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What Is a Mobile Processor?

By Andy Josiah
Updated May 16, 2024
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A mobile processor is a type of central processing unit (CPU) manufactured for relatively small electronic devices. This includes portable personal computers (portable PCs), cell phones, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). The mobile processor, however, is most commonly associated with laptops, or notebooks.

The defining feature of a mobile processor is its energy efficiency. Mobile processors consume less power than other types of CPUs, thus making them more energy-efficient. This is usually aided by a greater sleep-mode capability that demands less electrical consumption than when the electronic device is in operating mode, or reduced processing power when executing lesser workloads. A mobile processor also tends to operate on a lower voltage.

On the other hand, a mobile processor is generally less powerful than the ones found on comparatively large electronic devices. This is because the device it ends up in does not need as many instructions to carry out operations. A major characteristic of the relatively limited power of the mobile processor is its processing speed, which is the rate at which it operates.

The most common type of mobile processor is the notebook processor, a CPU found in laptop or notebook PCs. It operates with cooler temperatures and lower voltages, and also has the ability to slow down or completely shut down certain sections of itself. These features make them more energy efficient and greater boosters of the computer’s battery life than their desktop PC counterparts. The ascendancy of this type of mobile processor can be attributed to the desktop CPU being quick to heat up in a laptop, as well as being a greater drainer of its battery life.

Since the late 1990s, semiconductor manufacturer Intel Corporation had some of the members of its then-flagship Pentium brand of consumer-oriented CPUs branded “M” or “Mobile.” The debut of the Mobile Intel Pentium 4 in 2003, however—plus refinement with the mobile processor entries of the Core, which eventually replaced the Pentium as the premier brand in 2006—marked the beginning of the manufacture, rather than the mere branding, of Intel chips specifically made for application on notebooks. Its main competitor, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), also releases mobile processors via its Turion series.

As evidence of the growing popularity of the mobile processor, Intel introduced the Atom in 2008 for electronic devices even smaller than laptops. The most popular application is the netbook, which is a smaller, less advanced version of the notebook PC. Other recipients of the Intel Atom include the nettop, which is a low-power desktop PC; and the Mobile Internet Device (MID), which is the entertainment-focused version of the business-oriented PDA.

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