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Understanding Laptop Processor Choices

by Suzanne Kantra on October 29, 2009

If you're in the market for a laptop, you know how confusing it can be to sort through all of the options. One of the most difficult to understand, yet most critical to your decision, is the type of processor, or CPU (central processing unit), the laptop uses. Buy one that's not powerful enough, and your laptop will run like molasses in winter. Get one that's more than you need, and you're throwing money away.

Consult the following chart to determine which processor is a good match for your needs. Keep in mind that for each specific type of processor (e.g., Pentium or Athalon), the higher the speed (rated in gigahertz, or GHz), the faster the processor. If you plan to do heavy video editing or gaming, don't skimp on the processor—more power is always better.

Laptop Processor Choices

  Netbook Entry Level Mainstream High End
Price Range (for laptops)  Under $400  $400 - $550  $550 - $800  $800 plus
Uses email, word processing, Web browsing Simple photo editing, email, word processing, Web browsing Most programs, including photo editing and some games All programs, including video editing and games.

Intel Processors
(full list here)

 Intel Atom  Intel Celeron  Intel Pentium Intel Centrino     

AMD Processors
(full list here)




Computers and Software, Computers & Accessories, Laptops, Tech 101

Discussion loading


From Michelle on January 30, 2010 :: 2:33 am

Hi,  I wanted to know what does the “P7450” after the words Intel Core 2 Duo Processor mean? And my computer has that on the large sticker that also contains the info for the memory etc, but it also has a small sticker that is the one in the $500-$800 column above “Intel Centrino2 inside”. Why is it telling me that the computer has the core 2 duo and also the centrino 2? Are they the same?



From Suzanne Kantra on February 01, 2010 :: 2:45 pm

Hi Michelle,

Core 2 Duo is the family of processors and the “P7450” after the Core 2 Duo is the model number. So the “P7450” specifies things like how fast the processor runs (in this case 2.13 GHz).

The Centrino2 refers to the platform, a combination of chips and capabilities you’ll find in every Centrino2 computer. The Centrino2 platform includes the processor (the Core 2 Duo P7450) and the Wi-Fi chip, among other things.



From Glen Coleman on February 02, 2010 :: 5:02 pm

I wanted to get a laptop for my wife. She does a lot of photo editing and I am not sure if the AMD Turion II Ultra M620 in the HP dv7-3160us is going to be fast enough. Is getting an Intel Core Duo P8700 in a Sony Vaio a better processor for photo editing? Both are 2.53 GHz.
Also is a ATI Mobitity Radeon HD 4650 (in the HP)going to be fast enough? Or do I need to look for a laptop with an NVidia GeForce graphics card (like a GT 220)?
Is one better at photo editing?




From Suzanne Kantra on February 03, 2010 :: 3:54 pm

Hi Glen,

The HP system should be fine. The processors and the graphics cards you mention are fairly comparable, if you look at the benchmarks. The Intel has a larger level 2 cache (3MB vs. 2MB), which should make it a little faster moving large files around. However that really comes into play more for video editing than photo editing.

Hope your wife enjoys her new computer!



From Julie on December 14, 2010 :: 7:48 am

Hi am I in error if I say that Intel processors are way better than AMD’s? I have heard that if you have to choose between an Intel CPU running at 1.6 Ghz and an AMD running at the same 1.6 Ghz you need to go for the Intel, because it will be faster.



From Josh Kirschner on December 15, 2010 :: 1:11 am

Both AMD and Intel make very good processors.  In both cases, there is a lot more to processor power than just the speed (e.g., 1.6 GHz). How many CPU cores (single core, dual core, quad core) and the architecture of the processor (Atom, Pentium, i3/i5/i7) also makes a big difference.  And both Intel and AMD make various grades of processors to meet different computing needs.

Want to get a sense of how complicated it can get?  This site does the best comparison of processors I’ve seen:

But for most buyers, you shouldn’t worry about AMD or Intel. Focus instead on getting a PC that has a processor in the class of performance you need, and then make sure you get enough RAM (at least 4GB), and a decent video card (not integrated graphics) if you will be gaming or video editing.



From David on December 23, 2010 :: 12:34 pm

There are some really cheap laptops out there nowadays. You will even get some from Dell for $350, but one thing most people forget about is the battery lifetime.

I have a Dell Vostro A680 and the battery lasted for only a year. I was using the laptop a lot, but only one year? Replacing the battery with an original would cost me $120 or so. That is ridiculous. Reminds me of how companies selling printers make there real money: they sell cheap printers and then charge $70 for a ink cartridge.

The problem is, if the laptop is brandnew, you’ll never find reviews about batteries that just turned bad. Try to compare batteries of former models of the laptop series instead.



From Ron on March 20, 2011 :: 6:33 pm

Hi Julie,

Just wanted to give your my 2 cents worth. This is from my personal expereince. In the past I’ve tried both AMD and INTEL for laptops.  If you have a choice between the 2 definately go for INTEL.

My experience has been that AMD’s overheat much faster, and the smallest amount of dust on the processor/heat sink causes the laptop to malfunction. Examples are I’ve seen lots of AMD’s shut down and reboot on their own from a little dust inside. Back to back comparison, you don’t see this problem with INTELS hardly ever.


Mission Viejo Computer Repair



From Douglas on September 01, 2015 :: 2:59 am

which processor is suitable for gaming



From Josh Kirschner on September 01, 2015 :: 10:45 am

While this is an old article, our recommendation stays pretty much the same. For gaming, go with the Intel Core i7 family. While most games will run on a Core i5 processor, you will get better graphics and shorter wait times with the faster processor. You’ll also be better future-proofed as new games come out that the i5 may not be able to handle.


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