Laptop CPU Vs Desktop CPU [How They Are Different 2024]

Written By Steven Arends

Over the years, CPU manufacturers such as Intel & AMD are making their laptop and desktop processors powerful by increasing the core counts and clock speed.

Though it may seem that desktop and laptop processors are quite similar, in reality, they are not. A laptop CPU is significantly different from a desktop CPU.laptop-cpu-vs-desktop-cpu

To understand the difference between them, here, I will point out the main key differences in detail.

So, tag along.

Difference Between a Laptop & Desktop Processor

The key differences are a desktop processor has more cooling headroom, core count, clock speed & TDP than a laptop processor. Other than having power and thermal restraints, you can’t upgrade or change the CPU on a laptop. But you can change or upgrade the CPU on the desktop.

To understand the difference, I used Intel Core i9-12900K and AMD Ryzen 9 5950X desktop processor. And for the laptop processor, I used Intel Core i9-12900HK, and AMD Ryzen 9 6900U.

I will use the specs and benchmark scores of these processors to explain the difference.

Here is the comparison between a desktop CPU and a laptop CPU:

1. Desktop CPU Has More Cooling Headroom than Laptop

As you already know, a desktop processor stays on the motherboard, and a cooler stays on top of the CPU to cools down its heat.

Generally, the desktop CPU cooler has a good deal of cooling power. Additionally, there is much more space inside the PC case than a laptop’s cooling system.

The extra space that is in the PC case, allows the cooler more airflow. That’s why a desktop heat sink can dissipate more heat than a laptop.

The fact is, the processor, which has a better cooling system and enough space for cooling, will work faster. Because of that, desktop CPUs have better clock speed and longevity.

On the other hand, space is considered to be a luxury on laptops.

A laptop processor has less space and smaller cooling headroom in comparison to a desktop processor. If the CPU comes with dedicated integrated graphics or iGPU, it produces a significant amount of heat inside the laptop.

That’s why to reduce the heat, the laptop CPU mitigates the clock speed and the performance of the CPU loses.

Let’s look at the benchmark scores of the Intel Core i9-12900K, Intel Core i9-12900HK, AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, and AMD Ryzen 9 6900U.

     Benchmarks            Ryzen 9 5950XRyzen 9 6900UCore i9-12900KCore i9-12900HK
Cinebench R23 (Single-Core)1619142719671917
Geekbench 5
Cinebench R23 (Multi-Core)    28459103842726418078
Geekbench 5

From the benchmark score, you can see that due to low cooling space, the benchmark scores of the laptop Intel Core i9-12900HK and AMD Ryzen 9 6900U CPU are lower than the desktop Intel Core i9-12900K & Ryzen 9 5950X CPU.

Check out our separate post, if you are looking for the best RAM for your Intel Core i9-12900K processor.

2. Desktop CPU Draw More Power & has a High TDP Rating than Laptop

There is a TDP (Thermal Design Power) rating for each desktop & laptop CPU. TDP indicates how much a processor can consume power while it’s at the maximum theoretical load. It’s measured in Watts(W).

The Higher the TDP rating is, the better the CPU performance.

Since most of the time, the laptop works on battery and has cooling limitations, the TDP rating is much lower in laptop CPUs.

On the contrary, the desktop always stays plugged into the power socket and has a better cooling system than a laptop. Hence, its TDP rating is high.

For example, the TDP rating of Core i9-12900K is 125 W. And the TDP rating of Core i9-12900HK is 45 W.

With desktop computers, you can upgrade your cooling system to one that offers higher performance. Unfortunately, laptops don’t have a similar option.

3. Desktop CPU Has More Cores And Clock Speed

First, let’s see some specifications of laptop and desktop processors of AMD & Intel.

Processor NameCore i9-12900KCore i9-12900HKRyzen
Core16(P-8, E-8)14(P-6, E-8)168
Boost ClockUp to 5.2 GHzUp to 5.00 GHzUp to 4.9 GHzUp to 4.7 GHz
Base Clock3.9 GHz3.80 GHz3.4 GHz2.7 GHz
L3 Cache30 MB24 MB64 MB16 MB
TDPBase-125 W, Max-241 WBase-45 W, Max-115 W105 W28 W

If you look at the specs of Intel Core i9-12900K & Core i9-12900HK processor, the core count, thread, clock speed and cache memory of the 12900K is higher than laptop’s 12900HK.

The same goes for Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen 9 6900U. The desktop Ryzen 9 5950X processor has double the amount of cores and threads than the laptop’s 6900U processor.

Moreover, the base and boost clock speed of the Ryzen 5950X is significantly higher than 6900U.

So, you can say, the core and clock speed are higher in desktop processors.

4. The Desktop CPU Has Upgrade Ability

In the desktop motherboard, there is a specific slot or socket, where the processor can be easily set up. And when you feel like replacing the processor, you can do that quite easily on the desktop. But on a laptop, you can’t do that.

It’s because almost all the laptop processors are now soldered to the motherboard. That’s why it is impossible to change or upgrade a processor on a laptop.

For additional information, see the article: Can you upgrade a laptop CPU? You should also know whether you can Upgrade the CPU without changing the motherboard.

5. Laptop CPU is More Expensive than Desktop CPU

If you compare size, the laptop is smaller than a desktop. The technology is quite complex and advanced to put a powerful CPU and several other hardware components into such a little space.

That’s why laptop CPUs cost more than desktop CPUs.

Even though a gaming desktop PC has more powerful parts, a gaming laptop will cost more than a gaming desktop.

In summary, you can say, a desktop processor outperforms a laptop processor.

Is a laptop CPU the Same as a desktop CPU?

is-a-laptop-cpu-the-same-as-a-desktop-cpuNo, a laptop CPU is not the same as a desktop CPU. Both the processor’s sizes are different, and the respective CPUs’ performances are dissimilar. For example, the Cinebench R23 score for multi-core Intel Core i9-12900K & Core i9-12900HK is 27264 & 18078.

Both the laptop and the desktop CPUs are made for different purposes, and you cannot use a laptop CPU on a desktop.

The majority of the users like to play high graphics games on the PC. The desktop CPUs are built in such a way that consumers can play high-resolution games without any discomfort.

On the contrary, laptops are mainly used for portable use & light work purposes. The manufacturers build the laptop CPU in that way so that it takes up less space and works more smoothly.

Because a laptop is smaller than a desktop computer, it can’t support a CPU that is more efficient and powerful. However, in recent years, some laptop processors like Intel Core-i9 12950HX have been going head-to-head with other desktop processors.

As I see, those days are not that far-off when all the desktop and laptop processors will be similar. Then you can play all your favorite games like CS: GO, Hitman, God of War Ragnarök, etc. on the laptop without having any performance & lagging issues.

Are Laptop CPUs Faster than Desktop CPUs?

No, typically the laptop CPUs are slower than their desktop counterparts. However, the result can be different if you compare the CPU between different generations. Whether it is a laptop or desktop CPU, a newer gen processor is usually faster than the old one.

For example, let’s look at the specs and benchmark scores of the Intel Core i7-10700K Desktop Processor and AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX laptop processor.

Processor NameCore i7-10700KRyzen 9 6900HX
Release DateApril 2020January 2022
Boost Clock5.1 GHz4.9 GHz
Base Clock3.8 GHz3.3 GHz
Geekbench 5
Geekbench 5

Both processors have 8 cores and 12 threads in their system.

The Core i7-10700K has a 3.8 GHz base clock speed and a 5.1 GHz boost clock speed. AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX has a 3.3 GHz base clock speed and a 4.9 GHz boost clock speed.

But when it comes to performance, the Geekbench 5 score for single-core Intel core-i7 10700K is 1308, and for multi-core is 8664. In Ryzen 9 6900HX the Geekbench 5 score for single-core is 1613 and for multi-core is 10544.

As you can see, due to having the same core and better clock speed, the core-i7 10700K desktop processor is slower than Ryzen 9 6900HX.

It is because the Ryzen 9 6900HX was released in 2022 and the core-i7 10700K was released in 2020. Due to its latest build quality, the laptop one is faster.


How much weaker are laptop CPUs?

The laptop CPUs are not weaker. It can perform the same kinds of instructions that a desktop CPU does. However, laptop CPUs can run with less power than desktop CPUs. One-third or one-fourth of desktop power is enough to run a laptop CPU.

Why does my laptop use 100% CPU?

The laptop is using 100% of the CPU because the PC is doing more work than it has the ability, and the processor is running highly intensive programs like games.

Can a laptop CPU be used on a desktop?

No, a laptop CPU can’t be used on a desktop. The main reason for this is that a desktop motherboard is quite different from a laptop motherboard.

Final Thought

In several factors, the desktop CPU takes the winning trophy over the laptop CPU. But when it comes to power efficiency and mobility, laptop CPUs serve really well.

I hope you understand the difference between a laptop CPU and a desktop CPU.

Comment below if you have any queries. Peace out!

About The Author
Steven Arends is a computer science graduate and tech enthusiast with over 10 years of experience in the field. He has a vast collection of computer hardware and loves exploring the latest advancements. As a contributing author to 10Scopes, Steven shares his expertise to make the world of technology more accessible and easier to understand for all readers.

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