Laptop Buyer's Kit Bonus

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Laptop Buyer’s Kit Bonus
Part 2: Inside Laptop CPUs
In this special edition of the Laptop Buyer's Kit, you’ll get the breakdown on laptop CPUs, including factors that contribute to speed and your ability to multitask. In case you missed our first installment, Laptop Features That Matter, you can still view it here.
Central Processing Unit
The CPU, considered the “brain” of the laptop, able to process millions of complex instructions per second, is the most important feature to consider when it comes to purchasing a laptop. Key attributes in a CPU are processing speed and multitasking ability. When it comes to getting the most power for you money, there are 3 things to consider: 64--bit vs. 32-bit, clock rate, and multi-core processing.
64-Bit vs. 32-Bit
You’ve probably heard the geek-bench buzz about 64-bit vs. 32-bit, and yes, it’s true that 64-bit CPUs are superior in speed and multitasking ability to their 32-bit predecessors. Where once the 64-bit physical architecture was underscored by 32-bit programming, now software and operating systems are taking advantage of the 64-bit CPU power. A few robust benefits: faster video processing, easier database handling, and up to 5 times faster data encryption. 32-bit processors are good for processing one application at a time and while laptops that house them may fetch a lower price in the marketplace, they are on their way to becoming relics of tech days past. The good news is, a sizable majority of new laptops, even at the Netbook level, use 64-bit CPUs.
Laptops with 64-bit CPUs »
Clock Rate
A CPU’s clock rate, measured in GHz, is a significant indicator of how fast your laptop will launch and process programs and complex tasks. A higher clock speed (like 3.6 GHz) up against a lower clock speed (like 2.66 GHz) can complete more of these tasks every second, which means blazing-fast program and application performance. However, clock rates are only relevant to other clock rates in the same CPU family. For example, the Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz rate will not equate to the (2010) Core i5 2.4 GHz rate, because the Core i5 uses turbo boost and more advanced multitasking technology. Same-family CPUs with lower clock rates are sold at lower prices. Choose the highest clock speed you can afford.
Laptops Clock Rates Below 2.0 GHz »
Laptops Clock Rates 2.0 GHz & Above »
Multi-Core Processing
Older CPUs only had one core or “brain”, but modern multi-core laptop processors pack two and four into one CPU. Why does this matter? Each core shares the advertised clock rate or speed (GHz), so several tasks can be processed simultaneously –meaning increased productivity. Multi-core processing power is mostly utilized in applications that involve multitasking, networking, and audio & video processing. However, everyday CPU-intensive processes like burning DVDs, searching folders, video, and running antivirus software show the most noticeable improvement over single-core CPUs. Keep in mind, more cores mean more money.

A single-core processor like the Intel Atom N450 is fine for Netbooks. There is, however, a dual-core version (Atom N550) that just hit the Netbook market (August, 2010). It enhances Adobe Flash and supports DDR3 memory.

A dual-core (2) or triple-core (3) CPU is plenty for the everyday Notebook user.

Workstations need at least dual-core, but do better with quad-core (4) power.

64-bit CPU Guide

Netbooks for the Student or Traveler

Entry-Level: Single-core Intel Atom N450: 1.66 GHz
Top of the Line: Dual–core Intel Atom N550: 1.50 GHz

Notebooks for the Home, Business, or Average User

Entry-Level: Dual-core Intel Core i3 330M: 2.13 GHz; Dual-core AMD Phenom II N620: 2.8 GHz
Average User : Dual-core Intel i5-430M: 2.26 GHz - 2.53 GHz; Triple-core AMD Phenom II P820: 1.8 GHz
Top of the Line: Dual-core Intel i5-540M: 2.53 GHz - 3.06 GHz; Triple-core AMD Phenom II N830: 2.1 GHz

Workstations for the Video & Photography Pro, Avid Gamer, or Business Owner
Entry-Level: Dual-core Intel i7-620UM: 1.06 GHz - 2.13; Quad-core AMD Phenom II P920: 1.6 GHz
Average User: Quad-core Intel i7-720QM: 1.60 GHz - 2.80; Dual-core AMD Phenom II Black X620: 3.1 GHz
Top of the Line: Quad-core Intel i7-840QM: 1.86 GHz; Quad-core AMD Phenom II Black "X920: 2.3 GHz

And there you have it, the foremost elements of CPU power that should weigh in on your laptop decision.

More Laptop Buying Info Here
Laptop Buying Guide
These are some of the top features to consider, but there are more features to learn about like wireless display technology, fingerprint and face recognition. Check out our complete Laptop Buying Guide.

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Mac or PC
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