Intel vs AMD: which processor is best?

Your CPU is your PC's brain, so make sure you choose the right processor

Kaveri 2
Kaveri should deliver much improved graphics performance

But this is just the start. Kaveri's Steamroller CPU cores are 10% faster for single-threaded tasks, maybe twice that when multi-threading, enhanced GCN (Graphics Core Next) cores deliver even better graphics performance, and support for AMD's Mantle (a faster alternative to DirectX for GCN adapters) should accelerate your gaming even more.

It's not yet clear how this will play out. HSA in particular shows real potential, but it doesn't just "work". Software needs to be written to take full advantage of it. That's going to take time – and even then, HSA isn't just an AMD technology, there's nothing to stop Intel adding HSA support to its own products.

Still, Kaveri is a notable step forward for AMD, and a real improvement on its previous technology. It's not an Intel beater – yet – but the design is even now a genuine competitor for Intel in some areas.

Intel vs AMD: which is best?

We've looked at the two companies, then – but which is best? Of course, it all depends on what you're looking for.

At the low end of the market, where price is key, a dual-core system may have to do. Intel's Celeron G1840 is a very basic two-core, two-thread CPU, but it's also a Haswell chip at only £33 (around US$54, AU$61). AMD's A6 5400K is another interesting budget option: weaker as a processor, but with decent integrated HD 7540D graphics considering the £40 (around US$65, AU$74) price tag.

Move into the budget gaming market and the AMD FX-6300 is a great product. Six Piledriver cores deliver excellent multithreaded performance, it's seriously overclockable, and the end result delivers close to Intel i3 speed for less money – it's under £80 (around US$130, AU$148) right now.

Alternatively, the mid-range Kaveri chip A8-7600 already delivers excellent graphics performance along with minimal power requirements for a mere £75 (around US$122, AU$139), and some people will see it get even faster as HSA and Mantle take off.

Excellent single-core performance does mean that many regular desktop systems will generally be better off with an Intel processor, though. If you can live without overclocking then the Core i5-4570 delivers something close to the power of a Core i7 for a much lower price – around £145 (around US$235, AU$270) – although beware: hyper-threading is disabled.

If that's not enough then the unlocked Devil's Canyon include the Core i5-4690K (£160, which is around US$260, AU$295), while its companion Core i7-4790K is a quad-core, eight-thread chip with a standard speed of 4GHz (4.4GHz boost), great news if you can live with the £270 (around US$440, AU$500) price tag.