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How to choose processor for your laptop? Building a laptop isn’t possible like building a desktop and that is a problem which hasn’t been solved yet. So it is necessary that when you buy one, you know what the laptop is capable of.
This is because upgrading anything other than the RAM is a mess, because of many limitations, among which is the availability of space, and a motherboard that doesn’t allow you many alterations in any of the components before you replace it entirely. So how do you select the processor amidst all this?
- The performance levels offered along with the features at a given price point are the major factors to consider while choosing a processor for a laptop.
- Since it is for a laptop, the power consumption is one of the most important factors to consider so that it does not drain out the battery power fast, requiring you to recharge it frequently.
- Your budget and your computing needs are also important points to consider so that the processor supports all types of tasks that you want to do on your laptop computer.
- The cache size, number of cores and threads, clock speed and overclocking ability, maximum RAM speed and support are also vital points that may influence your buying decision.
Should You Choose AMD or Intel?
This is a question that bothers both desktop and laptop users equally, and although expensive and slightly less powerful than the former, laptop users are plenty worldwide, who have similar questions regarding the processor brand.
We will try to answer some of these, so that you, as one of our esteemed viewers can make a decision easily.
But we admit beforehand that there is no ‘best’ here as both of these brands attract a different kind of crowd, and while some of you are fond of AMD, others would personally prefer Intel.
There have not been many occasions where Intel needed to come out and prove itself and is standing strong with the new 10th gen Comet Lake H and Ice Lake CPUs that are based on 14nm and 10nm+ architecture respectively, keeping in mind the needs of the modern user in every price range.
But the new Ryzen 4000 CPUs are really posing a threat. While we don’t yet know whether Intel’s upcoming Tiger Lake CPUs would be able to answer it, we do know for sure that the AMD CPUs are going to make a mark on the laptop market.
Who Offers Better Performance?
This depends on which segment you are interested in. You might be a budget buyer, or looking for some serious performance from your laptop.
It is true that when you can spend money, there’s nothing that is difficult, but yet, at a given price range in the budget and midrange, AMD seems to offer a bit more power.
Being so, their Ryzen 3 and Ryzen 5 mobile CPUs provide more power than the Intel i3 and i5 respectively, while some Ryzen 5 iterations are as good as basic i7s.
The dual-core options are utilized by many brands, and hence you get options, but less in AMD when compared to Intel.
However, the semi-upper segment and Macbooks especially, don’t favor AMD.
It is true that the new Ryzen 9 4900 HS CPU is a fantastic performer, and even the best from Intel isn’t as cheap as it is as can be seen in the Asus ROG Gephyrus G14, but apart from the new ones launched recently, there aren’t many choices.
Also, there are no laptops from Apple that provide AMD CPUs as of now, which might be the reason you would prefer Intel if you are buying a MacBook. This isn’t even much of a decision really as one simply has no other options.
This can be illustrated when two similar CPUs from the two brands are considered, for example the Ryzen 7 3750H and the Core i7 9750H, AMD may be power efficient and a decent quad-core CPU, but with 6 cores and a much large cache, the i7 variant proves to be much better.
Not only that, Intel’s CPU has also a greater boosted clock speed, and hence the only other thing AMD is better at is the inbuilt graphics.
Who is Cheaper Currently?
One might already know the answer, as it is the same as it always has been, AMD.
If you leave out laptops with the Celeron and Pentium processors, then in the cheaper segment there can be nothing better than a good old AMD CPU.
But laptop prices don’t depend entirely upon the processor, and since we are not considering you would buy one to replace your older CPU, so it is very difficult to say.
But with a given specification, you may expect the Ryzen powered laptop would save you some bucks at least.
Who Offers More Battery Life?
Battery life is one of those matters that are of prima facie importance when buying a laptop.
Power consumption isn’t much of a problem in desktops, but the case is entirely the opposite in mobile computers.
AMD may offer more value at a cheaper price, but battery backup isn’t something it can boast about.
There are other factors here as well like the display size, battery size, and so on, but when only the power consumption of the CPU itself is concerned, Intel has both battery saving and efficient options.
Moreover, when a laptop uses a powerful GPU, or while you are constantly gaming, editing, or doing anything that can be done with the GPU, the laptop’s battery consumption is sure to increase.
Both Intel and AMD have tried to solve the issue with their latest releases, and as can be seen with two variants of the Acer Swift 3.
The one with an AMD Ryzen 7 4700U actually managed to provide more battery time than the one with 10th gen Core i5 1035G1U processor, and hence the competition is getting tough.
But this was a test based on integrated graphics, and adding a discrete GPU to the equation would surely change results.
Who Offers More Features?
AMD doesn’t have onboard graphics in many CPUs, but those which do have it are known as APUs (Accelerated Processing Units).
The fight between an AMD APU and an Intel CPU can be reserved for some other day, but in terms of graphics, at least APUs outperform their rivals.
In terms of integrated graphics, test results show that even with a weaker CPU, AMD Vega 8 or Vega 11 graphics can produce better frame rates at games than even the 11th gen Intel graphics solutions found in the 10th gen processors.
Now, of course, every game has its own set of requirements, but AMD still managed to pull ahead of Intel in most and that too with quite a big margin.
While this being the case, AMD does not support Thunderbolt 3 port yet, and the only way you can get one is by buying an Intel laptop.
Also, ultrabooks and ultralight laptops can be seen more with Intel CPUs inside rather than AMD, although there are some good AMD ultrabooks as well.
So, each brand has its own set of extra features.
Which One Should You Buy?
All cards played at the table, it all depends on what preferences you have and what generation of the CPU you are willing to accept.
The Ryzen 3000 series is not the ideal choice over 9th gen Intel, while we see no reason why you should choose anything other than the new AMD 4000 series.
It is true that Intel has better GPU options and at times proves to be much better than AMD overall, but AMD isn’t backing down either.
AMD provides you with cheaper options, while Intel has something for everyone. So this is one choice that is better left at your discretion.
Both Intel and AMD have different CPUs for desktops and laptops or such other mobile computers. One wouldn’t fit the other, so do not make the mistake of confusing the two.
When you have successfully decided on the processor brand, you must be searching for the kind of processor you want to have.
But chances are you surfed around the Web to clear your confusion since every processor has a letter or suffix in its name, like ‘U’ or ‘K’, and ended up being more confused.
The naming scheme is the same as desktop processors, nothing new about that. But these names aren’t just given for the manufacturer’s own purpose, and rather these provide information about a CPU’s performance.
So to make your choice easy, make sure you know what a laptop’s name means. The naming convention is followed by all the CPUs, although 10th gen Intel CPUs are slightly different.
So for an Intel laptop processor, like the Intel Core i5 8250U, here is what you can know from the name:
- The Intel Core indicates the series or brand of the processor, and for an average user, the processors in these series would be most suitable. Other options include Celeron, Pentium, etc.
- Next, the i5 refers to the segment, or as called by Intel ‘brand modifier’. You can understand the level of performance it can offer from this, and the higher this number is the better the CPU can perform.
- Then comes the numbers, and in most cases, it is an Alpha-numeric sequence of 4 digits. The first digit shows the generation, while the last two digits are SKU numbers.
For the latest 10th gen processors like the Core i5-10210U, a 5 digit naming can be seen. The last 3 are the SKU code, while the first two indicate the generation.
There are also processors with a G in their name. In such, there is a 6 digit sequence, the first two indicating generation, the next two indicating SKU, and the last two are suffix which ranges from G1 to G7.
As you go higher in the suffix in this case, you will get better graphics performance than the lower ones (G7 has better graphics than G4, while G4 has better graphics than G1).
- In Celeron processors, the naming may or may not start with an ‘N’ and followed by numbers. The higher this number is, the faster is the processor. For example, the N3700 is slightly faster than an N3060.
- For Pentium, there are two standards, Gold and Silver. For both, a higher number means better processing.
The Gold processors are focused on better performance and have no prefixes. Their name constitutes a number sequence followed by SKU digits.
Pentium Silver CPUs are cost-effective, and laptops with these are very few in number.
Now for the letters-
K – means unlocked. Meaning that laptops with only these letters can be overclocked.
G– Good Graphics. (For 10th gen processors, it means newer graphics).
H– High Performance
HK– High Graphics. High-end Laptops have powerful GPUs installed as well for the most performance, and you can understand that with ‘HK’ in its name.
U– means low power. These laptops focus on providing a better battery life rather than better performance
Y– Very low power. These constitute the cheapest laptops and don’t expect these to perform as good as the others because of the same reason above.
Intel also uses the suffix “M” for a highly powerful Xeon series of CPUs, mainly designed for server and workstation uses.
In the case of AMD the method is almost the same, so let us consider the Ryzen 3 3200G. Here, like Intel, Ryzen and the following digit (here 3) refers to the series of the CPU.
Then, the first 3 shows the level of the processor, and the next 3 is the generation. The last two digits or ‘00’ is the SKU number. The suffix, G here means that there is a Radeon Vega video card present in the processor package.
HS- High performance with low power consumption (35W is most common)
H- means high performance
U– means usual performance that is optimized for everyday usage
Budget and Requirements
When buying a laptop, one has to know for what purpose they are going to use it, and a mistake in this can result in a wrong purchase.
Based on what you need, you can select a price range accordingly.
This is one of the flexible aspects that you will find on laptops that there is a wide range of options, from very cheap to very costly devices that serve the user’s needs accordingly.
- Cheapest CPUs
When looking for a basic laptop that comes cheap, opt for Intel Celeron and even cheaper Intel Atom processors.
They aren’t very powerful, but can undertake the simple everyday tasks that you might have to do, but don’t expect to multitask.
You will get both Windows and Chrome OS options easily within $200, while the processors themselves are the cheapest (about $50) but many choose to invest in better processors today as these are very limited in functionality and while Atom processors for laptops are already so, the Celeron options would soon be discontinued as well.
As for AMD, you get the 7th gen A4 9120C and A6 9220C both being cheap, dual-core CPUs with TDP of 6 W.
You get integrated Radeon R4 and R5 graphics respectively too. While they have lower base clock speeds, they do support clock boost, unlike the Intel counterparts.
- Entry Level CPUs
Now you may ask if your simple requirements are getting fulfilled by the options above, why should you even continue reading?
Well surely those are cheap and power-efficient, etc but they also have major limitations in terms of storage, RAM, and other places that you should be able to make upgrades. What’s the point of spending money and yet not getting enough utility?
This is the reason why you should be spending a bit more and getting mainstream CPUs that most users have today, an Intel i3 or AMD Ryzen 3 processor.
Intel uses the 10th gen processors for the new launches, while you will still find older generations like the 8th or 9th gen processors like the i3 8250U.
The ones launched in 2019 are Core i3 9100 HL and 9100 TE with similar performance with 4 cores and a 6 MB cache that do fairly well.
These support turbo-boosting, and you can expect to stream movies, surf about the internet, game a bit, and even edit a few of your photos without a sign of lag.
AMD, on the other hand, has the latest 4000 series Ryzen 3 4300U, which come handy at everything mentioned above, and even some better multitasking and light gaming.
Then there are 3000 series, like the Ryzen 3 3300U and 3200U that have a slightly lower price, clock speed but offer both dual-core and quad-core options at the same TDP.
But wait there are the 2nd gen processors as well with slight differences than the other two generations. An AMD system comes cheaper with similar and at times better performance, so the choice is yours to make.
- Mid Range CPUs
For some better overall performance, look for the Core i5 processor, and AMD alternative Ryzen 5 ones, that can handle more tasks at the same time, have better processing power and support a wide range of software, other than intense games.
When paired with a decent GPU, your productivity would be boosted by numbers if you are using chips like the Intel Core i5-8300H, Core i5 9300H, and even better Core i5-1035G4.
AMD too has capable Ryzen 5 4600H, Ryzen 5 3550H, and the lower performing Ryzen 5 3500U if your budget strains. These are the most balanced CPUs that can be helpful for students and professionals alike.
But there are many content creators, gamers, ethical hackers, and similar users who need more power, and hence they have to choose from Intel Core i7 and Ryzen 7 options.
Usually, these already have a decent GPU installed so that you never need to worry about performance once you make the purchase.
Some of the worthy devices that can be found today are the Dell XPS 13 that has all the 10th gen, 9th gen, and 8th gen options that you can have, along with the Apple MacBook pro which too provides you with many alternatives.
For Ryzen lovers, you can check out the Acer Swift 3 (Ryzen 7 4700U variant) and the Asus TUF Gaming A15 that features a Ryzen 7 4800U CPU with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 graphics and a 144 Hz display that gives a comfortable experience in even the demanding tasks.
Not only these two, there are many other companies that you may consider, and as the price varies from brand to brand, each adding or removing features as it deems fit, but there are affordable options if you look about.
- High-end CPUs
Now, this segment features laptops which are surely expensive, and only suitable if you are interested in serious gaming or graphics-related tasks that require 6-8 cores, and as much clock speed as you can possibly get.
When buying a laptop in this range, our suggestion would be to go with the latest iterations, since you are already spending so much, why not get the best by spending some more?
For the 10th gen i9, devices start at about $2500+ and the MSI GE66 Raider is a commendable performer.
There are other CPUs from Intel in the 9th generation Core i9 CPUs like the i9-9980HK as featured in the Asus Zenbook Pro Duo UX581 and a cheaper Dell G5 15. 8th gen processors like the Core i7-8750H are also decent performers, at an affordable price tag.
Other Factors to Consider
CPU generation is a very important aspect regarding its performance, and matters are similar for both AMD and Intel here.
The latest generations bring improvements over the previous ones, along with better clock speeds.
When you would be using your new laptop for quite some time, the 10th gen Intel and 4000 series AMD are what you should be considering, no matter what level of performance.
The 8th and 9th gen is good for Intel, but never go below that. For AMD, choosing their 3000 series CPUs would be better than the 2000 series, as they are quite old now and have been replaced by better options.
- Clock Speed
Be it a desktop or a laptop, more clock speed means better processing speed and faster access to applications. While it is simple, make sure to keep an eye on the generation of the processor as well.
If you only buy a CPU that has a high clock speed but is of a lower generation or there aren’t enough cores, the results wouldn’t be very desirable. But you needn’t worry too much as the manufacturer fixes these for you, and all you need to do is select one.
Also, Intel processors tend to have a higher clock rate than AMD variants, so make sure you check that too, if of course if you are really that concerned with performance.
- Cache Size
Cache size of the processor is again one of those that is stipulated by the manufacturer concerned, and you have no scope of altering it.
But what you can do is choose the processor with an amount of cache that you feel would be good for processing the things that you usually do, and hence the size differs from an average, regular office user than a gamer, the later kind requiring more cache.
The more instructions can be stored, the faster the processor would the CPU be able to perform under given conditions, and that is why it matters.
Mid-range CPUs typically have up to 6 or 8 MB of cache, while those that have more cores and can take up more workload may have 12 MB of it, and the Intel X series CPUs can have 25 MB of total cache.
But this difference in cache size comes at a difference of hundreds of dollars.
So, one would be wise to focus on RAM since it makes a more direct impact on the performance, and is easier to upgrade.
- No of Cores and Threads
While clockspeed and the number of cores are different topics, both work with the same purpose of producing output faster. Multi-core processors like the Ryzen 9 series can have up to 12 working cores, but how is that beneficial?
Well, the more cores are present on the CPU, the more tasks it will be able to undertake at a given time, and here more clock speed will ensure that these tasks are performed at a faster rate.
A dual-core Intel Core i3 processor, for example, has two cores only, while a hexa-core Intel Core i7 CPU has six, and so you realize that the CPU in the second one can allot 6 cores to perform 6 different tasks, and thus is at a clear advantage over the i3.
Each core can have two threads at most, and hence more cores mean more threads, meaning that the working capacity of the CPU is increased manifold.
Some CPUs may have the same number of cores and threads, while others can have double the number of threads, like in the Core i7-9850H.
With the rise of multi-threaded tasks, the need for more threads has arisen, and hence more cores.
Most of the things that you do today require more than a single core and a single thread, while the number increases as you run more performance-centered tasks on your laptop.
We have talked about overclocking in many of our articles and so we wouldn’t be doing so here. But is it good to overclock your laptop CPU?
See tampering with internal voltage and temperatures is fine until you have ample cooling, which is not hard to arrange in a desktop.
But, a laptop on the other end running on an i7 or i9 (or AMD equivalent) CPU runs hot already, and you know there are limitations regarding cooling.
Putting more heat can cause serious damage to one or more components since you cannot add a cooling fan in the limited space available.
Thus, overclocking is one of those things which you shouldn’t try on your laptop unless you have vast knowledge about how much should be enough, or you are a professional.
- Max RAM support
You may not require an upgrade in RAM on your laptop immediately, but you might need to do so in the near future.
Every CPU supports a fixed amount of RAM, and no matter if you buy an Intel or AMD CPU, the capacity is fixed and the processor itself cannot utilize more RAM than this limit anyhow.
Unless you aren’t using a very base level CPU, you should know the maximum amount of RAM your system supports.
Expensive processors allow addition up to 128 GB of memory, and though you wouldn’t need so much, it would be better to choose a processor that allows you to add at least another 4 GB or 8 GB RAM module over the existing RAM.
But there should also be spare slots on the motherboard that would allow you the same.
There might be a situation where your processor just cannot perform better even though you add more and more RAM, but until then extra RAM could prove useful.
- Power Consumption
Laptops run on batteries, and this isn’t a wonderful new fact that we are providing. However, the battery consumption is largely dependent upon how you use the laptop, the screen type, and the processor’s performance.
Modern CPUs are very efficient indeed, but using a powerful processor has an impact on your battery life.
If you really need a good battery backup, choose the ones with ‘U’ in their name which shouldn’t require you to compromise much on the performance.
Those with a ‘Y’ are even miser regarding battery consumption, but cannot function as good as other CPUs in the same series.
So it depends on your personal preference whether you need raw performance or battery backup.
The best would be to find a CPU that has a balance of both, and though we cannot make a clear suggestion here since there are other factors that can alter your laptop’s battery life, the Dell Latitude 7400 and the HP Envy 360 could be what you are looking for.
Is the laptop Future Proof?
When investing a huge sum for a laptop, there must be a timespan for which you should be able to use it.
The scope of making upgrades are very limited, and even if the other factors aren’t considered, no laptop allows its user to change the CPU without a complete motherboard replacement, and one would rather buy a new laptop entirely than getting into such complexity or expenditure for an old device.
So when you are buying a new laptop at least, make sure that it is future proof by choosing the latest iteration of the series you intend to buy.
Like at this time when 10th gen processors are at the scene, it would be foolish to invest in a 6th gen laptop, even though it could save you some money initially.
If you cannot afford the immediately released iteration, buying one launched a year or two ago at max should still be worth it. There are other specs as well that should be taken care of, but those aren’t relevant to our discussion here.
This was all related to choosing a new processor for your new laptop. If this guide was of any use, feel free to give your feedback in the comments below.