I frequently get asked which processor is best.

There is no quick and easy answer to that question.  Factors such as budget, what you plan to use the computer for,  overall performance, existing system, all play a part.  If you only browse the web and check email, you would be ill advised to purchase a $1600 Quad core Extreme edition i7 processor.   If you are a  serious gamer, you would be very disappointed with any laptop as your main computer.  I will attempt to give some suggestions for various scenarios here.

Average user – you spend less than two hours a day on your computer, you check email, you browse the web.  You play card games.  You probably already have a system that is adequate for your basic needs.  You may be best off to upgrade your existing system with more RAM.  For Windows XP Home or Pro, 2 gigabytes of RAM is the “sweet spot”.   If you have to get a new system, a standard laptop or desktop with an AMD or Intel processor and 2 gigabytes of RAM with Windows XP or Windows Vista may be totally adequate.

Gamer – you know who you are.  If you know the difference between card games and DirectX, you’re in this category.   A gaming laptop is an oxymoron.   You need a desktop system with 4 gigabytes+.  If DirectX 10  is something you care about Vista is your only choice.  I suggest an Intel Core 2 Duo processor such as the E8400 or E8500.  Take the money you saved on the processor and spend it on better Video cards.

Hardcore Gamer – You play DirectX games 2 hours or more a day.  Budget becomes the primary factor.  Spend more on your Video cards than on your processor.  Intel Core 2 Duo is still a very viable solution. E8500 is king  of the hill.  Why not go Quad?  Quad processors are not fully utilized in any gaming scenario.  Real world performance metrics indicate a 5-10% gain for a 50-75% increase in processor cost.  An E8500 processor outperforms EVERY AMD processor and most of Intel’s Quad core processors.  Exceptions are the Extreme Quads and the i7 processors.

CAD/CAM – If AutoCad is your thing, then a Quad core processor actually makes sense economically and from a time perspective.  AutoCad and programs of this genre typically take full advantage of Quad Core processing.   I suggest the Intel i7 series, that fit within your budget.