" I am not a novice to computing..............I would be pleased to receive any help you are willing to give re trouble shooting Windows 7 performance issues."
OK, here you go:
Task Manager is a good tool for troubleshooting performance issues. Boot your computer, open all the programs you'd normally have open at the same time and allow the computer time to "settle down". Open Task Manager and click the "Performance" tab. Look at the "Memory" bar graph, and what's shown in "Physical Memory (MB) - TOTAL" and report back your findings.
Next, keep an eye on the "CPU Usage" bar graph for a while. When you're not doing much on the computer it shouldn't be showing more than 15% or so. If The CPU is constantly very busy (>70%) then let me know and I'll tell you how to troubleshoot the cause(s).
If your computer's only slow sometimes then do the above when it next happens.
Regarding Windows 8, a clean install would be better, and if things don't work out, you can restore things back to how they were with your disk image. Note that this wouldn't work if you take the upgrade route. When you upgrade your Windows licence is updated to Windows 8, and if you restore Windows 7, Windows Activation will fail so it's a "one way street".
" Do you think my AMD Laptop should be as fast as my i5 desktop?"
I doubt it. Mobile processors are usually slower than their desktop equivalents, and AFAIK, AMD now trail behind Intel in performance.