There is a huge variety of laptop processors out there with different specifications like transistor size, core count, thread count, cache memory, TDP etc. However, the key feature that people still look at to judge the performance of a CPU is its clock speed.
So what is a good processor speed for a laptop? To answer this question we will have to study several different laptop processors out there from different generation.
As is the case with all PC hardware, a good speed for your laptop will depend upon what your requirements are. Therefore, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what the ideal speed for laptop processors is.
People who do lots of demanding work or indulge in gaming will benefit from speeds of 4.0 GHz (boost) or higher. For basic tasks and light office work, clockspeeds close to 2.3 GHz (base) will do just fine.
But let me tell you right here, clock speed is NOT the only gauge of CPU’s performance. Plenty of specs as well as the architecture of the CPU determines its true performance.
On top of that, different types of workload demand a different set of CPU specs. For instance, if you want a processor for video rendering, encoding, file compression etc, then a processor with a higher core count would make more sense. But, as you will see, a higher core count does not necessarily correspond to a higher clock speed or a higher single-core performance.
Thus you have to juggle between a good single-core performance (primarily affected by the clock speed) or a good multi-core performance (primarily affected by more core counts).
Check Benchmarks Results instead of Relying on Sheer CPU Specs
In order to determine the true prowess of a CPU, I recommended looking into its benchmark scores instead of relying on the CPU specs.
The benchmarks I recommend are Passmark, Cinebench R15 and Cinebench R20.
What Is A Good Processor Speed for A Laptop?
The laptop’s purpose and your work determines what a good processor speed for laptop is.
In order to get a better idea of what clock speeds to expect, let us look at some of the flagship processors from each price category. For simplicity sake, we will look at the AMD 4000 / Intel 10th Gen and AMD 5000 and Intel 11th Gen CPU separately:
AMD 4000 and Intel 10th Gen CPUs – Mainstream and Performance Grade
|Intel Core i5|
|6/12||12169||Flagship Intel Mainstream CPU|
|AMD Ryzen 5|
|6/12||14853||Flagship AMD Mainstream CPU|
|Intel Core i7|
|8/16||15662||Flagship Intel High Performance CPU|
|Intel Core i9|
|8/16||16549||Flagship Intel Workstation CPU|
|AMD Ryzen 7|
|8/16||19186||Flagship AMD High Performance CPU|
|AMD Ryzen 9|
|8/16||19055||Flagship AMD Workstation CPU|
For the AMD 4000 and the Intel 10th gen series, the nominal range of the boost clock speed is around 4.0 GHz clock for their mainstream and performance grade CPUs.
Also, in this generation of CPUs, the Intel seems to have lagged behind in performance.
AMD 5000 and Intel 11th Gen CPUs – Mainstream and Performance Grade
AMD 5000 series and the Intel 11th Gen is the latest line of CPUs by the two manufacturers. Unlike with the previous generation, here Intel drastically improves on its performance.
|Intel Core i5|
|6/12||17472||Flagship Intel Mainstream CPU|
|AMD Ryzen 5 |
|6/12||17768||Flagship AMD Mainstream CPU|
|AMD Ryzen 7 |
|8/16||21192||Flagship AMD High Performance CPU|
|Intel Core i7|
|8/16||21854||Flagship Intel High Performance CPU|
|AMD Ryzen 9 |
|8/16||23244||Flagship AMD Workstation CPU|
|Intel Core i9|
|8/16||23253||Flagship Intel Workstation CPU|
The 11th Gen Intel CPUs go toe-to-toe in performance against the AMD 5000 series CPUs
Everyday Computing CPUs for Laptops
Everyday computing CPUs have the “U” suffix in their name. They consume lower power have a longer battery life and are jack of all trades.
For casual gaming, casual editing and for casual content creators these are excellent CPUs.
The following table shows some of the popular and top of the line current gen everyday computing CPUs for laptops.
|Intel Core i5|
|AMD Ryzen 3|
|Intel Core i3|
|Intel Core i7|
|AMD Ryzen 3 |
Budget Series CPU: For Those Who Have Very Basic Requirements
The following CPUs are good enough only for the most basic tasks like web surfing, writing emails or simple word processors. Laptops featuring these can easily cost between $200-$400.
Naturally, these have the lowest clock speeds.
This table should give you a good idea about what kind of processor speeds and performance scores to expect.
|Intel Celeron |
|4/4||2681||One of the cheapest laptop CPUs available|
|Intel Pentium |
|4/4||3592||Basic Intel CPUs|
|AMD Athlon Gold 3150U||2.4/3.3|
|2/4||4386||Flagship AMD Entry Level CPU|
There are two things that you need to understand i.e Single Core vs Multi-Core performance, and the fact that clock speed is not the only gauge of a CPU’s performance.
Also Read: Is Intel Celeron Good for School Work?
Difference Between Single Core vs Multi Core Performance
As the name suggest, the Single Core and Multi Core performance benchmark are two key points that every one should look into when getting the right processor for themselves.
Many people assume that the more cores a processor has, the better it is. While that is true to an extent, having more cores than you really need is a waste of money.
In fact, most of the software that you use and the games that you play do not even leverage a lot of cores anyways. Games like League of Legends, Dota 2, Fortnite, etc do not benefit much from a processor with more than 2 cores.
Recommended CPU Specs: 3 GHz dual-core processor – League of Legends
In other words, for most popular online games, a dual core processor would do just fine and if your intention is to get a laptop with a CPU sufficient for these games, then you do not need a processor with a superb multicore performance.
On top of that, work such as designing in CAD, sculpting models in Blender etc all leverage a Single Core the most.
Tasks and games that do utilize multiple cores and would benefit from an excellent multi core performance are rendering, encoding, file compression, games like Cities Skylines, Ashes of Singularity, Flight Simulator etc.
The following graph shows the single core performance of the CPUs highlighted in the tables above.
You can see from above that a CPU with a higher core count does not necessarily have a higher single core performance.
For instance, the Intel Core i9-10980HK is an 8 core CPU with 16 threads, has clockspeed of 2.5/5.3 GHZ (base/boost). It has an overall Passmark score of 16549.
Compare this to the 6 Core /12 thread Intel Core i5 11500H. Despite the Intel Core i5 11500H having a lower number of cores a well as a lower boost clock, it has a much better single core performance (577 vs 507) and also scores 17472 points in Passmark.
Additionally, while the Intel Core i7 11800H has a higher core count, it has the same single core performance has the Intel Core i5 11500H.
So what does this all mean? Essentially, if your work load DOES NOT demand a high core count, you are better off looking for a CPU with a better single-core performance.
Say your workload only demands a max core count of 6 cores. The cheaper Intel Core i5 11500H would actually give you a BETTER performance compared to the much more expensive Intel Core i9-10980K.
Why Clock Speed is Not the Most Accurate Measure of CPU Performance
The tables above clearly show that clock speed is NOT the prime determinant of the CPU performance.
Take for example the Intel Core i9-10980HK processor above. It has the highest boost clock speed of 5.3 GHz in its list, yet it is much weaker than AMD Ryzen 7 4800H despite the 4800H having a mere 4.2 GHz boost clock speed.
Similarly, take AMD Ryzen 5 4600H. It has the highest BASE clock speed, yet it is no where close to being the fastest processor in the list.
Also despite AMD Ryzen 5 4600H and the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H both having almost the same base clock speeds per core, the AMD Ryzen 7 4800H has a better Single Core Performance – in fact AMD Ryzen 7 4800H has a slower .1 GHz slower clock speed yet it still has a better single core performance (472 vs 448).
Only looking at the clock speed to judge the single core performance would have you believe that both the Ryzen 7 4800H and Ryzen 5 4600H would be more or less the same. However that is not the case.
The thing is, looking at the clock speed is a very myopic and an old school way of determining the performance of a CPU.
While clock speed certainly does matter there are many other factors that overall determine a CPU’s performance.
A CPU clock speed can help you decide between two processors in the same family/generation i.e Intel Core i5-10400 vs Intel Core i5-10600K, but when comparing with a different generation, clock speed is only one of the many considerations.
So What is a Good Processor Speed for Your Laptop?
We summarize the finding below:
Basic Work: Word Processing, Email Correspondence, Browsing
If your workload demands are low meaning if you plan to work on simple tasks like word processing, internet surfing, social media usage, then the following CPU with their clock speed are recommended:
- Lower Range: Intel Pentium Silver N6000 – 1,1 GHz (base) – 3.3 GHz (boost)
- Upper Range: AMD Athlon 3150U – 2.4 GHz (base) – 3.3 GHz (boost)
Also Read: Is a Dual Core Processor Good for Gaming?
Everyday Work: Home Use, Casual Office Work
For this, you can get a basic Intel Core i3 or a Ryzen 3 processor from ‘U’ series. You don’t quite need to go into the mainstream processor lines for office work that deals with excel sheets, report writing etc.
- Lower Range: Intel Pentium 10110U – 2.10 GHz (base) – 4.10 GHz (boost)
- Upper Range: AMD Ryzen 3 4300U – 2.7 GHz (base) – 3.7 GHz (boost)
Moderate Work: Demanding Office Work, Casual Editing / Gaming
If you are casual gamer, or sometimes edit photos and videos then a somewhat beefier CPU is warranted:
- Lower Range: Intel Core i7 1185G7 – 3.9GHz (base) – 4.80 GHz (boost)
- Upper Range: AMD Ryzen 3 5400U – 2.6 GHz (base) – 4.0 GHz (boost)
Gaming and Intermediate Work: For All Sort of Gaming and Intermediate Level of Editing and Designing Work
Mainstream processors are recommended for gaming. Here I am talking about AMD Ryzen 5 and Intel Core i5 processors. These have an excellent singe core performance have enough cores for most games.
Generally, going for a high performance processor with more cores i.e the Ryzen 7 or Core i7 processor, does not give a huge performance boost for gaming since most games do not utilize the overkill amount of cores offered by them.
- Lower Range: AMD Ryzen 5 4600H – 3.0 GHz (base) – 4.0 GHz (turbo)
- Upper Range Intel: Intel Core i5 11500H – 3.9 GHz (base) – 4.6 GHz (boost)
- Upper Range AMD: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H – 3.3 GHz (base) – 4.2 GHz (boost)
Also Read: Is Quad Core Processor Good for Gaming?
High Performance – For Professionals – Game Streaming Builds
For this line of work, higher core count matters as much as the clock speed.
Work such as rendering, heavy multitasking with demanding software running at the same time, streaming games, encoding videos, file compression etc require high performance or workstation grade processors.
Again, while the clock speed here is more or less the same as the mainstream processors above, it is the core count that differentiate these processors giving them a significant boost in their multi-core performance.
- Lower Range Intel: Intel Core i7-10850H – 2.2 GHz (base) – 5.1 GHz (boost)
- Lower Range AMD: AMD Ryzen 7 4800H – 2.9 GHz (base) – 4.2 GHz (boost)
- Upper Range Intel: Intel Core i7 11800H – 2.3 GHz (base) – 4.6 GHz (boost)
- Upper Range AMD: AMD Ryzen 7 5800HS – 2.3 GHz (base) – 4.4 GHz (boost)
Workstation Build: Core i9 / Ryzen 9 is the Answer
If you are considering getting a workstation laptop for industry-grade content creation, engineer designs, simulation, AI/machine learning etc then an Intel Core i9 or the AMD Ryzen 9 from the latest generation is recommended.
In short, an average processor with a decent all rounded performance that is suitable for gaming and intermediate level of professional work should have a base clock speed of around 3.0 GHz with Turbo boost of about 4.0 GHz.
Keeping this as the average, you can go for lower clock speeds if your work demand and your budget is low and inversely you can go for a higher clock speed (and cores) if you are a professional looking for a powerhouse CPU.
Again, while in this article I talked about what is a good processor for a laptop by looking at popular options, sheer clock speed is not the best determining factor of a processor performance.
I recommend that you follow benchmark results instead when comparing two processors. Some popular benchmarks are Passmark and Cinebench R23, R20 and R15.