Laptop Processor Buyer's Guide

Know a CPU's performance before buying a laptop PC

The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide
Introduction

When shopping for a new laptop, one of the top things to consider is the processor, or CPU. Laptop processors vary widely in performance, so you should make sure yours is powerful enough for your purposes.

Information in this article applies to a broad range of laptops and processors. Check individual product specifications before making a purchase.

Laptop buying guide

Types of Laptop Processors

Laptop processors are different from their desktop counterparts due to the limited amount of power they have to run on when the laptop is not plugged into an outlet. The less power the laptop uses, the longer the system can run on the battery. Therefore, laptop processors rely on techniques like CPU scaling to adjust power usage (and thus performance) based on the tasks at hand.

Most laptop users don't need high-end processors to run productivity software, but for PC gaming and video editing, you'll need a powerful CPU in addition to sufficient RAM and a dedicated video card. Laptops and laptop processors can be separated into four categories; which type you should buy depends on your computing needs.

Budget Laptop Processors for Basic Computing

Budget laptops typically have older processors that used to be found in higher-end laptops or newer low-cost processors. All of the processors listed below are sufficient for basic computing tasks including web browsing, word processing, sending emails, and making presentations. They are also perfectly capable of video playback. The only thing a budget processor isn't good for is running high-end graphics applications such as PC games.

Here are some of the processors to look for in this range:

  • AMD A6-7000 and Higher
  • AMD A6-9210 and Higher
  • AMD A8-7100 and Higher
  • AMD A9-9410 and Higher
  • AMD E1-7010 and Higher
  • AMD E2-7110 and Higher
  • AMD E2-9010 and Higher
  • Intel Celeron N3350 and Higher
  • Intel Core i3-6100U and Higher
  • Intel Core i3-7100U and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-6200U and higher
  • Intel Pentium 4405U and Higher
  • Intel Pentium 4405Y and Higher
  • Intel Pentium N4200 and Higher

Some Chromebooks use processors that are typically found in tablets, which are not as fast as most laptop processors, but they are decent enough for basic tasks like browsing the web.

Ultraportable Processors for Users on the Go

Ultraportables are systems designed to be as light and compact as possible, yet they are powerful enough for most common business applications such as e-mail, word processing, and presentation software. These systems are geared towards people who travel a lot and are willing to sacrifice computing power and peripherals for portability. Ultrabooks are a subcategory of these systems that are built on a specific platform defined by Intel.

Here are the processors found in ultraportables:

  • AMD A6-9210 and Higher
  • AMD A9-9410 and Higher
  • AMD A10 Micro-6700T and Higher
  • AMD E1-7010 and Higher
  • AMD E1 Micro-6200T and Higher
  • AMD E2-7110 and Higher
  • AMD E2-9010 and Higher
  • Intel Celeron 3205U and Higher
  • Intel Celeron N2830 and Higher
  • Intel Core i3-6100U and Higher
  • Intel Core i3-7100U and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-6200U and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-7200U and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-7Y54
  • Intel Core i7-5500U and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-7500U and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-7Y75
  • Intel Core M-5Y10 and Higher
  • Intel Core m3-6Y30 and Higher
  • Intel Core m5-6Y57 and Higher
  • Intel Core m7-6Y75 and Higher
  • Intel Pentium N3530 and Higher
  • Intel Pentium 4405U and Higher

Thin and Light Laptop Processors

A thin and light laptop is capable of performing pretty much any computing task, at least on some level. These systems can vary widely in terms of their price and performance. They tend to perform better than those in the value category or ultraportables, but they are smaller and more portable than the large media-focused desktop replacements.

Here are some of the processors that can be found in this category of laptops:

  • AMD A8-8600P and Higher
  • AMD A9-9410 and Higher
  • AMD A10-8700P and Higher
  • AMD A10-9600P and Higher
  • AMD A12-9700P and Higher
  • Intel Core i3-6100U and Higher
  • Intel Core i3-7100U and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-6200U and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-6300HQ and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-7200U and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-6500U and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-7500U and Higher

As ultraportable processors continue to improve, many systems in this category are beginning to use processors found in the ultraportable category for extended battery life.

Desktop Replacement Processors for Raw Computing Power

Desktop replacement laptops are designed to have the same processing power and capabilities as a desktop system. They tend to be larger and bulkier than other laptops, but they are still designed for portability. While these laptops can't match the graphics of high-end gaming desktops, they can run any type of software the operating system supports. They also typically feature high-end displays that are ideal for watching Blu-ray movies and 4K videos.

Here are some of the processors that can be found in this category of machine:

  • AMD A8-8600P and Higher
  • AMD A9-9410 and Higher
  • AMD A10-8700P and Higher
  • AMD A10-9600P and Higher
  • AMD A12-9700P and Higher
  • AMD FX-8800P and Higher
  • AMD FX-9800P and Higher
  • Intel Core i5-6300HQ and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-4700MQ/HQ and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-4930MX and Higher
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ and Higher