Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question
Solved

Laptop decision: Is i7 worth it? i5 dual core that bad? A6 better than the numbers?

Last response: in Laptops & Notebooks
Share
May 7, 2014 10:00:36 PM

Hi all, I'm trying to help my mom purchase a new touchscreen laptop. Would really appreciate the advice of the community. It seems so difficult these days to determine what you are getting for the money, especially when it comes to the processor. I have tried researching and read some of what I found already posted, but seemed best to post this and ask for some great opinions from the Tom's family.

Looking at a few laptops currently on sale at Office Depot:

Lenovo IdeaPad
Core i3-4010U Dual Core (1.7GHz), 6GB PC3-12800, 1333MHz FSB, Intel HD 4400 Graphics
Battery Life: 5 hrs
$469.99 ($160 off original price)

Toshiba Satellite
AMD A6-5200 Quad Core (2.0GHz), 6GB PC3-10600, 1333MHz FSB, Radeon HD 8400 Graphics
Battery Life: 5.1 hrs
$529.99 ($50 off original price) (Also has $50 mail in rebate which would make price $479.99)

Lenovo IdeaPad
Core i5-4200U Dual Core (1.6-2.6GHz variable), 6GB PC3-12800, 1600MHz FSB, Intel HD 4400 Graphics
Battery Life: 5 hrs
$569.99 ($160 off original price)

Toshiba Satellite
Core i7-4700MQ Quad Core (2.4-3.4GHz variable), 8GB PC3-12800, FSB Speed Not Given, Integrated Intel HD Graphics with shared memory
Battery Life: 3.75 hrs
$699.99 ($170 off original price)

Just looking at the most obvious raw numbers, without that much specific understanding of exactly how they arrive at those numbers (cpubenchmark.net), the Core i7 Quad Core seems to have more than twice the processing power of any of the other three I listed, however that laptop also has a shorter stated battery life. They're all touchscreen, 15.6" and weigh about the same.

My first thought was the Lenovo i5. Seems like a great machine for the price, But it turns out to be only a dual core and not rated all that powerful at cpubenchmark.net.

Based on those cpubenchmark numbers for the processors, the Lenovo i3 and Toshiba A6 don't seem like they'd be tremendously slower or less powerful than the i5, but that's why I'm asking here.

I've really been leaning towards the Toshiba Core i7. The cpubenchmark numbers are more than double any of the others. Seems like it would be lightening fast and would remain a viable machine for many years. She's not going to be doing anything that is crazy cpu intensive by any means. I just want it to be fast (especially when she has me work on it for her) and to last her a very long time so she doesn't have to spend the money on another new one for a good long time. Really appreciate any advice!

Thanks!!!
Rob Manze





May 7, 2014 10:12:34 PM

Depends on what you and your mother are going to be doing on it. From the sound of it, i doubt she would be using video editing or anything of the sort that is highly cpu dependent. While a i7 processor is quite fast when using things that use all 4cores/8 threads (the i7 has hyperthreading) its not going to speed anything up like normal browsing/ email and stuff. I have the same i7 in my HP envy that i just got, and i quickly realized it was probably overkill.
With that said, i would go with the Toshiba simply because its cheaper, but if you would like more processing power the i5 definitely is the winner.
m
0
l
May 8, 2014 7:11:50 AM

Thanks Anheanz. I've been thinking about this more and here's kind of where I'm at...

I'm thinking the Toshiba Core i7 with 8GB is significantly more powerful overall than the other three and will easily have the longest useable life (as long as it doesn't malfunction of course). Drawbacks being a little higher price and shorter battery life.

Then I wonder about the other three somewhat as a group. Based on specs, price and processing power, they all seem close enough to compare them directly to each other. Can anyone give some more opinions on these?

Is the Toshiba with the AMD A6 a worthy option here? It's the lowest on the CPU score, but not by a huge amount compared to the i3 & i5 machines. Does it's configuration and graphics capability make it even more competitive than it may seem?

Between the two Lenovo machines, do you think there is enough performance advantage to even consider the Core i5 over the Core i3? The more I look at it and think about it, I'm thinking the difference is minimal and maybe I throw my original choice, the i5, out of the mix altogether?

Overall, apples to apples, which would you pick between the Lenovo Core i3 and the Toshiba AMD A6? Then, would you consider the Toshiba Core i7 (w/ 8GB RAM) based on my reasoning that I think it will have the longest useful life (before it gets so slow and bogged down that it becomes tedious to use).

This will mainly be used for web, email, watching movies, audio ripping, etc. (Certainly running all of those at the same time potentially.) But we want the option of video editing and such if and when that time comes.

Since I keep refering to it, here are the CPU scores I've been using:

Intel Core i7-4700MQ - 7929
Intel Core i5-4200U - 3314
Intel Core i3-3110M - 3077
AMD A6-5200 APU - 2434

Thanks!!!
m
0
l
Related resources
a b D Laptop
May 8, 2014 10:52:23 AM

Bytor... any relation to the Snow Dog? :) 

bytor54 said:
My first thought was the Lenovo i5. Seems like a great machine for the price, But it turns out to be only a dual core and not rated all that powerful at cpubenchmark.net.

Based on those cpubenchmark numbers for the processors, the Lenovo i3 and Toshiba A6 don't seem like they'd be tremendously slower or less powerful than the i5, but that's why I'm asking here.

I've really been leaning towards the Toshiba Core i7. The cpubenchmark numbers are more than double any of the others. Seems like it would be lightening fast and would remain a viable machine for many years. She's not going to be doing anything that is crazy cpu intensive by any means. I just want it to be fast (especially when she has me work on it for her) and to last her a very long time so she doesn't have to spend the money on another new one for a good long time. Really appreciate any advice!

Thanks!!!
Rob Manze


Hey there!

One thing to understand about those benchmarks is that the i3 and i5 you listed in your first post are both ultra-low voltage processors. That basically means their speed is reduced so as to prolong battery life and reduce heat generated at the expense of a hit to performance. The A6 on the other hand is simply not a very efficient nor powerful chip.

In a more apples-to-apples comparison, the i7 outperforms its weaker siblings largely due to the greater amount of cache, having twice as many physical cores and twice the HyperThreading capability. Having those extra cores can reduce battery life, but that's by and large subjective to the work load your mom puts on the laptop. :) 

The slowest thing in a computer is the hard drive, even if you opt for a SSD. But a SSD will make a world of difference compared to a mechanical hard drive.
m
0
l
May 8, 2014 1:25:47 PM

Thanks Prostar! ...Not related, but I do seem to remember a battle in another lifetime! :) 

I appreciate all your comments and advice. I guess I'm still grappling with the choice between the Intel based machines. Mainly if the Core i5 machine is really even worth considering for $100 more than the Core i3 machine? Also, do you agree that the Core i7 machine will potentially remain viable for significantly longer into the future than the other two? (and therefore possibly worth the price premium?) Thanks again!
m
0
l
May 8, 2014 3:08:50 PM

Update: Well I'm headed to the store and I'm leaning towards just going with the Toshiba with the Core i7 and 8GB. Based on the reviews I read and the pictures, I have slight concerns about the Lenovo keyboard. The Toshibas seem like possibly a better fit for my mom and since the consensus seems to be that the AMD A6 is the weakest of the bunch, that pretty much leaves the Core i7 as the last machine standing. (Even at the higher price and with the shorter battery life.) Thanks again for everyone's help!
m
0
l

Best solution

a b D Laptop
May 8, 2014 3:33:44 PM

Hey again bytor,

You are right in asserting/assuming that the i7 would better "future proof" your mom. For the long haul, really either the i5 or the i7 are good processors. The next generation chip from Intel isn't slated until sometime early next year, and even then, it will be the same microarchitecture as the current Haswell processors, so I'd say in either chip (i5 or i7) the laptop will withstand the progress of technology for a good two years.

Personally, I think the cost is worth it as long as it doesn't stretch you thin financially. :)  Office Depot should have a return policy of 15 days or 30 days too, so you can take it for a test run and go from there.

I hope she likes it!
Share
May 8, 2014 7:44:43 PM

I believe that a strong processor will make it a lot more future-proof. I speak of personal experience, as I tend to keep laptops for really long periods (more than 5 years one, and 8 years another, and still someone in my famiy is still using it). The only thing I regret is that they have such a weak processor, as it is the main problem with my everyday use now (They have 4gb of ram, so that's not a problem, and HDD haven't evolved that much, and as they are no longer used for games, GPU isn't really that important)
m
0
l
May 8, 2014 8:30:49 PM

Laptops processors work "kind of" the same way, but they are a lot weaker than desktop ones, so they don't have as much overhead as desktop ones and will be more challenged in a shorter time.
But no matter what the laptop, it's very likely that the battery will die out in just a couple of years, so that might be the first reason to change the laptop (or just the battery), so maybe it isn't that worth it to look at a processsor that will last 5 years working perfectly when other aspects might get too old...

Older laptop processors sometimes are very challenged even by web-browsing in some specific pages, for example, my old laptops (core 2 duo and amd turion xII) have problems dealing with several facebook games. I believe this will be the case after a few years as well.

And the same issue with lower end new processors. My parents have a laptop with a new celeron and when I browse (my way, many tabs, music, facebook games, 9gag, big long pages loaded with images and gifs, etc) and the processor really struggles, and I can really notice how slow it gets... It's even hard to play PapaPear (really simple physics based facebook game) when doing something else...
That's why I suggest the fastest one.
m
0
l
May 9, 2014 7:13:07 AM

Wow, great debate here!!! ...Kinda wish it'd happened a few hours earlier! ;) 

But I really think all of you make valid points! The i7 may be too much for most of what my mom will do. But running many browser windows/tabs, multiple applications, playing movies, etc, all at the same time, is a way she'll likely put a little strain on her processor. Also, at some point in the future, hopefully I'll experience less aggravation when I'm trying to work on it for one thing or another!

Do you think the extra processing power of the i7 quad core would come into play for video editing???

Like I said before, I originally thought the Lenovo i5 machine was a great sweet spot price/performance. But when I learned that i5 is a dual core and saw the benchmark number was so close to that of the i3 ...and so much lower than that of the i7, it really made me question that choice.
Then I read a few reviews of people that had trouble with those Lenovo keyboards and that was another red flag. (Typing on it at the store, they did feel a little "weaker" than the Toshiba keys.) I was left with a difficult decision and even debated it while at the store. In the end I was already set to get the i7, my mom had originally wanted a Toshiba (for whatever reason) and I didn't feel there were any red flags other than the known issues of higher price and lower battery life.

That goes back to the heart of the issue. Perhaps the i3 or i5 machines would be a better choice for my mom because they do use less power and have better battery life. We do have 14 days return policy and they didn't mention any restocking fee. (although I didn't think to ask about that specifically) But all the same questions remain:

Is the Lenovo keyboard really an issue (when 3 out of 12 reviews have a similar issue, it makes me take notice)?

Is the i5 machine really any better than the i3? If I went down to those choices, would I go all the way down to the i3 or does the i5 have just enough extra "headroom" to justify the slightly higher price?

And at the end of the day, are we better off in 3-5 years with the i7 than we would be with the i3???
m
0
l
a b D Laptop
May 9, 2014 9:29:29 AM

bytor54 said:
Do you think the extra processing power of the i7 quad core would come into play for video editing???

Yes, although it is not entirely necessary. The CPU lends itself towards photo and video processing/editing/encoding, while graphics rendering leans more on a GPU. Personally, I think she'd be fine with an i3 or i5 as long as neither are a ULV processor. The i7 will "future proof" her in the sense that when future microarchitectures from Intel are released, the i7 will still be able to keep up with evolving software demands. An i5 will as well, though perhaps not as adequately, while the i3 may struggle some. But for what she'll be doing, I think the i5 is the happy middle ground here. An i3 could work, I'm just not sure about it for the long haul for her.

Construkt said:
Laptop processors work the same way, as they get upgraded in the same cycles... The performance difference for gaming between an i5 dual-core processor and an i7 quad-core processor is even negligible, that's how far ahead things are.

With all due respect, those are both perhaps illusory statements.

It's true that laptop and desktop chips are subject to Intel's tick/tock principle, but there are nuances in release times, integrated technologies, etc. The gaming statement is pretty subjective also. If you were to compare an i5 to an i7 - both on HD 4000 graphics, for example, there can be anywhere from a 1 FPS to a 10 FPS difference in gaming between the two. 10 FPS would be considered substantial to some (especially when the FPS are already low on integrated graphics).
m
0
l
May 12, 2014 10:34:08 AM

Just one more update. I don't know how much of it is Windows 8 (which so far gets a HUGE thumbs DOWN from me), but for a machine I expected to be pretty fast (the Toshiba Core i7 w/ 8GB ram), a lot of the things I've done while setting it up for my mom have seemed painfully slow! I doubt the processor is maxing out during these events, but slow is slow and I don't know the reason(s) why. Thanks again all!
m
0
l
a b D Laptop
May 12, 2014 1:59:02 PM

bytor54 said:
Just one more update. I don't know how much of it is Windows 8 (which so far gets a HUGE thumbs DOWN from me), but for a machine I expected to be pretty fast (the Toshiba Core i7 w/ 8GB ram), a lot of the things I've done while setting it up for my mom have seemed painfully slow! I doubt the processor is maxing out during these events, but slow is slow and I don't know the reason(s) why. Thanks again all!


Most likely the hard drive. It's the slowest component in any system. Do you know what it came with (capacity and RPM)?
m
0
l
!