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How to Choose the Right Laptop: A Step-by-Step Guide

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How to Choose the Right Laptop: A Step-by-Step Guide

The next two or three numbers (“55”) are related to performance. The higher these numbers, the more powerful the chip. However, this is true only within that line of chips. The Intel Core i7-1365U is a little more powerful than the Intel Core i7-1355U, but a lot less powerful than the Intel Core i9-1335H. The i9 chip is always more powerful than the i7, the i7 more powerful than the i5, and the difference is greater than the difference between any two chips in the same chip line.

The letter at the end of the chip name (“U” in our example) is Intel’s designation for the chip’s purpose. For laptops, the letters you’ll see at the end are Y, U, H, and HX. The Y-series chips are optimized for battery life, which is nice if you’re frequently away from an outlet for long periods of time, but that longer battery life comes at the expense of some performance. The H chips are optimized for performance and the U chips are “power efficient” but not “extremely” efficient like the Y line. The newest of the group is the HX designation, which are chips that Intel calls “desktop replacement class “. They are the most powerful of the group, but the battery will last less on laptops with HX chips.

AMD processors

The name of AMD chips is as difficult to decipher as Intel’s. In the name AMD Ryzen 5 7600X, the “7” is the generation (the older it is, the higher the better) and the “6” is its power. A “6” would make this example a mid-power chip, while 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 (for better battery life).

Is there a big difference between Intel and AMD chips? My experience, from trying dozens of both each year, is that it depends. Generally speaking, an Intel i5 is indistinguishable from a Ryzen 5 outside of very specific benchmarks. They are similar when you do things like surf the web or edit documents. The same goes for Intel i7 and Ryzen 7, and with Intel i3 and Ryzen 3.

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

Apple processors

Apple makes several chips today, which are used in both MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones. Fortunately the designations are quite simple. There are three chips in the line: M1, M2 and M3. The M1 is the oldest and slowest; The M3 is the newest and fastest. Within each of those chip lines there are different models, ranging from the base model, Pro, Max and Ultra. The base model is the least powerful, while the Ultra is the most powerful. Again, we have a separate Mac guide with a full breakdown of each chip, all the model designations, and which one you want for different tasks.

How much processing power do you need?

If you’re a typical user running a web browser, Microsoft’s Office suite, and maybe even some photo editing software, we recommend a laptop with a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor or later. This would display as something like “Intel Core i5-10350U”.

If you can afford it, an Intel i7 chip is a nice upgrade and will make your laptop feel snappier. However, extra power often means shorter battery life, so you’ll have to balance it with your needs. A gaming laptop, for example, would use an i7 (or i9) chip, but an i5 is usually fine for less demanding tasks. Likewise, for the average user, the AMD Ryzen 5000 series will suffice, but the Ryzen 7000 is a nice upgrade, again at the cost of battery life.

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