Brand new processors are always hitting the market, and they seem to come with ever more confusing naming conventions.
The endless progression of technology can actually work to a savvy buyer’s advantage. With newer CPUs arriving at higher price tags, you can save a significant amount of money over an i7 or i9 laptop by picking an i5 model.
Below we’ve rounded up the current best i5 laptops in 2021, broken down by price and specified use.
The Lineup At A Glance
Best Intel Core I5 Laptops In 2021
Lenovo ThinkPad E15
To find an i5 laptop with a large storage SSD is hard. You might have to premium because most 1 TB laptops tend to be very costly. They also have very high specs which will further increase its cost and it may not be an option for everybody/
Thankfully the Lenovo ThinkPad E15 offers a large SSD with an i5 processor making it at least affordable for business oriented people or for those needing a lot of storage space for work.
You can go for an HDD however these storage devices then tend to be slower and they keep getting slower over time. It has tons of movable parts and you need to defrag it from time to time to make it usable and efficient.
If you need to work all day on a single charge, you’re in luck as well. An extensive review of the Lenovo ThinkPad E15 noted a particularly high battery life for this sort of machine.
The laptop also features a 15.6″ FHD Display with 1920×1080 resolution which makes it an amazing recreation laptop as well for watching movies and for enjoying TV shows.
Hardware specifications for Lenovo ThinkPad E15
CPU: Intel Quad Core i5-10210U | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics| RAM: 16 GB RAM | Screen: 15.6″ FHD Anti-glare (1920×1080) IPS | Storage: 1 TB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Pro | Battery Life: 8 hours | Weight: 4.3 lbs
Asus Vivobook S15
With this contender we arrive at the real powerhouse workhorses of the i5 line. With this 8th gen i5 U processor, you can tackle multiple tasks at once without losing any speed.
While the affordable price, you still get a thin profile that you’d expect from a more expensive ultrabook. The side bezels are extremely thin, providing a wider viewing area without bumping up to a larger, heavier model.
The price sometimes fluctuates a few dollars above that threshold, so be on the lookout for sales or take advantage of Amazon’s $20 off promos if necessary.
Although quite powerful, this is still somewhat of a “budget” pick, so there are a few areas where corners get cut. In particular, you will see two main complaints brought up by buyers on any review site.
First and foremost, the battery life is surprisingly low for an 8th gen processor model. You can expect around five hours, so it won’t last a full work day without needing to plug in and charge.
Second, you get an HDD with this model if you spend a few extra dollars for the HDD, which means slightly slower Windows boot times than if you picked a model with a solid state drive. Its base specs contain a 256 GB SSD which might be more than enough for handling documents.
There’s room inside the chassis for an SSD however, and plenty of tutorials readily available online covering the installation process. The VivoBook can further be upgraded with a second 8GB stick of RAM if you want more memory.
You won’t find many laptops that offer so much performance for so low a price, but there are other options for great i5 laptops that are reasonably prices.
For instance, if you prefer a larger 17 inch display, the Lenovo 330 has very similar specs but with a bigger screen.
Hardware specifications for Asus Vivobook S15
CPU: Intel Core i5-8265u Processor (6M Cache, up to 3.9 GHz)| Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics| RAM: 8 GB RAM | Screen: 15.6 inch Full HD 4 Way NanoEdge bezel Display with stunning 87% screen-to-body ratio| Storage: 256 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 7 hours | Weight: 3.97 lbs
Dell Inspiron 17
You may notice that the Inspiron has similar specs overall to the Asus VivoBook listed above. There’s two key differences to keep in mind here that justify the price leap to the next tier.
First up, Dell’s contender adds in touch screen support, which is huge. If you need a laptop that responds to touch while using apps, this should be your pick.
Beyond just the touch screen, the Inspiron has a 360 degree rotating hinge. Unlike a traditional laptop, that means you can use it in tent or tablet mode instead of just sitting up at 90 degrees.
Second, the Inspiron includes a backlit keyboard. That seems like a minor feature, but trust me on this one — once you are used to this convenient feature, you won’t ever want to go back.
The cherry on top is that the Inspiron has noticeably better battery life than the VivoBook as well.
This laptops lineup features a whopping 1.5 of hard drive space and 16 GB of RAM which is a lot. It’s not pure SSD storage though, it contains 512 GB SSD and a 1 TB HDD which is still amazing.
While you don’t get the touch display you’ll have more than double the storage capacity when you compare it to other i5 laptops.
Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron 17
CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 1. 0 GHz, Turbo to 3. 60 GHz | Graphics:Intel UHD Graphics| RAM: 16 GB RAM | Screen: 17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare LED-Backlit Non-touch WVA Display | Storage: 512 GB SSD + 1 TB HDD| Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 6.5 hours | Weight: 5.79 lbs
MSI has been putting out some high quality portable gaming rigs lately, and if you want to stick with an i5 model, the GV63 is the way to go.
No matter what genre of game you prefer, you can expect great frame rates with the 9th gen processor and 8 GB of RAM.
This unit comes with the Ti version of the GTX 1650 graphics card, offering a smoother experience at higher graphics settings.
MSI doesn’t forget about the style that gamers want, either. Crimson edge glow keys offer a distinct visual style, and the cooler boost button lets you flush out hot air during long sessions playing graphics-intensive games.
There’s one major gaming bottleneck to keep in mind when going with an i5 model. Most laptops with this technology cap out at the GTX 1650 graphics card.
If you want to upgrade to a better graphics card for your gaming needs, then you’ll need to bump up the price considerably and go with an i7 model. There’s one major exception available, but it does have a downside.
If you don’t mind a different brand,the Dell’s G5 gaming laptop does feature both an i5 processor and a GTX 1060 video card. Although not as strong is the MSI GF63 its still a good alternative to an affordable gaming laptop.
While that sort of defeats the purpose of getting a less expensive i5 computer in the first place, it does mean you’ll be VR-ready.
Hardware specifications for MSI GF63
CPU: Intel Core i5-9300H | Graphics:NVIDIA GeForce GTX1650 [Max-Q] 4G GDDR5 RAM| RAM: 8 GB RAM | Screen: 15 6″ FHD (1920*1080) IPS-Level 60Hz 45%NTSC Thin Bezel| Storage: 256 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home| Battery Life: 4 hours | Weight: 7.58 lbs
Hp Pavilion 15
For the best all-around laptop, we’re going to land solidly on HP’s high performance option. There are some truly stunning features packed into this machine at a surprisingly low price point.
Want a touch screen? You get that. Want a full size 15 inch screen? You get that too. Want plenty of ports and a DVD-RW drive? All included.
Besides the 8th gen i5 processor, the biggest draw to this model is that its really affordable. You get a 512 GB SSD and this gives lighting fast boot up speeds and a ton of room to store your data.
If you don’t like the cramped keyboard style used by many manufacturers these days, you’re also in luck. This HP features a full size, backlit keyboard with the complete 10 key section on the side.
While this will be a stellar pick for most home or work tasks, it may not be everyone’s best choice. Want to make a few trade offs on specs for a different configuration?
You can ditch the touch screen and pick up a dedicated graphics card for gaming by going with the Acer Aspire E instead.
Hardware specifications for Hp Pavilion 15
CPU: 10th Generation intel(r) core(tm) i5-1035g1 Processor, quad-core, 1.0 GHz Base frequency, up to 3.6 GHz | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 16 GB RAM| Screen: 15.6-Inch diagonal HD SVA bright View micro-edge WLED-backlit touchscreen display (1366 x 768) | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: 6 hours| Weight: 3.74 lbs
Acer Aspire 5
The Acer Aspire is sure to keep you going through your whole day with a breathtaking 9 hours of battery life. Like the others on this list, you’ll be able to run your day to day activities with ease on this machine.
It’s powerful processor and NVIDIA graphics card can even run low end games without issue, making this a great pick for the casual gamer.
The model is easily upgradeable as well which makes this a great pick for those who would like to upgrade to a more powerful processor, memory, hard drive, etc in the future, without having to buy a new laptop.
This is made possible by a small compartment housing both the hard drive and the memory in easy to access places.
Some users have reported a heat issue with the Aspire. The laptop heats up quite fast under lots of pressure. This pressure is normally caused by gaming or other heavy tasks, not by day to day work.
The fans on this model are not of great quality, especially for gaming (keep in mind, this isn’t marketed as a gaming rig for good reason). If you do choose to play games on this laptop, just be sure to keep an eye on your temps.
Hardware specifications for Acer Aspire 5
CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i5-10210U Processor | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620| RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15 6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 9 hours | Weight: 5.74 pounds
ASUS ZenBook 14
The ASUS ZenBook 14 is perfect for traveling professionals. It’s sleek and lightweight for easy portability. It’s processor, memory, and storage will power you through any business-related tasks with ease.
Huge spreadsheets? No problem. 20 open tabs? Piece of cake. It’s also fingerprint secure to keep all your documents and files safe.
The ASUS ZenBook 14 can also last for a long time with an average battery life of 8 hours. Users have commented that it lasted for a realistic time of 7 to 8 hours so the product lives up to its advertising.
Lastly, the ASUS ZenBook 14 has an exclusive ErgoLift hinge which automatically adjusts and tilts itself for the convenience of the user. This allows for the most comfortable typing position and it’s a definite must have if you suffer from carpal tunnels.
Hardware specifications for ASUS ZenBook 14
CPU: Intel 10th Gen Core i5-10210U Processor (6M Cache up to 4 2 GHz)| Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics| RAM: 8 GB RAM | Screen: NanoEdge 14 inch Full HD display with 86% screen-to-body ratio in a 13” chassis | Storage: 512 GB SSD| Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 8 hours | Weight: 3.26 lbs
Apple MacBook Air
Apple is well-known for making its laptops extremely lightweight and travel-friendly and the Macbook Air is no exception. Weighing in at a whopping 2.8 lbs, it is the lightest laptop on this list so no need to worry about it weighing you down.
It is almost fully customizable, allowing up to 8 GB RAM and 512 GB of storage.
Keep in mind, the more you customize from the base model, the more expensive this Macbook will get and it’s already boasting a pretty shocking price tag.
However, if you’re a Mac user, this is your best option for an i5 laptop. It is a stunningly powerful machine, sure to keep you running. Its gorgeous retina display will also make for a great viewing experience, whether you’re editing photos or just watching the latest cat videos.
Hardware specifications for Apple MacBook Air
CPU: 1.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz, with 6MB L3 cache | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics, Support for Thunderbolt 3–enabled external graphics processors (eGPUs) | RAM: 8GB RAM | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Retina display with IPS technology; 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors, 16:10 aspect ratio | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: MAC OS| Battery Life:12 hours | Weight: 2.8 lbs
Acer Nitro 5
A lot of the high-end gaming laptops nowadays use an i7 or an i9 processor to run most of the competitive games where every second counts. However if you’re looking for a more affordable gaming laptop, then you should take a look at the Acer Nitro 5.
The Acer Nitro 5 is a good entry level gaming laptop that features a powerful 9th gen Intel Core i5-9300H processor that can go up to 4.1 GHz. Its also has a daily powerful NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card that has 4 GB of VRAM.
As expected of a gaming laptop, the Acer Nitro 5 might be a little heavy since it weighs around 5 lbs which really gives it poor portability. However it does have something that a lot of the other premium gaming laptop lacks, and that’s battery life.
This laptop can go up to 7 hours without charging making a very convenient tool if you’re on the road.
Hardware specifications for Acer Nitro 5
CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i5-9300H Processor (Up to 4. 1GHz) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Graphics with 4 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM| RAM: 8 GB RAM| Screen: 15″ Full HD Widescreen IPS LED-backlit Display| Storage: 256 GB SSD| Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 7 hours | Weight: 5.07 lbs
The LG Gram is probably the best i5 laptop on this list considering its specs. It has the latest 10th Gen Intel Core i5-10210U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a fairly large 512 GB SSD storage.
But asides from these remarkable steps, what the LG Gram truly shines on is its potential for travellers. The laptop is very portable thanks to its slim and compact design which makes it weigh about 2.4 lbs. This is all thanks to the metal alloy chassis composed of magnesium alloy which gives it that durable but light frame.
Lastly, the LG Gram has over 21 hours of battery life making this laptop very useful for those long domestic and international flights that may or may not give you a charging port.
Hardware specifications for LG Gram
CPU: Intel 10th Generation i5-10210U CPU | Graphics: Intel UHD graphics| RAM: 8 GB RAM| Screen: 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD Screen | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 21 hours | Weight: 2.4 lbs
Picking The Best I5 Laptops In 2021
There’s a lot more to consider when comparing i5 laptops than just the amount of RAM or hard drive space.
The specifics of what each type of i5 processor offers is fully covered in the buying guide below, but for now ask yourself how you intend to use your laptop during the course of a day.
Are you looking for a notebook that can run multiple office programs and web browsers at once? Do you intend to only run a single, CPU-intensive program at a time instead?
Next up, take into account whether you need a longer battery life, or if you will have ready access to an outlet most of the time. Finally, consider if a touch screen is a necessity or if you can work with a standard display.
What Do All These Numbers Mean When Picking An I5 Laptop?
Computer specs often seem like they are design to be deliberately confusing. A huge range of numbers and letters will be thrown at you when considering different laptop models.
Processors follow a very specific naming scheme, such as i5-8250U, i5-4300M, or i5-7300HQ. That seems like nonsense at first, but it’s actually pretty simple to follow once you know the pattern.
The i5 segment (obviously) means its in the Intel core 5 line. The next number indicates the processors generation. For instance, an 8250 features an 8th gen processor, while a 7300 is a 7th gen processor.
The next three numbers indicate specific series, with higher numbers generally indicating faster speeds.
Finally, the suffix tells you the best usage for that particular CPU. Here’s a quick guide on what each suffix means:
- U – Ultra low power
- H – High performance graphics
- K – Unlocked
- M – Mobile edition
- S – Performance optimized
- T – Power optimized
- Q – Quad core
What Are The Key Differences Between I5 Processors?
Besides the suffixes outlined above, there are three major differences between i5 processors to keep in mind before making a purchase.
You can find i5 processors in dual core, quad core, or six core versions. Each “core” gives your processor the ability to perform tasks independently, so a six core version can process six tasks at once.
Next up be sure to look at the specific cache of each processor. The cache on i5 CPUs can range from 3MB – 6MB.
A larger cache means the processor has more room to store info for repetitive tasks where the data remains the same. That means you’ll get better speeds when using spreadsheets or word documents, for instance.
Finally, look at the turbo boost options, which can give you faster speeds when the processor isn’t using all its cores at once.
Turbo boost will consume much more power than normal operation however, so your battery will run out of charge much faster.
What’s The Benefit Of Going With A Different Kind Of Processor?
Right now, your main option for processors in any kind of laptop will be i3, i5, i7, and i9. What you get by moving up or down that scale is a cost-to-speed balance.
For instance, i3 processors are essentially the slowest of the bunch in most cases. They are also much, much cheaper and allow you to stick to a budget when buying a new computer.
The i5 is sort of the middle-of-the-line right now, with a few higher end options available. The i7 on the other hand is usually the top range processor for most users.
At the very top of the scale is the cutting edge i9, which will see the cost shoot up dramatically. Only users with lots of cash to burn who crave cutting edge hardware need to bother with that level of processor at the moment.
Our five contenders listed above run the gamut from cheap budget entries to high end gaming machines.
Now that you are armed with the knowledge of what all those identifiers mean and how each laptop differs, you should be well equipped to pick the best i5 laptop.
Give us a shout out below and let us know what you think of our picks. Have you seen any other great i5 deals floating around? Be sure to let us know!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is gaming any good with an i5 processor?
Yes! You just have to take into consideration the weight of the games you’re playing. If you’re going to play a light game like Minecraft, go for the Acer Aspire discussed above. If you’re looking to run something a little beefier, look for MSI. Always check the game’s base spec requirements before downloading it and make sure your laptop fits within those specs.
Is upgradeability important?
This really depends on your needs. Core i5 processors are great for day to day activities like surfing the web and word processing. If you’re needing to do more than this in the future, then upgradeability is something to think about. If 256 GB of storage is too small for you or you run out quicker than you thought you would, having the ability to upgrade to 512 GB or even 1 TB of storage often costs less than getting a new laptop.