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What to Look for in a Laptop CPU?

laptop cpu

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Laptops, Notebooks, Ultrabooks are becoming popular than ever before. The technical advancement has made it possible to carry increasing features which allow you to do anything that is possible with a standard desktop machine. The price has also come down over the period. These are now powerful machines as good and powerful as a Desktop PC. The ability to carry around such powerful machines is the main reason for its ever-increasing popularity.

When it comes to selecting a laptop, it’s still a difficult challenge considering the wide range of major brands serving to a different budget audience. In this article, we will find out what to look for when it comes to CPU inside a laptop.

Any computers hardware specification starts with an entry which looks somewhat like this.

  • 3.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM Processor, 6MB cache
  • 3.1 GHz Intel Core i5-3210M 3MB Cache
  • 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 2MB Cache
  • 1.8 GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800

CPU or Microprocessor or simply called Processor is one of the major components which determine the speed of a device. CPU is the brain of the device which is responsible for processing data. Faster the ability to process data, faster the computer responds to your instructions. No matter if you upgrade other components inside a PC, the maximum performance you can expect is limited to what CPU is capable of. For that reason, it is important to know what your microprocessor is capable of.

Intel and AMD are the major competitors when it comes to manufacturing CPU/microprocessor for laptops or notebooks. Both manufactures did a great job in making these mobile processors as powerful as their desktop counterparts. It’s a tough job to select with several different processors available in the market.

Starting from the lower end is Intel’s Atom processor which created the Netbook craze. The processor allowed for the small size of the device, reasonably powerful to operate basic applications and provided better battery life. Netbooks are only meant for lightweight use. These days, it is better to buy a tablet than a Netbook.

Then comes the Intel’s I series and AMD’s A series. Intel ‘i’ series comes in i3, i5 and the latest 17. All these series are modification over the other and each comes with improved performance.

Intel processors are now in the third generation with “Ivy Bridge” architecture. The second generation “Sandy Bridge” processor is also available in the market which is priced less and gives a good performance. But “Ivy Bridge” architecture gives a better CPU performance, improved graphics, and long battery life. It’s easy to identify the architecture of a processor. Processors with Sandy Bridge architecture will have a model number starting with 2 e.g., Core i5-2410M and Ivy Bridge start with 3 eg, Core i7-3610QM.

When it comes to the number of cores, the market is dominated by laptops with Dual Core Processor. Dual-core processors give a good battery life and better performance. Dual Core Processor is represented by a suffix M as in Core i5-2410M. The improved version is now Quad Core Processors. It’s easy to identify Quad Core with suffix QM in the model Core i7-3610QM. Quad Core processors performance is far superior to Dual Core. It does come with a price and increased power consumption. This is the processor that you need to select if you are planning to use your laptop for High-end gaming, entertainment powerhouse and as desktop replacement style device. There is a Core i7-3290XM which is extreme edition only meant for the most expensive of gaming laptops.

The next is the CPU/Microprocessor for the Ultrabooks. Processors for Ultrabooks come with suffix U as in Core i5-3427U. The base frequencies for Ultrabook processor comes between 1.5GHz and 2.0 GHz. It consumed less power which facilitated a tiny chassis with less thermal constraints. The less power, in turn, enabled longer battery life which makes the Ultrabook special. However, these processors are no match for the dual and quad-core processors, at least at the time of this writing.

So far Intel is the dominant force when it comes to the microprocessor for laptops. But AMD is still in the competition and have some good processors under their name. AMD doesn’t have CPU and they call it APU (Accelerated Processing Unit). Generally, AMD’s APU is inferior to Intel’s CPU for data processing, but superior in processing graphics. Power consumption is excellent in APU and competitive enough with CPU.

In 2012, AMD came with Trinity Design. A6, A8, and A10 series. A6 as in A6-4400M are processors with dual core and comes in 35W and 17W power versions. The 35W cores will be used for the mainstream laptops and the 17W for a thin and light laptop. (AMD can’t use Ultrabook name to their products as it is Intel trademark). A8 and A10 are higher-end versions with quad-core processors and better GPU’s compared to the A6 version. These versions also come with a 35W and 25W for both mainstream laptops and for the smaller versions.

Another important feature to look for is the CPU cache memory. CPU cache memory is like the RAM memory, but this memory is inside the CPU. Since the memory is inside the CPU itself, processing of data saved inside cache memory is faster than RAM memory. In other words, more the cache memory faster will be the overall performance of CPU. But this comes with a higher price as cache memory is expensive than RAM. Different models of CPU come with different cache size. Go for the ones which suit your need and is within your budget.

Hope this article put some light on what to look for in a Laptop CPU.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Kuladip Roy October 5, 2012, 7:06 am

    Thanks Anup for this informative article. I want to buy a new laptop, so your article just change my views and open my eye. I think increase the size of cache always increase speed of your Laptop. Because cache is situated in between the CPU and the RAM. when RAM transfer data then cache holds this and helps CPU to work in the load free environment. Thanks for share this.

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