Which is the best processor for a laptop?
The range of CPUs on offer can seem bewildering, but don’t sweat it. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you don’t to worry too much about the differences between the two main brands. These are AMD and Intel, and they both make roughly similar versions of one another’s CPUs.
What’s the difference between AMD and Intel?
Intel’s most popular range is called Core series. These include the affordable Core i3, the mid-range Core i5, the high-end Core i7, and the specialist Core i9. The bigger the number, the faster the processor. For most users, the Core i3 is more than enough power. For gaming and processor-intensive tasks such as rendering large files and video editing, the Core i5 or Core i7 can be a useful upgrade.
Mirroring this, AMD has the Ryzen range. These include the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9 processors. They’ll offer similar levels of performance to their Intel counterparts, and while the underlying hardware is different you’ll notice no difference in how your laptop actually functions.
Apple MacBooks are another kettle of fish entirely. Until recently Apple used Intel processors, before it upgraded its entire range to Apple’s own M1 and M2 CPUs. These are least a little easier to think about: M2 is faster than M1.
What does generation mean in processors?
As newer processors are always improving, these four simple tiers don’t change in number. They’ll always refer to the most and least powerful processors each CPU brand manufactures. What changes are the digits following the CPU name, with the first two digits referring to the CPU’s generation.
For instance, the Intel Core i5-1135 is an 11th-generation Intel processor. The AMD Ryzen 5 5600 is a fifth generation AMD processor. The higher the generation, the more recently the CPU was developed and the faster it is. Intel is currently on its 12th generation processors, while AMD is on its sixth.
What is Celeron?
There are other Intel CPUs on the market, such as the Celeron series. Celeron is designed to be super affordable and low-end, for users that really don’t need much processing power. You’ll find them in budget laptops.
How much RAM does a laptop need?
The average user needs 8GB of RAM (or memory). RAM is storage that your laptop is constantly using to juggle data, so it’s essentially a measure of how many things your device can do at once before it starts to slow down. This gives you enough memory to load Windows smoothly, and run a few demanding apps.
As software becomes more complex, it starts to demand more memory. Though, 8GB should future-proof your laptop against this for a few years to come. If your current laptop already has 8GB of RAM and you’re experiencing slow-down, consider stepping up to 16GB.
MacBooks work a little differently. Because the M1 or M2 chip is handling a lot of the data-juggling itself, the device needs less dedicated RAM, which means your 8GB goes a little further than it does on a Windows laptop.
What is the best laptop to buy?
There is no single best laptop we can recommend. Rather, the best laptop to buy is the one that meets your needs.
Like all electronics, laptops become obsolete over time, so there are diminishing returns when you invest in the most expensive, high-spec and powerful devices. Instead, consider what you might use your laptop for – will it be for gaming, emailing, spreadsheets or photo editing. And also where you might want to use it – at a desk, on a train, on the sofa – and choose a laptop that fits those criteria.
Check out our laptop buying guide for helpful advice on choosing a laptop that suits your needs.
What is the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?
Most laptops use Microsoft’s Windows operating system, while MacBooks use Apple’s macOS operating system.
Chromebooks are different. They run on Chrome OS, an operating system designed by Google. Anyone can license this operating system, so you’ll see Chromebooks manufactured by a wide range of brands and available in various styles.
Google’s operating system doesn’t run traditional desktop programs. Instead, it behaves more like the Chrome web browser, using online apps such as Google Docs and some Android apps.
This sounds limiting – and for most users, it is – but there are upsides. Because most of the processing is happening over the internet, Chromebooks don’t need to be so powerful. This means they generally have a longer battery life, are much cheaper, far more secure and boot up faster than regular laptops.
If you do most of your work inside a browser, a Chromebook makes sense. Designed to showcase what a Chromebook is capable of, the Pixelbook go (£629, Google.com) is our recommended laptop in this category.
The verdict: Laptops
If you’re looking for a high-performance, do-it-all Windows machine that can run rings around most desktop computers, the Dell XPS 15 is your laptop. For gaming, our pick is the Razer Blade 15. It will break the bank, but it’s worth every penny. Consider shopping for older models or the smaller Razer Blade 14 if you can’t stomach the price tag.
Most shoppers won’t need that much power, so we’d recommend the Lenovo yoga slim 7 for those who want a laptop that can handle everyday tasks without leaving a giant hole in your bank account. Apple users have an easier choice, but the latest 2021 model of the MacBook pro 14in is our favourite Apple laptop right now.
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