Intel vs AMD: The Complete Walkthrough

Much debate has surrounded the internet about which processor is the best choice for gaming. Intel or AMD… Like the Apple vs Android war, there are strong opinions on both sides of the coin as to which is best.

The problem is: there’s no right answer.

Some are biased and say that the intel core line is still better for fps, but on the other hand, AMD has been gaining the highest market share since very long ago. And for a good reason (we’re going to address that later).

AMD Gains PC CPU Market Share from Intel with Ryzen
AMD’s Marketshare increase every 3 months.

The truth is, the Intel vs AMD debate is still holding today.

The argument has heated up even more since AMD revealed recently their flagship CPU, the Ryzen 9 3950X with no less than 16 cores and 32 threads.

The new Ryzen line is set to be released in September of this year. It is still uncertain if this new line of processors is going to position AMD as the “King of processors” and kick out Intel from the throne it has been sitting on for the past decade. But it appears to be looking so.

Okay, we’ve set the stage.

The purpose of this article is to help you choose the right processor for your needs.

So we’re going to travel through every corner of the internet looking for expert opinions in order to save you the extensive research.

Performance

Two years ago, when AMD launched the Ryzen line, TechRadar held a deathmatch between the Intel Core i7-7700K and the AMD Ryzen 7 1700.

It turned out in a tight fight, both offered nearly the same performance and AMD was a bit cheaper (by around a $50 difference). Even so, they still crowned Intel as the winner…

But this was 2 years ago, and time has passed.

TechRadar ran a more updated comparison between the giants. This time, comparing the low-end, medium-end, and high-end products in both prices and performance.

The AMD lineup traditionally has lower prices than Intel.

Even with the lower price tag, Ryzen had better performance for multithreaded operations (video encoding would be the best example of this) as a result of their core and thread quantities. Intel provides better gaming performance because of their typically higher clock speeds and more so their, instructions per cycle.

The overclocking point was rather important. All new Ryzen processors allow users to go beyond their expected capacity (overclocking) without any restriction (unlocked). Meaning that AMD is very clear about letting people do whatever they want with their property (how things should be).

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Fun Fact

AMD was the first company to commercially offer a dual core desktop processor.
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On Intel’s side, their CPU’s are quite limited in that respect, since only the models with  “K” or “X” at the end can be overclocked. So it looks like Intel has the restrictive belief of an overprotecting mother that recently realized that her 25-year-old son is big enough to make his own lunch!

Caution: It’s important to note that some precaution is needed when trying to overclock your processor.
Overclocking does provide more power, but it also generates much more heat than normal and can potentially overheat your hardware if you’re not careful.

In that case, overclocking would cause more damage than the benefit you would receive.

Investing in a good fan cooler like this one is highly recommended, although Ryzen CPUs do have very decent stock coolers.

Also, none of the companies will accept your warranty claim if you damage your processor while overclocking, so it’s obvious that you need to know how to overclock properly.

Upgradability

WePC.com had a similar approach to TechRadar regarding points of comparison. While explaining the concepts he was talking about for the casual reader (very important).

A good point there was the compatibility.

AMD has stated that their current motherboard type (AM4) will be supported until 2020.

However, an article from extremetech suggests that AMD’s new 3rd generation CPU’s may not be supported fully.

This does cast some doubt as to if it’s worth buying an AMD motherboard now or wait until we know for sure for support of the new 3rd gen CPU.

If the support continues with the new series’ CPUs, the AMD lineup is easy to upgrade without having to change the motherboard.

This means that a 2nd (or maybe 3rd?) generation Ryzen model will be compatible with older generations and vice versa. This is critically important for people on a budget since you’re paying less when upgrading your CPU, in that you don’t have to upgrade your motherboard as well.

Unfortunately, an Intel processor is compatible only with a motherboard of the same generation. Meaning that upgrading is far more expensive than AMD’s equivalent.

So on this point, if you’re an upgrader and looking to get a new CPU every couple of years or so, AMD is the way to go.

Value

Another interesting part of the WePC post was the conclusion.

They argue that 4 cores with 8 threads are enough for gaming, and the rest of the money should be invested in GPU.

This suggests that the AMD side of the coin is a better solution if you want a budget-friendly, easier to upgrade and overclockable option; or if you’re requiring multithread for productivity work.

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Fun Fact

Before settling on Intel the original company name was called ‘N M Electronics’

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On the Intel side of the coin. Intel CPU’s does offer faster clock speeds for the same budget and can be overclocked a bit more (assuming you get an unlocked Intel CPU), providing more single-thread power.

Wepc declares both as great options and stands for the “no right answer” opinion.

We agree, as we suggested in the beginning of the article.

Future Performance

Digital Trends went ahead of our time and tried to compare Intel Core i9-9900K with the most powerful Ryzen processor of the not-released-yet 3rd generation, the Ryzen 9 3900X.

Of course, every point addressed there was on paper only, since we don’t know yet how the Zen 2 is going to perform.

What’s interesting though, was the analysis from the comparison charts that AMD showed in the E3.

Ryzen 3900X vs 9900k

They claimed that “Overall, the 3900X looks comparable, and in some cases, even more capable, than the 9900K in gaming.”

The other relevant chart was for game streaming, and although it is only important for these groups of user (like the post says), a huge difference can be seen between both processors when streaming at 1080p.

This suggests that the additional cores made the real difference at running top gaming quality while streaming at the same time.

amd ryzen 9 3900x vs intel core i9 9900k 3900x02

Of course, this is according to what AMD said. The post claimed that “we’ll have to wait until closer to launch to test these ourselves, but these early results look very promising for the AMD chip”. Supporting the “no right answer” opinion too.

It is interesting to consider the fact that AMD revealed a more powerful processor with 16 cores. So after reading this post, you can make your guess…

What the Youtube Experts say

Jayztwocents

This video was made 1 year ago when Zen 2 (the 3rd gen of Ryzen) wasn’t announced yet. Jay tells the story of AMD from the last decade to this time, explaining how AMD has been putting pressure on Intel by bringing back the benefits of competition.

He claims that the current state of both brands is so competitive that if you perform a blind test you’d be unable to tell whether you’re using Intel or AMD.

The thing is, the competition forced Intel to keep leveraging their IPC 4.0 technology and AMD to focus on their multicore processing. He explained…

And while this is true, you can keep asking yourself “What the heck should I choose then?”

According to Jay, both processors are surprisingly powerful. But if you’re requiring optimized single core processing for work like video or photo editing with Adobe software and such, Intel can be a good investment.

However, for gaming and everyday usage, he strongly recommends the Ryzen processors for the performance you obtain per dollar.

And that’s a powerful point.

Since AMD started launching competitive processors, they have done an exceptional job of keeping CPU prices low.

And that’s ultimately true according to this chart:

As you can see, in the entire image AMD dominate’s this chart.

The Intel Core i7 isn’t seen in the list, only one i3, and two i5s. The rest are from AMD hands.

At the end of the video, Jay addressed that game developers are now looking to expand a way to leverage the potential of multicore processors (after so many years…) in order to improve efficiency and game experience.

This will have a bigger impact for Ryzen lineup that is well known for having more cores.

A recent Quora question asks how many cores do games use – the top answer declares that newer games need at least 4 threads and to avoid stuttering, 8 threads is the minimum.

Also, motherboard manufacturers are now releasing models with such high quality for both processors, that you no longer have to worry about it.

For a long time, motherboard manufacturers were well known for cheapening the prices of AMD compatible models because of Intel having a lot more advantage over AMD for a long time. Before Ryzen came around it was hard to get a decent motherboard that had compatibility with AMD. At least that isn’t the case now.

Jay was clearly leaning towards the AMD side of the debate, and he really put convincing arguments on the table.

Now to present time, when AMD’s Zen 2 was announced, he updated his thoughts (his full video is here).

It’s pretty technical, but he summarizes that:

  • it seems that Intel is actually putting more focus on integrated graphics cards (not needing a graphics card) where AMD was so dominant
  • AMD is putting a strong focus on their processors (where Intel has been dominant)
  • He wishes that AMD puts more pressure on Nvidia on the discrete graphics card side.

I’ve cut to his summary part of the video here:

Linus Tech Tips

Linus explains how much struggle Intel is having with AMD and many other factors regarding the optimization of transistor’s size.

It turns out that Intel has been relying on the 14 nanometer technology on their processors for so much time (since 2015). While Zen 2 is confirmed to use HALF of that.

Having a smaller number means that the CPU chips are going to be more power efficient, faster and having more space for more CPU goodness!

Intel is actually having problems with the 10nm transition on the few devices they’ve been using it with.

Since Intel is manufacturing their own transistors, figuring out how to improve your efficiency on your own is costing them a huge market share loss.

But AMD seems to be on a better path, as they outsource their processes with other companies like TSMC. This approach has really paid off and is a great advantage over Intel this time around.

Also, it seems like Qualcomm (best known for the Snapdragon processor for mobile phones) is going to start creating energy-saver chips for laptops, which is another threat against Intel from another company.

Linus argues, however, that Intel is still the market leader and has plenty of capital to invest for the upcoming years and counter back all the competitors.

It looks like Intel is going to invest in GPU technology quite aggressively to compete against Nvidia. And they’re already researching for new approaches to get into the 7nm technology.

But… when?

We’re already convinced that AMD is nailing the 7nm already, and Intel is still on the 14nm…

From this standpoint, it’s looking positive towards AMD chipset

What Does Reddit Say of AMD vs Intel?

In this post, you can find a video from PC World’s executive editor Gordon Ung explaining why he prefers AMD over Intel.

Despite the fact that Intel would give you higher gaming performance, superior instructions per cycle (IPC), and more clock speed.

Gordon also claims that there’s no right answer for everyone, just like us, it’s dependent on what’s good for you or the person using the computer!.

His next point is all centered around budget, and I think that is the important part to remember – this discussion is all about if you stay within a certain price point and don’t waiver.

From a strict gaming standpoint – all else being equal, he proposes that you will sacrifice around 20% of the FPS switching from an equivalent Intel CPU to an AMD CPU.

He argues that what you save from buying a Ryzen CPU can be used for a much more powerful GPU (like most people are saying, actually) and that will yield a far better overall frame rate.

See the whole video below:

The overall comments of the thread below the video are largely in agreement to Gordon’s point.

Most of the Reddit comments, and I think many people, in general, are aware of Intel outperforming Ryzen right now.

But with the upcoming 3rd generation of Ryzen (Zen 2), there’s uncertainty and many people who can wait are wanting to see what happens with the new release from AMD.

No one knows if Zen 2 is going to smash Intel brutally, match it, or fall below expectations. As an example of this, the original post of this thread can’t decide between Intel i7 9700K or the Ryzen 7 2700X and asks for help.

People suggested buying Intel if you wanted higher performance and don’t care about money. Otherwise, buy Ryzen.

But wait… that’s at the TOP end, right?

So what about the lowest budgets?

Linus tech tips has a video about it, he did the challenge and it turned out pretty even at $750 limit budget.

We’ve jumped to the results part of the video below:

So the truth is: everything depends on your needs.

From one side, Intel has better IPC and clock speed, performing much better on single-thread operations, which includes most games.

Intel is worth consideration in that game developers are usually optimizing for Intel since it dominated the market for a very long period of time (and still does).

From the other side, AMD Ryzen provides more cores, superior multi-thread performance compared to Intel, and higher performance per dollar.

It’s also possible to see more multicore-focused games soon, as well as more optimizations for AMD processors from different software developers. So it looks like a bright future is waiting for AMD.

But what should you choose for gaming then? It is hard to give a straight answer for everyone…

AMD is a clear winner for value and should be the choice for someone on a budget and looking for balance.

Intel is the winner for the high-end budget of PC gaming, it’s faster overall right now.

That’s why I’m going to describe 4 different personas here and determine the best option for them. So if you identify with any of these personas, you’ll probably find your answer. Here we go:

Persona #1: Hardcore Gamer – F*$K the Budget

  • Profession: E-Sports gaming, full-dedication.
  • Hobby: Play the last AAA games in ultra settings in 4k and 240 fps (the highest quality possible).
  • Budget: Whatever is needed for gaming.
  • Recommendation: Intel Core i7-9700K Desktop Processor 8... is enough for you, you’ll last several years without thinking about CPUs. An i9-9900K is the ultimate option, but unnecessary for gaming, not even for hardcore.

Persona #2: Professional Streamer

  • Profession: AAA Games Online Streaming and reviewing.
  • Hobby: General gaming and video editing.
  • Budget: High enough for the business (just want to stream good enough).
  • Recommendation: Ryzen 7 2700X is the ultimate choice made for multitasking. It will cost you ~$279.99 on Amazon right now. Compared to the ~$485 worth i9-9900K option that may work as well.

Persona #3: Game Lover

  • Profession: Any – Maybe something related to tech or software.
  • Hobby: Invest several hours on gaming.
  • Budget: Medium to high, but he’s an adult now.
  • Recommendation: The Intel Core i5-9400F is surprisingly affordable and provides excellent performance, it will do its job while saving you enough money to buy an amazing GPU.

Persona #4: Casual Gamer

  • Profession: This literally doesn’t matter.
  • Hobby: Play games and has a girlfriend/boyfriend.
  • Budget: Looking for the best performance/dollar rate option. But still not willing to invest much for the highest settings
  • Recommendation: The AMD Ryzen 3 2200G is the ultimate amount of power you get for what you pay, period. Run most games on high settings for the small amount of ~$80. You won’t regret it. You could squeeze a little more performance by getting a AMD Ryzen 5 2400G running ~$150

So…Did you make your choice?

If you haven’t, is understandable. Finding the sweet spot for your budget is a hard process.

That’s why we’ve posted the ULTIMATE PC builds for you to enjoy the better performance according to your budget.

For every budget (Ranging from $350 up to $2000. ) we explain to you EVERYTHING, including:

  • Why you should build your PC instead of buying a pre-built
  • What you need to build your PC.
  • How to build your PC.
  • A deep enough (but not too far) explanation for every component and why it was chosen.
  • Sometimes you’ll see more than one build, giving you different optimal options for the same budget.
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We have on our site all the writeups to build THE PERFECT PC FOR YOUR BUDGET HERE.
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We’ve saved you valuable time researching and evaluating multiple combos and builds, thinking about what you should buy in order to squeeze the most FPS from your spending.

Conclusion

For the mainstream gamers, both companies have very extreme CPU offerings. We just have to look at Intel i9-9900K and the upcoming AMD Ryzen 9 3950X with 16-cores.

You really need a lot less than that. You should have no problem with 6 cores/12 threads at most, and for a long time. And it should be noted that 4 cores are still awesome.

What is really happening, is that people want more, but it doesn’t mean you need to excessively spend your money on extra fancy gameplay in order to play like a pro.

Remember that your skills are the real business here.

I hope this walkthrough has been helpful to you. Don’t forget to leave a comment and give your opinion about this epic Intel vs AMD debate.

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