Laptop computer- what kind of processor is best?

I intend to buy a laptop in the future and I want to understand the various processors that laptops seem to have. For Intel I see Pentium 4 and Centrino, which I am used to seeing, but now I see Pentium M or something like that. And then of course there are the AMD ones. Set me straight: which is best? The “intense” things I might be using this computer for are games and possibly GIS software. Otherwise it’d probably just be the usual- internet browsing, word processing, etc.

Obviously there are sites out there that explain these processors, but I’ve not found myself able to clearly understand the differences. It seemed appropriate to seek Doper Wisdom™.

If you’re going to be playing games on a laptop, any processor besides a celeron will be more than enough. You want to pay more attention to the video card that the laptop uses. If it comes with a Radeon or GeForce with dedicated video memory you’ll probably be all right. If it’s one of those Intel dealies with memory integrated with the system ram, you’ll only be able to run older games well.

In a nutshell, Pentium 4 is Intel’s flagship consumer processor. It is fine. Centrino is a partially disabled Pentium 4 (again, I am keeping it simple so don’t get into the details). Steer clear of those if you can. AMD makes great processors and the current ones are Athlon 64 bit processors.

Without getting complicated, a current Pentium 4 or any current AMD Athlon would be my pick with an Athlon 64 getting a strong nod but those are expensive on a laptop right now.

My advice: Either should be fine but pick about two notches below the high end for maximum cost effectiveness and minimal loss in performance.

Just as a rule of thumb, Pentiums run pretty hot and are pretty energy hungry. So most processors have to be throttled down to run efficiently on a laptop. You can buy “gamer” laptops with top of the line chips, but they’re huge and weigh a ton. So getting the fastest processor may not buy you a lot except a heavier, hotter laptop with a short battery life. They make mobile chips (which may be what the “M” stands for in Pentium M) that are good at reducing cycle speeds and energy consumption dynamically depending on what you’re doing. What you buy may depend on whether you spend a lot of your computing time near a wall outlet or if you’re out in the field a lot.

That is not true; Centrino is a completely different core than the P4. In fact, it is so good that Intel will move towards using that core across the board in the future. The Centrino also is fairly power efficient, which is important for a laptop. I would definitely go for a Centrino. Don’t worry about small differences in clock rate, it’s probably not worth the extra money.

For a desktop, I’d look at AMD as well. In general, spend money on lots of memory, a fast disk, and a faster bus. If you play lots of games look at high-end graphics processors.

I’m agreeing with Dan. The increase in battery life (and the decrease in heat, which you notice when it’s sitting on your lap) makes the Centrino the current best laptop processor.


I’m using a G4.

What’s GIS?