Intel’s new Broadwell processors promise improvements in performance and, perhaps more importantly, battery life. As someone who only uses a laptop during my TV watching time at night, I’ve was hesitant to upgrade until their release. While most PC gamers and builders may want to go with an Intel Skylake laptop in 2016, the improvements in CPU and battery life performance may allow you to get bargains for what is already an older generation of CPU.
Broadwell’s graphical performance boost is worth noting as well with up to a 22% increase over the previous generation Haswell models. In addition to improvements in performance most Broadwell processors give 4k video support (Pentium and Celeron Broadwell processors not included). This support, combined with the latest 802.11ac brand of wi-fi, will allow you to stream 4k video wirelessly to your TV. With improvements in 4k selection as well as dropping prices for 4k TVs, the popularity of the format should continue to increase.
Lack of Solid State Drive Integration for Budget Models:
As a PC builder, I’m picky about the performance of my computer. Slow computers take extra time and that time is money. Probably the biggest boost I’ve seen in actual computer speed in the last 5 years has been the solid state drive. I can’t use a computer without one.
With widespread drops in the pricing of solid state drives, I’m not impressed with the speed of manufacture integration of solid state drives into a budget or even premium models. With a 128 GB SSD costing laptop manufacturers less than $50 why are we pigeon-holed into the 1TB 5400 RPM Hard drive options that flood the market?
Rather, you’re forced into purchasing a pricey 11″ to 14″ ultrabook that carries little performance boost over the less expensive models other than the drive itself. Your other option is to simply purchase a budget model and install a solid state drive. In my opinion, neither of these options are desirable although the second is more budget friendly.
Screen Size at a Premium
Call me a dinosaur but I feel like manufacturers continue to sacrifice screen size in favor of the tablet / laptop. As someone who writes and does photo editing , as well as a number of other tasks on their computer, I need a laptop with a large screen. Why does my laptop screen have to be as small as my tablet’s again? Rather, I’d love to see an affordable portable laptop option that folds out with two displays. Yes, it’s been done, but not well and not for the mainstream.
Don’t get me wrong I understand the importance of portability for travel; however, most already have a phone that functions as well as a tablet if they need that option.
Shopping for a Broadwell Laptop
Now that I’m done with my rant it’s time to look at the Broadwell laptop market. I’ll give you my picks for ultrabooks, budget 15″ and 17″ options, as well as Broadwell gaming laptops. If you’re here for gaming, also look at my post on the best gaming laptops for the money.
Brands We’re Covering:
Below we’ll cover the following models from Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and HP.
|Recommended Model and Current Pricing||Display||Processor / GPU/ HDD||Price|
|Lenovo G70-80 80FG005BUS||17.3" FHD LED AntiGlare with integrated camera (1920x1080)||5th Generation I7-5500U / 840M / 1TB / 8GB SSD/ 16GB Memory||$779 (Student sale price) to $849|
|Del 17 5000 Series (Non-Touch)||17.3-inch HD+ (1600 x 900) Truelife LED-Backlit Display||i3-5005U / HD 5500 / 500GB/ 4GB Memory||$440.99 (Student) to $449.99|
|Dell 17 5000 Series Touch||17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Truelife LED-Backlit Touch Display||i7-5500U/ HD 5500/ 1TB/ 8GB Memory||$881.99 (Student) to $899|
|Alienware 17 (Not Broadwell)||17.3 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS-Panel TrueLife 300-nits Display with Touch Technology||GTX 980M/ 128GB SSD Boot + 1TB Storage/ 16GB Memory||$2,249.99|
|Asus ROG G751JT-CH71 (For Gaming not Broadwell)||17.3" 16:9 IPS FHD (1920x1080) anti-glare||i7-4710HQ up to 3.5GHz Turbo/ GTX 970M/ 1TB HDD/ 16GB Memory||$1398.99|
|Dell Inspiron 15 3000 (basic i3 model)||15.6 inch LED Backlit Display with Truelife and HD resolution (1366 x 768)||i3-5005U/ HD 5500/ 500GB/ 4GB Memory||$379.99|
|Asus X555LB-NS51||1920x1080p||i5-5200U/ GT 940M/ 750GB/ 8GB Memory||$659.99|
|Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series Touch||5.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Truelife LED-Backlit Touch Display with Wide Viewing Angle (IPS) (4k Model available)||i5-5200U/ HD 5500/ 1TB/ 6GB Memory||$679.99|
|ASUS ROG GL551JW-DS71 (For Gaming Not Broadwell)||15.6-Inch FHD Screen||i7-4720HQ/ GTX 960M/ 1TB/ 16GB Memory||$1,077.48|
3 Good Budget 17″ Haswell Laptops From Under $500 to $1,000
Having gone through all of the 17″ laptops from major manufacturers on the market, there are just a few that jump out at me right now. One is Lenovo’s G70-80.
Lenovo G70-80 Broadwell Laptop
Lenovo’s G70-80 is a 17.3″ laptop model that runs everything from 4GB to 16GB of ram and from the Broadwell i3-5010u up to the i7-5500u. Lenovo’s lower end model that comes with the i3 and just 4GB of ram is generally available at the $550 price range. Lenovo’s mid-range model comes with an i5-5200u and 8GB of ram at a price of around $650. Both of these are fairly standard for pricing across all manufacturers. That being said it’s Lenovo’s higher-end models that spark my interest.
One thing that sets this series apart from many other manufacturer’s budget 17″ space is the full 1080p screen. Where other manufacturers go 1600×900 in their budget space, Lenovo has chosen to go full 1080p.
Lenovo G70-80 Model 80FG00FGUS and 80FG00FBUS
These are the two 17″ Broadwell models that really captured my attention. At $750 for the 80F600FGUS and $779 for the 80FG00FBUS, you get an i7-5500U, NVIDIA GeForce 840m, and an 8GB SSD. Considering these models cost around $100 more than the mid-range G70-80 it seems that you’re getting a whole lot here. Admittedly the GeForce 840m is the previous gen model; however, it’s just 10% under the newer 940m. The 8GB solid state drive doesn’t seem like much; however with Intel’s Smart Response Caching technology it speeds up your hard drive by leaps and bounds. Some may still opt to replace the hard drive with an SSD. If you’re going that direction, the mid-range G70-80 may make more sense.
The only difference between the 80F600FGUS and the 80F600FBUS is that the BUS gives you 16GB of ram instead of 8GB for $20. All and all it’s the best specs you’ll find for right around $800. A 1080p screen, 16GB of ram, i7 Broadwell, and the 840m make it my 17″ Broadwell laptop of choice. It should be great for streaming 4k as well as doing photo editing and some light gaming.
*Purchasing Tip: If you go through Lenovo’s student portal you can save around 5% on your overall order. Verification is not required. A similar technique can be used with Dell’s website.
Dell 17 5000 Series – For Budgets Under $500
If you’re just looking for a cheap 17″ Broadwell laptop with an i3, consider Dell’s low-end Inspiron 17 5000 Series option. For $449 it gives you an i3-5005u processor, 4GB of ram, and a 500GB HDD. I spoke to a Dell expert on their website who said upgrading it to 8GB of Ram and replacing the hard drive with a solid state drive is simple. This process should cost you under $100 assuming that you go with a 128GB model of solid state drive and should greatly improve the performance of your laptop overall. As a heads up, it also voids your warranty.
A Few Good 17″ Touchscreen Broadwell Options
To be honest, if you’re going with a screen this big I think you’re better off getting a program like start is back and using it with Windows 8 rather than paying the premium for a touchscreen laptop. That being said there are some relatively affordable options out there.
Lenovo’s Y70-70 Touch and Dell’s 17 5000 Touch series are similar in quality and specifications; however, only Dell carries the 5th generation Broadwell processors in a touch option at this point in time.
Other than those two options HP and Dell’s Alienware line have a 17″ touch Broadwell gaming laptop that should appeal to high-end shoppers.
Budget 15″ Broadwell Laptops
There are nearly unlimited options in the 15″ Broadwell space. That being said there are only a few laptops that, in my opinion, stand out.
An Under $400 Broadwell laptop – Dell Inspiron 15 3000
With a price tag of $379, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 gives you an i3-5005U, a 500GB hard drive, and 4GB of ram. It’s your basic cheap laptop that gives a lot for what it costs.
If you’re looking to do basic work or simply want something capable of streaming to your TV, then this is a good option.
As I mentioned above you can also throw in some cheap ram and replace the solid state drive and have a really fast laptop overall.
A Good Budget Gaming / Performance Option – Asus X555LB-NS51
Available for around $659 the Asus X555LB-NS51 gives you a 1080p display with 8GB of Ram, a 750GB hard drive, and dedicated GTX 940M graphics card.
The dedicated graphics card won’t be able to play games like GTAV and The Witcher 3 on the highest settings in 1080p; however, you should be able to lower settings in most games and play on 1080p or 720p. Less-intensive games like Minecraft, WoW, League of Legends, Dota 2, Diablo 3, and Hearthstone should have no problems in high settings.
Considering that you’re paying half the price of a gaming laptop, it’s seems like a good deal overall.
A Couple Good 15″ Broadwell Touchscreen Options
For something inexpensive here you could go with the Inspiron 15 3000 Series touch with an i3, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive for around $430. The screen itself is a 1366 x 768 resolution screen.
New Inspiron 15 7000 Series Touch
If you’re looking for a mid to high-end touchscreen laptop, look no further than Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 Series Touch. With options from a 1080p IPS touch display up to a 4k touch display and prices ranging from as low as $679.99 all the way up to $1449.99 enthusiasts as well as editors have good options here.
If you go with a 4k IPS option, you’ll pay about $1,100 for a touch option with an i7-5500U, 8GB, and a 1TB hard drive. Alternatively, you can stick with the 1080p IPS option and get an i5-5200u, 6GB of ram, and 1TB hard drive for as little as $679.99.
15″ and 17″ Broadwell Gaming Laptop Options:
For gaming laptops, it seems like it’s worth it, at least for the time being, to go with one of the less expensive Haswell options that are running the more current 900M series of graphics cards. I especially like Asus Republic of gamers laptops which are reasonable for the price you pay. If you have to have a Broadwell laptop, you could go with a 15″ or 17″ laptop from Alienware starting at $1,000 and going up to around $3,000. The Prices for Alienware laptops do seem somewhat more reasonable than in the past.
Broadwell seems like a worthwhile upgrade for those who haven’t upgraded their laptops in a while. A free upgrade to Windows 10 is coming this year. We’ll be covering Broadwell Ultrabooks in a post shortly so stay tuned.