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Best Core i3 laptop: HP, Dell, Acer, and Lenovo

The Surface Go 3.
(Image credit: Microsoft)

If you're after dependable general productivity performance without having to shell out a lot of money, laptops equipped with Intel Core i3 processors will be right up your alley. They're not as capable as what you'd get with a device with a Core i5 or i7 processor, but they're also significantly less expensive and still deliver solid performance overall. This has made Core i3 devices incredibly desirable for people who don't have the money to get something more expensive. Our favorite on the list of best Core i3 laptops is the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 since it has good specs and design, but there are several other excellent alternatives on the market, too.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Dell Inspiron 15 3000

Low price, big win

Reasons to buy

+
Good specs
+
Good display
+
Nice design
+
Affordable price

Reasons to avoid

-
No Wi-Fi 6
-
Trackpad corners feel a bit loose

The Core i3 model of the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 is stellar, and it's easily one of the best budget laptops you can buy today. Its 11th Gen i3-1115G4 delivers good performance for light workloads like writing documents or completing homework assignments, and it also comes with Intel UHD graphics, up to 8GB of memory (avoid the 4GB option), and up to a 256GB SSD for storage. The 15.6-inch display could be a little brighter, but it still looks good overall and also features an anti-reflective coating that makes the device easier to use out in direct sunlight. It also has a solid battery life of 7 hours and supports Bluetooth 5.0, though it lacks Wi-Fi 6.

Design-wise, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 has a relatively slim design that makes it easy to carry around, which is ideal. The keyboard is enjoyable to type on, and the trackpad is good too, though the corners of it feel a little loose. The device also features three USB-A ports, which is awesome for peripheral connectivity. Ultimately, the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 has quality specs, a good design, and a very affordable price, making it our favorite laptop to configure with a Core i3 processor.

(Image credit: Source: HP)

HP Pavilion x360 2-in-1 14

Who says convertibles can't be affordable?

Reasons to buy

+
Great specs
+
Good display
+
All-day battery life
+
Sharp, comfortable design

Reasons to avoid

-
Screen could be brighter
-
No Wi-Fi 6

You generally don't see many Core i3 processors in convertible laptops, but that's not the case with the excellent HP Pavilion x360 2-in-1 14. This slim and snazzy 2-in-1 can be configured with an 11th Gen i3-1125G4 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to a whopping 1TB of SSD storage. The touch IPS display has good colors too (though its max 250 nit brightness is rather dim), and you can choose between HD 1366x768 or FHD 1920x1080 resolutions for it. The 8-hour battery life of the device is also nice, and support for Bluetooth 5.0 is included as well. There's no Wi-Fi 6 support for the Core i3 models, but that's not a huge deal.

In terms of the laptop's design, the HP Pavilion x360 2-in-1 14 looks very premium thanks to its sleek edges, thin frame, and small bezels. Ports include a single USB-C and dual USB-A slots, providing the user with a balanced suite of peripheral connectivity options. Lastly, both the keyboard and the trackpad feel great to use due to how sturdy and solid they are. At the end of the day, this 2-in-1 is a fantastic fit for a Core i3 chip, even if we would have liked to have seen a brighter screen and Wi-Fi 6.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Acer Aspire 5

Perfect for Zoom meetings

Reasons to buy

+
Good specs
+
Excellent webcam
+
Great audio
+
Solid overall design

Reasons to avoid

-
Display is lacking
-
Trackpad feels loose

If you're in the market for a Core i3 device that's great for video conferencing, you'll love the Acer Aspire 5. It has well-rounded specs and performance between its 11th Gen i3-1115G4, 8GB of memory, up to 256GB of SSD space, and 7-hour battery life, but the true value of this device lies with its webcam. It captures a clearer and cleaner image than most other budget-friendly laptops, making it perfect for video meetings — especially since the speakers and microphone sound good, too. The display unfortunately doesn't have the greatest viewing angles and looks a bit washed out, but it's far from being unbearable. On the plus side, there's support for both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1, which is excellent.

The design of the Acer Aspire 5 won't drop any jaws, but it's decently thin and light and comes with a USB-C port as well as dual USB-A slots for good all-around connectivity. The keyboard is comfortable to use as well, though the trackpad feels loose compared to other devices in the budget price range. Overall, the Acer Aspire 5 is ideal for people who need a good video conferencing device, but the other options on this list are better for folks who can get by without a high-quality webcam.

(Image credit: Windows Central)

Surface Go 3

Ready to Go?

Reasons to buy

+
Solid specs
+
Excellent display
+
LTE option available
+
Portability focused design

Reasons to avoid

-
Battery life is disappointing
-
Microsoft's Type Cover is pricey

People who need something ultra-portable should look no further than Microsoft's Surface Go 3, which is a refreshed version of the original 10-inch Surface Go with an option for a 10th Gen i3-10100Y CPU. Other specs include up to 8GB of memory and up to 256GB of SSD storage, as well as a microSD card reader you can use for additional storage if needed. The 1920x1280 display is pretty sharp and has strong colors and excellent contrast, as well as an impressive max brightness of 400 nits. The 4-6-hour battery life is disappointing, but you can improve it by lowering the display brightness. Notably, Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi 6 support are included, and there are even configurations available with LTE.

Design-wise, the Surface Go 3 is remarkably thin and light, and also features a USB-C port as well as a Surface Connect port for charging. Microsoft's detachable Surface Go Alcantara fabric Type Covers feel amazing to type on, but unfortunately, they're not included with the device and are fairly expensive. If you're looking to get a Surface Go 3 but can't afford Microsoft's pricey Type Cover, check out our roundup of Surface Go keyboards that cost less than Microsoft's Type Covers.

(Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook

Don't count out Chrome OS

Reasons to buy

+
Good specs
+
Excellent battery life
+
Great ports
+
Chrome OS is simple and clean

Reasons to avoid

-
Webcam is a bit grainy
-
Lacks features offered by Windows

For many folks who need a budget-friendly Core i3 device, Chromebooks will be the ideal option. Fitted with Chrome OS — a lightweight OS that has better battery life but fewer features compared to Windows (check out our comparison for more information) — Chromebooks are excellent for general productivity or education workloads. There are many excellent Chromebooks available, but our favorite is the Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook. It pairs an 11th Gen i3-1115G4 with up to 8GB of RAM and up to a 128GB SSD (there's a microSD card reader as well), delivering quality performance overall. The 1920x1080 FHD IPS touch display won't turn heads, but it's more than good enough for simple productivity and web browsing. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 are supported, too, and the 10-hour battery life is excellent for a laptop in this price range.

In terms of design, the Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook's convertible nature gives it additional flexibility compared to other options. The device itself is very light and compact, and it also has a generous port selection of dual USB-C and a single USB-A slot. The webcam is rather grainy, but even so, the Lenovo Flex 5i 13 Chromebook is still one of the best Core i3 Chromebooks available.

Bottom line

While Intel's Core i3 CPUs are far from the most capable chips available, they offer good performance for a low cost compared to i5 and i7 processors. This makes them perfect for budget laptops, and due to their high value, there are plenty of different laptops on the market today that feature Core i3 processors. Our favorite is the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 due to its quality overall specs, great design, and affordable pricing, but all of the other options on this list are fantastic as well.

If none of the devices in this roundup is a good fit for your needs, make sure you check out our list of the best Windows laptops available. If you'd prefer laptops that have more capable hardware and you don't mind paying extra for that additional power, you should also review our lists of the best Core i5 laptops and the best Core i7 laptops.