What is the difference between a synthetic lubricant and a mineral lubricant? Is one better than the other?

A lubricant is categorized as synthetic or mineral depending on the method used to obtain the lubricant's main component: the base oil.

When the base oil is obtained through the conventional refining of petroleum, it is considered mineral. When it is obtained through more complex processes (chemical synthesis or other), the lubricant is considered synthetic.

The origin of the base oil is not indicative of lubricant quality. In other words, a lubricant is no better or worse for being mineral or synthetic. The quality of the compounds is determined by laboratory and engine tests that the lubricant must undergo during the design phase.