With laptop purchase season coming up for college student for to school and then later for families for Christmas, you may be confused about which laptop processor you should be looking for. Is one brand, AMD or Intel, that much better than another? Since processor technologies (and computer hardware in general) grows so quickly, within a few months of writing this article (July of 2009) there will be a wealth of new processors on the market which will run faster, be smaller, and will consume less energy.

Since processors will change drastically by the time most people will read this article, I'll tell you about the features of processors, what they mean to you, and what you'll want to be looking for.

  1. Clock speed. Clock speed of the processor refers to the number of computations a processor can make per second. 1 Ghz is 1 billion cycles per second. So if you see a clock speed of 1.6GHz that means that particular processor can in theory compute 1.6 billion computations per second.

    So what does clock speed mean to you? Well, the higher the clock speed number, the more raw power it has. Since there are many other factors to performance in laptops, you'll want to look at more than just how many GHz it has, but, a good number you should look for in your new laptop is 2.0Ghz or greater.

  2. Single, dual, or quad core? You're probably wondering what it means to have a single core or dual core processor so I'll quickly explain it. If you're talking about your computer like it was a human body, the processor of your computer would be the brain of the body. Whenever you do an action on your computer like downloading a song, or opening up a program, the processor processes and calculates everything you're doing.

    When you get a dual or quad core processor, it adds multiple brains to your computer which are used to calculate multiple streams of information of what you're doing simultaneously. So if you're downloading music and playing a game at the same time, the 2 brains of the dual core processor calculates both actions at the same time which makes your computer faster. So when choosing your processor, best performance will be achieved with a dual-core or higher processor.

  3. Processor Cache. Referred on the fact sheets of your laptop as L2 or L3 cache, the processor cache is the memory the processor personally has which is used to reduce lag when it accesses your computer's memory.

    What this means to you is basically, the most common/popular memory locations are stored in the cache which will increase overall performance of your computer by having that data readily available. Most laptops have at least 1MB L2 cache and so that's really what you're going to be looking for but of course, the higher the cache, the better the performance.

  4. Brand. You've probably heard from people that one brand (Intel) is better than another (AMD), but in truth, both brands have their weaknesses and their strengths with their processors. Both brands are meticulous about the quality of their processors and invest millions of dollars of research into better technologies, features, and overall better processors. So I'm not going to tell you which brand is better because to be honest I've owned both brands of processors and I've been extremely happy with both of them.
I hope that answers some questions for some of you and that when you're looking for a new computer/laptop that you won't be quite as confused about which processor you should be getting.