I'm looking to buy a new laptop, and I've narrowed it down to two models, with the only difference between them being the processor. The first model has an i5-6300HQ, and the second one has an i7-6700HQ. Both models come with a 1TB HDD out of the box and 8GB of DDR4-2133 RAM.

My usage would include:

  • multimedia playback, web browsing, MS Office
  • programming (mostly Android Studio and Eclipse, maybe PyCharm, maybe some MySQL)
  • occasionally running virtual machines (but very rarely more than one at a time)

So my question would be: is it better to buy the i5 model and add a very fast PCIe/NVMe SSD, or buy the i7 model and add a slower SATA3 SSD? Given that the i7 / PCIe SSD combination would be slightly out of my budget at the moment.

Thank you in advance for help.

Edit: The two models I've found are both Lenovo Ideapad 700-15ISK. They are the same, only the CPU is different. My budget is somewhere between $850 and $1000 (converted from local currency), depending on specific configuration (for example, whether it has an SSD out of the box or would I have to buy it additionally). However, I do believe that one of these two Lenovo models would be best for me, because they offer pretty good bang for the buck, and both have PCIe/NVMe slots, which are also easily reachable.

  • 1
    One should note that the i7 isn't going to give significant gains should whatever apps you're using not take advantage of SMT (Hyperthreading). Also, it's usual on this site to give specific requirements (exactly what software, workload, budget, country deliverable to and expected behavior), sacrificing generality for more applicable and less opinionated answers, and any research already done, to help us see what you're looking at, so if you could tell us what your budget is and what the two laptop/models you've already found are, that would probably be good.
    – timuzhti
    Feb 15 '17 at 9:58
  • @Alpha3031: OK, thank you for the comment. I have edited the original post to include more detail. Note that I am looking for kind of a more general answer as to what's better, given that I cannot precisely predict the exact usage scenarios I will go through. The three usage scenarios I mentioned in the original post are more or less certain and I think they are detailed enough for the kind of answer I'm hoping for.
    – Marko J.
    Feb 15 '17 at 16:09

I would say that for your use-case, go with the i5 6300QH with the PCIe-Based SSD.

  • Multimedia playback (Especially at higher bitrates and resolutions) will benefit more from a faster storage device. Faster reads from your disk will allow you to play and scrub through media without any buffering considering the much higher IOPS and lower latency.
  • Programming and code compiling will also benefit more from a faster storage device. You won't see much real world difference in terms of compile time between the i5 and i7, but with only 8GB of RAM you may notice much better paging performance when building larger projects.
  • From my experience, if you are just running a single VM, 4 cores/threads should be fine for most general-use VM applications (Programming in a Linux Environment for example). Again, you will notice more of a benefit from the faster SSD.

Some notes that you might want to consider as well:

  • The current laptop models you noted only has room for one 2.5" SATA-Based storage device, meaning you would have to sacrifice that 1TB HDD for an SSD if you were to go with a SATA solution over the PCIe solution.
  • Much faster boot times (Both regular and virtualized).
  • For a laptop, you will also notice much faster wakes from sleep or hibernation.
  • All of your expected uses for the laptop don't really benefit from more threads (Although some may say more threads for Virtualization would be better).

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