Intel vs AMD: which processor is best?
With lower prices plus the option to overclock, AMD processors can be great value

This isn't quite the end of the story, though. While AMD's desktop CPUs generally lag a little behind the Intel competition, there are a few exceptions. Overclocking can reduce the gap still further, and low prices ensure that there are still some great AMD deals to be found.

What's more, AMD has a particularly interesting new technology, in the shape of its Kaveri chip. This uses a heterogeneous system architecture (thankfully better known as HSA) to not only combine a CPU and GPU in a single die, but also allow both processors to access the same areas of memory without waiting for the other to finish first.

The project has some other promising features, too, and while the end result might not immediately overtake the best Intel CPUs, the first Kaveri releases - due very soon - could bring back some real and much-needed competition to the desktop CPU market.

Intel vs AMD: which is best?

We've looked at the two product families, then - but which is best? It all depends on what you're looking for.

At the low end of the market, where price matters above all else, AMD offers some good deals. The AMD A4-5300 is available for under US$50 (you can buy an entire Socket FM-2-based PC for about US$300), and while its specifications don't impress - two cores only, a mere 1MB cache - if you'll mostly be using the system for email and browsing then it'll serve you very well.

Move up the price range and Intel begins to enter the picture with a product like the Intel Core i3-3225: dual core, 3MB cache, US$134 (about AU$146, £87). And if you prefer Intel and don't need a great deal of power then that might just about be enough.

Intel vs AMD: which processor is best?
The Intel Core i3-3225 is a strong choice, but the AMD option comes close

Once again, though, AMD offers better value. The Socket AM3-based AMD FX-4130 is a particularly good deal: it's a similar speed to the Intel Core i3-3225, but the two extra cores will help with multi-threaded applications, and at US$99.99 (about AU$109, £65) it's something like 25 per cent cheaper than Intel's offering.

If anything the AMD FX-6130 is even better, delivering 6 cores, with overclocking potential of 5GHz, and still at a very good price.

Excellent single core performance does mean that regular desktop systems will generally be better off with an Intel processor, though. If you don't need the flexibility of manual overclocking then we'd opt for the US$195 (about AU$213, £127) Intel Core i5-3470, which offers both excellent single and multi-threaded performance. Meanwhile, the US$235 (about AU$256, £153) Core i5-3570K is a speedy (and very overclockable) quad-core product with 6MB cache which still performs well today.

Intel vs AMD: which processor is best?
The Ivy Bridge Core i5-3570K performs well for desktop

Moving beyond this price level won't make a great deal of sense for the average user, as you simply don't get the extra performance to justify the extra cost. But if you have the money, then the Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7-3770K still delivers quality performance, hyperthreading and a fully unlocked CPU multiplier.

This could all change quite soon, of course, particularly with AMD's Kaveri technology. Can it help to bring some real competition back to the desktop CPU world? Just keep an eye on our reviews and news pages and we'll keep you up-to-date.