Best laptop CPUs in 2021: AMD vs. Intel vs. Apple

A computer’s processor is its brain, the component where most of the “thinking” happens. A faster CPU (central processing unit) lets you crunch spreadsheets, surf web pages, play games or edit photos faster, but a higher-wattage processor may also give you worse battery life.

When you’re buying a laptop, you’ll usually see the name of the processor listed prominently in every product description. However, just seeing the CPU model name, without any context, can be confusing. Is a laptop with a Core i7-1185G7 CPU faster than one with a Ryzen 7 5700U? And what about Core i9 chips or Apple’s M1 processor? How much speed do you really need, anyway?

Most laptops today are powered by an Intel CPU, though there are several models that use AMD processors and some that use Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. Of course, Apple is transitioning its laptops to use custom M-series silicon. Even if you only look at Intel’s lineup, there are more than two dozen different models you might see featured in a brand new notebook. Fortunately, learning the basics isn’t too difficult.

TLDR; Which CPU Do I Need?


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