AMD vs Intel is the most storied rivalry when it comes to PC processors. There’s a pretty good reason for that, as they have been the only two options for quite a while. The rivalry is so fierce that you will have diehards on either side of the fence unwilling to budge on who they think makes the best processor for gaming PCs.
While the competition may be fierce and different individuals may have strong opinions, let’s be objective about what’s better for gaming: AMD or Intel.
Before we start discussing the history of AMD and Intel or trying to tease out which is better, we need to understand the impact that choosing one over the other may have on your entire PC.
Understanding the Trickle-down Effect
AMD and Intel processors directly affect which components you can use in your computer. Motherboards come in different flavors, and it comes down to either an AMD or Intel socket. Whichever one you choose, AMD or Intel, means you are stuck with that motherboard and processor combination.
The motherboard you choose can then affect which GPUs, power units, fans, cases, etc. that you can use. Even something as “universal” as RAM can become a consideration. I made this mistake when upgrading the RAM on my PC. There were two versions of G.Skill TridentZ RAM available, distinguished only by the last few letters of the model number.
To sum it up, the choice you make for your processor will follow you for the lifespan of your computer.
Some Basic Terms
Writing this section made me put down a note to write a whole article about CPUs. For this article, I will explain some key definitions.
- Cores – Each core can handle one task at a time. More cores equal more tasks being completed simultaneously.
- Threads – A thread allows a core to take on an extra task. More threads mean more multi-tasking.
- Clock speed – How many calculations the processor can make during a particular time, measured in Gigahertz (GHz).
The simplest way to understand a processor is that more cores, more threads, and a higher clock speed will equate to a faster processor.
“If the CPU is a factory, the cores and threads are the number of workers, while the clock speed is how fast they work.”– My College Computer Science Professor
AMD vs Intel – The History
I started ripping apart and building computers when I was eleven. That was twenty years ago. Back then, the only real option was an Intel chip. That was the case for a long time. Even five years ago, when I went to a local Microcenter and bought an AMD Black Edition processor, the sales associates were giving me some side-eye over not going with Intel. The FX9590 was a very lovely CPU in 2014.
You see, AMD chips were always considered part of the budget build. If you could not afford an Intel processor, you chose AMD, because having any computer was better than having no computer. The data shows that the market became more accepting of AMD around 2017.
AMD had a rocky road until that 2017 timeframe.
If you want to understand who is bigger overall, Intel’s revenue was $70.8B in 2018, while AMD’s was $6.5B. Those numbers cover overall revenue, so Intel benefits from also being the leading manufacturer of server CPUs, but perspective is essential.
AMD vs Intel – Price Comparisons
I feel like the easiest way to figure out which is better is to look at the performance of each brand at the same price point. This comparison gives you a good idea of how far your dollar will go with each. If you have read any of my previous articles, I tend to be big on value. My general opinion is: get the most performance for your dollar.
AMD vs Intel – Top End
In general, AMD’s new line of Ryzen processors compete very favorably with Intel in head-to-head comparisons. Let’s start by looking at the top of the line. The Intel i9-990k has a clock speed of 3.6GHz, eight cores, and 16 threads for $475. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 3900X offers a clock speed of 3.8GHz, 12 cores, 24 threads, and all for $490.
AMD vs Intel – Mid-Top
If we take one step down in performance, we start to look at the Intel i7-9700k versus the AMD Ryzen 3700X. The Intel chip brings a clock speed of 3.6GHz across eight cores and eight threads for $390. The Ryzen 3700X, on the other hand, delivers 3.6GHz clock speed across eight cores and 16 threads for $360.
AMD vs Intel – Middle
The mid-level is what I would consider the entry-level for a decent gaming computer. Yes, there are offerings with lower cost and performance, but these will get you going for a fair price. The Intel i5-9400F comes in at a reasonable 2.9GHz across six cores and six threads for around $130. The AMD Ryzen 2600X offers 3.6GHz across six cores and twelve threads for $140. The AMD also offers overclocking, and I have personally increased the clock speed to 4.1GHz.
AMD vs Intel – Crazy Performance
To this point, I was reasonable with my classifications. The truth is, there is a level of performance that is so far and away out there that it seemed funny to try to include it in the three examples above. The Intel i9-9980XE gives you a 3GHz clock speed across 18 cores and 36 threads and comes in at around $2000. Similarly, the AMD 2990WX will provide you with 3GHz across 32 cores and 64 threads for $1700.
The Final Verdict
AMD processors tend to be better for overall computing and value. Intel processors are better for flat out gaming. Two out of two Gamezo writers agree on this fact.
The reasoning for this is AMD’s superior performance in muti-threading. As I mentioned earlier, threads allow cores to do more tasks. The fact is, games don’t run a lot of tasks. Modern videogames tend to be graphically intensive, not CPU intensive. With a per-core performance that often meets or beats AMD, that makes Intel the clear winner for pure gaming computers.
The consumer wins
In the end, we all win. AMD has a history as a budget chip, and Intel has a history as the industry leader. With AMD pushing performance at a reasonable cost, they are challenging Intel to keep up with innovations while offering competitive pricing. That means that we should keep getting faster CPUs at a lower price. Thanks, Moore’s Law!