How fast is that laptop’s processor? (really)

A couple of years ago you could easily tell how fast your computer’s processor was.

  • You knew a Pentium 4 was faster than a 3.
  • You knew a 2.0 ghz P4 was faster than a 1.3 ghz P4.
  • And you knew a “DualCore” (like the Intel Core2Duo) was probably faster than a Pentium 4 “single core” processor (it is).

But nowadays, just by looking at the names, it’s nearly impossible to figure out whether an AMD “Turion” is faster than an Intel “M” Processor.  And even within the Intel line it’s not always easy to know which chip to pay for. For example: Is an Intel 2400 @ 1.83 ghz faster than a Intel Core2 T5500 @ 1.6 ghz?  Yes, but only by a smidge. But didn’t you expect the 5500 to be faster than the 2400? It’s not!

But…Knowing Your Processor’s Speed DOES Matter…

Reason #1 It Matters:
They are charging EXTRA for allegedly “speedier” processors. You might think the Intel T7300 is worth $50 or $100 more than the T5370, but you’d be wrong. They both test at nearly the identical speed.

Reason #2 It Matters:
People are expecting “Desktop performance” out of laptops these days. And a lot of inexpensive notebooks are coming out with sub-par processors. You want to know… especially if you like to have multiple programs open at once, are a power user, or gamer.

Reason #3 It Matters:
The notebook market is flooding with inexpensive $500 or $400 laptops, and even a $350 “netbooks.” And not all of them are created equal. You may be sorely disappointed with the speed of that laptop, depending on your expectations. Rather than save $100 and be disappointed, know what you’re buying.

(btw…those cheapie laptops can benefit from the addition of more RAM. RAM is the single best speed boost you can give your computer.)

Reason #4 It Matters:
People will pay extra money for an allegedly ‘faster’ processor, then skimp on RAM, when in fact, you’re better off getting the maximum amount of RAM and saving a few dollars on a slightly (apparently) slower processor.

HOW TO KNOW:

 “Benchmarking” is how the computer industry determines the “real world speed” of a processor. One of the better processor comparison charts I’ve found is at http://www.cpubenchmark.net/common_cpus.html  Click that link to see how the processor you are thinking of buying (or already own) compares to other processors.

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But PROCESSING IS NOT EVERYTHING!
RAM matters, as does something call the L2 Cache (which is like additional memory that your computer/processor can use to speed up your computer’s performance).

RULE OF THUMB:
Add the maximum amount of RAM your laptop can handle.

And “GHZ” or “gigahertz” as a measurement of a processor’s speed STILL MATTERS too, inspite of what some salespeople are saying. In general, a 2.0 ghz Dual Core processor IS FASTER than a 1.8 Dual Core Processor. But it gets murky when you’re comparing INtel to AMD because AMD chips do not tell you their ghz.

So if you’re comparing an “Intel Dual Core T6400 @ 2.0 ghz” speed to an “AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5000+” how do you know which is faster, and which is worth the extra money?? –You look it up, that’s how, and you’d discover they are nearly identical in performance, but not in price!)

My Best Advice:

1. Compare your processors using a benchmark chart and not the salesman’s opinion. See the link above.

2. Always get the MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF RAM your laptop can handle. You’ll be glad you did.

3. All video chips are not created equal! For gaming and multimedia use, pay attention to the Video Chip they put in the laptop.  Rule of Thumb: If they offer an Nvidia graphic chip…get it. It’s likely better and faster than the less expensive “Intel Express” chips.

4. Stick with Dual Core, rather than the older style single core processors. Yes, they still sell laptops with single core processors.

5. Keep your Computer in Tip Top Shape: The longer you use any computer, the slower it will get. It’s the nature of the beast.

a. Uninstall unneeded or rarely used programs using your Control Panel’s Uninstall Programs feature.

b. Turn off unnecessary processor/memory users, such as Photo Gallery software and special Printer features (HP, for example, gives you the option to NOT install their extra features).

c. Defrag your harddrive every couple of months (click Programs, then Accessories then click Systems.

d. Keep your anti-virus and spyware programs fully up to date. Nothing slows down a computer like nefarious software.

e. Buy the larger harddrive if it’s not too expensive. The more free space you have, the faster your computer will stay, -as you begin to fill up the harddrive.

f. For laptops, -turn than off when not in use so that they don’t overheat. Don’t set them on the couch -it will smother the fans. Clean the air ports.

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