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The best mobile processor is...

Today's notebooks come with a vast range of processors, but will they give you the best performance? Our comprehensive review benchmarks 19 of the latest mobile processors, giving you an insight into the best chips on the market.
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Written by Catherine Erasmus on

Today's notebooks come with a vast range of processors, but will they give you the best performance? Our comprehensive review benchmarks 19 of the latest mobile processors, giving you an insight into the best chips on the market.

Intel and AMD are constantly developing processors, both for notebooks and desktops. To test their mettle of competing mobile processors, they were required to perform typical data processing tasks from word processing to encoding music to creating movies.

This review round-up compares the processing power of 19 mobile CPUs including Intel's previous generation Celeron and Pentium 4 based processors, the new Core 2 processors and AMD's Turion range of processors.

Test procedure
Five test rigs were used with all the notebooks running Windows Vista and 1GB RAM, at a screen resolution of 1024x768. All tests were run three times with the median value taken as the result. If scores varied by more than 3 per cent, the system configuration was checked and the test rerun to achieve consistent results.

To test the CPU performance we used the following programs: PCMark05 (build 1.2.0), 3DMark06 (build 1.1.0), Pinnacle Studio Plus Version 11 for video file conversion, Windows Vista Ultimate Movie Maker, Apple iTunes Version 7.1.1, Adobe Photoshop Elements Version 5.0, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint in various stand-alone and multitasking processes.

Test platforms

Test computer Test processors
Acer Ferrari 4000 AMD Turion 64 ML-34/37
Acer TravelMate 3280 Celeron 530
Pentium T2060/T2080/T2130
Core 2 Duo T5600
IBM ThinkPad T60 Core 2 Duo T5300/T5500/T5600
HP Compaq 6710b Celeron 540/550
Pentium T2310/T2330
Core 2 Duo T5250/T5450/T7250
HP Compaq 6715b AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56/58/60

Please note that the test rigs in this round-up are not identical. The graphics power amongst the notebooks is wide ranging from the low-end Acer TM3280 up to the IBM ThinkPad T60. However, in most tests — excluding the dedicated 3D graphics tests — the graphics processors did not play a significant role in the performance outcomes.

The best Apple iTunes (version 7.1.1) performance
Using Apple iTunes to convert 14 WAV files (77.2MB) to 160Kbps MP3 format, we measured the time taken from sending the convert instruction till the MP3 playlist was ready to play. The shortest time was achieved by the Core 2 Duo T7250 in just over two minutes; in comparison most other processors processed the music in around three minutes while the AMD Turion 64 ML-34 crunched away at the files for over five minutes.

Processor Manufacturer Apple iTunes Conversion Speed
Celeron 530 Intel 4 min 8 sec
Celeron 540 Intel 4 min
Celeron 550 Intel 3 min 46 sec
Pentium T2060 Intel 3 min 29 sec
Pentium T2080 Intel 2 min 57 sec
Pentium T2130 Intel 2 min 41 sec
Pentium T2310 Intel 2 min 39 sec
Pentium T2330 Intel 2 min 40 sec
Core 2 Duo T5250 Intel 2 min 57 sec
Core 2 Duo T5300 Intel 2 min 36 sec
Core 2 Duo T5450 Intel 2 min 39 sec
Core 2 Duo T5500 Intel 2 min 40 sec
Core 2 Duo T5600 Intel 2 min 26 sec
Core 2 Duo T7250 Intel 2 min 14 sec
AMD Turion 64 ML-34 AMD 5 min 4 sec
AMD Turion 64 ML-37 AMD 4 min 33 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 AMD 3 min 38 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-58 AMD 3 min 28 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 AMD 3 min 16 sec

Best Microsoft Word & PowerPoint 2007 performance
This was a multitasking test with both Word and PowerPoint executing complex tasks at the same time.

Processor Manufacturer Word and Power Point times (shorter times are better)
Celeron 530 Intel 3 min 9 sec
Celeron 540 Intel 3 min 1 sec
Celeron 550 Intel 2 min 54 sec
Pentium T2060 Intel 2 min 8 sec
Pentium T2080 Intel 1 min 59 sec
Pentium T2130 Intel 1 min 54 sec
Pentium T2310 Intel 2 min 5 sec
Pentium T2330 Intel 1 min 56 sec
Core 2 Duo T5250 Intel 1 min 57 sec
Core 2 Duo T5300 Intel 1 min 47 sec
Core 2 Duo T5450 Intel 1 min 46 sec
Core 2 Duo T5500 Intel 1 min 47 sec
Core 2 Duo T5600 Intel 1 min 40 sec
Core 2 Duo T7250 Intel 1 min 29 sec
AMD Turion 64 ML-34 AMD 3 min 28 sec
AMD Turion 64 ML-37 AMD 3 min 15 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 AMD 2 min 2 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-58 AMD 1 min 56 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 AMD 1 min 51 sec

Best Windows Vista Ultimate Movie Maker performer
Again we measure performance by recording the time taken to publish a movie. This time the project is editing four different clips into a single file. Total size of the four different movie clips is 69.2MB and the total length of the output is 2 minutes 24 seconds.

Processor Manufacturer Windows Vista Ultimate Movie Maker times
(shorter times are better)
Celeron 530 Intel 1 min 50 sec
Celeron 540 Intel 1 min 52 sec
Celeron 550 Intel 1 min 16 sec
Pentium T2060 Intel 1 min 45 sec
Pentium T2080 Intel 1 min 37 sec
Pentium T2130 Intel 1 min 36 sec
Pentium T2310 Intel 1 min 29 sec
Pentium T2330 Intel 1 min 27 sec
Core 2 Duo T5250 Intel 1 min 34 sec
Core 2 Duo T5300 Intel 1 min 15 sec
Core 2 Duo T5450 Intel 1 min 21 sec
Core 2 Duo T5500 Intel 1 min 19 sec
Core 2 Duo T5600 Intel 1 min 13 sec
Core 2 Duo T7250 Intel 1 min 6 sec
AMD Turion 64 ML-34 AMD 2 min 58 sec
AMD Turion 64 ML-37 AMD 2 min 19 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 AMD 1 min 27 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-58 AMD 1 min 19 sec
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 AMD 1 min 15 sec

Best FutureMark 3DMark06 (build 1.1.0) performance
3DMark is a benchmarking tool for measuring 3D gaming performance.

Processor Manufacturer 3DMark06 Scores Overall
(higher scores are better)
Celeron 530 Intel 760
Celeron 540 Intel 810
Celeron 550 Intel 869
Pentium T2060 Intel 1,180
Pentium T2080 Intel 1,269
Pentium T2130 Intel 1,349
Pentium T2310 Intel 1,171
Pentium T2330 Intel 1,271
Core 2 Duo T5250 Intel 1,230
Core 2 Duo T5300 Intel 1,425
Core 2 Duo T5450 Intel 1,348
Core 2 Duo T5500 Intel 1,380
Core 2 Duo T5600 Intel 1,436
Core 2 Duo T7250 Intel 1,628
AMD Turion 64 ML-34 AMD 698
AMD Turion 64 ML-37 AMD 771
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 AMD 1,301
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-58 AMD 1,353
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 AMD 1,438

Best overall performance
This score is an amalgamation of tests including, PCMark05 (build 1.2.0), 3DMark06 (build 1.1.0), Pinnacle Studio Plus Version 11 for video file conversion, Windows Vista Ultimate Movie Maker, Apple iTunes Version 7.1.1, Adobe Photoshop Elements Version 5.0, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint in various stand-alone and multitasking processes. Scores were standardised, averaged and then transformed into a percentage score.

Processor Manufacturer Overall grade as a percentage
Celeron 530 Intel 45% Pass conceded
Celeron 540 Intel 47% Pass conceded
Celeron 550 Intel 55% Pass
Pentium T2060 Intel 59% Pass
Pentium T2080 Intel 62% Pass
Pentium T2130 Intel 65% Credit
Pentium T2310 Intel 66% Credit
Pentium T2330 Intel 69% Credit
Core 2 Duo T5250 Intel 70% Credit
Core 2 Duo T5300 Intel 78% Distinction
Core 2 Duo T5450 Intel 76% Distinction
Core 2 Duo T5500 Intel 74% Credit
Core 2 Duo T5600 Intel 79% Distinction
Core 2 Duo T7250 Intel 87% High Distinction
AMD Turion 64 ML-34 AMD 46% Pass Conceded
AMD Turion 64 ML-37 AMD 52% Pass
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 AMD 59% Pass
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-58 AMD 62% Pass
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 AMD 66% Pass

Verdict
Even using disparate notebook hardware it is clear that the Intel Core 2 architecture is a superior performer to the previous generation processors. The Intel's Core 2 Duo T7250 comes out a clear winner across the board.

The older Celeron and Pentium derived processors still hold their own quite well, and in many of the benchmarks the single core Celerons outperform the single core AMD Turion processors. The Pentium derived dual-core processors are at least a match for the Turion dual cores, but both are soundly outperformed by the Core 2 Duo processors.

The winners:

  • First place: Intel Core 2 Duo T7250
  • Second place: Intel Core 2 Duo T5600
  • Third place: Intel Core 2 Duo T5300

The losers:

Third last: Intel Celeron 540
Second last: AMD Turion 64 ML-34
Last: Intel Celeron 530

Summary of processor specifications

Processor Manufacturer Number of cores Clock rate: GHz Cache (MB) Bus (MHz) Socket
Celeron 530 Intel Single 1.73 1 533 Socket M
Celeron 540 Intel Single 1.86 1 533 Socket P
Celeron 550 Intel Single 2.0 1 533 Socket P
Pentium T2060 Intel Dual 1.6 1 533 Socket M
Pentium T2080 Intel Dual 1.73 1 533 Socket M
Pentium T2130 Intel Dual 1.86 1 533 Socket M
Pentium T2330 Intel Dual 1.46 1 533 Socket P
Core 2 Duo T5250 Intel Dual 1.6 2 667 Socket P
Core 2 Duo T5300 Intel Dual 1.5 2 533 Socket M
Core 2 Duo T5450 Intel Dual 1.73 2 667 Socket P
Core 2 Duo T5500 Intel Dual 1.66 2 667 Socket M
Core 2 Duo T5600 Intel Dual 1.66 2 667 Socket M
Core 2 Duo T7250 Intel Dual 1.83 2 800 Socket P
AMD Turion 64 ML-34 AMD Single 1.83 1 800MHz (Bi-directional) 754
AMD Turion 64 ML-37 AMD Single 2 1 800MHz (Bi-directional) 754
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-56 AMD Dual 1.8 1 800MHz (Bi-directional) S1
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-58 AMD Dual 1.9 1 800MHz (Bi-directional) S2
AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-60 AMD Dual 2 1 800MHz (Bi-directional) S3

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