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Intel vs AMD

Updated on August 23, 2017

What to Choose: Intel or AMD?

When choosing a computer CPU it usually comes down to two choices: AMD or Intel. The CPU wars between these two corporations have been going on for years, even resulting in antitrust charges filed against Intel several times. Both manufacturers have created some amazing and some unsuccessful products, and both have some sworn followers (aka fanboys) among the techies. However, no matter what company you prefer, you have to agree that competition is great for the consumers since it drives the prices down and promotes innovation.

You will find some more information about the two companies, comparisons between specific CPUs throughout the years and links to Intel vs AMD benchmarks on the page below. Most importantly, check our the ongoing discussion and share your own thoughts!

Intel logo.
Intel logo.

About Intel

Intel (portmanteau of Integrated Electronics) is the world's largest CPU manufacturer. It was founded in 1968 and is based in Santa Clara, California (US). Intel is the creator of the x86 CPU architecture which is now used in the majority of PCs (and, since 2006, Macs as well). Intel's domination in the x86 CPU market led to charges of antitrust violations in US, EU, Japan and South Korea over the years.

AMD logo.
AMD logo.

About AMD

AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) was founded in 1969 and is based in Sunnyvale, California (US). It is the second largest supplier of x86 architecture CPUs and, after a merger with ATI in 2006, one of the largest manufacturers of GPUs (the other two being Intel and nVidia). It is considered the underdog of the CPU market due to revenue and market share several times smaller than Intel's.

Intel vs AMD Discussion

Does Intel or AMD make the best computer CPUs?

Intel or AMD Poll

Which computer CPUs do you prefer?

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Intel and AMD Comparison

Both AMD and Intel came out with a lot of great CPUs throughout the years. We could observe the competition between Pentium and K5, Pentium 2 and K6, Pentium 3 and K6-3, Celeron and Duron, and so on. Back then it was all about the clock rate of the CPU, but it all changed with the Pentium vs Athlon XP competition which started in 2000. Intel could clock their P4s higher while AMD could deliver better performance per clock.

For example, a 2 GHz Athlon XP would easily outperform a 2 GHz Pentium IV; however, the P4 could run at higher clock speeds due to it's architecture. Intel used the bigger numbers in marketing to great effect. As such, AMD adopted a "performance rating" for their CPUs rather than raw gigahertz.. Ironically, Intel soon reached a limit on P4's clock speed and switched to a Performance Rating system themselves, thus ending the "MHz wars".

AMD was the first to introduce a 64-bit processor targeted at an average consumer in 2003. Intel soon followed; nowadays all modern CPUs can run 64-bit applications, while being backwards-compatible with 32-bit ones. For an average user the most noticeable benefit is being able to use 4 GB and more RAM (32-bit systems can only address up to 3 GB).

Both companies soon started looking for other ways to increase performance rather than raising clock speeds. In 2005, AMD released the first Athlon 64 X2 dual core processors and surpassed Intel in US retail sales for a brief time. Intel answered by releasing dual core Pentium D, later followed by a new Intel Core series (Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7). AMD continued their dual core Athlon X2 CPU line and the quad core Phenom (which wasn't very successful at all), later followed by a much-improved Phenom II.

These days Intel's Core CPUs based on Ivy Bridge and Haswell architecture with integrated GPUs show results superior to AMD's new Piledriver (FX) series, although the latter is often cheaper. AMD's future seems to be HSA (Heterogeneous System Architecture), which integrates CPU and GPU closer than ever before.

So how do you decide whether an AMD or Intel processor is better now? Your best bet would be to check the benchmarks on popular hardware sites. Neither the raw MHz nor the number of cores will tell you exactly how well the CPU will perform in real world conditions. As a rule of thumb, AMD APUs are excellent for budget builds, while Intel CPUs are better when you need more power (and don't mind paying more for it).

Links to Intel vs AMD Benchmark Tests

  • Desktop CPU Charts on TomsHardware is probably the biggest collection of the newest CPU reviews and benchmarks using games and various applications in one place.
  • PassMark Software site has a huge number of graphs with the latest AMD vs Intel benchmarks. Note, however, that these are the results of a synthetic test, and they don't necessarily indicate how well the CPU will perform when running real world applications. However, this site does provide a very convenient way to compare the overall "score" of various computer processors.
  • AnandTech has a great tool which allows you to easily compare various benchmark results of most modern CPUs. In some cases you can also compare power consumption.
  • Newegg is one of the best places to buy computer hardware. More importantly, you can read CPU reviews from real people like yourself instead of relying just on the big computer hardware review sites.

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