Some aspects of this laptop were a bit disappointing, but you can’t argue with performance.Full disclosure: Intel sent me this laptop as a part of their Youth Product Review program. I kept it for two weeks before sending it back.

Intel was nice enough to send me a loaner laptop for a couple weeks to get acquainted with their relatively new i5 processor, and I must say I came away pretty impressed.

The laptop I received was an Asus G-series gaming rig, so the specs were higher than you see on most college notebooks.  I’m spoiled by the build-quality, battery life, and operating system of my Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, so the Asus was in many respects a step down for me.  The materials used felt a little cheap, it was very heavy, and the battery life left something to be desired.  It was perfect for a gamer who would be keeping the laptop plugged in at a desk, but I couldn’t see myself carrying this beast to class.  That said, the i5 processor onboard can be found in a ton of student-friendly laptops these days, and it shined.

Obviously you aren’t really going to notice the i5 while word processing, checking email, or cruising Facebook. There were times however that I could really get a sense of its speed. The first thing I noticed was that it really seemed to excel at multitasking.  At one point I was streaming two HD videos simultaneously, and the CPU usage was  only hovering around 30%, leaving me free to go about a number of other tasks without really taxing the computer.  This is great news for students who like to catch up with their shows on Hulu.

Though I didn’t get the chance to test this is much detail, it’s clear that film students (or anybody who likes to make videos for class projects) will love the i5 and its i3 and i7 brethren. When the processor is performing a single strenuous task (like encoding video), it can overclock to deliver faster performance. This Turbo Boost Technology, as Intel calls it, is a neat trick, even if you won’t be taking advantage of it very often.  The bottom line is that while the i5 won’t really do anything your Core 2 Duo processor can’t, it will do a lot of things faster.

Since this new lineup from Intel is becoming pretty standard on new machines, it’s likely that next year’s freshman class will be arriving at campus with some pretty powerful computers. Like I said, 90% of the time you won’t really tell much of a difference, but for that 10% where you’re really hurting for system resources, you may find yourself longing for a laptop packing a latest-generation processor.