PC Components

What is a Good Processor Speed for a Laptop?

Quick Answer

Processor speeds vary wildly depending on what you need them for, but generally, you should aim for 3.4 GHz to 3.9GHz for gaming laptops. In contrast, you will rarely need more than 2.4 GHz for casual usage like browsing the internet.

In the rest of the article, we’re going to look at what processor speeds you should look for when buying a laptop for specific usages and some of the other considerations in the performance of a processor.

What is a Good Processor Speed for Casual Laptop Use?

If you’re buying a laptop to use on a very casual basis, you don’t need a processor with a base clock speed higher than 2.4 GHz. This will cover all bases, including the occasional task that may require higher resource usage, like a leisurely HTML5 game that you’re loading on a website.

Processors at this speed range are best suited for laptops that aren’t running many applications other than web browsers and standard office software, like Microsoft’s Office suite. If you are buying a laptop to engage in social media, read the news, respond to your emails, watch videos on the internet, or browse the web, this is the category you would want.

What is a Good Processor Speed for Basic Work Laptop Use?

If you use your laptop for serious work, but this does not include advanced software like that in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, then you should aim for a processor with a base clock speed of around 2.1 GHz to 2.7 GHz. There is some overlap with the previous category, but we have a lower limit here to exclude low-performance processors.

If your work involves Microsoft Office programs or other proprietary business software that is not known for being incredibly resource-intensive, this is the category you will fall into. Most work laptops should fall into this range.

What is a Good Processor Speed for a Gaming Laptop?

When you start looking at processors for gaming, it becomes a bit blurry since many other factors will come into play, but generally, you will want to look at base processor speeds in the 2.6 GHz to 3.9 GHz range.

You can go faster than this if you want, but you will encounter issues with energy usage and overheating on a laptop. For this reason, you can look at processors with a decent boost speed to cover this niche while keeping the base speed manageable.

Exactly which clock speed you end up choosing depends on your needs. If you plan to play games that are heavy on resources, you will need to aim at the higher end. Cyberpunk 2077, for example, cites 3.4 GHz as a minimum for processor speed. Less intense games will have lower requirements.

External factors may also limit your processor’s performance on a gaming laptop. Your CPU clock will not be used to its full potential if the GPU clock is too slow and many other components come into play. For a gaming computer, you need to look at the whole package.

What is a Good Processor Speed for a High-Performance Laptop?

Suppose you buy a laptop for very intense work, such as live-streaming gaming, rendering videos, or professional multimedia editing. In that case, you will want to aim for a high-end processor, but the base clock speed becomes a much less important factor.

All other things being equal, the faster the clock speed, the better, but with advanced software like this, all processor specifications need to be looked at. The best way of doing so is to examine benchmarks for different processors, and how they work with the software you will use. You can see an example of benchmarking for Adobe After Effects here.

What Should I Consider in a Processor Other Than Clock Speed?

We have learned that base clock speed does not give us the entire picture for measuring the performance of a processor. Let’s take a look at some of the other important elements of a processor that can have a more significant effect, depending on what it will be used for.

Number of Cores

When you look at the prices of processors, there is often a balance struck between the clock speed and the number of cores. On average, processors with more cores will have a lower clock speed, and processors with fewer cores will usually have higher clock speeds.

One is not definitely better than the other because they are used in different ways. If you use your processor exclusively for gaming, you will rarely need more than a quad-core. Four cores at a higher clock speed will perform better than eight at a lower one because most games are not optimized to use many cores, thus not benefiting from them.

Conversely, if you are editing and rendering video, this software will usually be designed to take advantage of as many threads as possible. This will give you a considerable speed advantage with each added core, but remember that it is not entirely linear.

Cache Size

A processor’s cache is its memory. How much cache it has available will significantly affect its performance. The different cores will usually have their L1 caches, but L2 and L3 caches will be shared to varying degrees. The bigger these caches are, the faster the processor will run.

Energy Usage

In a laptop, maximizing performance is not always the only goal in a processor. If you plan to run your laptop off of battery power, a fast processor can be detrimental to its usage. Similarly, laptops have inferior cooling capabilities due to their compact sizes, and overheating will force the processors to slow down anyway.

A common feature among processors in laptops is to have a relatively low base clock speed but a very high boost speed. This allows them to save on energy and heat generation most of the time and only speed up when it’s needed.

Conclusion

We’ve learned to gauge a good processor speed for a laptop by understanding which speeds are suitable for which tasks and which other specifications you should look at in a processor.

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