Intel's Raptor Lake processors for desktop PCs were recently released. They are expected to appear in laptops in the first and second quarters of 2023. Right now, the best Intel Core i7 processors are all from the Alder Lake series (12th generation). However, given Raptor Lake's reliance on higher power delivery and its (to say the least) high thermal management demands, I wouldn't expect it to deliver the significant performance boost seen in their desktop CPUs.
So, what should we look for when buying the best Core i7 laptop?
Choosing the right processor for Core i7
Choosing a graphics
It's been a few years since Nvidia released its last line of RTX graphics cards, and in that time, the company has continued to dominate the laptop GPU market. Nvidia's latest notebook cards are in the RTX 30 series, such as the RTX 3070 Ti. However, these cards are not yet available on laptops; they are expected to be released in 2023.
In the meantime, there are still plenty of excellent options available for those looking for a powerful graphics card for their laptop. Here, we'll take a look at what's available on the market and how to choose the right GPU for your needs.
What's new in the GPU market?
Nvidia has discontinued its Max-Q use for its RTX graphics cards. Now, an exact GPU wattage is determined by a laptop manufacturer (OEM). That results in a wide variance in graphics performance even in laptops with the same GPU chipset.
For example, the MSI GS66 Stealth uses a 90W RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, while the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 uses a 65W RTX 2060 Max-Q. Even though both laptops have the same GPU, the MSI GS66 Stealth will have better performance due to its higher wattage.
Why a gaming laptop does not need a dedicated graphics card (and why it can make sense to have one)
A gaming laptop is the best option if you're looking for a powerful graphics card and an excellent display. However, it comes at the price of portability. If you're looking for a mid-range or even high-end gaming laptop that's still portable enough to carry around, you'll need to sacrifice some performance in favor of battery life and weight. This means going for a lower-tier Nvidia GPU or AMD's latest "P" series of GPUs (Radeon 300/400).
For example, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model uses a 90W RTX 2070 Super Max-Q, while the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 uses a 65W RTX 2060 Max-Q. Even though both laptops have the same GPU, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Model will have better performance due to its higher wattage.
How to know if your laptop has a high-end GPU?
There are a few ways to tell if your laptop has a high-end GPU. The first is to check the model number; usually, higher-end GPUs will have a higher model number (such as the RTX 2080 Ti). The second way to tell is by checking the benchmarks; usually, higher-end GPUs will have better 3DMark scores.
I use 3DMark benchmarks to compare different GPUs as they have been shown to be very accurate in predicting actual in-game performance differences between similarly powered GPUs. For example, the RTX 2080 Ti has a 3DMark score of 18,000, while the RTX 2070 Super has a score of 14,000. This means that the RTX 2080 Ti is approximately 25% faster than the RTX 2070 Super.
What to expect depending on your budget
If you're not interested in gaming, then just look for a fast CPU and plenty of RAM; that'll be plenty enough for most workstation tasks (including video editing). For casual gaming, you can get away with an integrated GPU; however, if you're looking to do any serious gaming, you'll need a dedicated GPU. Here is a table of recommended GPUs for each price bracket:
|Price range||Recommended GPU|
|Minimum||High-end integrated (Iris Xe)|
|High-end||RTX 3070 Ti; RX 6800M|
The best memory for Core i7 in 2022
If you're looking for the best gaming laptop in early 2023, then it's time to talk about RAM. When it comes to laptop RAM for Core i7 CPUs, there are a few things you should know.
First, you don't need a huge amount of RAM for gaming. For most modern titles, 16 GB is plenty – and if you're dealing with memory-hungry applications (e.g., 3D rendering) then 32 GB might be helpful.
As far as RAM types go, most laptops now support DDR4 and DDR5. While DDR5 is a bit faster and more power-efficient, it's still quite expensive and still needs time to mature as a technology. So if you're looking for the best performance-to-price ratio, I'd recommend going with DDR4 – especially for gaming.
But if you're looking for the best laptop experience overall, then make sure to get one with upgradable RAM – that way, you won't be stuck with the same amount of memory for years to come.
Now, let's talk about expectations. If you have a mid-range budget, then you should aim for 16 GB of RAM at least. However, I'd recommend upgrading to 24 GB if your budget allows it. If you have the money to spare, then go for 32 GB – it's not necessary, but it will future-proof your laptop.
To sum up, here are my RAM recommendations for Core i7 laptops:
- Minimum: 16 GB
- Recommended: 24 GB
- High-end: 32 GB
My storage recommendations for Core i7
Just a few years ago, solid-state drives (SSDs) were a luxury only available on the most expensive laptops. Now, they're the standard. If you're buying a new laptop, you can expect it to come with an SSD as standard, though you may still have to choose the size.
When picking the right laptop SSD for Core i7 laptops, the most important things to consider are your storage needs, budget, and how upgradable your laptop is. MacBooks aren't upgradeable, so you'll need to decide on the size at the time of purchase. For video editing tasks, I'd recommend at least 1 TB of storage space, with 2 TB being ideal. On laptops that are upgradeable, I'd still suggest at least 500 GB of internal storage with the possibility of expanding that with an external drive or adding an extra M.2 PCIe NVMe drive via the Thunderbolt 3 port.
In terms of performance, SSD read/write speeds don't matter as much when you're dealing with powerful CPUs and GPUs. If you're working with high-end software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Davinci Resolve, you'll want to prioritize getting a powerful CPU and GPU over an SSD with faster read/write speeds.
To make things easier, here's a table with some recommended SSD configurations based on your budget:
|Budget||Recommended SSD configuration|
|< $900||500 GB|
|$900 – $2k||1 TB|
How to choose the right display for Core i7?
When looking for the right laptop for Core i7, the display is one of the most important things to consider. You want to make sure it has the features and specs you need for your specific needs.
First, consider the screen size. Laptops have limited space compared to desktops, so you need to pick a screen size that will fit your daily needs.
Next, you'll need to decide on the panel type. TN is usually found in the cheapest laptops, while IPS or IPS-level screens are the current standard. OLED and 4K resolution are also available if you're looking for more premium displays.
For gaming laptops, the refresh rate matters a lot. Most gaming laptops have higher refresh rate screens, which makes gaming a lot smoother.
It's also important to consider the display brightness and contrast ratio. In many creative fields such as photography or video editing, it's essential to have accurate colors and good contrast ratio for deep blacks. The recommended specs for this purpose are an IPS display with 300 nits and 90% sRGB color gamut coverage. For higher end laptops, an IPS/OLED display with 380 nits and 100% sRGB color gamut coverage is ideal.
To give you an idea of what's available at each price range, here's a table/list of average display specs:
|Price Range||Panel Type||Brightness||Color Gamut|
|Budget||TN/IPS||280 nits||70% sRGB|
|Mid-range||IPS||300 nits||90% sRGB|
|High-end||IPS/OLED||380 nits||100% sRGB|
The best battery for Core i7 in 2022
It's early 2023, and the laptop battery market is hot – tech has come down in price, so you can get decently good battery life for even budget laptops. However, more power-hungry components like the CPU, GPU, and bright high refresh rate display can take their toll on the battery runtime.
So, if you want to get the most out of your laptop, you need to consider not just the processor series, but also the hardware you pair it with. With a Core i7 processor, the battery performance is mostly determined by capacity and cell count. The more powerful the hardware, the shorter the battery life will be, especially when running at full system load.
For some insight into the actual battery runtimes of different laptops, I suggest taking a look at third-party reviews, like Notebookcheck's automated web browsing tests. They are more representative of daily laptop use than hard specs alone. And if you're after gaming performance with decent battery life, look for a laptop with Nvidia Optimus or Advanced Optimus technology. This will enable your GPU to switch between an integrated and dedicated graphics card depending on the current power needs.
To make the process easier for you, I've put together a table of expected battery runtimes for each major price bracket. It's a good starting point for comparing laptop batteries, but keep in mind that results may vary depending on usage:
|Price range||Expected battery runtime|
All in all, with the right hardware and power management techniques, you can achieve great battery life with a Core i7 laptop.
10 Best Laptops for Core i7
Pros and cons
- Compact, lightweight design.
- Great CPU performance.
- Limited memory and no user upgradeability.
- Poor keyboard and touchpad.
Pros and cons
- Phenomenal system performance with Core i7
- Thunderbolt 4 capabilities
- Unfortunate webcam placement
- Overheats quickly
Pros and cons
- Heavy-duty and durable build
- Incredible performance and speedy QHD display
- Large footprint and bulky charger
- Poor audio and camera quality
Pros and cons
- Easy to service, 2x SODIMM 2x M.2 2280 PCIe4 x4 slots
- Quieter than other gaming laptops
- Smaller keys, numpad and function keys
- Heavier and thicker than the GS76
Table of the Best Laptops for 10 Most Powerful Laptops Featuring Core i7 in 2023 (January Edition) ($580-$6240)
|Acer Swift 3 SF314-59-75QC||$580|
|ASUS ZenBook 13 UX325EA-EH71||$730|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 9i||$960|
|HP Pavilion 15||$1140|
|MSI Summit E13||$1140|
|GIGABYTE AERO 17 XE5||$1400|
|Lenovo Legion 5 Pro||$1580|
|GIGABYTE AORUS 15 XE4||$1750|
|MSI Stealth GS77-17||$5800|
|MSI Titan GT77 12UHS-007||$6240|