Laptop CPU Vs Desktop CPU

People are often curious about the differences between laptop and desktop CPUs, there are some key differences that you need to take into consideration. In general, laptop CPUs are less powerful, but they’re more power-friendly, whereas desktop CPUs consume more power, but are better and handling CPU-intensive tasks.

Regarding performance, desktop CPUs will have more cores, higher clock speeds, and better memory bandwidth compared to laptop CPUs, this is why the performance is so different. However, there are some high-end laptops that are able to outperform some desktops.

Answer: Desktop CPUs are more powerful than laptop CPUs, but laptop CPUs are more energy-efficient, Laptops are meant to be portable devices that run off batteries whereas desktop CPUs have access to more power. In other words, desktop CPUs are allowed to be more powerful than laptop CPUs as they don’t have to worry about battery usage.

Laptop CPUs are More Efficient Than Desktop CPUs

Laptop CPUs are more efficient than desktop CPUs when it comes to performance-to-power ratio. Laptops are able to use less power while still providing a decent level of performance. This is due to the fact that laptop CPUs have fewer cores and run at lower clock speeds than their desktop counterparts.

When you purchase a laptop, the CPU will usually have a suffix at the end of it denoting a specific trait. Intel laptop CPUs will find processors with the following suffixes: H, G, U, and Y. These suffixes have different meanings, for example, the H suffix means that the CPU is high performance and will require more power.

The G suffix means that the CPU is a gaming processor and will also require more power. The U suffix means that the CPU is designed for Ultrabooks which are laptops that have low power consumption and long battery life. The Y suffix is given to processors which consume very little power.

I5 12600KDesktop10c/16t @4.9GHz boost125W
I5 12450HLaptop8c/12t @4.4GHz boost45W
I7 12700KDesktop12c/20t @5.0GHz boost125W
I7 12800HLaptop14c/20t @4.8GHz boost45W
I9 12900KDesktop16c/24t @5.2GHz boost125W
I9 12900HLaptop14c/20t @5.0GHz boost45W

A good way to get a general idea of how much power your CPU will consume is to look at the TDP. A laptop’s TDP will be lower than a desktop’s TDP regardless of its suffix. TDP stands for Thermal Design Power and it should be used as an estimation of how much power your components will use.

TDP is also a representation of how much heat will be generated by a component, since laptops have a low TDP, they don’t require beefy cooling solutions which also contributes to their portability. Sometimes you may find laptops that don’t even have coolers as they’re able to passively cool themselves.

But desktop CPUs will definitely require a CPU cooler whether it’s air or AIO, this is because they have higher TDPs and therefore run hotter. CPU coolers nowadays are pretty large, so since laptops don’t need to carry one around, they’re able to be thinner and lighter.

But there are laptops that are pretty beefy compared to their thinner and lighter counterparts. These laptops are known as gaming laptops, they have powerful hardware that can rival desktops. The only downside to these laptops is their battery life which usually takes a hit due to the extra power that’s required to run the CPU.

Desktop CPUs Offer More Power for Heavier Tasks

Tasks such as gaming, video editing, and streaming sometimes require a lot of processing power which a standard laptop may not be able to provide. Nowadays, you can find affordable I5 desktop laptops with 10 cores and 16 threads, this is more than enough for gaming, streaming, and video editing.

Such CPU is the I5 12600K which is a desktop CPU, you won’t find this much power inside a laptop without it costing a fortune. A laptop with this CPU would be able to provide excellent performance for gaming, streaming, and video editing. However, it would also require a lot of power which would decrease its battery life.

So, a laptop with a CPU equivalent to a powerful desktop CPU will most likely cost a lot of money, keep in mind you’re also paying for the portability the laptop offers. So it can often be a hard choice to choose between a laptop and a desktop.

Why Are Desktop CPUs More Powerful?

Laptop CPUs are more powerful because they generally have more cores and higher clock speeds, this is due to the fact that they don’t need to conserve power like laptop CPUs. This is why desktop computers are more attractive to those looking for a strong computer.

If we look at a high-performance Laptop CPU such as the I5 12450H, we will find that it comes nowhere near to the power of the I5 12600K. The I5 12450H only has 8 cores and 12 threads clocked at 4.4GHz boost. On the other hand, the I5 12600K has 10 cores and 16 threads clocked at 4.9GHz boost.

This is a pretty big difference in terms of processing power, in single-core tests, the I5 12600K has a score of 3967, and the I5 12450H has a score of 3628. If you didn’t know already, single-core performance is extremely important for gaming, so the I5 12600K will generate more FPS. Also note, that the I5 12450H has a TDP of 45W, and the I5 12600K has a TDP of 125W.

As for multicore performance, this is where the difference is far bigger, the I5 12600K has a PassMark score of around 27398 whereas the I5 12450H has a PassMark score of around 19820. This difference in performance is huge, and it will be noticeable when you’re video editing or streaming.

Is Single Core & Multi-Core Performance Important?

single core and multi core performance for laptop and desktop cpus

When it comes to single-core performance, there are two key things you need to keep in mind and that’s clock speed and IPC. IPC usually varies between processor generations, this is why it’s important to compare processors of the same generation.

As with clock speed, this is by far the most obvious metric for measuring single-core performance, it refers to how many times per second a CPU can execute a task. So, the higher the clock speed, the better the single-core performance will be.

However, there is a limit to how high the clock speed can go until it becomes unstable and causes the processor to overheat. This is why you’ll find that most processors have a base clock and a boost clock, the boost clock is only used when needed and it’s usually higher than the base clock.

You can find processors with extremely high clock speeds such as the I9 12900K, it can reach speeds of up to 5.2GHz boost, but keep in mind this is a desktop CPU. single-core performance is crucial for gaming performance, this is because the core count really doesn’t influence the amount of FPS being generated.

ProcessorDeviceSpecsPassMark Score(MultiCore)
I5 12600KDesktop10c/16t @4.9GHz boost27,398
I5 12450HLaptop8c/12t @4.4GHz boost19,820
I7 12700KDesktop12c/20t @5.0GHz boost33,989
I7 12800HLaptop14c/20t @4.8GHz boost19,052
I9 12900KDesktop16c/24t @5.2GHz boost40,979
I9 12900HLaptop14c/20t @5.0GHz boost30,121

As for multi-core performance, we have to take a look at the core count and how many threads the processor comes with. It is far easier to increase the number of cores a processor has than it is to increase the clock speed. CPUs with more cores will perform well with multithreaded applications such as – video editing, 3D rendering, and streaming.

It is definitely possible to stream on a laptop, we’ve written a post about it. Streaming on a laptop is possible if you have enough cores, we recommend having at least 6 cores for an optimal streaming experience.

Laptop CPUs will generally come with fewer cores than desktop CPUs, this makes them unattractive to professional video editors and content creators. Besides the core count, there are features such as SMT/Hyperthreading which further improve the multicore performance.

SMT which stands for simultaneous multithreading is a technique that allows the processor to create virtual cores. Usually, there are two virtual/logical cores per physical core. So, a CPU with 4 cores and SMT will perform as if it had 8 cores.

You won’t exactly get double the performance, but you will get close to 30% more performance depending on the application. Both Intel and AMD CPUs will support SMT, Hyperthreading is just a form of SMT which is proprietary to Intel.

More Differences Between Laptop And Desktop CPUs

  1. Laptop CPUs aren’t upgradable – desktop CPUs require the user to install them into the motherboard whereas laptop CPUs are typically soldered onto the motherboard. This makes it impossible to upgrade your CPU if you have a laptop, and it also voids the warranty if you attempt to try.
  2. Desktops Come With CPU Coolers – Another difference is that desktop CPUs come with their own CPU coolers, however, most laptop CPUs don’t come with a CPU cooler. This is because they’re designed to be used in a laptop where space is limited, and they don’t require beefy cooling solutions due to their lower TDPs.
  3. Laptop CPUs also have integrated GPUs – which helps save power, and it’s also one of the reasons why they’re not as powerful as desktop CPUs. This is because the integrated GPU will share the same RAM as the CPU, so it will take away from the processing power of the CPU.
  4. Desktop CPUs are easier to overclock – Overclocking is the act of increasing the clock speed of the CPU above its base speeds. This is usually done by enthusiasts and gamers who want to get the most out of their CPUs. Overclocking is usually done through the BIOS, and you can easily identify overclockable CPUs by their suffix. Intel CPUs denoted with a “K” at the end are overclockable. Even if you could overclock a laptop CPU, the cooling capabilities of a laptop are usually not good enough to handle the increased heat output.


Overall, laptop CPUs are not as powerful as desktop CPUs, but they do come with some advantages. They’re more energy-efficient which makes them a good choice for people who need to use their laptops for long periods of time without having to worry about the battery life.

They also come with integrated GPUs which are great for light gaming and general usage. If you’re looking for a powerful CPU that can handle professional video editing or 3D rendering, then you should go for a desktop CPU.