It’s time once again for us to dive into the perennial deathmatch: AMD vs Intel. After all, while the battle between Coffee Lake Refresh and AMD Ryzen 2nd Generation is still raging on, the war between Ryzen 3rd Generation, Ice Lake and Sunny Cove is about to begin.
Essentially acting as the brain of your computer, the best processors are behind everything your PC does. This is why it’s so important to find the one for your specific needs – you don’t want to pay for features you don’t need.
Currently, AMD is on top, selling twice as many processors, and with notable releases this year, it’s looking to continue that trend in the next couple of years, at the very least. Still, anyone who has followed the frantic battle of Intel vs AMD as closely as we have will probably already know that AMD and Intel have traditionally existed in different lanes.
Where Intel has focused on higher clock speeds and efficiency, AMD has traditionally been all about high core counts and boosting multi-threaded performance. This means that there’s room for the coexistence between AMD and Intel – they cater to different audiences, with direct competition in the middle.
If you’re not quite sure whether to pledge allegiance to either Team Red or Team Blue, continue on to the next slide for a constantly updated look at the AMD vs Intel clash.
Gary Marshall and Michelle Rae Uy have also contributed to this article
For bargain shoppers on the prowl for the next hottest deal, it used to be assumed that AMD’s processors were cheaper, but that was only because Team Red did its best work at the entry level. Now that Ryzen processors have proven AMD’s worth on the high-end as well as the low end, the tide has ostensibly turned.
On the mid-range, AMD processors are currently taking the lead. For one, the $329 (£319, AU$519) Ryzen 7 3700X has twice the processing threads, despite being cheaper than the competition, the Intel Core i7-9700K, which is available for $374 (£384, AU$595).
On the high end, while Intel chips currently range from 4 to 18 cores, AMD chips can now be found with up to 32-cores. And again, the manufacturer’s 7nm Zen 2 CPUs are at a much lower price point. The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X competes with the $1,199 (£1,115, about AU$1,713) Intel Core i9-9920X at only $499 (about £390, AU$720), while the AMD Ryzen 7 3800X is already beating Intel in multi-threaded work when it goes head to head with the $479 (£469, AU$684) Intel Core i9-9900K at only $399 (about £310, AU$580).
That’s not all: rounding out AMD’s new Ryzen processor lineup is the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X, the mainstream market’s first-ever 16-core processor, which considering its power, won’t actually that expensive at $749 (about £590, AU$1,080).
It was long-rumored that AMD’s Ryzen chips would offer cutting-edge performance at a lower price, and AMD’s 3rd-generation processors might be sealing the deal. Although, we still have to wait and see what Intel’s 10th-generation chips have to say about that.
For anyone looking to dip their toes into the realm of the HEDT processors, AMD and Intel are very close right now, especially on the heels of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, at $1,799 (£1,639, AU$2,679). That might seem like a lot, but compared to the $1,999 (£1,859, AU$2,999) Intel Core i9-9980XE, it’s a downright bargain – especially given that AMD’s offering has nearly double the cores. Word is still out on whether or not Intel’s long-speculated Cascade Lake-X will change that.
Intel might be aiming to shake things up though as it has announced that it’s planning on releasing a GPU aimed at gamers by 2020. And, it looks like Intel is already putting some of that effort, judging by its Gen11 graphics on the new Ice Lake processors.
Still, AMD’s Ryzen 3rd-generation processors are giving Intel a run for its money and succeeding every step of the way. That’s not to mention the Intel processors in laptops that are running AMD Vega graphics.
On the high-end, especially in cases where you don’t need to worry about on-board graphics, Intel’s processors are typically on top – its Core i9-9900K handily beats out the workstation-class Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX for less than half the price, as well as the Ryzen 9 3900X in single-core performance. Although, when it comes to multi-threaded performance Ryzen 9 3900X, which will set you back $499, does give the Core i9-9900K a run for its money.
Same can be said for the Ryzen 7 3700X when put side by side with Intel Core i7-9700K, with the Ryzen 7 3700X taking the lead in multi-threaded workloads, but falling behind in its single-threaded ones.
Additionally, while we have yet to see how the Ryzen 9 3950X performs in real-world scenarios, this 16-core, 32-thread processor aimed at the mainstream features a whopping 72MB of L3 cache and a boost clock of 4.7 GHz, all while maintaining a 105W TDP.
AMD typically provides better multi-threaded performance, as a result of higher core and thread counts. Ryzen CPUs also offer more PCIe lanes, along with PCIe 4.0 compatibility, both of which come in handy if you want multiple NVMe SSDs alongside Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFire multi-GPU performance.
If you're building a gaming PC, you should be using a discrete graphics card, or GPU (graphics processing unit), rather than relying on a CPU’s integrated graphics to run games as demanding as Middle Earth: Shadow of War.
Still, it’s possible to run less graphically intense games on an integrated GPU if your processor has one. In this area, AMD is the clear winner, thanks to the release of the Ryzen 5 2400G that packs powerful discrete Vega graphics that outperforms Intel’s onboard graphic technology by leaps and bounds. AMD has also launched an updated driver for its mobile Ryzen chips, which leads to up to 20% better performance in games like CS:GO and Fortnite.
Yet, as we mentioned before, Intel has H-series mobile CPU chips with AMD graphics on board. In turn, this means that hardier laptops powered by Intel can now be thinner and their accompanying silicon footprints will be over 50% smaller, according to Intel client computing group vice president Christopher Walker.
All of this is accomplished using Embedded Multi-Die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) technology, along with a newly contrived framework that enables power sharing between Intel’s first-party processors and third-party graphics chips with dedicated graphics memory. Even so, it’s too early to tell whether this is a better solution than the purebred AMD notebooks.
But, with Intel Ice Lake, Intel processors now feature the new Gen11 graphics, which feature more EUs, or Execution Cores, than the previous Gen9 graphics. Now, we haven’t got our hands on any laptops powered by Ice Lake, but we’re expecting to see a huge uplift in performance.
On the high end, such as in cases where you'll be pairing your CPU with a powerful AMD or Nvidia GPU, Intel’s processors are typically better for gaming due to their higher base and boost clock speeds. However, now that AMD Ryzen 3rd Generation processors offer 15% better IPC (Instructions Per Clock) performance than their 2nd Generation counterparts, that story is starting to change.
Plus, AMD still provides better CPUs for multi-tasking, as a result of their higher core and thread counts.
While there is no clear winner in the graphics department, survey says AMD is the better option for integrated graphics, while hardcore gamers who don’t mind shelling out the extra cash for a GPU will find that Intel is better for gaming alone – although with Ryzen 3nd Generation AMD is closing that gap. Meanwhile, AMD is superior for carrying out numerous tasks at once.
When you buy a new computer or even just a CPU by itself, it's typically locked at a specific clock speed as indicated on the box. Some processors ship unlocked, allowing for higher clock speeds than recommended by the manufacturer, giving users more control over how they use their components (though, it does require you know how to overclock).
AMD is normally more generous than Intel in this regard. With an AMD system, you can expect overclocking capabilities from even the $129 (£84, AU$145) Ryzen 3 2200G. Meanwhile, you can only overclock an Intel processor if it's graced with the “K” series stamp of approval. Then again, the cheapest of these is the $173 (about £130, AU$240) Intel Core i3-9350K.
Both companies will void your warranty if you brick your processor as the result of overclocking, though, so it’s important to watch out for that. Excessive amounts of heat can be generated if you’re not careful, thereby neutralizing the CPU as a result. With that in mind, you’ll be missing out on a few hundred stock megahertz if you skip out on one of the K models.
Intel’s more extravagant K-stamped chips are pretty impressive, too. The i9-9900K, for instance, is capable of maintaining a whopping 5.0GHz turbo frequency in comparison to the 4.6GHz boost frequency of the Ryzen 9 3900X. If you’ve access to liquid nitrogen cooling, you may even be able to reach upwards of 6.1GHz using Intel’s monstrous, 18-core i9-7980XE.
Availability and support
In the end, the biggest problem with AMD’s desktop processors is the lack of compatibility with other components. Specifically, motherboard (mobo) and cooler options are limited as a result of the differing sockets between AMD and Intel chips.
While a lot of CPU coolers demand that you special order an AM4 bracket to be used with Ryzen, only a handful of the best motherboards are compatible with the AM4 chipset. In that regard, Intel parts are slightly more commonplace and are often accompanied by lower starting costs, too, as a result of the wide variety of kit to choose from.
That said, AMD's chips make a little more sense from a hardware design perspective. With an AMD motherboard, rather than having metal connector pins on the CPU socket, you'll notice those pins are instead on the underside of the CPU itself. In turn, the mobo is less likely to malfunction due to its own faulty pins.
When it comes to availability in 2019, it gets complicated. While both Coffee Lake Refresh and AMD Ryzen 3nd Generation processors are now widely available, and Ice Lake already currently shipping, Intel went through supply shortages. This resulted in financial analysts downgrading Intel’s stock in the face of both 14nm shortages and Cannon Lake’s constant delays, according to a report from CNBC. And, thanks to this mass confusion and increased prices from Team Blue, AMD has stolen the sales crown.
Still, you can pick up processors from both companies today, though Intel chips like the Intel Core i9-9900K might have some increased pricing. AMD APUs like the AMD Ryzen 3 2200G are still great options for anyone on a budget, though.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that AMD is having a great couple of years with its Ryzen processors – especially the high-end Threadripper processors. AMD is claiming more and more of Intel’s market share, up to 50% at the time of writing.
Behind the AMD Ryzen 3000 series chips is AMD’s Zen 2 microarchitecture. They’re touting up to 12-cores and 24-threads, as well as massive performance improvements. As for what these chips will be capable of, AMD pit the considerably cheaper AMD Ryzen 9 3900X against the Intel Core i9-9920X in Blender, with promising results. Additionally, AMD Ryzen 7 3800X boasted identical performance to the Intel Core i9-9900K.
And if those chips aren’t enough, you’ll get your hands on the Ryzen 9 3950X soon enough, as it will roll out in September 2019.
As for Intel, while it did struggle with the Cannon Lake release, it’s full steam ahead for its 10nm Ice Lake processors. These are out right now, and will be in laptops before the end of the year. Ice Lake will be behind the next generation of Ultrabooks, and will feature built-in Thunderbolt 3, WiFi connectivity and Gen11 graphics, among other features.
The manufacturer is also expected to refresh its desktop processors, after it announced the Intel Core i9-9900KS, which is essentially a Core i9-9900K that has an all-core 5GHz boost clock, to better compete with Ryzen 3rd Generation processors.
Finally, we’ve seen some evidence of Intel’s graphics cards beyond some vague gesturing. At GDC 2019, Intel showed off renders, giving us a tease of what its first graphics card would look like. Little short graphics cards with a single fan in a blower configuration. It’ll be interesting to see if it can compete with AMD’s higher-end GPUs.
Keep this page bookmarked as we’ll update it when either manufacturers have more aces to reveal.