If you’re looking at a laptop with a 2.6 GHz processor and a desktop with a processor of the same GHz clock rate, you’re probably thinking “These are the same speed, due to the clock rate of the processors”. This, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, there are a lot of differences between the CPUs of laptops and the CPUs of desktop computers.
Firstly, we need to take into account that a laptop processor is inherently designed to be mobile, meaning certain aspects of its performance are hindered by its need to remain cool and save battery life unless you configure it to do otherwise. The power of many laptop CPUs is generally less than that of desktop CPUs, because of this. This is largely attributed to the heat tolerance of the CPU in a laptop, which is substantially less than that of desktop CPU. We’ll touch on that later, however.
While a laptop’s CPU is generally less powerful than that of a desktop unless designed for uses such as gaming, a laptop’s processor certainly contains features that a desktop processor doesn’t. Ever wonder why people don’t lug desktop CPUs around with them, even with the introduction of smaller systems such as Chromeboxes and MacMinis? Aside from the fact that you’d have to also bring your own monitor, mouse, and keyboard wherever you wanted to use it, laptop CPUs have features that allow for Wi-Fi connectivity across a variety of different networks. In addition to this feature, laptop CPUs contain built-in battery and energy saving features, which cool the computer’s CPU down, often at the expense of the computer’s performance.
Desktop CPUs are different than their mobile counterparts when it comes to heat tolerance and, ultimately, overall performance. While most laptop CPUs contain quad-core processors, desktop computers can afford to have processors that contain as many as 8-cores, due to high heat tolerance. Desktop computers can handle the heat given off from these powerful CPUs due to the presence of large and sometimes numerous built-in cooling fans. Laptops simply don’t have the surface area to support large cooling systems.
You have to sometimes read between the lines to figure out the differences between two CPUs that, on paper, look identical. An easy and immediate way to differentiate performance in CPUs, however, is to see whether they’re laptop CPUs or desktop computer CPUs. The difference between the two is often substantial, except in the case of laptops designed for demanding activities, such as gaming and programming.
Overall, the CPUs of laptops and desktops, while being quite different from one another, have features that are beneficial to their respective processors, and their respective style of computer.