In this post I want to talk about a particular category of computer processors – and that’s about the CPUs from laptops. Many of you prefer the usage of laptops over heavy Desktop devices, and thus you may need good advice in case you want a good brain for your portable machine. This is what my newest post is intended for. We will see some examples of best laptop CPUs for 2019, and also several laptop models with them.
A kind of easier computers
Laptops, also known as notebooks, are smaller, less heavier, and the most important, PORTABLE computers. Our modern world needs computers very much, but it is not easy to carry a regular Desktop system if we need to make use of a computer at any time and we are outside the house, or generally outside, or in whatever situation may impair our Desktop PC usage. Instead, by having a laptop, we can easily access our preferred sites, accounts, personal data while traveling, by example.
IBM invented the first laptop (the IBM 5100) in 1975, then during the 1980s there were other newer models released (Osborne I, IBM PCD standing for Personal Computer Division, then the first Apple laptop called Macintosh portable), so step-by-step a new form of computers started to make its way to the market and to our lives.
Just imagine going for a trip in the mountains and still have access to your computer (the laptop) which is in your backpack. You don’t need to think of the moment you get home and see what news are there on the Internet – via the laptop, you can access them whenever you want, during the trip!
Different computers, different features!
When comparing laptop hardware to Desktop hardware, there is a lot of differences, that aren’t of course limited to parameters like size, weight and portability. A laptop needs a battery with time-limited authonomy when you are outside and no power outlet is available (so make sure you can get regular access to electricity during a ride with a laptop in your bag), also there are more restricted screen sizes, the laptop has its computer pieces all-in-one (keyboard and monitor included), the regular mouse is often replaced by a touchpad you move your finger onto, although you still can connect USB mouses to the laptop (and also wireless mouses are accepted on modern laptops), laptops also consume less power than Desktop PCs, especially on battery, and power fluctuation/outages are not affecting you since if they happen, the battery immediately keeps you turned on (assuming it’s charged enough, of course).
Also, there are restrictions when wanting to upgrade the hardware in a laptop – it’s stated that internal disk drives and RAM are likely to be upgradable, while other parts are either not removable or restricting the laptop to work only with their equipment version – so there are some situations when you cannot just buy a new “laptop motherboard” or CPU and switch these pieces inside your laptop (e.g. soldered CPUs inside the case). Some other situations give you freedom of choice – meaning that you may upgrade the CPU alone, but you’ll have to be careful with choosing a compatible model. It is somewhat more challenging and difficult than where dealing with Desktop PCs, and we clearly know that even there are some precise rules when desiring to upgrade a CPU.
If the stuff that you want to be changed is not replaceable, then start making plans for buying a new laptop! Moreover, when it comes about video memory, this cannot be very high-end when compared to Desktop flagships – its heat dissipation is limited to the laptop case, however you can find some powerful laptops in matter of graphics. Besides, repairing a laptop can be more difficult than when handling a Desktop PC – users may not be able to open the case, and even when it’s done, replacement parts may have to be ordered online (yeah well, this last ordering part may apply to Desktops too).
Moreover, prices for high-tech laptops can be pretty high (but much lower than pile-of-thousand-dollars Desktop workstations). So if you look for a specific CPU that will be your laptop’s one, it means that you are looking for an entire laptop – that has it all: monitor, keyboard, (touchpad) mouse, I/O ports, motherboard, CPU, RAM, video, internal drive. So let’s go further and see some very performant laptop CPUs!
Intel and AMD make good laptop CPUs too
As in the Desktop PC field, the two CPU manufacturing big ones have already released various generations of processors for laptops too.
Intel laptop CPUs cover a large variety of PC utilisation purposes: from cheapest and most basic configurations (Pentium and Celerons) up to Gaming and Programming goals (Intel Core i9). We cannot exactly say laptops are good for Workstation environment specific usages (after all, Work-Station needs the computer to stay, whereas laptops are portable), but you notice that the strong i9 generation provides CPUs also for laptops. So we have to see the specifications for a few such CPUs…
- The Intel Core i9-9880H processor was released in the second quarter of 2019. Bought alone, its price may go towards $600 US. It belongs to the Coffee Lake platform, and to the 14-nanometer lithography process. You easily see that its name ends by a H (we are going to see also HK), and not simply by K, X or XE as it does for Desktop CPU names. This modern processor for laptops has 8 cores, and since it supports multithreading (which mean there are two virtual processors aka threads allocated for each core), i9-9980H is 16-threaded: you open the Task Manager in Windows, or the System Monitor in Linux (it’s called Activity Monitor for Mac systems) and you see that there are sixteen virtual CPUs. This is helpful to parallel programming, parallel tasks, and to a certain extent also for gaming (but games won’t usually require tens of CPU threads). This processor has a 2.30 GHz base frequency (lower than in other Desktop i9 parts), but its Turbo frequency can reach 4.80 GHz. You can use up to 128 GB of DDR4-2666 or LPDDR3-2133 RAM (that LP means Low Power, as for lower power laptop consumptions). The TDP of this CPU is only 45 watts, obviously more eco-friendly and less power-consuming: similar Desktop CPUs would have TDPs superior to 100 watts. Intel UHD Graphics 630 is its integrated video circuitry, you may use up to 64 GB (!) of shared memory for this video. You cannot overclock this CPU, however it is pretty good. Some laptops that have it: HP OMEN 15-dh0020ng, HP OMEN 17-cb0020ng, Apple MacBook Pro Retina 16” (this is a Mac laptop PC, whose screen is 16-inch). However, you may spend almost $3000 or even more for these laptops, but that’s what happens when we want the best!
- The Intel Core i9-9980HK processor also launched in Q2 2019. Its price is slightly higher than that of the 9880H. Notice that it ends by both H (specific for laptop CPUs) and K letters (the extra K means that you can do overclocking). It also is 14nm-manufactured, has 8 cores and 16 threads, its base frequency is 2.40 GHz, the maximum Turbo frequency is 5.00 GHz, and don’t forget about overclocking. It supports the same up-to-128 GB RAM as i9-9980H does, and features almost the same parameters for shared video memory, with the difference that while both base frequencies for the integrated memory is 350 MHz, with the Dynamic Frequency feature the 9880H can have up to 1.20 GHz video frequency, while the 9980HK performs up to 1.25 GHz. Both CPUs’ graphic parts provide support for DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5, Display Port/HDMI/DVI/Embedded Display Port (eDP) video connectors (no VGA!), and Intel Optane can also be used with the laptops having these Intel CPUs. Also, both CPUs support PCI-Express 3.0 with 16 lanes. Some laptops with this CPU: Alienware m15, Alienware m17. Again, be careful about expensive prices getting around $3000 US.
Please note that laptops can also have separate video cards like NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q (8 GR, GDDR6). Remember that their heat dissipation will be limited by the laptop’s pretty slim case – it’s not like in Desktop PC cases, where we have more space and also the option of leaving the case open! You may try to leave the case of a laptop open as well, but this would be at least inaesthetic, not to mention the danger of making accidental contact with liquids – electronic circuits would be pretty exposed. I can only imagine this one, since I almost never used a laptop and never owned one (only Desktop PCs are part of my daily life by now).
Naturally, AMD could not stay aloof 🙂 and they also came out with good CPUs for laptops. The AMD Ryzen 7 generation serves us a number of examples, like the AMD Ryzen™ 7 3780U Microsoft Surface Edition processor. This time, we will be facing a smaller core&thread count: 4 cores and 8 threads. Its base frequency is still 2.3 GHz as for the two Intel CPUs listed above. The Boost frequency is rated at 4 GHz, and it cannot be overclocked. Also, it benefits from the 12nm lithography aka CMOS (Ryzen processors that launched in 2018 belong to this fabrication process), and comes with an integrated graphics part called AMD Radeon RX Vega 10, that has 10 GPU cores and 1400 (Boost) MHz. This integrated video provides support for DirectX 12, Display Port and HDMI. The default TDP of this processor is 15 Watts (considerably lower than the one of the Intels, but let’s keep it clear: we also have half the core/thread count here). It supports two DDR4-2400 memory channels (but AMD does not clearly state the total memory amount/number of slots on the internal motherboard, let’s suppose you may find laptops with 16 or 32 GB of DDR4 and this CPU, and be able to upgrade the RAM to maximum 64 GB).
There is also a parameter called configurable TDP (programmable Thermal Design Power), allowing users to modify the power consumption of the CPU, and in this case it can be adjusted at values ranging between 12 and 35 Watts. You should make sure there’s a good cooling solution for the laptop CPU! This time, water cooling is NOT a preferrable option – providing it would be difficult and put some safety problems. You can check some info on this issue at Quora:
Another good AMD laptop CPU is the AMD Ryzen™ 7 3700U. It has the same 4/8 core/thread count as the 3780U mobile processor (yes, they are called this way too), and the same 2.3 base frequency & 4.0 GHz Boost frequency. Even their integrated video part is the same AMD Radeon RX Vega 10, having the same 1400 MHz frequency, but there’s one less video core: 10 cores instead of 11. The default TDP and the cTDP values are also same: 15W and respectively 12 up to 35 W. Again, this CPU supports DDR4-2400 memory in the 2-channel configuration, yet AMD does not tell us exactly the maximum memory amount – but I guess it is 64 GB, made from two modules of 32 GB each.
The last AMD laptop CPU to be brought into our discussion is AMD Ryzen™ 7 3750H, whose specifications are very similar to the 3700U ones. Same frequencies for the CPU itself and for the AMD Vega 10 video part, same core counts, and all the three AMD processors share the same cache memories: 384 KB for L1, 2 MB for L2, and 4 MB for L3. The 3750H processor, however, has a larger default TDP: 35 watts. As for the rest, there are the same parameters: 2-channel DDR4-2400 RAM (I assume it’s up to 64 GB, since a laptop with this processor has its RAM upgradable up to that value; I will give you some AMD laptop examples below). The programmable TDP part stays the same 12-35 W.
These 3 AMD laptop processors are more limited in performance if compared to their Intel counterparts: none of them are overclockable, they have half the Intel core/thread counts (4/8 versus 8/16), their Boost frequencies are lower (4.0 GHz); still, they may of course provide good performance for AMD laptop gamers.
Although overclocking is not provided, it is good for us to know that beyond the Boost factor (not to be confused with Intel’s Turbo Boost, though), AMD also provides some extra frequency boost, above the normal Boost limit, and according to WikiChip, this applies at least to both 3700U and 3750H processors too. It is named XFR (eXtended Frequency Range), an automated overclock feature specifically provided by AMD, which in its more recent implementation allows us to gain 200 or more extra MHz above the given Boost limit. Now, I admit I am a little confused, since the particular specifications of these AMD mobile processors state that they are NOT unlocked, whereas WikiChip tells us they have XFR (and curiously, the 3780U CPU is not listed there at all) – however, we know there is manual overclocking (we adjust it from BIOS, in case the CPU is unlocked, which is not the case here), while XFR is called automated overclocking.
And now, let’s see some laptops:
HP Enxy x360 13 supports the Ryzen 7 3700U processor, as a matter of fact its CPU support list ranges from the Ryzen i3-3300U up to this processor. You can have up to 16 GB of RAM inside. If you want this laptop with the Ryzen 7 “flagship”, prepare yourself for spending more than $1000 US. Yes, AMD laptops may be about half the prices of Intel ones when there are the best CPUs involved (we know in general that AMD tends to have more affordable prices than Intel does), but then again, let’s remember that the best laptop CPUs from AMD have half the core count of Intel, too. You can have M.2 SSD storage from 256 GB up to 1 TB! Still, I can’t say whether it is SATA-III or NVME PCI-E.
Surface Laptop 3 is a special laptop type. You can find this family supporting both Intel and AMD processor types, depending on the exact model: the 13-inch SL3 supports Intel Core processors, and the larger screened 15-inch one supports AMD Ryzen CPUs up to the 3780U one. AMD laptops support up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, and M.2 SSD storage from 128 to 512 GB. You may spend over $1500 US if you want the best configuration for it. There is more information on this laptop family here:
Asus ROG Zephyrus G GA502DU is a laptop that has the Ryzen 7 3750H CPU. It also comes with the GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q PCI-E video card. Be prepared to spend around $1000 (or maybe some more) for its best configuration. The video card is a NVIDIA GDDR6 6 GB that is purposely manufactured for laptops and features a lower power consumption, related to Desktop GPUs.
The display of the laptop is 15.6 inch, and its 8 GB of single-channel memory are… soldered (wow, it looks like some laptops are not RAM-upgradable).
As laptops are a lighter category of computers, their features may not be as powerful as what we can deal with when using desktop PCs. This limitation also applies to their processors and to other parts like video and RAM (not to mention Storage, where you may have up to several Terabytes). Then again, your hardware upgrade possibilities when using laptops do really exist, but you must take care of some specific limitations. If some internal components like CPUs are soldered, then that’s it: keep using them or afford to buy a new laptop.
And laptop processors are not that workstation-designed, having usually less cores than the top, high-end Desktop CPUs, with AMD being behind Intel this time, in matter of core numbers. Gaming users who prefer laptops may choose between cheaper AMD models or more core-gifted Intel-based portable PCs. However, when targeting the best components, people need a suitable budget too, even when it’s laptops that we are talking about.