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2015 Laptop Processors Buying Guide

Purchasing advice, valuable tips and recommendations for laptop processors.


Recommended:
  • Editors Choice: Intel Core i7
  • Runners Up: Intel Core i5, AMD Phenom II
Minimum:
  • Intel Core i3
  • Intel Core 2 Duo
  • AMD Turion II

What is the current buzz on processors?

laptop processors intel amd dual core computer pictures Today's laptop processors are more powerful than ever thanks to multi-processor designs, advancements in computer manufacturing technologies, shifts in processor industry trends, software demands for faster processing, and well the list goes on.

The main highlight and performance enhancement in laptop processors today is multiple processing cores. In simple terms, any multi-core processor is basically one that has at least two or more processors in one. Today a dual-core processor is most common, but 3-core, 4-core, and processors with yet more cores do exist.

One of the main benefits to having a multi-core processor is the increased overall system responsiveness when you work with multiple applications simultaneously. Generally more cores equal better performance. For example you can be performing a virus scan while working on your favorite application at the same laptop processors intel logo computer graphic photo picturestime with a minimal performance hit.

Energy Efficient Laptop Computers

Besides more responsive multitasking, many individual applications can take advantage of each core at the same time.

These specially coded applications can theoretically run twice as fast. 
Currently most programs do not fully take advantage of a multi-core processor even today, but expect more and more applications to do so in the future.

Besides being extremely powerful, laptop processors today are also very efficient when it comes to energy usage. 

This is especially true for current Intel based processors, and the Intel Core i line of processors are simply amazing in our opinion because the performance to power consumption ratio is astonishing.

Laptop processors today have what's called a lower Thermal Design Power, or TDP. We are not going to get too technical, but in layman's terms having a lower TDP means laptops can be thinner and lighter thanks to smaller cooling solution requirements. Older processors in comparison required bulkier cooling solutions because they generated more heat.

So besides bringing thinner and lighter laptops to the table, a lower TDP also contributes to longer overall battery run times. In fact, it's not uncommon today to see laptops rated up to 5 hours on a single charge, with some laptops even topping 10+ hours.

In our opinion modern day laptop processors are simply amazing, and we've honestly barely touched base on their overall feature set. But now that you know a bit more regarding current laptop processors, let's move on to the recommendations, shall we?

What laptop processors are recommended?


Intel Laptop Processors:

For new laptops we currently recommend an Intel Core i7, Core i5, or Core i3 processor. The higher the i processor designation, the better the performance.

In our opinion the Intel Core i7 processor currently offers the best performance and features in a laptop processor hands down. 

For the ultimate in mobile computing performance, look no further than an Intel Core i7 processor.

Many fairly cheap laptops however come with Intel Core i5 processors which offer performance very close to an i7. 

Finally the Intel Core i3 is Intel's budget line processor, perfect for those looking for a low cost laptop.  The i3 is no slouch though for it still offers plenty of performance that should satisfy all but the most demanding computing users.

AMD Laptop Processors:

AMD also offers a solid lineup of processors from high-end to budget. In today's computing world AMD is Intel's only real competitor, so you don't have to look much further than AMD or Intel when selecting a laptop processor.

The AMD Phenom II is one of AMDs high-end processors.  The Phenom II offers comparable performance to the i7 and i5, so if the price for an AMD Phenom II based laptop is noticeably less than a similarly equipped Intel i7 or Intel i5, go for it. If a similarly equipped Phenom II system is more expensive, we'd personally stick with the Intel i7 or i5 platform.

One of AMDs budget-line processors is the Turion II.  We personally recommend a Turion II based system if you need only a basic laptop or you are on a budget, and the laptop containing one is being sold at an unbeatable price.

In our opinion, AMD Phenom II processors are ideal for power users who run demanding applications such as design and gaming, where Turion II processors are a great for basic users who perform tasks such as word processing, email, and web browsing.

Another thing you will encounter when shopping for AMD laptop computer processors is various marketing terms such as AMD APU, AMD Fusion or AMD Vision. Like most companies, AMD has a lot of marketing terms, but don't let these confuse you.

Essentially, an AMD APU is a central processing unit (CPU) and a graphics processing unit (GPU) on a single processor chip, referred to as a die in the technical world. AMD Fusion is the marketing name for a series of these APUs, and AMD Vision simply represents branding segments for the laptops that contain these technologies.

AMD or Intel Laptop Processors On A Budget:

If you are on a budget and looking to purchase a new laptop, one containing an AMD Turion II or an Intel Core i3 is a solid bet. Despite being AMD and Intel's so called budget line, these processors offer outstanding performance perfect basic computing chores.

If you are on a tighter budget and in the market for a used or slightly older laptop, we wouldn't go for anything less than a laptop containing an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, unless maybe you happen to be on a super tight budget.  An older Intel Core 2 Duo is admirable for they are still solid performing processors and an older laptop containing one can be picked up for fairly cheap.

Because there are plenty of older Intel Core 2 Duo laptops out there for great prices,  going for anything less in our opinion isn't worth it.  An outdated single core processor based laptop doesn't make much sense in our opinion for the benefits of a dual core processor such as the Core 2 Duo is definitely worth it in the long run, especially if you want to future proof your investment.

What Else Should I Pay Attention To When Selecting a Processor?


Other things to consider in laptop processors include their internal clock speed, external bus speed, and cache size among other things. As a general rule of thumb, bigger is usually better when comparing modern day processors.

Clock speed is the actual speed at which the processor runs inside and it is measured in (MHz) megahertz or (GHz) gigahertz.

Bus speed is the speed at which the processor communicates with the rest of the computer system, and is is also measured in megahertz or gigahertz.

Finally cache is basically a small chuck of memory located near the processing core that stores instructions or data and then feeds the internal processing unit these instructions to keep the laptop processors computational unit running efficiently by having a constant stream of data.

Do keep in mind that comparing AMD to Intel is like comparing apples to oranges. Because their internal logic is constructed differently the aforementioned features aren't an accurate gauge of performance in this situation.

On the other hand if you are comparing laptop processors from the same processor family like an Intel Core 2 to say another Intel Core 2, remembering that bigger is better is honestly a good way to determine the faster of the two.

Remember that speed isn't everything though, for balance is the key because while a small bump in clock speed is in fact faster, the price premium for this tiny performance increase may not be worth the extra cash.

For the basic or even average user we feel paying attention to technical details isn't as important as it was in the past when processors used to be more focused on raw clock speed, but regardless it still doesn't hurt to know a little bit about these features. And if you didn't know before, you at least do now.

To clarify things a little further, we don't really stress the technical details for the average user because we personally feel modern day Intel Core i7, i5, i3, or AMD Phenom II or Turion II laptop processors will likely handle their demands and then some.

For you power users on the other hand our opinion is different. Because you guys will need ultimate performance, we advise you to pay close attention to the technical jargon. A 2MB cache increase and 200MHz bump in clock speed may just shave a few minutes or more off your video encode. For your line of work we like to go with the bigger is better approach to be honest. Time is money after all.

Want to learn more about each processor?  Here is a direct link to both the Intel and AMD processor comparison page.



Final Thoughts

We hope you've enjoyed this brief laptop processors buying guide.  Now you should be armed with the right information to make a well informed laptop purchase.

But as a final thought we wanted to clarify a few things about Intel vs AMD. We realize we are a bit partial to Intel based notebooks and feel it is only fair to AMD to elaborate a bit since AMD does make fantastic processors.

We are slightly partial to Intel only because Advance Micro Devices (AMD) is slightly trailing in the CPU performance department.  So at the moment we don't necessarily recommend AMD over Intel unless you find a bargain on an AMD based laptop compared to an equivalent Intel based laptop. 

If you do go with AMD over Intel and are looking for a rock solid performer, we'd personally go no less than an AMD Phenom II for a high-end configuration, and for a low-end model we'd stick with at least an AMD Turion II.

Soo while maybe AMDs Phenom II is not the absolute top performing laptop processor when compared to Intel's flagship i7, we are still very impressed with Phenom II notebooks so don't think you will be selling yourself short by going with AMD. We just feel Intel right now is the better option, that's if an AMD based system isn't the better bang for your buck of course!



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