What's the Best Processor for Your New Laptop?
Don't spring for more power than you need. An Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 can handle most tasks.
Scroll through the laptops available from retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Walmart and you’ll mostly see models with an Intel Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor. But look a little harder and you may also spot processors from a rejuvenated AMD.
The company’s Ryzen brand of processors debuted on desktop PCs in late 2017, but took a few years to really make their way to laptops. Now, however, you’ll find them on a variety of models made by well-known manufacturers like Dell, HP, and Microsoft. The options vary from highly portable 2-in-1 convertibles to powerful gaming notebooks aimed at enthusiasts.
Processors for the Rest of Us
“Generally speaking, any of today’s Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors can do well with basic, daily tasks like web browsing and email,” Asedillo says.
If the Core i7 or Ryzen 7 is too much processor for most everyday needs, the i3 or Ryzen 3 may be too little. Not because of the processor itself, but because the chips tend to be found in lower-end laptops that use slow hard drives and puny amounts of RAM to keep costs down. The laptops may slow down during run-of-the-mill tasks such as moving files between folders and browsing the web with multiple tabs open.
But depending on your budget and your needs, that may be a worthwhile concession. After all, these laptops are fully capable of running productivity apps like Microsoft Office, Zoom, and Slack, and can cost less than $500. So, for many people, they offer good value, even if it takes an extra beat or two to open an app.
Chromebooks, if you’re wondering, often use even lower-end Intel processors, primarily the Pentium and Core m3. But again, these are devices designed to, say, put together a slide deck presentation in Google Workspace and not much more.
And so, if you’re shopping for a new laptop, a mid-range Intel Core i5 or Ryzen 5 is likely your best bet. It will handle everyday tasks with aplomb, and still pack enough power to tackle more strenuous tasks such as streaming high-res video and editing large photos. Better yet, you can often find those options in laptops selling for $700 or less, even with the ongoing chip shortage that’s making a mess of consumer electronics prices.