022 (the 12th generation is coming in the next few months).
But it has RAM upgraded to 8GB and storage SSD to 256GB which saves you hassle of doing any upgrades. In fact, the price different is exactly how much you’d to have to spend to upgrade the Acer Aspire 5:
Those upgrades are perfect for Windows 10 Home and even better for Windows 11 which is a little more hardware demanding.
Anyways, these are the exact same numbers you need to have for any heavy-duty work that you want to run on a Core i3 laptop. It’s going to help tons when photo/video editing and will make playing the most hardware demanding games possible (albeit at low settings).
Display isn’t HD or HD+ or has a TN panel, it’s got the exact high quality display of the Acer Aspire 5, there are no caveats here.
Intel 10th Gen i3-1005G1
8GB RAM DDR4
Intel UHD 610
14” FHD TN Panel
|Clock Speed||Turbo||Generation||Cores||Threads||Cache Size|
Laptops with the 10th Core i3 CPUs are going to be significantly cheaper than 11th Core i3 Laptops (if you look long enough). They’re a great option if you are on a really low budget but you still want to run the FULL VERSION OF WINDOWS 10 and not be limited in performance when multitasking and when running dozens of web browsing tabs with video playback.
For everyday tasks and actual work (programming, multitasking with zoom/pdf readers/MS Office) the difference is insignificant.
However, if you want to run AAA games at low settings the lack of clock speed is going to be a limiting factor.
Anyways, it’s a great option if you’re on a budget and you’re not going to run anything that’s taxing on the CPU (mostly gaming really).
Best i3 ChromeBook
Intel HD Graphics 615
64GB Flash Memory
13” full HD TN TouchScreen
|Clock Speed||Turbo||Generation||Cores||Threads||Cache Size|
Now I don’t have a problem with ChromeBooks and in fact I’m a big fan of ChromeBooks.
What I DO have a problem with is how manufacturers make ChromeBooks with Core i3 CPUs so damn expensive. The average price of ChromeBooks with Core i3 CPUs is 450$, prices can go up as 700$!
That just ain’t right, it ain’t right.
This Acer ChromeBook 713 on the other hand, despite having the exact same Core i3 CPU (Core i3 10100U) the most expensive ChromeBooks have, sells for half the price.
Yeah it doesn’t have 8GB RAM and it also lacks the SSD storage but this is not a windows machine, you don’t need these things because you are not running Windows 10 Home or Windows 11 on a Chromebook. You’re running Chrome OS and maybe a Linux Distro like Ubuntu.
Now why would you want a Core i3 10100U CPU for a very efficient operating system like Chrome OS( AKA it doesn’t need a high speed CPU)?
That’s a good question. Any ChromeBook even the ones with the weakest hardware will let you run tons of web browsing tabs and all the everyday software from the Windows App Store: Office, Zoom, Discord, Excel, OneNote,etc.
So why add a more powerful CPU on it?
Because you can :
- Now run several games and apps from the android store with higher framerates/speed (simultaneously)
- Photo edit with much ease (no waiting for effects to apply).
And most importantly:
If you are not a programmer you probably didn’t know that you can actually install ANY Linux Distro on ChromeBooks and you don’t have to get rid of Chrome OS. You can have them both side by side and switch back between them with just a restart.
Once you get a Linux Distro on a ChromeBook is like opening pandora’s box, not just for programming but for pretty much every other task you have in mind. You will get access to millions of third party software that have all different kinds of hardware requirements to run smoothly.
Now, any Chrome OS can run Linux but you’ll be limited to what you can do with Celeron/Pentium or even worse MediaTek (atom chips). A core i3 CPU (a late generation at that) will open up the possibility of interacting with most third party software available with zero lag which include Photo Editing Software/ Video Editing Software/ 3D games, etc.
If you’re a hardcore programmer or a web developer a Core i3 becomes even more useful because you know how important a CPU is for quick compiling, installing packages and looping through computionally intensive functions.
It’s also nice to test be able to test a small sample of a heavy code before uploading to AWS services.
That brings me to one issue with this ChromeBook: Storage & RAM.
For most purposes RAM is not going to be an issue since you’re just running Linux. However, with heavier apps and programs, you MIGHT need 8GB RAM.
The storage isn’t really an issue because although 64GB is pretty low , you can always attach an SD Card and add an extra 256GB.
However most of the stuff you run on Chrome OS is stored in the Cloud it might not be an issue. It’s only an issue once you install Linux and want to try out all the heavy duty software.
Like everychromebook it’s basically lightweight, keyboard’s snappy and the battery can last for ~10 hours.
The best part of the design is the display: it’s a got 2k resolution display with an IPS panel. Pretty much the best display on this list so far and all under 350$!
What I don’t like about the design is the fact that the MEMORY (RAM) is soldered to the motherboard so you can’t upgrade to 8GB. This is really a bummer but it had to have at LEAST one caveat for all this hardware goodness at this price.
If I made you save a lot of cash through this purchase (I’m sure I did!), I recommend you spend the rest of your money in the following accessories:
Skins: If you want your ChromeBook to remain scratch-free and shiny for the next 10 years, get one especially those vinyl skins which also protect the screen cover, keyboard and where the palm of your hand rests.
Anti-Glare Screen protector: This IPS panel is cool and all but it can take a toll on your eye, the colors are just too intense. It’s going to help with glares when you use this outside (hopefully soon , knock on wood). It’s also going to protect it from those oily fingers when you’re french fries.
Blue-Tooth Mouse: Must buy if your work needs precision (more like games 😛 ).
TouchPen: This is a touchScreen laptop but it can’t be turned into a tablet, the hinges do not support the 2-1 feature of convertible laptops. That means if you want to use the touchScreen you may have to raise and extend your arm! Buying a touchPen can help here by decreasing the distance between you and the screen.
Intel Core i3-10100Y 1.3 – 3.9 GHz
8GB RAM DDR3
Intel UHD Graphics 615
10” IPS 1800×1200 Pixel Sense
Lastly, the most expensive laptop on the list (~700$) and rightly so if you ask me.
You’re getting the best hardware you can get for a 10 inch 2 in 1 Device. As of 2022, there’s no better CPU to use a very small form factor than this Core i3 10100Y.
The display is also the best for the price (~1800×1200 pixels – higher than FHD = 1920×1080) and this is going to be of huge help to multitask in a such small screen and watching movies at higher resolution than FHD.
You could get a model with just 4GB RAM to cut down prices but I wouldn’t recommend you doing so as doing the upgrade yourself is nearly impossible on devices this small which have pretty much everything soldered to the motherbard.
You should be choosing the 8GB, 128GB model if you want high performance when running heavy duty apps like Photo or Video Editing software (though nothing too intensive) and most importantly GAMES !!!
The lightest laptop as of 2022. It only weights 1.2lbs and 1.7lbs with a keyboard, it’s got basically the weight of a tablet.
The best part of the design is that it’s a convertible 2 in 1 TouchScreen Laptop that you can use as a tablet and when you pair up with the Stylus it basically acts as an iPad Pro: you can draw, design , takes notes and interacts with software through the stylus with the same accuracy of the iPad Pro.
How to Find The Best i3 Laptops
In this section we’re going to over all the MUMBO JUMBO you need to know so you can do your OWN research and find the Best Core i3 Laptops on your own.
Intel has been really sneaky on labeling their processors but if you know these three things you should be able to tell what kind of processor you have , aka, how fast and recent it is:
- The generation: Gen indicator. The higher the number the more recent the generation. There’s no 1/2 generation so if you see a 1 upfront it means it’s an 10th , 11th, 12th generation.
- The series: Linux Suffix. This will tell you if its either a high performance CPU or a Low voltage CPU (for everyday tasks). Core i3 CPUs have either U, M or a Y as suffix.
- The 10th and 11th generation have introduced a new letter G, which you may find not necessarily find at the end of a CPU’s name.
- The model number: SKU numeric digits. This is more or less a random number so you can tell two CPUs apart if they have the same generation/suffix.
U or (G) vs. M (or Y) Suffix Lines:
Core i3 processors come in two or three or four flavors: U-processors or G-processors and Y-processors or M-processors.
The M (and Y) letter stands for mobile and the U letter stands for ultra low power. The G stands for “graphics” but for all purposes they are the same as U processors.
All you need to know about these four is that the M and Y are processors that are mainly designed for devices that require LESS computer power such as tablets.
There’s nothing wrong about M and Y processors. In fact, they’re the only choice manufacturers have when designing VERY VERY Small laptops ( 11inch laptops).
Think of the Surface Go, the iPad Pro and so on. There’s no way a full blown laptop CPU can fit in there so all they can support are these two CPUs.
Regardless, all of these four CPUs still have plenty of power for the average user. You can multitask as you would with any other CPU.
Which one should I pick M or U line?
The difference is really about performance on heavy duty applications. If you’re running games, photo editing, video editing somewhere you’re going to need a U or G CPU with the U processor, on average, being the best choice.
The M and Y CPUs are fine for portability purposes and everyday tasks (email, word editing, web surfing, streaming videos, programming, etc).
Now that you know what the labels mean, let’s talk about what they entail for performance.
All CPUs regardless of their company have the following features: multiple core computing, hyper-threading & turbo-boost.
Number of Cores
Most Core i3 CPUs have two cores. The 12th generation CPUs might change that and finall make them have at least 4 cores.
You can think of each core as a separate computer or as having an extra CPU.
So the more cores you have, the more CPUs you have to compute something.
Since the workload is now shared between several “cores”, they should make a computer faster.
Not all computer tasks take advantage of this feature. Having more cores doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to play games with higher framerates. But it does help when multitasking:
Ex: If you have a game open, discord open and listening to music at the same time. One core can take care of two programs and another one will be solely devoted to run the game.
It’s mainly useful for multitasking. Having more cores doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to edit photos faster or edit videos faster or make your game run faster. It will help on anything that is NOT a step by step calculation (things that CAN be calculated separately).
Think of having to paint a wall, the more painters you have the faster you’ll finish. More cores help here.
If you have to make a ladder, having more workers doesn’t necessarily increase the time you’ll finish. A faster worker(CPU) will!
Cores are physical objects, that means if you open your laptop, you’ll see the CPU having two “computing chips”.
Hyper threading is a trick (a programming algorithm) that makes a CPU artificially have “more cores” than the number of physical cores it has.
You could call them “virtual cores” because in reality they don’t exist physically.
Usually hyper threading will get two virtual cores out of one physical cores. So in theory, it multiplies the number of cores you have by 2. Processors that have this feature will obviously out perform those who don’t.
Turbo Boost: very important
You may have noticed CPUs description will usually have “Up to XX GHz). For example a Core i3 10100U description would say Up to 4.1GHz.
That means that the CPU will only reach 4.1GHz using turbo boost, that’s not the speed it will operate AT ALL TIMES. It will really operate at those speeds when it NEEDs to AND if the temperatures are not that high (otherwise it may melt trying to reach those speeds).
Base Speed: Most CPUs will operate at the base speed (which is about -1GHz slower) and reach Turbo Boost when you launch very hardware demanding tasks (such as gaming with very graphical intensive games) . For that it will need to make sure the air cooling system has cooled down the CPU to a safe temperature. Using a separate cooler will somewhat help Turbo Boost operate more safely.
Generations: 5th, 6th and 7th ,8th,10th, 11th, 12th
Let’s talk about the difference in CPU generations. The ones I’ve listed here are basically the ones you will find most of the time when shopping for desktops/laptops. 3rd and 4th generation CPUs are obselete at this point. Opting for the older ones might save you a lot of money.
- There’s almost no difference in battery life and performance between a 7th and 6th generation. So it’s not woth paying extra cash for the former.
- There’s a much significant different between 7th and 8th generation CPUs.
- The difference between 9th and 8th gen CPUs is also insignificant.
- 10th and 11th gen CPUs are way faster then previous generations.
- 12th generation CPUs (which should be here in the next few months) are said to only be more “multi-task” efficient, not necessarily faster than 11th or 10th gen CPUs.
- 2nd, 3th and 4th generation CPUs are not worth looking at even if you get them for free. Their performance is extremely poor for pretty much everything.
Model Number between generations: Here’s a good rule of thumb.
- All things being equal (generation, suffix) the higher the SKU (model number) of a CPU the higher the performance. So let’s say a Core i3 6100 will have a significant increase (usually in clock speed) over a Core i3 6000.. However if only two digits change, the difference is insignificant (6000 to 6050).
- A good way to make sure which one is faster is by using CPU benchmarks such as the ones on this site.
Q: Do I need really a i3 core processor ? Which should pick ? The M line or the U line series?
- Again, if you’re just going to run software for the usual everyday tasks everyone does (Zoom, Office, Discord, some games, video playbacks) ANY CPU will so choose the cheapest line.- –
- Just be sure to stay clear of generations before the 8th. If you’re on a budget you can go as far as 6th and 7th.
- If you’re going beyond these basic tasks doing things like photo, video editing and running more graphically demanding games then you will need a processor with the U label ( a G will be better for games and U CPUs for heavy duty work).
Q: How do I increase performance if I already have a Core i3 CPU laptop?
By learning about RAM and Storage:
4GB: If you only have this much for Windows 10 home or Windows 11 , you are very likely to be bottlenecked for just about anything you do. This much is okay for Windows 10 in S mode/ChromeOS/Linux/Mac OSX.
8GB: This much should be enough for just about everything you do on a computer: games, photo/video editing, 3D modeling, etc. Get this much and witness the true power of your new CPU.
16GB: This much may be useful for Core i5/Core i7 CPUs if you need much much higher performance with heavy duty apps such as those just described but if you have a Core i3 CPU it will not make much difference.
There are two types of storage: Solid State Drives(SSD) and Hard Disk Drives(HDD).
Most laptops today have SSDs for storage drives and that’s a great thing because these are x5 times faster than HDD at reading/writing data. What this means is that every application will not run faster but will launch faster (almost instantly). Anything that requires the use of storage will be much faster basically including booting up the entire system which only takes a few seconds with SSDs.
The only issue with SSDs is that they have relatively low capacities (256GB is the average for Core i3 laptops) but if this is for everyday tasks it isn’t likely to ever be an issue. For anything else, there are several solutions.
GPU (Graphics Cards)
All GPUs on Core i3 laptops are integrated. YOU WILL NEVER FIND a dedicated GPU on a Core i3 laptop so stop looking for one.
Now, if you want to get the bet integrated GPU from core i3 laptops, you just need to get the CPU with most recent generation since these will automatically come with the latest GPUs released.
Best is very relatively, they will only be slightly better than previous generation GPUs.
How to Read Graphics Cards Labels
If there’s anything almost impossible to decipher is what the labels on integrated GPUs mean and which one is exactly better than the other.
Generally we would think that : Intel Iris Pro > Intel Iris > Intel HD
However like I said that all depends on the CPU too:
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.
But in reality is more like this:
How do you deal with this?
Just focus on the CPU, the better and the more recent, the better the integrated GPU. This works 100% of the time.
Also if you’re going to 10th or 11th gen Core i3 CPUs, then the process is much easier, there’s only Intel UHD Graphics: 615, 610, 620. The latter is faster but again only slightly.
The more powerful the CPU, the more power it will consume and consquently the shorter the battery life. Simple as that.
That’s one of the best reasons to look for the best core i3 laptops because these will have the relatively weaker core i3 CPUs which do not have that many cores, do not have super high clock speeds and turbo boost is pretty much limited.
What this means is that the battery life out of Core i3 laptop will be significantly better than Core i5 or Core i7 laptops.
If you have an SSD on top of your CPU, then battery life will be even higher.
Games & Software
MineCraft & Other games
Most people reading this article seem to play MineCraft too. I have an entirely separate article especifically about laptops for minecraft.
Just to summarize that article:
Even if you’ve got a 6th generation CPU (as long as you up RAM and SSD) you should be able to enjoy the game at least with low settings. You will also need to apply several optimization packages like OptiFine which should get your FPS in the 50FPS. You might also need to set lightining, textures and rendering distance to the lowest settings. Also you will need to get rid of most mods and plugins.
Now if you don’t want to do all of that and you’d like to play at least with decent or even high settings w/ mods. Then get a recent Core i3 laptop and make sure it has 8GB of RAM and you should be all set.
Other more graphical demanding Games & Software
For more graphical demanding games (like MMORPGs) Core i3 laptops (recent ones) should be able to run them at low settings. If you up the RAM to 16GB it isn’t likely to help you must at least have 8GB if you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 11.
As to speed up performance with heavy duty software: SSD. An SSD will make interacting through interfaces and reading/saving data files much much faster pair that with a recent Core i3 laptop and you’ll realize you never need a desktop or even a graphics card.
Just before we end the article, I wanna reiterate the usefullness of benchmarks.
Instead of learning all about there is about Intel Core i3 CPUs or any other CPu for that matter, you can use benchmarks to compare them side by side so you’re never ripped off. If you’d like to know the particular score of a CPU you’ve set your eyes on just use CTRL+F to find your processor or just type the name in the search bar.
That comparison might not be that useful since they’re basically of the same generation. However, once you put bring an older generation CPU the scores are very very insightful. You may find that 10th gen aren’t that slower than 11th gen CPUs. Hopefully the 12th generation Core i3 CPUs bring more performance and it’s not just a label thing as it usually has been with Intel.
If you have any suggestions or questions . Please let us know in the comments below.