Choosing a processor is one of the biggest decisions you need to make when putting together a new PC. It determines the type of motherboard, graphics card, and ultimately RAM, that you can use to build a new computer. Deciding on a processor is a complicated task, but it all starts with the choice between Intel and AMD.
The debate over which manufacturer produces the best processor, Intel or AMD, has been going on for decades, and everyone has their own opinion. The truth is, the choice depends on the type of PC you are going to build.
A quick search of the latest processors will clue you in on the first difference between Intel and AMD. AMD processors tend to be much more affordable than comparable Intel Core processors. This could be a determining factor if you are shopping on a budget.
The cost difference continues when you begin shopping for a graphics card. For an AMD machine, you will likely end up with an ATI graphics card, such as the latest AMD Radeon graphics cards. These can also be less expensive than the NVidia graphic cards used for Intel machines.
Here is an example of how large of a cost difference can expect. An Intel Core i7 4GHz processor with a price tag of about $375, paired with a top-of-the-line graphics card – a Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 with 4GB of GDDR5 memory – priced at $500, would cost about $875.
An AMD machine that is comparable in performance to the Intel, using an AMD 8-core FX8370 4GHz processor for $250 and an AMD Radeon R9 4GB GDDR5 graphics card for $200, would be $425 cheaper.
If graphics are a major concern, or you are building your machine solely for gaming, there are benefits and drawbacks to both Intel and AMD. Again, AMD offers the more affordable solution, and the latest AMD processors and graphics cards are capable of playing any game on the market. Though, some hardcore gamers seem to feel Intel offers slightly better performance.
In most side-by-side comparisons, using processors and components with similar specs, Intel and AMD processors tend to perform remarkably similar, hitting the same benchmarks. However, there were some notable differences.
In order to run the latest generation of games at full graphics settings on the highest resolution, use 3D rendering, run professional video editing or computer graphics software, and perform high-end computing, the Intel Core i7 is really the only choice.
This does not mean that an AMD cannot run some of these same programs, you just may notice a slight drag in performance compared to an Intel with the same specs.
In the past, AMD processors were known for their ability to withstand heat better than Intel processors. This is a major reason why AMD has such a large, devoted consumer base that enjoy overclocking their computers.
Even though AMD processors are known for their overclocking capabilities, Intel processors have surpassed AMD in their ability to dissipate heat. An Intel Core i7 4GHz processor, overclocked to 4.2GHz, was able to maintain a temperature below 60 degrees, while running commercial software. If you enjoy having the option to overclock a processor, then the current tests show Intel may have the edge.
Another difference worth noting is the performance of integrated Intel and AMD graphics. If you are simply building a machine for word processing or browsing the internet, finding a motherboard with integrated graphics could be a more suitable option. Though, you still need to choose between Intel and AMD. When it comes to integrated graphics, AMD tends to beat Intel in most side-by-side comparisons.
This could be a large factor, if you are looking into purchasing a computer or laptop for general everyday use, but wish to be able to play some of the less graphic-intensive games on the market.
You really need to consider what you want to get out of your machine. If you are committed to building the highest-performance machine possible, and the cost is not a factor, you will probably want to go with Intel processors and NVidia graphics cards.
The latest Intel processors are typically one-small-step ahead of the latest AMD, when measuring computing power. NVidia also makes the top rated gaming graphics cards, but they can cost upwards of $1000 or more.
In order to avoid these sky-rocketing costs, AMD could be the perfect solution. You can find an affordable AMD processor and a graphics card that is able to run any software or game. Honestly, when you build an Intel and an AMD machine with the same specs, you will hardly notice any performance difference, unless you are comparing them side-by-side.
In the end, most gamers and home users will be fine with an affordable AMD computer, but if you want to build the ultimate gaming rig, you will probably want to start with the latest Intel Core i7 processor and a high-end NVidia graphics card.
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