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Processor Guide

Information Systems & Computing (ISC) has developed this page to help Local Support Providers (LSPs) and other University constituents understand the many processor choices available. While ISC currently tracks multiple different lines of processors, this guide does not cover enthusiast, workstation, or server processors.

Specifications will be reviewed and updated as appropriate.

Suggestions

For many years, the class of processor (e.g., Core i7, Ryzen 5, etc.) was the primary criteria for selecting a processor. This is no longer true. For systems using Intel and AMD processors, ISC suggests six or more cores while ensuring the processor also has capable integrated graphics (AMD Radeon Graphics or better, or Intel UHD 630 or better). Most desktop and notebook users are well served by Intel’s Core i5 or AMD’s Ryzen 5 processors. Apple now uses it's own processors, all of which have at least eight cores and include capable integrated graphics.

Depending on individual computing workloads, more processor cores or faster clock speeds, or both, may be required. Typical office use does not require much of either, however graphical content creators, video/audio editors, and users with mathematically or data-intensive workloads would likely benefit from faster clock speeds to complete tasks more quickly or more processing cores when used in a heavily multitasking environment. In addition, modern video conferencing software often uses many cores.

As many users shift to a notebook as their primary computer, and as users become more aware of the total power consumption of their desktop systems, thermal design power (TDP), measured in watts, may become a significant consideration. ISC recommends finding a balance between power consumption and processing power relevant to the needs of the individual. Manufacturers such as Apple, Dell, and Lenovo, often label the TDP of a processor (15-35 watts for most notebooks, 35-125 watts for desktops, etc.) alongside the base clock speed—typically the fastest speed for all processing cores running simultaneously—and the boost clock speed, which is often the maximum speed for a single core.

Intel

Core i3: Intel’s low-end to mid-range processors, the latest two generations (11th and 12th) are available on notebooks (2 to 10 cores) and desktops (4 cores). All notebook versions of the i3 have Intel UHD graphics on-chip, while some desktop versions have Intel UHD graphics on-chip.

Core i5: Intel’s mid-range processors, the latest two generations (11th and 12th) are available on notebooks (4 to 12 cores) and desktops (6 to 10 cores). Currently the center of the market. Some notebook versions of the i5 have either Intel Iris Xe or Intel UHD graphics on-chip, while some desktop versions have Intel UHD graphics on-chip.

Core i7: Intel’s high-end processors, the latest two generations (11th and 12th) are available on notebooks (4 to 16 cores) and desktops (8 to 12 cores). Notebook versions of the i7 have either Intel Iris Xe or Intel UHD graphics on-chip, while some desktop versions have Intel UHD graphics on-chip.

Core i9: Intel’s highest-end processors, the latest two generations (11th and 12th) are available on notebooks (8 to 16 cores) and desktops (8 to 16 cores). Some notebook and desktop versions of the i9 have Intel UHD graphics on-chip.

Ryzen 3: AMD’s low-end to mid-range processors, the latest generation (5th) is available on notebooks (4 cores) and desktops (4 cores). Ryzen Pro desktop versions include Radeon Graphics, while soem Ryzen versions do not include integrated graphics. All notebook versions come with Radeon Graphics.

Ryzen 5: AMD’s mid-range processors, the latest generations (5th and 6th) are available on notebooks (6 cores) and desktops ( 6 cores). Ryzen Pro desktop versions include Radeon Graphics, while some Ryzen versions do not include integrated graphics. All notebook versions come with Radeon Graphics.

Ryzen 7: AMD’s high-end processors, the latest generations (5th and 6th) are available on notebooks (8 cores) and desktops (8 cores). Ryzen Pro desktop versions include Radeon Graphics, while some Ryzen versions do not include integrated graphics. All notebook versions come with Radeon Graphics.

Ryzen 9: AMD’s highest-end processors, the latest generations (5th and 6th) are available on notebooks (8 cores). None of the desktop versions include integrated graphics. Most notebook versions come with Radeon Graphics.

M1: Apple's first-generation low-end to mid-range processors, available on notebooks (8 cores) and desktops (8 cores). All M1 processors come with integrated graphics, ranging from 7 to 8 cores.

M2: Apple's second-generation low-end to mid-range processors, currently available on notebooks (8 cores). All M2 processors come with integrated graphics, ranging from 8 to 10 cores.

M1 Pro: Apple's mid-range processors, available on notebooks (8 cores). All M1 Pro processors come with integrated graphics, ranging from 14 to 16 cores.

M1 Max: Apple's upper mid-range processors, available on notebooks (10 cores) and desktops (10 cores). All M1 Max processors come with integrated graphics, ranging from 24 to 32 cores.

M1 Ultra: Apple's high-end processors, available on desktops (20 cores). All M1 Ultra processors come with integrated graphics, ranging from 48 to 64 cores.