Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Choosing a powerful laptop processor - Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008

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Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2008

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Choosing a powerful laptop processor

QI want to get a new laptop. But I'm not sure what I need. I'm especially confused by the processors. How do I select a processor?

ALooking for a new computer is always exciting. But all those numbers and specifications can be overwhelming. And making sense of processors leaves many people feeling dazed.

A powerful processor can make a difference. You're going to run across two processor manufacturers, Intel and AMD. And each manufacturer makes several processors.

Comparing processors

AMD's Turion 64 X2 and Turion 64 X2 Ultra are 64-bit dual-core processors. Dual-core essentially means the chip has two processors. A dual-core 64-bit chip theoretically can handle four times as much data as a standard 32-bit chip.

Intel also has two 64-bit dual-core laptop processors. They are the Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme. There is also a very high-end Core 2 Extreme Quad. It has four cores. And you may need a loan to get it.

Most laptops you'll find will have a 64-bit version of Windows Vista. You'll need that to take full advantage of a 64-bit processor.

There's an important fact to remember about processors. They are far ahead of software. Most people hardly stress their chip. They just don't need the highest-end chips.

However, people who play cutting edge games may need that power. The same goes for those who edit a lot of video.


Core 2 Duo chips have 2 to 6 megabytes of L2 cache. The L2 cache is where the processor stores data transferred from RAM. The cache can be accessed faster than RAM. The larger the cache, the better.

The Core 2 Duo has clock speeds of between 2.33 and 3.33 gigahertz. Clock speed refers to how fast a processor performs calculations. Manufacturers used to highlight clock speeds when marketing processors. They hit a wall at about 4 GHz, and focused on multiple cores.

The Core 2 Extreme has 4 MB of L2 cache. And it has a single clock speed of 2.93 GHz. The Core 2 Extreme Quad has up to 12 MB of L2 cache. Clock speeds rank between 2.66 GHz and 3.2 GHz. But this chip is only found in very high-end gaming and multimedia laptops.


The Turion 64 X2 has an L2 cache of 1 MB. And you'll find clock speeds of 1.6 GHz to 2.4 GHz.

The Turion 64 X2 Ultra is a more robust chip. It has an L2 cache of 2 MB. And clock speeds range from 2.1 to 2.4 GHz.

Don't buy too much chip

Going by specs alone, Intel offers more advanced processors. But both will run your computer very well. Any of the available processors will satisfy most users. And remember, the processor is only one component to consider.

Because of the economy, many people will be looking for bargains. I have a buying guide on inexpensive laptops. But some may be looking for a more capable laptop. Another buying guide will steer them in the right direction.

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