That's right, ladies and gentlemen. In the blue corner, running in at 2.33GHz, is the Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 (Yang). And in the red corner, we have the AMD Phenom II X3 710 (Yin), running in at 3.12GHz.
Both are middleweight, multi-core hitters and each one has a point to prove in this grudge match. One rig is destined for a KO and the other will lift the winner's belt. So, without further ado, it's time for round one and, in the words of Apollo Creed, "ding ding".
To help set-up this prize fight, Cyberpower built two identically priced £550 systems for us – one powered by an Intel/Nvidia partnership; the other an entirely AMD-powered contender. Fixing a price point like this gives us a better insight into the real performance you're getting in return for your hard-earned paycheck.
In other words, we can see which side is beating the other into submission with its technology on a value scale, rather than comparing it in terms of raw speed. Why? Well, let's face it, although it's fine for Nvidia, AMD or Intel to fire out an Extremely Exclusive Reassuringly Expensive Edition to claim the performance crown, if no one can afford to buy it, what does that really mean?
For 90 per cent of the time, the entire computing world is focused on the high-end. The fastest product the industry giants can fire out of their labs and into our consumer gullets gets the most column inches, web space and Diggs.
But who rules the mid-range roost? Which of Intel or AMD is really winning the performance war for reasonably priced systems? It's a question that, mid-recession, is more pertinent than ever.
Let's start by taking a closer look at the AMD contender. For processing duties, the latest AMD Phenom II is bolted into an AM2+ socket, or the triple-core X3 710 to be precise. Built on the latest 45nm process, this three-headed monster offers the new enhanced 6MB L3 cache, faster 2GHz HyperTransport link and 'fixed' global Cool 'n' Quiet power management.
Rated at 2.6GHz, Cyberpower provide the AMD systems pre-overclocked to 3.1GHz. This is partly because it can, but mostly to make sure the systems hits the magical Windows Vista 5.9 score, which a stock X3 won't quite make.
Pitted against this is the latest addition to Intel's entry-level quad-core processor range, the Core 2 Quad Q8200. If you thought the Q6600 was slow enough already, then Intel seems to have gone out of its way to make the Q8200 even slower.
At 4MB in total, its L2 cache is half the size of previous Intel quad core processors and it's clocked at a leisurely 2.33GHz, but there's a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel in the form of its 1.33GHz front side bus.
It's an interesting match up; are four legs better than three? In order to find out, we ran a raft of tests to attempt to get a good idea of how the two matched up in the real world, including HD video encoding and decoding, the multithreaded synthetic tests from PCMark 05 and the usual gaming, memory and 3DMark06 tests.
Some of these tests are better optimised for quad-core systems than others, primarily the HD video tests, because it's far easier to multi-thread decoding a video stream than most other tasks.
As it turns out, the Intel system's greatest blow was struck in our x.264 HD encoding task, with it encoding 13.6fps against the AMD's 12.2fps result. No doubt that's down to the use of that fourth core, combined with Intel's excellent Core 2 SIMD implementation.
Clocked at its stock speed, the AMD would be down in the mid-10fps, leaving the Intel system with a healthy 30 per cent lead. However, a close call that went to AMD was 1,080p HD decoding. With an average CPU use of 15.1 percent for AMD against 17 per cent for the Intel, it seems the AMD makes better use of those hot little cores, with both systems peaking at 25 per cent use.
Running 3DMark06 and PCMark05 provides a host of synthetic CPU results. The PCMark overall score does offer a good indication of how well standard loads will run on it and did seem to favour the AMD system. Even taking the overclock out of the equation, it has the AMD and Intel systems running neck and neck.
Core to these performance results are the memory scores, with both systems running identical pairs of G.Skill 2GB PC2-6400 DDR2 memory. The two systems run them at the standard 400MHz bus speed as well, so there's no subtle tweaking to watch out for here.
The PCMark05 memory suite put the AMD with its on-board controller streets ahead of the Intel, contrasting a peak read of 44.4MB/s to 34.6MB/s. Core i7 may have given Intel the lead recently, but when you look back at their older tech it makes for a poor comparison.
In terms of features, the motherboard in the AMD PC was way ahead of the Intel based one on this front as well. The AMD may have been a micro-ATX design, but with its AMD 780G northbridge and ATI SB700 southbridge the number of connection options is exceptional – including HDMI, DVI, VGA, DisplayPort, FireWire, eSATA all alongside the other usual suspects.
In contrast, the Intel P31 board offered serial and parallel ports from the backplate, which was very 1980s. Both have four Dimm slots, plenty of spare SATA II ports and at least an extra PCI and PCI-e slot to aid you in the event of undertaking any future expansion of the system.
For a sprinkling of 3D gaming performance, Cyberpower opted for cards that cost around the £90 mark. For the Intel system that meant an Nvidia 9600GT with 512MB of memory. Its opposite number received a Radeon HD4830, again with 512MB of memory. As it turns out, the 9600GT with its 64 stream processors churning away at 1,625MHz was no match for the HD4830's 640 stream processors spinning at 575MHz.
Far Cry 2 showed the AMD system take the widest margin over its Intel rival, being almost 50 per cent faster in the test. GRID, meanwhile, stood the AMD beast a good 28 per cent ahead, so only World in Conflict saw the two systems conflict with each other on equal terms.
3DMark06 opted for the more conservative side of things, putting the AMD system around 700 points ahead or, put another way, about 7 per cent. But looking at the individual results, both the advanced Shader Mark 3.0 scores were more like 15 per cent ahead, which gives something of a better comparison of where these cards stand in comparison.
In reality you could get far better performance from these systems, all the test were run at the maximum quality settings with 4x AA in DirectX 10 mode, just for extra slowness.
We shouldn't lose sight that we're still comparing two PCs. Inside Cyberpower has done a sterling job of turning out incredibly neat systems, all the wires are tucked away, there are 120mm case fans plus colour coordinated lighting. The cases themselves leaving something to be desired, they're fine for budget cases, but don't expect Antec levels of finish.
The systems ship with Logitech branded mice and keyboards, again they're generic black 'OEM' affairs that are perfectly functional but offer no frills. The same goes for the 19-inch LCD, it has a decent quality image but we'd be strongly tempted to upgrade to something larger with at least a 1,680 x 1,050 resolution.
At the end of all the testing both systems represent good value, considering they come with a display and discrete 3D graphics. Without doubt though, the AMD would make a great first purchase for a budget gaming rig.
Consider that in a years time or so you could just drop in a new £150 graphics card to keep up in the performance stakes and extend its life, and it's a decidedly one-sided match-up.
CyberPower Gamer Infinity Yin (AMD)
Decent gaming performance
Solid Processor Power
Limited HDD storage
Verdict: If you're happy with the overclock this represents excellent value and good all-round performance
Score: 4/5 out 5 Stars
CyberPower Gamer Infinity Yang (Intel)
Intel quad core
Verdict: Clearly this should be packing ATI graphics, but as it stands this is left playing second fiddle
Score: 3.5 out 5 stars