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What Makes a Laptop Powerful? Your Complete Buying Guide

Laptop sales have been on a steady rise for the past three years. It went from $132 billion in revenue in 2018 to $140 billion in 2020.

Desktop PC sales also saw a rise amid a slow decline in the past few years. Even so, laptops are the best choice for everyone due to all the advancements in technology today.

What makes a laptop powerful? You have to look at the three main specifications: CPU, GPU, and RAM.

However, the other components are essential, as well. Check out how to choose a powerful laptop by looking at the specs below.

CPU/Processor

The processor is the brain since it does most of the work on your laptop. If you are looking for a powerful laptop, look at the CPU first.

Core

Most laptops today have multiple cores. It means two or more processing units work to read and execute software instructions.

When you see “dual-core” in the specs, it means the laptop has two processors. Quad-core models have four, while Hexa-core ones have six.

Laptops with more processors will have better processing capabilities. A quad-core processor should be more powerful than a dual-core because it can do more tasks.

If you need a laptop powerful enough to handle heavy tasks, shoot for at least four cores. Editing and animation programs may use more.

Clock Speed

Check the processing speed or clock speed. The higher the gigahertz, the faster a computer can retrieve and interpret instructions.

A 3.2 GHz clock speed executes 3.2 billion cycles per second. Look for at least 2 GHz, but always aim higher.

In general, a higher clock speed is better, but only when comparing processors of the same brand. Different CPU designs also have distinct ways to handle instructions.

It’s also best to compare within the same generation. A five-year-old model with a higher clock speed can still underperform compared to a newer CPU.

Modern CPUs usually have a range of clock speeds – from the base to the turbo. A laptop operates on the base frequency. When handling a more demanding task, it temporarily enhances the clock speed.

However, increasing the clock speed using the Turbo Boost Technology generates more heat. When the processor gets too warm, it throttles down to a lower frequency. You might need additional cooling capabilities to maintain higher sustainable speeds.

How to Choose a CPU

Laptops do not have as much freedom as a PC with processors. Most of the time, you have a set range of available CPUs built into the unit.

There’s an advantage to having limited choices: you can decide easier. If you already have a model in mind, it’s only a matter of choosing whether to upgrade to a better processor.

For Intel laptops, upgrading to i7 can make your experience snappier. For AMD, Ryzen 7 is a nice upgrade.

Laptop companies might use different brands of processors, though. How do you choose between Intel and AMD?

Aside from looking at the cores and speed, check the CPU architecture. Read forums, find reviews, and learn more about the respective brands to make an informed decision.

Graphics Cards

Another component to consider when choosing a powerful laptop is the GPU. Your graphics card choice is critical when playing games.

The video card renders all images on the computer screen. GPUs are also useful in creative production and artificial intelligence.

The GPU and CPU work together to carry out tasks. The processor assigns tasks to the video card, but they work on various data simultaneously.

Integrated GPU

You will likely see integrated graphics when looking for laptops. CPUs usually have embedded GPUs, giving them basic graphic processing capabilities.

You can get by with integrated graphics for general computing and web browsing. Mild work does not need a bigger GPU.

If you do not demand more graphics processing power, an integrated chip might suffice. Otherwise, consider getting a laptop with an AMD processor. They often perform better in that department.

Discrete GPU

Gaming laptops need more graphic processing power. They usually have a discrete GPU, which is a separate entity.

A dedicated GPU works much like its counterpart in a personal computer. However, manufacturers tone down its power since it needs to fit inside a laptop chassis.

Intel and AMD have discrete GPUs: the Iris Xe Max and RX 5000M series. NVIDIA is the king since it offers entry-level, mid-tier, and high-end models.

If you do a lot of gaming, heavy video editing, and graphic designing, choose the NVIDIA RTX series. Still, even the less powerful discrete GPUs have a world’s difference in performance than integrated ones.

RAM

A high-performing laptop is not all about the power since it needs memory as well. A computer with more memory can store more running programs.

When it runs out of memory, it has to swap unused data to the primary storage. This extra step causes a computer to become slower.

The random access memory (RAM) holds the data while the laptop processes it. If it is too small, your processor cannot do more functions even with enough cores. You are unable to open another program, and your computer might even freeze.

Most users get by with 8 GB of RAM. It should be enough for daily tasks but opt for at least 16 GB if you want to play games.

Compiling software and editing video clips are also two tasks requiring a lot more RAM. The minimum is 16 GB, but 32 GB is the best way to go.

Operating System

Laptops have two primary operating systems: Windows and macOS. Many others are in the market, like Chrome, Ubuntu, and so on. Let’s discuss the more popular ones below.

Windows

Windows is the default choice for most laptop users. You can never go wrong with the classic, after all. Windows trumps all other operating systems since it holds 78% of the OS market.

If you want more options, go with Windows. It is compatible with most systems, meaning you can choose the CPU and GPU as you like.

Aside from Apple, almost all brands offer this operating system. You can learn more on Lenovo.com.

macOS

Apple’s macOS is a popular option since its MacBook lines have only one operating system. You can never find it anywhere else.

You will have CPU and GPU restrictions with macOS. Instead, you can choose from various MacBook models to fit your needs.

Chrome OS

Chrome OS is popular, but it only holds 2% of the market share. Chromebooks and other brands use this operating system.

Regardless, it is a solid operating system for students. It is not ideal for intensive tasks, so gaming and video editing are out of the equation.

Storage

The hard drive is where your laptop stores all your data. The OS, programs, files, and everything you put on your laptop go here.

A modern laptop usually has solid-state drives, which are an upgrade over the traditional HDD. It reads and writes data faster, leading to better performance.

It’s worth choosing SSD as your primary drive as it is smaller, quieter, and more durable. However, it costs more than traditional drives, and it has lower storage space. Consider getting a DVD copy service for your other needs.

Size and Form Factor

Computer manufacturers made laptops for mobility. As such, they must be small and light enough to bring with you.

Regardless of your requirements, consider the size and form factor of your desired laptop model. Do you have to bring it with you in a backpack to school? What kind of commute are you making every day?

The laptop design is also important. After all, you have to like how your device appears.

For many buyers, the aesthetics are higher in their priority list. If you are looking for power, you do not have a lot of options. Better specs mean larger components, meaning you will likely need a bigger chassis.

Display and Other Features

Do you want crisp images and videos? Look for at least 1080p resolution. If the display matters more, get 4K.

A higher-resolution screen is more important for gamers, video editors, and graphic designers. Yet, it requires more horsepower since 4K games and videos are more intensive to run. Without enough processing power, these will make your computer crash.

You also have more features to consider aside from the specs already mentioned. There’s battery life, security, ports, and so on. These are your primary considerations, so make sure to research, compare, and think twice.

Choose a Laptop Powerful Enough for Your Needs

The definition of a powerful laptop differs for everyone. When buying, list your needs and budget first. After that, focus on the specifications based on your choices.

Remember to adjust your budget as laptops can get expensive fast. Look for deals to keep your laptop prices affordable.

Did you find this guide helpful? If so, read our other posts and learn more today.

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