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Notebook purchase advice: The best CPU and GPU for every price range


In advertising, every notebook is fast and suitable for games. But only when you know how powerful the CPU and graphics processor in the laptop really are, you can assess whether a notebook meets your requirements.

The processor is still the most important yardstick for the performance of a notebook. If games and multimedia programs are to run frequently on the laptop, the computing power of the GPU is also decisive. If you can assess what the CPU and GPU can do in a laptop before you buy, you can immediately see whether the notebook meets your requirements – and you can tell a real bargain apart from a slow-moving one. That is why we are introducing you to the most important processors and graphics cards from various price and performance classes.

The CPU, GPU and notebook manufacturers do not make it easy for you: Confusing model names for processor and graphics chip make an assessment difficult. In addition, the basic rule “The more up-to-date and expensive the notebook, the more powerful the CPU and GPU” does not always have to be true. On the one hand, a new CPU or GPU is not necessarily faster than its predecessor, and on the other hand, components such as displays or SSDs can drive up the laptop price.

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In addition, the following applies in particular to the CPU: How strong it is in practice can only be determined in a test with a specific notebook. Because the CPU performance depends above all on the cooling in the notebook – this applies above all to functions such as Turbo Boost. Notebook manufacturers adapt the performance values ​​of the CPU to the options for cooling and power supply given by the case – this can make a CPU faster or slower.

A Pentium CPU is often found in inexpensive notebooks and convertibles.

Enlarge

A Pentium CPU is often found in inexpensive notebooks and convertibles.

© Microsoft

Entry-level class: processors for notebooks up to 400 euros

The CPUs of the Atom series from Intel have largely disappeared from the scene. However, that does not mean that you will no longer find low-performance tablet processors in notebooks: This role is now taken by the CPUs of the Celeron N3000 and N4000 model series, which are based on the Gemini Lake and Apollo Lake tablet architectures. They work with two or four cores, but are primarily geared towards energy-saving operation, so that, due to the low TDP of 6 watts, laptops can be built with them without fans. Appropriate notebooks are therefore only suitable for simple tasks such as surfing the web and inconvenient office work.

Purchase advice:

The best notebooks under 400 euros

Pentium processors of the Silver series like the N5000 promise slightly better performance at a low level. However, they too come from the Gemini Lake platform. The Pentium Gold, on the other hand, is the cheapest variant of a core architecture: The processors of the Gold 5000 series are based on Whiskey Lake (8th core generation), the Gold 6000 series on Comet Lake (10th core generation). They support more RAM and more PCI Express lanes for additional components and are therefore better suited for properly equipped notebooks, but have no turbo speed.

The Celeron competition from AMD is the A6-9220e: With a TDP of 6 watts, it is actually intended for tablets and fanless laptops and still works with the core architecture of the Excavator, the Zen predecessor. The slightly better Athlon Silver and Athlon Gold have cores based on Zen 1, the gold version runs at higher clock rates due to the TDP of 15 watts.

There are also more and more Chromebooks among the cheap laptops: many of them have an ARM processor, for example from Mediatek. You shouldn’t expect high performance, because ARM CPUs in this performance class primarily drive inexpensive tablets and smartphones. However, they work efficiently with Chrome OS and Android apps that can be used under the Google operating system.

processor

Clock rate (standard / turbo)

Cores / threads

Code name

TDP

production

available since

Intel Celeron N3450

1.10 / 2.20 GHz

4/4

Apollo Lake

6 watts

14nm

Late 2016

Intel Celeron N4020

1.10 / 2.80 GHz

2/2

Gemini Lake Refresh

6 watts

14nm

End of 2019

Intel Pentium Silver N5000

1.10 / 2.70 GHz

4/4

Gemini Lake

6 watts

14nm

Late 2017

Intel Pentium Gold 5405U

2.30 / –

2/4

Whiskey Lake

15 watts

14nm

Early 2019

Intel Pentium Gold 6405U

2.40 / –

2/4

Comet Lake

15 watts

14nm

End of 2019

AMD A6-9220e

1.60 / 2.40

2/2

Stoney Ridge

6 watts

28nm

Mid 2017

AMD Athlon Silver 3050e

1.40 / 2.80

2/4

dali

6 watts

14nm

Early 2020

AMD Athlon Gold 3150U

2.40 / 3.30

2/4

dali

15 watts

14nm

Early 2020

processor

Clock rate (standard / turbo)

Cores / threads

Code name

TDP

production

available since

Intel Celeron N3450

1.10 / 2.20 GHz

4/4

Apollo Lake

6 watts

14nm

Late 2016

Intel Celeron N4020

1.10 / 2.80 GHz

2/2

Gemini Lake Refresh

6 watts

14nm

End of 2019

Intel Pentium Silver N5000

1.10 / 2.70 GHz

4/4

Gemini Lake

6 watts

14nm

Late 2017

Intel Pentium Gold 5405U

2.30 / –

2/4

Whiskey Lake

15 watts

14nm

Early 2019

Intel Pentium Gold 6405U

2.40 / –

2/4

Comet Lake

15 watts

14nm

End of 2019

AMD A6-9220e

1.60 / 2.40

2/2

Stoney Ridge

6 watts

28nm

Mid 2017

AMD Athlon Silver 3050e

1.40 / 2.80

2/4

dali

6 watts

14nm

Early 2020

AMD Athlon Gold 3150U

2.40 / 3.30

2/4

dali

15 watts

14nm

Early 2020

->

Many models in the mid-range notebook use an AMD CPU such as the HP ProBook 445 G7.

Enlarge

Many models in the mid-range notebook use an AMD CPU such as the HP ProBook 445 G7.

© HP

Middle class: processors for notebooks up to 800 euros

In this price range you will find notebooks with the best price-performance ratio: They offer enough performance for most applications, especially in the equipment variants from around 500 to 600 euros.

Notebooks from around 400 euros often use processors from the current CPU generations from Intel and AMD. At Intel, these are primarily the Core i3-1005G1 and for laptops from around 500 euros the Core i5-1035G1 from the Ice Lake series (10th Core generation). In contrast to the Pentium processors, they support faster main memory and, thanks to PCI-Express 3.0, more powerful components. Compared to the Core i3, the Core i5 offers a higher turbo clock, a larger cache and more powerful graphics – but above all it has twice as many cores and can process twice as many threads.

The corresponding mid-range offers on the AMD side are the Ryzen 3 3250U and the Ryzen 5 3500U. They come from the third Ryzen generation: The Ryzen 3 model with the code name “Dali” is a two-core with four threads, the Ryzen 5 (code name “Picasso”) has four cores and can process eight threads. The Ryzen 5 4500U “Renoir” from AMD is currently the most popular among notebook manufacturers: It has six cores with the Zen 2 architecture and is manufactured using the 7 nanometer process. It overtakes Intel’s mid-range CPUs, especially in CPU-heavy tests and in applications that use many cores.

Processors whose model name ends with an H may have a higher power consumption: Their TDP is 35 or 45 instead of 15 watts. That is why they are used in larger and thicker laptops that also have space for an additional graphics card. In cheap gaming notebooks from around 700 euros you will usually find a Core i5-10300H, the Ryzen 5 3550H or the Ryzen 5 4600H.

processor

Clock rate (standard / turbo)

Cores / threads

Code name

TDP

production

available since

Intel Core i3-1005G1

1.20 / 3.40 GHz

2/4

Ice Lake

15 watts

10nm

End of 2019

Intel Core i5-1035G1

1.00 / 3.60 GHz

4/8

Ice Lake

15 watts

10nm

End of 2019

Intel Core i5-10300H

2.50 / 4.50 GHz

4/8

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Mid 2020

AMD Ryzen 3 3250U

2.60 / 3.50 GHz

2/4

dali

15 watts

14nm

Early 2020

AMD Ryzen 5 3500U

2.10 / 3.70 GHz

4/8

picasso

15 watts

12nm

Early 2019

AMD Ryzen 5 4500U

2.30 / 4.00 GHz

6/6

Renoir

15 watts

7nm

Early 2020

AMD Ryzen 5 3550H

2.10 / 3.70 GHz

4/8

picasso

35 watts

12nm

Early 2019

AMD Ryzen 5 4600H

3.00 / 4.00 GHz

6/12

Renoir

45 watts

7nm

Early 2020

processor

Clock rate (standard / turbo)

Cores / threads

Code name

TDP

production

available since

Intel Core i3-1005G1

1.20 / 3.40 GHz

2/4

Ice Lake

15 watts

10nm

End of 2019

Intel Core i5-1035G1

1.00 / 3.60 GHz

4/8

Ice Lake

15 watts

10nm

End of 2019

Intel Core i5-10300H

2.50 / 4.50 GHz

4/8

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Mid 2020

AMD Ryzen 3 3250U

2.60 / 3.50 GHz

2/4

dali

15 watts

14nm

Early 2020

AMD Ryzen 5 3500U

2.10 / 3.70 GHz

4/8

picasso

15 watts

12nm

Early 2019

AMD Ryzen 5 4500U

2.30 / 4.00 GHz

6/6

Renoir

15 watts

7nm

Early 2020

AMD Ryzen 5 3550H

2.10 / 3.70 GHz

4/8

picasso

35 watts

12nm

Early 2019

AMD Ryzen 5 4600H

3.00 / 4.00 GHz

6/12

Renoir

45 watts

7nm

Early 2020

->

With the M1, Apple brings in its first own notebook CPU.

Enlarge

With the M1, Apple brings in its first own notebook CPU.

© Apple

High-end: processors for notebooks from 800 euros

With notebooks from around 800 euros you can expect top performance – both in stylish and slim ultrabooks as well as in gaming notebooks trimmed for pure power. In addition, the current processor models are first available in laptops from this price segment.

Practice test:

The best business notebooks in comparison

The top models from Intel in this price range are the Core i7-10510U (Comet Lake, 14 nanometers) and the Core i7-1065G7 (Ice Lake, 10 nanometers). They ensure high computing efficiency because they combine performance and economy, which makes them the ideal CPUs for ultra-mobile business notebooks. Significantly fewer Ultrabooks use an AMD CPU – the Ryzen 7 4700U is usually used in corresponding models.

The Ryzen generation 5000 “Cezanne” with Zen 3 or “Lucienne” with Zen 2 refresh is not yet available. Notebooks with the latest Intel generation “Tiger Lake” (11th Core generation) are already available: They use, for example, the Core i5-1135G7 and top models from 1000 euros the Core i7-1165G7, both with the much improved Xe graphic.

A prominent newcomer in this price segment is Apple: Current models of the Macbook Pro and Macbook Air work with the in-house M1 processor. Like the CPUs in the iPhone and iPad, it uses the ARM architecture, while processors from Intel and AMD use the x86 architecture. Processors can only work with software that uses the appropriate instruction set or whose instructions can be translated using an emulator. Initial tests show that Apple has done this very well with the M1: Both with native ARM programs and with x86 emulation with Rosetta 2, the new processor is faster than comparable Intel processors with x86 programs. Above all, the significant performance for light notebooks with low power consumption (performance per watt) speaks in favor of the M1, which is manufactured in a 5 nanometer structure. Like most ARM CPUs, the M1 consists of powerful and very economical cores, the structure of which is better geared towards operation with high or low loads than x86 CPUs. Apple also benefits from the fact that the operating system and hardware come from a single source and can therefore be optimally coordinated.

In the area of ​​high-performance gaming notebooks, Intel and AMD are still among themselves: The laptop manufacturers mainly rely on the Core i7-9750H (Coffee Lake, 6 cores / 12 threads) and its successor Core i7-10750H ( Comet Lake, 6 cores / 12 threads) and the Renoir models Ryzen 7 4800H and Ryzen 9 4900H, both with 8 cores and 16 threads.

The 8-core Core i7-10875H and Core i9-10980HK, which, like all K models, offer an open multiplier for overclocking, mark the top performance in notebooks from around 2000 euros.

processor

Clock rate (standard / turbo)

Cores / threads

Code name

TDP

production

available since

Intel Core i7-10510U

1.80 / 4.90 GHz

4/8

Comet Lake

15 watts

14nm

Mid-2019

Intel Core i7-1065G7

1.30 / 3.90 GHz

4/8

Ice Lake

15 watts

10nm

Mid-2019

Intel Core i5-1135G7

2.40 / 4.20 GHz

4/8

Tiger Lake

12 – 28 watts

10nm

Mid 2020

Intel Core i7-1165G7

2.80 / 4.70 GHz

4/8

Tiger Lake

12 – 28 watts

10nm

Mid 2020

Intel Core i7-9750H

2.60 / 4.50 GHz

6/12

Coffee Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2019

Intel Core i7-10750H

2.60 / 5.00 GHz

6/12

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2020

Intel Core i7-10875H

2.30 / 5.10 GHz

8/16

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2020

Intel Core i9-10980HK

2.40 / 5.30 GHz

8/16

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2020

AMD Ryzen 7 4700U

2.00 / 4.10 GHz

8/8

Renoir

15 watts

7nm

Early 2020

Apple M1

– / 3.20 GHz

8/8

Firestorm / Icestorm

k. A.

5nm

End of 2020

processor

Clock rate (standard / turbo)

Cores / threads

Code name

TDP

production

available since

Intel Core i7-10510U

1.80 / 4.90 GHz

4/8

Comet Lake

15 watts

14nm

Mid-2019

Intel Core i7-1065G7

1.30 / 3.90 GHz

4/8

Ice Lake

15 watts

10nm

Mid-2019

Intel Core i5-1135G7

2.40 / 4.20 GHz

4/8

Tiger Lake

12 – 28 watts

10nm

Mid 2020

Intel Core i7-1165G7

2.80 / 4.70 GHz

4/8

Tiger Lake

12 – 28 watts

10nm

Mid 2020

Intel Core i7-9750H

2.60 / 4.50 GHz

6/12

Coffee Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2019

Intel Core i7-10750H

2.60 / 5.00 GHz

6/12

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2020

Intel Core i7-10875H

2.30 / 5.10 GHz

8/16

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2020

Intel Core i9-10980HK

2.40 / 5.30 GHz

8/16

Comet Lake

45 watts

14nm

Spring 2020

AMD Ryzen 7 4700U

2.00 / 4.10 GHz

8/8

Renoir

15 watts

7nm

Early 2020

Apple M1

– / 3.20 GHz

8/8

Firestorm / Icestorm

k. A.

5nm

End of 2020

->

The Xe graphics of the Tiger Lake CPUs are currently the most powerful integrated GPU.

Enlarge

The Xe graphics of the Tiger Lake CPUs are currently the most powerful integrated GPU.

© Intel

Entry-level class: graphics cards in notebooks up to 700 euros

Most notebooks use the integrated graphics solution of the processor for 3D applications. In the case of cheap laptops, manufacturers want to save the cost of an additional graphics card, flat and expensive notebooks have too little space to accommodate an extra GPU and cooling solution.

Even with notebooks in the Pentium class for 400 euros, the integrated graphics can handle 4K videos and offer the option of connecting up to two external monitors – provided the notebook has the appropriate connections. With the Intel CPUs, the graphics performance hardly differ: In the higher-quality core processors, the number of execution units and the GPU clock increase, but the gaming performance remains low. Depending on the processor, it is sufficient for sports games and simple simulations for smooth frame rates in full HD and low to medium level of detail. With online classics like League of Legends, the internal graphics create even higher details.

The graphics solution of the AMD CPUs usually does a little better: In games, this is reflected in higher frame rates or a higher level of detail. But here too, the performance depends on the specific processor. For example, the mobile Ryzen 5 of the third generation “Picasso” has an internal Vega GPU with nine or eight cores, while the corresponding “Renoir” variants only have six cores.

The Iris-Plus graphics G7 of the Ice Lake CPUs from Intel can keep up with the AMD graphics, the new Xe graphics of the Tiger Lake generation even outperform the integrated competition: It provides current games in 1280 x 720 and lower Details are displayed smoothly, for older games such as GTA 5 it is also sufficient for Full HD in good image quality with anti-aliasing. However, the corresponding processors are currently only found in expensive ultrabooks – but you can also get a powerful gaming notebook at this price.

Notebooks with a dedicated entry-level GPU from Nvidia, such as the Geforce MX 250 or MX 350, are cheaper: These GPUs manage older or less demanding current games in FHD with a high level of detail and are thus on par with the Xe graphics from Intel. The improved successor MX 450 will appear in notebooks next year.

Gaming notebooks with the GTX 1660 Ti offer a good price-performance ratio.

Enlarge

Gaming notebooks with the GTX 1660 Ti offer a good price-performance ratio.

© HP

Middle class: graphics cards in notebooks up to 1500 euros

Similar to the processors, the performance of a dedicated GPU stands or falls with the cooling solution in the notebook: The graphics card can only call up its maximum performance as often and for as long as possible with effective cooling.

So that this also works in thin and light laptops, Nvidia has developed the Max-Q design: These specifications should ensure, for example, that the GPU and CPU coordinate more efficiently in terms of power consumption and therefore require less complex cooling solutions with quieter fans. This is why Max-Q GPUs also run with a lower core or memory clock rate and therefore achieve a lower performance.

From around 800 euros there are notebooks suitable for games with a Geforce GTX 1650 or 1650 Ti. In Full HD, smooth frame rates in high detail or even ultra settings are possible for most games. However, the 4 GB memory capacity slows down at higher resolutions.

The GTX 1660 Ti, on the other hand, offers 6 GB of memory, which can also use ray tracing via a driver update. Since, unlike the RTX GPUs, it lacks special computing cores, the performance drops very significantly with activated ray tracing. In return, it offers more power reserves in Full HD than the GTX 1650 (Ti) and is therefore more future-proof. In addition, she shoulders many games in QHD resolution.

The link between the middle and upper class is currently the Geforce RTX 2060, which also has 6 GB of GDDR6 memory. Especially at higher resolutions than Full HD, it clearly stands out from the GTX 1660 Ti, but still offers an acceptable price-performance ratio at notebook prices of around 1100 euros. Ray tracing can be used in full HD in many games with fluid frame rates.

GPUs in Max-Q design enable powerful and slim gaming notebooks.

Enlarge

GPUs in Max-Q design enable powerful and slim gaming notebooks.

© Asus

Upper class: graphics cards in notebooks from 1500 euros

For smooth gaming in resolutions above Full HD, demanding ray tracing settings or power reserves for future games, notebooks from around 1500 euros are currently possible: There is a Geforce RTX 2070. Notebooks with the improved successor RTX 2070 Super are 300 to 500 euros more expensive .

The best gaming performance is currently offered by notebooks with a Geforce RTX 2080 Super: They are available from around 2500 euros and achieve sufficient frame rates in most current games, even in 4K resolution.

GPU

Chip family

Shader

Core clock

Storage

Memory bus

Nvidia Geforce MX 250

Pascal

384

1519 MHz

2 GB GDDR5

64 bit

Nvidia Geforce MX 350

Pascal

640

1354 MHz

2 GB GDDR5

64 bit

Geforce GTX 1650 Max-Q

Turing

1024

1020 MHz

4 GB GDDR5

128 bit

Geforce GTX 1650Ti

Turing

1024

1350 MHz

4 GB GDDR6

128 bit

Geforce GTX 1650Ti Max-Q

Turing

1024

1035 MHz

4 GB GDDR6

128 bit

Geforce GTX 1660 Ti

Turing

1536

1455 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q

Turing

1536

1140 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce RTX 2060

Turing

1920

1005 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce RTX 2060 Max-Q

Turing

1920

975 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce RTX 2070 Max-Q

Turing

2304

900 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

Geforce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q

Turing

2560

930 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

Geforce RTX 2080 Max-Q

Turing

2944

990 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

Geforce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q

Turing

3072

735 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

GPU

Chip family

Shader

Core clock

Storage

Memory bus

Nvidia Geforce MX 250

Pascal

384

1519 MHz

2 GB GDDR5

64 bit

Nvidia Geforce MX 350

Pascal

640

1354 MHz

2 GB GDDR5

64 bit

Geforce GTX 1650 Max-Q

Turing

1024

1020 MHz

4 GB GDDR5

128 bit

Geforce GTX 1650Ti

Turing

1024

1350 MHz

4 GB GDDR6

128 bit

Geforce GTX 1650Ti Max-Q

Turing

1024

1035 MHz

4 GB GDDR6

128 bit

Geforce GTX 1660 Ti

Turing

1536

1455 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce GTX 1660 Ti Max-Q

Turing

1536

1140 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce RTX 2060

Turing

1920

1005 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce RTX 2060 Max-Q

Turing

1920

975 MHz

6 GB GDDR6

192 bits

Geforce RTX 2070 Max-Q

Turing

2304

900 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

Geforce RTX 2070 Super Max-Q

Turing

2560

930 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

Geforce RTX 2080 Max-Q

Turing

2944

990 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

Geforce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q

Turing

3072

735 MHz

8 GB GDDR6

256 bit

->

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