Intel vs AMD: which chipmaker does processors better?

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Building – or simply buying – a PC isn’t an easy task. With a seemingly endless list of components to consider, there is evidently a lot standing in the way between you and powering on that hardy rig for the first time.

Among these necessities is the CPU, the central processing unit, or just the processor for short. The processor is an integral part of your computer, so much so that it’s often referred to as the brains of the operation.

However, like with the graphics card space and the war of Nvidia vs AMD (or Advanced Micro Devices), there’s an incessant battle between the two major CPU manufacturers as well: Intel and AMD. With AMD beset on all sides, let’s look at how its processors, like the desktop-grade Bristol Ridge APUs stack up to Intel’s Kaby Lake chips.

Gary Marshall originally contributed this article

For bargain shoppers, the most common misconception is that AMD chips are more affordable than those powered by Intel. Truth be told, AMD does its best CPU work at the entry level, which could explain this mistaken belief.

An Athlon X4 860K, for instance, boasts a 3.7GHz frequency (4.0GHz with Turbo Boost) for only $70 (about £56, AU$94; as of this writing). For a quad-core processor, that’s not a bad deal as long as you aren’t expecting much as far as integrated graphics are concerned.

If you want, though, you can get something like the AMD A6-5400K for about $40 (about £27, AU$55; as of this writing). However, you could say the same about Intel’s comparable Celeron series.

The truth is that both Intel and AMD processors typically retail at about the same price; AMD is only known for being cheaper because its chips aren’t nearly as popular once you hit that $200 mark.

Being known for cores, AMD will give you more for less, but Intel is notorious for consistently outranking “The Red Team” in many cases due to hyperthreading, but I’ll gloss over that in the next section.

That said, processor prices fluctuate constantly. Wait a few months after launch, and you’ll quickly find that the Intel Core i7-6800K you were eyeing has dropped in cost. Understandably, patience is a virtue that’s easier said than followed – especially when you’re distracted by the prospect of shiny, next-gen processors touching down within a few months.

If you want the best of the best performance with little regard for price, then turn your head towards Intel. Not only does the Santa Clara chipmaker rank consistently better in CPU benchmarks, but Intel’s processors draw less heat as well, blessing them with lower TDP (thermal design point) ratings across the board.

Much of this is owed to Intel’s implementation of hyperthreading, which has been incorporated in its CPUs since 2002. Hyperthreading keeps existing cores active rather than letting any of them remain unproductive.

AMD, on the other hand, takes pride in its focus on increasing the number of cores in its chips. On paper, this would make AMD’s chips faster than Intel’s, if it weren’t for the hugely negative impact on heat dissipation.

While cooling an Intel processor is a rather straightforward process, because AMD likes to shove as many cores as possible into a single processing unit, its chips tend to run hotter much to the discomfort of affordable cooling solutions. (As a result, you could say this makes AMD chips equally as or more expensive than their Intel counterparts.)

Take AMD’s $200 (about £159, AU$270; as of this writing) FX 9590 for example. It clocks in at 4.7GHz, or 5.0GHz with AMD Overdrive installed. Oh, and did we mention it has eight cores?

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That’s twice the number of cores bolstered by the Core i7-6700K. But, according to PCMark tests conducted over at CPUBoss, Intel’s rigid beast still comes out on top in terms of overall performance.

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Even though AMD’s processor technically has a faster clock speed, as you can assume, with more cores comes a heavier workload. The clock speed doesn’t mean much when carrying out the same tasks requires more effort from the CPU, and that’s why – for now, at least – Intel’s chips bring objectively better performance.

If you’re building a gaming PC, truthfully you should be using a discrete graphics card rather than relying on a CPU to run games as demanding as The Witcher 3. Even though we’re finally reaching a point where integrated graphics are powerful enough to run Overwatch without a separate GPU, there’s still room for improvement.

Be that as it may, if all you’re looking to do is play League of Legends at modest settings or relive your childhood with a hard drive full of emulators (it’s okay, we won’t tell), the latest Intel Skylake, upcoming Kaby Lake or AMD A-Series APU processors will likely fare just as well as any top-end graphics card.

At one time, for low to mid-tier gaming, AMD’s Radeon chips were far superior to anything offered by Intel. With the arrival of Intel’s Iris Pro graphics, however, that sentiment is becoming more and more refutable.

On the high end, in cases where you’ll be pairing your CPU with a powerful AMD or Nvidia GPU, an Intel processor is the better option. In this case, using an Intel Core i3 or i5 CPU rather than an AMD equivalent can be the difference between 15 and 30 frames per second.

While there is no clear winner in the graphics department, survey says AMD is the better option for integrated graphics (for now), while Intel works best when coupled with a GPU.

When you buy a new computer or even just a CPU, it’s typically locked at a specific clock speed as indicated on the box. Some processors ship unlocked, allowing for higher clock speeds than recommended by the manufacturer, giving users more control over how they use their components (though, it does require some precautionary expertise).

AMD is normally more generous than Intel in this regard. With an AMD system, you can get more juice out of a mid-range, A-series APU for a modest price. Save for the $67 (around £53, $90) Pentium G3258, Intel’s easily overclockable, unlocked configurations don’t start until at least the $200 (£200, AU$300) range, beginning with the Core i5-6600K.

The unlocked chips Intel does offer, however, are delightfully faster than their AMD counterparts. If you’re shopping on a budget, AMD offers the most bang for your buck in terms of overclocking, assuming you know what you’re doing. Otherwise, where money is no object, Intel’s exhibits the best clock speeds around with its unlocked CPUs.

In the end, the biggest problem with AMD processors is the lack of compatibility with other components. Specifically, motherboard (mobo) options are limited as a result of the differing sockets between AMD and Intel chips. While there are plenty of options for both brands of chips, the fact of the matter is there are abundantly more mobo choices with Intel sockets.

With that in mind, AMD’s chips make a little more sense from a hardware design perspective. With an AMD motherboard, rather than having metal connector pins on the CPU socket, you’ll notice those pins are instead on the underside of the CPU itself. As a result, any processor issues you might run into are less likely to be inflicted by the motherboard’s faulty pins. On the downside, replacing a high-end processor is usually a lot harder on your wallet than a shelling out the cash for a new mobo.

Ultimately, deciding on a CPU is up to personal preference. Where an Intel processor shines most when married to, say, an Nvidia GTX 1080, AMD’s chips are surprisingly capable without a graphics card equipped. In some cases that’s all you need; in others, not so much.

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Which brand of processor works better for you: Intel or AMD? Let us know in the comments below.

Intel vs AMD: which chipmaker does processors better?

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49 thoughts on “Intel vs AMD: which chipmaker does processors better?

  1. There is room for such people, but this simply isn’t the case. I see no reason to think that my mind is so much better than yours, I’ve simply taken 2 high level college classes pertaining to this subject and so I have a much more precise knowledge than you. My quibble isn’t that you have failed to say please and thank you, but that every time you’ve received an answer you didn’t fully understand, you’ve presumed that the issue was with the answerer and then gone on to lecture them. \n\n

  2. Like most men of virtue (though not as high as yours), I thank you now for saying:\n\n

  3. You have a serious black box understanding. The algorithms used for 3D gaming and 3D modelling are not the same, not even close. And that means that they use different operations right down to the machine language. You may think that it’s all the same because it’s just all nand gates, but you’re wrong. Different architectures are optimized to be able to preform common complete calculations with a single clock cycle that may take other architectures multiple cycles. AMD has focused on the common operations used in 3D gaming, but not 3D rendering. And not all stability necessarily has to refer to the processor’s hardware preforming consistently. It’s entirely possible that a specific set of commands on a specific architecture will result in things that the software does not expect, while working as expected on another architecture. \n\nAnd if I appear rude, it’s because you approached this discussion with the arrogance of a sophomore, pretending to ask questions when what you actually want to do is show off your overestimation of your own intelligence. I can tell this because after being given both an answer and an avenue to pursue further knowledge if you should seek to do so, you responded not with thanks but snark. And like most men of virtue I find that sort of behavior distasteful and so I called it out.

  4. Mr Booch, a processor is a number cruncher. 3D gaming and 3D modelling both are the same. If a processor can handle 3D in gaming, it will do the same in 3D modelling.\n\nMy question was about stability. A processor is unstable when overclocked, overheated or has over/under voltage.\n\nI hope this is below your head.\nDo not be rude on social media if you have a biased opinion. \n\nI own Intel but will not say NO to AMD because someone says it is unstable without any proof. The true performance for any specific application does not come solely from processor. That is why we have GPUs, RAMs, etc.

  5. He did… and he answered. Nobody’s fault but your’s if his answer was over your head.

  6. I meant that if a processor can run a 3D game with stability, what is the issue with 3D modeling?\nI hope you UNDERSTAND what I meant. 😉

  7. I use AMD with 3DSmax, Maya, Solidworks and Adobe CC.\n\nNever had any problems.

  8. Well gaming is 3D or am I missing the point?\nWhat does stability mean? Does it crash? Does it overheat? Does it die?

  9. Im not a pro. But Im into all these stuff, did research have classes etc and I was thinking the same thing. But as I do a little bit more research, I think I might just found the answer. I never have problems with Intel since I used Intel (i7 3770 though). Before this I used AMD. The answer is the technology Intel promotes. The smart response etc… I’ve seen a comparison from a pro. It’s been said, AMD is more to gaming while Intel support gaming as much or more than AMD BUT supports 3D modelling etc with more stable performance. And yes, in my perspective, both have good quality and their own tech. But the key here, is that AMD mostly design only until intense gaming instead of 3D etc which can be found in Intel. Dont get me wrong, AMD can do 3D etc just with less stability. And the pro said, if you want to build your own PC; first things first, what do you want to do? Only intense gaming (of course internet etc, but the most load will be gaming), then AMD. You saved tons of money. But if you do 3D etc, go Intel, it supports much better. And Shahmi, I live in Malaysia too… Agreed, price here sucks balls……

  10. I sense hatred towards AMD processors\nFirst of all, I must say that I am a neutral guy. I don’t have a clear preference on either AMD or Intel, but I must say your comparison pal, was not great. In fact, is quite worse. You could have made a better comparison without the needs to insult those AMD processors. Sure Intel works great, however, they are costly. For countries with high currency rate it might not be a problem, but as for my own self, I live in Malaysia and you have no idea how surprisingly expensive a something is if converted from USD to MYR.\nHere I imply, I will back AMD up. Their processors might be the ones I will buy due to its cost. And it is pretty reasonable (the price and the quality) so why bother.\nBut yes, I am also aware that Intel processors do perform better when compared to the AMD counterparts. Price wise however, AMD ones do have a higher

  11. Actually Intel is getting sued by amd for putting a code in there processer which makes it slower. A 2009 amd processer is only one minute an 2012 Intel processor for uploading the same YouTube video.

  12. Not in my experience…\nThere are industry-standard benchmark routines out there — the Intel G or Celeron processors were cheaper — but didn’t have the performance of the

  13. you can always get intel G series or Celeron G series much much cheaper than amd but with better performance

  14. Well Thats the problewm right there 2Gig Memory, reduce the memory to 2GB in youre Core i3.. and Cry….. I I Just trashand AMD 1GHZ 200 IDEQ CPU, with 2GB Memory, the Mobo only went up to 500GB Sata HDD, and a Shuttle 2004, with an atlon x2 64 3.2 with 4GB DDR2 RAM, thtat run well but damn capacitators in the Mobo Popup…and die in 2016… 10 years. with Win 10 Pro, Office 2010 Plus. Damn Microsoft didnt want ot activate it again. have to shell out a lot of money.

  15. By the Bro I’m not a pro but i notice my DDR2 AMD Athlon 64bit dual 1.7 G and 2 gig of ram in the tropical country is so laggy with Win 10 so shift to Intel core-i3-4th gen and 4gig ram DDR3 is so smooth so i choose intel no more expensive cooling system thats all

  16. Have you built that machine? \nIf you haven’t I’d wait for a 8 core Zen if I was you.

  17. If you don’t tweak a AMD system for a workload and do something CPU intensive and don’t care about costs then Intel is most definitely better in terms of performance. If you *do* tweak the system and stuff and care about costs then the picture is more nuanced.

  18. Well I didn’t wanna put it that harsh way it’s like everybody has the right to be dumm or else so I know ppl who I asked why do they think amd is garbage and they usually respond as they read it on a forum or heard it from others. And when they r facing the facts they can’t say a word because the realise their truth is not entirely the truth. It’s just as the same with cars. Some ppl would simply touch them self because they saw a German car, they don’t know why they like it they saw it’s cool cause it’s cost a lot must be better than that other Japanese cars. I disagree with them at that point. But all I can say is my experience with Intel was bad. It supposedly better for 3D rendering that maybe true but I have my doubts about it. And also I never rely on only the raw numbers. U can have a good cpu if the mb barely supports it cause you had to cut the budget somewhere. I dunno if actually that happens many times, but I met ppl like that. It’s another good thing to be a technician 😀

  19. AMD or DIE !!!\nI have plenty of heartache with INTELs\u00a0 NONE with AMD

  20. Don’t you mean Celeron 300a (Intel) since AMD never made an Athlon 300a? I had the Celeron and did overclock it to 450mhz.

  21. @Matt – If you were using 800MHz, it wasn’t 98/99, during this time frame the socket A and Slot A’s were recently released and we were all ranting and raving about overclocking our Athlon 300A’s to 400-550 MHz. I also enjoyed AMD as a cheaper alternative but they have been consistently beaten through benchmarks, even if some were close, the new series have become quite a difference on the mid/high end and the power consumption/core difference has become a pretty major issue between the two.\n\nFor most every day things and on a budget, AMD is and has always been great, even for some nice mid range systems but when you get into small details and start watching how things are working and how they working, when those differences starting adding up to hours/days of time, having an Intel really makes a world of difference.\n\nJust saying…

  22. My first amd was an 800mhz athlon from 1998 or 2000ish I dunno I was little when my mom used it, after a few years maybe like 6-8 years I’ve put it together again and it was at the Same lvl of performance as the 1 year old 1.6 celeron

  23. Funny I had an Intel chip computer and it broke in one year. My AMD is running like a champ after several years.

  24. Well, i have a server with amd A8 and a laptop with AMD processor, no problem at all. My AMD graphics card sucks seriously though…

  25. Hi Bro, I am typing this using my AMD Athlon 64 x2 too! I got is on ’04 and upgrade to current CPU on ’06 Shopping for new CPC because tire to change my chip-set fan. They are the only thing that didn’t last for 10 your 😛 excep HDD

  26. I just upgraded my AMD Athlon64 x2 last week to an AMD FX8320 x8core processor. I’ve had my Athlon64 since 2008 and it’s still going strong. I’m not tossing this baby out. I’ll put it in another case and use it as my backup and secondary.\n\nI’ve built about a dozen AMD systems in my lifetime, about 5 for myself and about 5 or 6 for my customers, 1 for my brother, and 1 for my X.\n\nYou can’t beat AMD for value. And I have never had any trouble with AMD chips.

  27. I’ve had no problem with my AMD Athlon 64 x2 dal core processor from ’05 so idk what your problem is

  28. Tim my first computer in 2003 was AMD i have used nothing but AMD processors since, never had a reason to change till today it never disappointed me and always reliant, you must be doing something wrong.

  29. My RMX 850 blew up in a month\nI now have a cooler master psu that i got for 2 thirds \nof the price and its working fine.

  30. That’s interesting, i haven’t had any serious problems whit neither AMD or Intel(slight thermal throtteling annoyance on my laptop). My current desktop has ancient AMD Athlon X2 240 64 bit(my old laptop used to have laptop version of it too) and that CPU came out in 2009?. Its paired whit Nvidia 9800 GT Green Edition and 6 GB DDR2 Ram (yes, i am that ancient, and i am pretty broke, but i am studying IT third year,so i got that going.)\n\ni am planning to upgrade my system and buy fx8320 (lower power consumption(i have decent 550W modular PSU whit 2 year warranty(its now half year old).

  31. Right… because Canadians are generally much stupider than Americans… \noh wait

  32. Both CPU are great. They for two different markets. If you have the money and you don’t care go for an intel you will get a much better final horse power. If you won’t use it much more than doing office work, watching movies and playing some games like normal xbox graphics quality and not going crazy for ultra high video settings then it’s better having an AMD. Is not that hard to see you know…

  33. NCIX/linustechtips make pc’s in Canada they work better than yours.

  34. Agreed, unless he was somehow referring to the temperatures. I suppose as the AMD generates more heat, it could possibly be better in incredibly cold temperatures.

  35. As stupid as Tim’s comment was, you just one-upped him there bud. Let’s not generalize people based on their country of origin or residence.

  36. A Canadian building the machine explains your problem right there! Don’t you dare blame AMD!

  37. First-Sounds like you need to move. \nSecond-I have 5-6 AMD rigs working fine. Always have. Building another next week. What are you doing wrong???

  38. dude get yourself an intel machine I have had nothing but bad problems with amd. p.s im from Canada your winters are nothing ares get below -60

  39. While AMDs CPUs can be good I’d go Intel if I where you as AMDs ones tend to require more technical knowhow to get the best out of them.\nThings like disabling power saving states and turbo speed and in workloads with a variable amount of multi-threading. \nOr disable some of the cores and overclocking the rest for better single threaded workloads.\nOr setting a high turbo and enabling cores and turbo if you know you only have workloads with a set amount of threads being utilized.\n\nAnd choosing components that pair well with the CPU/APU in question. \nAMDs APUs are often paired with insufficient cooling, power and memory subsystems or even motherboards that bottleneck the CPU.\n\nI do disagree with several of the conclusions made in the article though. \nIf you learn how to use them AMDs old CPUs and APUs delivers way more multi-threaded performance for your money then Intel even though their single-threaded performance lags behind. \nAlso they offer iGPU performance that’s high enough to actually be usable at a price point you can actually afford unlike Intel where you can technically get better iGPU performance, but at a price point where a dGPU makes more sense anyway. \nAnd AMD sometimes include cooling solutions that you can actually keep using afterwards unlike Intel that pretty much force you to throw away their cooling and buy a aftermarket cooler…\nAnd their motherboards are often cheaper although you do run the risk of bottlenecking your CPU if you’re not careful with reading the fine print…\n\nThat said Zen is on its way out from AMD and could potentially shake up things a lot.\n

  40. At the end of the Day, this article was written for pro wannabes (you know the guys who will pride themselve of having a powerful computer by mastering every spec of it and remind you every second now and then, while they barely utilize half of it) and not the usual normal user, whether you are using a cheap AMD or Celeron processor, most people notice the difference mainly and majority even don’t know which processor is in their PCs

  41. I’m not a pro, like it seems that you guys are… but I wonder if I really need a intel i5 if I’m only going to use it in school for word, excel, internet etc and maybe some games but not any heavy stuff. Shouldn’t it be enough with a AMD A6 or A8, I don’t want a expensive computer but still I don’t want it to be slow as a 95′ neither. Excuse the language but I’m from sweden, prepare yourself winter is coming.

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