Does Intel Inside Really Matter?

Category: Hardware

When shopping for a new computer, you will find two brand names of CPU to choose from: Intel and AMD. Does it really matter which brand you choose? Let's look at the numbers, and a little history to find out...

Intel: Better or Just More Expensive?

Both companies say it matters a lot, of course. Intel touts its overall performance edge, while AMD hypes its value (code for "lower price") and graphics performance. The war of words between Intel and AMD gets highly technical, and most consumers' eyes soon glaze over. They want to know which CPUs are best for their specific applications, and which provide the most bang for their hard-earned bucks.

The folks at Passmark Software have some answers. Based in Australia, Passmark specializes in performance benchmarking solutions, among other things. Passmark operates what it claims is the world's largest CPU benchmark website. As of this writing, the site gives users access to CPU benchmark test results for over 20,000 systems covering more than 300 different types of CPUs.
Intel versus AMD

CPUs are conveniently categorized as high-end, mid-range, and low-end. A look at the rankings among high-end CPUs shows Intel completely dominating the top 20 slots. The performance king is currently the Intel Core i7 995X with a Passmark rating of 10,945. The first AMD CPU, the Opteron 6126 SE, appears at position 23 with a score of 8,203. But in the mid-range, three AMD CPUs make it into the top 10.

There is a chart of "common" CPUs as well. This list is dominated by Intel. But what's really interesting is the prices listed, which are gathered from Passmark affiliates. Looking at the first AMD CPU in the list (AMD Phenom II X6 1090T), we find a price of about $180. Right above it is an Intel CPU (Intel Core i7 870) priced at $284, and below the AMD CPU is another Intel product (Intel Core i7 930) priced at $342. The differences in the benchmark scores of these three CPUs is negligible. Moving a little further down the list, there's another pair of CPUs with nearly identical Passmark scores -- the Intel Core i7 860 and the AMD Phenom II X6 1055T - but the price tags are not so close, at $395 and $159, respectively. At almost every performance point, you can find similar pairs of AMD and Intel processors with widely divergent price tags.

To further underscore this point, the Price Performance chart compares the performance/price ratios of CPUs; that is, their benchmark results divided by the lowest reported market price. AMD products capture nine of the top ten slots, and 18 of the top 20! The #1 slot (Processor AMD Phenom 9750 Quad-Core) and #3 slot (AMD Athlon II X3 450) are both priced under $70.

Is AMD 100% Compatible?

Years ago when PCs first entered the market, there was a legitimate issue concerning "IBM PC compatibility". What it boiled down to was that PCs that did NOT use Intel processors sometimes didn't work exactly the same, and under some conditions, might fail or produce unexpected results.

But it's been almost 20 years since any of that has mattered. The AMD processors of today are 100% functionally equivalent to Intel, in the sense that all software will work the same, no matter what brand of CPU is under the hood. And yet, there is still a stigma attached to anything that's not "Intel Inside" in the minds of some computer buyers. More than anything, this accounts for Intel's 80% market share, as well as the premium price tag on the Intel products. Talk about a killer slogan...

What can we conclude from all of this? Here's my analysis: If money is no object, and you have a need for speed, Intel CPUs deliver the best performance in most categories. But if you are on a budget, AMD may deliver the most bang for your buck.

Would you buy a computer with an AMD processor inside? Post a comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Does Intel Inside Really Matter?"

Posted by:

Paul
04 Aug 2011

Unless the person is a power user or serious gamer, I doubt most people would notice the difference between Intel or AMD chips. I have used AMD CPU's for years with no problems other than the time a Windows update caused repeated rebooting of the computer a couple of years back, a problem for which a fix was soon issued. Besides the better value, I have always had a soft spot for the underdog.


Posted by:

John Palmer
04 Aug 2011

I had a PC with an AMD K7 processor many, many years ago. Having no problems with it, my next two PCs also used AMD chips. Except for extreme speed or the need to do high-end graphics, I can't see any reason to spend the extra money.


Posted by:

John Palmer
04 Aug 2011

Oh, and don't forget about the "floating point" bug in the original Intel Pentium chips!

Also, even though the problem was eventually determined to be related to the motherboard used, there were problems associated with the first generation of "Core ix" chips.


Posted by:

Matt
04 Aug 2011

My previous laptop had an AMD processor (32-bit running Win XP). It wasnt top of the line by any means, but my newest laptop has an Intel i2 (64-bit running Win 7) and sometimes I feel like the AMD computer ran better. I'm sure there are other factors involved, but I would definitely buy a computer with and AMD processor again.


Posted by:

Jeff
04 Aug 2011

"Would you buy a computer with an AMD processor inside?"
Yes I have, and will in the future. AMD makes good chips, and they are way cheaper.
Another reason: I want to insure there continues to be competition in the processor market. Now I know my purchase alone won't swing the numbers either way, but if everyone believed the "marketeers" there would be no choices out there.


Posted by:

Robert
04 Aug 2011

I do recall being told that overclocking an AMD CPU can overheat the CPU and destroy the CPU. Intel CPUs are said to function after cooling down. I have used both ande do not overclock so I cannot say if this is true or not.


Posted by:

Donna
04 Aug 2011

"Intel Inside" matters much to me. Once upon a time, I owned an AMD motherboard. Although it was better priced than the INTEL I really wanted, it was NOT worth it. That motherboard up and died within 6 months. I will never purchase an AMD anything ever again. I'm a firm believer in, "you get what you pay for!"


Posted by:

Lyle Westrom
05 Aug 2011

I've built several PCs, both for personal use and for others and I would never consider an Intel CPU. I have never found a need that could not be satisfied by AMD at a far lower cost and, while the I7's are king right now, I am convinced that the new AMD APU's will change that picture as well.


Posted by:

Bob Austenfeld
05 Aug 2011

I currently have two desktops with AMD processors still running. A 1999 IBM Aptiva (W98) and a 2007 Lenovo 3000 (WXP). Nary a problem with either. I've had exceptional luck with all IBM computers dating back to the original PC of the early 1980s. They never seem to wear out or cause problems, just become out-of-date.
(A retired IBM employee)


Posted by:

HarwayHarry
05 Aug 2011

A couple of years ago I bought a new pc with an AMD 64 quad core processor and it has worked unfailingly with superb performance. Maybe I don't demand enough grunt, but I can't see why the average user would pay extra for an Intel chip (I also have 4 other pcs that are Intel based - both chips work just fine).


Posted by:

Jerry Dalton
05 Aug 2011

AMD is fine and I would buy a pc with an AMD cpu if it had what I wanted. When are you going to get tourbus back running?
FYI I would have expected you to fact check that browser iq story before publishing or are you a google tool too? ha.


Posted by:

D. W. Whitlock
06 Aug 2011

My first laptop had an AMD Sempron mobile CPU. Bottom of the line yes...but it was pretty fast and reliable for a low end processor. It did run rather hot and had difficulty with streaming video though. I would very much buy another AMD powered computer. I prefer AMD because of their excellent price/performance value and if I was building my own PC from scratch, I'd select the fastest dual core AMD CPU for the money and construct my PC around it. The wolf trying to get to the top of the hill has to work harder and smarter than the wolf defending the hilltop.


Posted by:

Mark
06 Aug 2011

Below is in regards to desktop computers. I think laptops require a little different analysis.

Oh Please, why would almost anyone buy Intel??? My brother and I have been building our own (and some for friends etc too) computers for 20 years or so, and tried both chips for a number of years. There is no reason whatsoever to way over pay for your motherboard and chip. Yes I realize that there are VERY few computer users that might have reason to need that slight performance boost from and Intel chip. We have had great success with AMD in every regard.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
08 Aug 2011

Hey, I came from the days of Cyrix! My first desktop had a Cyrix 6x86 133Mhz CPU. Then, I moved over to AMD. I have never regretted my decision, either.

Yes, I have purchased Intel CPUs, but, only when I had an Intel motherboard computer, to repair. I did buy one for my daughter's computer. I got a great deal on a 775 Intel motherboard, a Celeron CPU, a 775 Heatsink & Fan, & a 160GB Hard Drive, all for $94.83. Bargains can be found, be it Intel or AMD products. However, I really do prefer AMD products.

I don't really care about 'speed', since I am not a big LAN Gamer or High Graphics designer. I am a very average user, mainly Email, causal Games, some Word Processing, Greeting Cards maker & surfing the Web. As it stands right now, I am not even sure that I can 'upgrade' to Windows 7, since there are minimum computer requirements. I am still using Windows XP Pro, since it satisfies all my needs, at this time.

I know that eventually, I will have to upgrade to Windows 7 & probably have to build a whole new computer, to do it. When, that happens, I will be purchasing an AMD motherboard, an AMD CPU & probably a NVidia graphic card. I have been pleased, with this combination for several years. I figure, if it ain't broke...why fix it?!


Posted by:

racecar56
12 Aug 2011

@Robert: AFAIK, AMD has had that for a while now.

@Donna: You blamed a CPU manufacturer for a bad motherboard, which they did not even make. AMD does not make motherboards. I once had a motherboard with an Nforce chipset. It had lots of problems. I switched it out with a motherboard with an AMD chipset, and that solved it. What's more, is that if I remember correctly, the AMD chipset motherboard was actually $5 cheaper than the other Nforce that had problems. I paid less and got more.

So yes, you got exactly what you paid for. A bad motherboard.


Posted by:

Bruce
13 Sep 2011

Bob, I have used the CPU Benchmark Website on several occasions. It is well worth checking a CPU's performance before purchasing a computer.


Posted by:

zaphod
24 Mar 2012

Bob,

While I know your work is mostly windows oriented, I thought it might be interesting to note the following:

On a Linux box, Intel tends to be more compatible. There are often problems with AMD, especially when high resolution graphics are involved.

Z


Posted by:

Cat Tilley
25 Apr 2013

In my experience with buying NEW computers, Intel has turned out to the better choice. Not simply due to performance, either.

AMD's tends to run hotter under load, especially for serious number crunchers (like those participating in the folding@home project). Speecy & other temp monitors reports both the CPU & MB in the "Red" zone, after only 30 minutes of 100% CPU usage (over 80C).

No CPU/MB combo can withstand this type of heat running 24/7. 60 to 65C is acceptable numbers for this app to run & not bake the CPU to the MB.

While it's possible to spend money on a quality cooler, as well as extra fans for ventilation, there goes any savings that choosing the cheaper CPU/MB combo.

There's a reason that AMD is on the ropes & this is one of them.

Cat


Posted by:

Hal
20 Aug 2013

I have built many computers for myself, friends, and family, starting way back in the IBM Celeron days. It seemed to me that the Cyrix and Celeron CPUs were roughly equivalent and used them where price was involved in the decision. If not, both INTEL and AMD worked well for the average computer user, who was not involved in high graphics or gaming. Since Money is still hard to come by for me, I have still used some INTEL CPUs, but for the most part I have stuck to the AMD cpu.

I currently am running Windows 7 Home Premium on a 2.30 gigahertz AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core computer with 128 kilobyte primary memory cache
512 kilobyte secondary memory cache and 4 GB ram. I find that this has rocked along for at least 4 years, with only software or hard disk problems to deal with. So would I buy AMD again? You're Darn tootin' I would.


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