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Pigsy
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Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:12 am

Hi,

I seem to have had a bunch of crappy luck lately with buying computers that just make a ton of noise for no reason. Just had to send back an ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW because it was pretty much full out on fans at idle and showing temps jumping around 70-80c when doing absolutely nothing.

Having done more research online it seems a lot of people are having major noise problems with i7 ultrabooks, which makes sense when you think about it.

Anyways I don't think it's too much to ask in 2017 to have a quiet laptop at idle or when under a light work load, regardless of the CPU and especially when you're spending £1,500+. My 3 year old Macbook Pro runs for weeks at a time non-stop and is completely silent most of the time.

So please may someone be so kind as to recommend me a laptop that has the following qualities:

1. A 15" screen
2. Something that isn't too heavy (doesn't have to be an ultrabook, just shouldn't feel like a giant brick)
3. Has a Core i7
4. Has a nice quality build and feel

No need for gaming and the budget would be around £1,500.

Thank you
 
Chrispy_
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:04 pm

Core i7 is pretty meaningless. The slowest three core i7 models (1.3, 2.4, 2.7GHz dual-cores) are significantly slower than the almost all of the i3 and i5 processors. It's just branding. Also, a manufacturer usually offers a range of CPU options but they'll all use the same laptop chassis with the same cooling. A 28W processor in that laptop may be loud, yet the same laptop with a slower 15W processor might be blissfully silent.

If you want something quiet, aim for something that is relatively large (like maybe 15mm thick) but only has a 15W processor in it. Here's a list of current-generation intel processors:

Look at the TDP value of the processor -
  • If it's under 10W it should be passively-cooled with no fan, even in an ultrabook.
  • if it's 15-30W it should be very quiet in a thin-ish laptop that has a fan, but it will make for a noisy ultrabook, most likely
  • If it's 35W or above, expect some noise, unless it's either thick enough for lots of cooling slots, or unless there are two fans rather than one.

Notebookcheck.net is a good site to look up a specific model you like the look of and they do noise-level testing, but they also dismantle laptops so that you can count the number of fans in the chassis and see how big the cooling system is. Lots of cooling heatpipes and a larger array of fins and fans is always going to be quieter for any given CPU.

I'm not sure about costs in the US for these since they're subject to sales and offers a lot, but two decent laptops that seem to fit the bill for you would be some flavour of Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, or Dell XPS 15. The Dell has a dedicated Nvidia 1050 GPU, so it's likely to make more noise if you use the GPU for anything, but also it has superior cooling so it should be very quiet indeed when the dGPU is inactive.
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mikewinddale
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:24 pm

Looking at the specs for that ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW you had bought . . . (https://www.asus.com/us/Laptops/ASUS-Ze ... fications/) . . .

It had a Core™ i7 6700HQ, which is a quad-core processor with a 45W TDP. So that's a rather high-performance processor (by laptop standards). I'd recommend looking at the low-voltage "U" processors, such as the Core i7 7500U. That's a dual-core processor with a 15W TDP.

Depending on the kind of work you're planning on doing, that ought to be plenty peppy. I've got a Lenovo E570 with a Core i7-7500U and a Geforce 950M, and I'm able to play Starcraft 2 with all the visual settings maxed out, so I'm happy. But the fan does still run. It sounds like a loud breeze.
 
mikewinddale
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 12:44 pm

On my Lenovo E570 with the Core i7-7500U, I typically have my laptop plugged in and set to the "high performance" power option. But just now, I put it on "power saver", with the maximum CPU frequency set to 100%, but with the cooling policy set to "passive". So with both "power saver" and "high performance", the maximum CPU frequency is the same, but the cooling policy is different.

Then, I ran Cinebench to see how much of a performance penalty I got.

When the cooling policy is active, I got 345 cb on Cinebench. With passive, I got 265.

I was watching the Task Manager, and when set to passive, my laptop stayed around 2.7 GHz on both cores, never going past its base frequency (2.7 GHz), whereas its Turbo frequency is 3.5 GHz. So it seems as if a Core i7-7500U is able to maintain its base frequency without any active cooling. Apparently, it only needs active cooling for Turbo.

For comparison, another laptop of mine, a 3 year old Lenovo E545 with a quad-core AMD A10-5750M, gets 198 cb on Cinebench at its best ("high performance" power setting). And that laptop is perfectly peppy at running Windows 8.1 and OpenOffice and such. (So why did I buy a new laptop, if the old one was perfectly good? Because I got a new job and I wanted to reward myself by splurging a little bit.)

So as long as you're doing basic office productivity kinds of things, I think that a Core i7-7500U with the cooling policy set to "passive" will do you fine. If you ever really need to do some serious work, just put the computer on "high performance" with the cooling policy set to "active".
 
mikewinddale
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 1:08 pm

I usually buy the cheaper Lenovo E-class, but I just went and explored the Lenovo T570. I maxed out almost everything, including giving it a Core i7-7600U, 16 GB of RAM, jumbo 72Wh battery that supposedly gives 27 hours of battery life), Geforce GTX 940M, 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD, you name it, and it came out to $2,055.60, which is about 1574.59 British pounds. So that's right around your price range.

And it's milspec. To quote Lenovo, "Tested for Battle, Built for Success. Every ThinkPad laptop undergoes 12 stringent military tests and over 200 quality checks. So, you can rest easy knowing that your T570 is more than capable of surviving the bumps and bruises of everyday life."

So try that out, see what you think. http://www3.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/th ... 2TP2TT5700

I also just configured an E570, maxing out everything there. It doesn't have all the same options as the T570, but it has a lot of them. (For example, you can't get the humongous battery on the E570, and the E570 isn't milspec.) The maxed-out E570 came out to $1,034.10 or 790.47 British pounds.
 
mikewinddale
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 1:20 pm

Actually, now that I see how well a 7500U works on passive cooling, I wonder what would happen if you just ran a quad-core Core i7-HQ processor on passive cooling? You might get 4 cores of base frequency just fine.

If someone here has a laptop quad-core HQ processor, I'd be interested to hear what happens when you set the cooling policy to passive.
 
Ethyriel
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:54 pm

mikewinddale wrote:
Actually, now that I see how well a 7500U works on passive cooling, I wonder what would happen if you just ran a quad-core Core i7-HQ processor on passive cooling? You might get 4 cores of base frequency just fine.

If someone here has a laptop quad-core HQ processor, I'd be interested to hear what happens when you set the cooling policy to passive.


It really depends, Notebookcheck found that the T460p with a quad core processor throttled pretty heavily very quickly with load. I'm pretty sure the T470p is the same way. Getting the Nvidia graphics option actually helped some, because Lenovo uses a second heat pipe in those machine types, but not enough for heavy usage. As much as I love Thinkpads, you're better off looking elsewhere or to their proper workstation machines for quad cores.
 
mikewinddale
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:02 pm

Ethyriel wrote:
Notebookcheck found that the T460p with a quad core processor throttled pretty heavily very quickly with load.


Good to know. So probably better to stick with one of the dual-core "U" processors. I already mentioned that my E570 with the Core i7-7500U did well with passive cooling, so maybe the T570 would as well?

(The difference between the T470/570 with and without the "p", is that the "p" has a quad-core HQ processor, while the non-"p" has a dual-core U processor.)
 
Pigsy
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:13 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
Core i7 is pretty meaningless. The slowest three core i7 models (1.3, 2.4, 2.7GHz dual-cores) are significantly slower than the almost all of the i3 and i5 processors. It's just branding. Also, a manufacturer usually offers a range of CPU options but they'll all use the same laptop chassis with the same cooling. A 28W processor in that laptop may be loud, yet the same laptop with a slower 15W processor might be blissfully silent.


Thank you for the reply and information.

Yeah was my mistake not mentioning the specific i7 model, as I realize it's a huge marketing thing rather than necessarily real performance.

I'll heed your advice and look for a processor with a lower watt usage. Funnily enough though there was one called the Lenovo Yoga 910 which has i7-7500U (15 W) and a ton of people have been complaining about noise. I've also noticed people say that all the Asus range (regardless of CPU watt usage) are loud. So far the best one I've Dell Latitude 7480, which only has a 14" but is apparently silent most the time.

I really don't understand how this isn't a bigger deal and so many manufacturers seem totally fine charging thousands of dollars for noisy laptops
 
Pigsy
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:21 pm

mikewinddale wrote:
Looking at the specs for that ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW you had bought . . . (https://www.asus.com/us/Laptops/ASUS-Ze ... fications/) . . .

It had a Core™ i7 6700HQ, which is a quad-core processor with a 45W TDP. So that's a rather high-performance processor (by laptop standards). I'd recommend looking at the low-voltage "U" processors, such as the Core i7 7500U. That's a dual-core processor with a 15W TDP.

Depending on the kind of work you're planning on doing, that ought to be plenty peppy. I've got a Lenovo E570 with a Core i7-7500U and a Geforce 950M, and I'm able to play Starcraft 2 with all the visual settings maxed out, so I'm happy. But the fan does still run. It sounds like a loud breeze.


Thank you for all your replies.

I've never bought a Lenovo before, but they do look decent. I'll just go to a few stores tomorrow and see one in person.

I totally understand there being a fan noise when gaming or under heavy load, but it's completely unacceptable to have a loud fan when idle within Windows or just doing light work, especially when you're spending thousands of dollars. To me fan noise is for sure one of the top 3 things I look to avoid in a laptop, or any computer for that matter.

Either way I have a better idea now of what to get. Thanks again
 
mikewinddale
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:45 pm

Update: so I just ran Cinebench on my E570, 4 times in a row, with passive cooling only. At the end of the 4th run, it was still getting the same scores, at the same clock speed, namely 2.7 GHz (which is its base frequency), and 269 cb. So it wasn't throttling even after 4 runs of Cinebench with passive cooling.

At the end of the 4th run, I turned on active cooling and immediately re-ran Cinebench. The clock speed immediately jumped to 3.5 GHz, which is its top turbo speed, and the fan immediately fired up. This time, it scored 330 cb.

So what says to me, is that the E570 will deliver quite acceptable performance even without using the fan, but that at the same time, the high performance will be there whenever you choose to turn the fan on.

I suspect the same is true of any other similar laptop equipped with a "U" processor, such as the Core i7-7500U in the E570, or the 7600U in the T570. I should note that my E570 does have the Geforce GTX 950M, so perhaps that means it has some extra heatpipes that helped (as Ethyriel's post suggests). Apparently, even if you're not using the graphics cards, the graphics card's extra cooling can help cool the CPU.

Just configure your power settings wisely. I had to manually create a power profile in Windows that stipulated "up to 100%" CPU frequency but also "passive" cooling only.
 
mikewinddale
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Re: Best i7 laptop for someone wanting low noise and no gaming?

Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:59 pm

Oh, one more thing: if you look at Lenovos, be sure to distinguish between Ideapads and Thinkpads. The Ideapads are marketed to consumers, while the Thinkpads are marketed to businesses. In general, the Thinkpads are going to be more expensive but also built to a higher standard, being more durable and easier to service. So just keep that in mind.

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