Laptop Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right PC (Step-by-Step Guide)


Once you already know which working system you need and have some concept of the software program you are going to run, you may determine the minimal {hardware} specs you will want. The very first thing we advise taking a look at is the processor, additionally known as the chip or the CPU.

There are primarily two corporations that make laptop computer processors: Intel and AMD.

Intel Processors

Intel’s principal processors are the Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9. The Core i3 is the least highly effective, the Core i9 is probably the most highly effective. We often drop the “Core” from the identify as a result of it will get repetitive.

Within every of those chip strains, Intel makes use of cryptic strings of numbers and letters that offer you extra details about that chip’s capabilities and when it got here out. Learning to decipher it’ll assist you to make higher shopping for choices. (Here’s Intel’s information to its mannequin naming.)

Intel Core i5-10510U is how a laptop computer producer’s web sites may listing the kind of processor.

Let’s break it down. The first numbers (“10”) seek advice from the era; on this case it is a Tenth-generation chip. The i5-9510U could be a ninth-generation chip, or one which’s most likely a 12 months or so older.

The subsequent two or three numbers (“510”) are associated to efficiency. The increased these numbers are, the extra highly effective the chip is. This is just true inside that chip line, although. The Intel Core i5-10510U is barely extra highly effective than the Intel Core i5-10210U, however a lot much less highly effective than the Intel Core i7-10350U. The i7 chip is at all times extra highly effective than the i5, and the distinction is bigger than the distinction between any two chips in the identical chip line.

The letter on the finish of the chip identify (“U” in our instance) is Intel’s designation for the chip’s function. For laptops, the letters you will see on the finish are Y, U, and H . The just one it’s essential fear about are the Y collection chips, that are optimized for battery life. That’s good when you’re steadily away from a plug for lengthy intervals of time, however that added battery life comes on the expense of some efficiency. H chips are optimized for efficiency, and U chips are “energy environment friendly” but not “extremely” efficient like the Y line.

AMD Processors

AMD’s chip naming is just as difficult to decipher as Intel’s. 

In the name AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, the “3” is the generation (how old it is; higher is better), and the “6” is how powerful it is. A “6” would make this example a medium-powered chip, whereas a 3 or 4 would be weaker (slower). The next two numbers don’t have much impact on anything. The “X” at the end indicates high performance. Other letter designations include U for ultra-low power.

Is there a huge difference between Intel and AMD chips? My experience, testing dozens of both every year, is that … it depends. Generally speaking, an Intel i5 is indistinguishable from a Ryzen 5, outside of very specific benchmarks. They’re similar when you’re doing things like browsing the web or editing documents. The same goes for the Intel i7 and Ryzen 7, and the Intel i3 and the Ryzen 3.

Graphics performance is the other area you’ll notice a difference. In my testing, in both benchmarks and real work use, AMD’s integrated graphics tend to perform better than Intel on graphics-intensive tasks—think editing video or playing games. Intel’s most recent series of chips have closed that gap significantly, but AMD still has an edge. You may benefit from buying an AMD machine if you’re a video editor or gamer, but what you most likely want is a dedicated graphics card. (More on that in the GPU section below.)

How Much Processing Power Do You Need?

If you are a typical consumer who runs an internet browser, Microsoft’s Office Suite, and even perhaps some photograph modifying software program, we advocate a laptop computer with an Intel Core i5 eighth-generation or later processor. That could be displayed one thing like “Intel Core i5-8350U.”

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