Q. What’s the difference between desktop and laptop processors?
Although desktop and laptop processors are designed for their respective devices, compact desktop PCs and AIO (All-In-One) PCs often use laptop processors, and some large desktop replacement laptops use desktop processors. The biggest difference between the two is that laptop processors have much less power to work with and as a result run slower, but they support more mobile features. For example, the Intel Core i7-2760QM laptop processor and the Intel Core i7-2600K desktop processor are both quad-core chips, but the former has a 2.4GHz clock speed compared to the latter’s 3.4GHz core clock. The laptop variant also operates with a 45-watt TDP (thermal design power; the maximum amount of power the device will need to be able to support the processor). The desktop variant has a 95-watt TDP.
. . . laptop processors have much less power to work with and as a result run slower, but they support more mobile features.
Q. What features do laptop processors have that desktop processors don’t?
In the case of the desktop and laptop processors we contrasted above, the laptop variant supports Intel’s (WiDi) Wireless Display technology, which lets you wirelessly transmit photos, videos, and Web to your TV for viewing (requires Intel WiDi TV adapter). Some other technologies exclusive to mobile processors include anti-theft features that enable you to remotely disable your notebook if it is stolen and support for 4G WiMAX, which lets your laptop connect to a citywide wireless network for Web access. Laptop processors also tend to have much more aggressive power-saving technologies.
QWhat can desktop processors do that laptop processors can’t?
Because they have much higher thermal tolerances, desktop processors can support higher clock speeds and more discrete cores. Six- and even eight-core processors are available on desktops, whereas quad-core processors are still the peak in laptop performance. Desktop processors are also much more tolerant of overclocking, or raising the core clock of the processor so that it crunches numbers that much faster. That said, overclocking a processor entails completely disregarding the rated TDP, so extra attention must be paid to keeping the processor cool.
Q.Desktop and laptop processors both have integrated graphics, right?
True, graphics processors have begun appearing in processors in recent years. Laptops in particular benefit from this configuration because separate graphics chips of older laptops require dedicated cooling and power, which adds to the battery burden and tends to contribute to the laptop’s overall bulk. Ultrabooks, the new wave of super-thin and portable laptops, can still be used for light gaming thanks to graphics integrated into the processor. Desktop processors with integrated graphics processors can also run without discrete graphics cards or chips on the motherboard.
One of the biggest advantages for desktops, at least with regard to Intel’s latest desktop processors, is their support for Quick Sync, which harnesses the power of the processor’s integrated graphics processor to transcode video. This can make a huge difference in the amount of time it takes to prep videos for Youtube, Facebook, or your smartphone, tablet, and home network. Incidentally, many of Intel’s latest notebook processors also support Quick Sync.
Q. Can I upgrade my desktop or laptop processor?
The short answer is yes, for both, but laptops are much more difficult to upgrade. On desktops, as long as the processor fits into the mother board’s CPU socket, and the motherboard supports the processor, then you can upgrade with little fuss and virtually no Windows-related tweaks. The same CPU socket and laptop motherboard requirements exist for mobile processors, but just getting access to the processor will often void your warranty and require detailed instructions for your particular laptop. It’s generally not advisable to upgrade your laptop processor unless you’re very comfortable working with the hardware.