Intel vs AMD, where do things stand now

Within the next couple of weeks, I’m planning on doing a full scale computer upgrade. My last couple of upgrades have been done cheaply or on a as-needed basis, and this time I want to put a lot of effort (i.e. money) into getting myself a great system that will behave and handle what I throw at it. My mom also desperately needs a new computer for her home, so I’m going to use most of the leftover parts from my current system to give to her. My motherboard has on-board video, so I’m gonna re-use my Nvidia 8800GT in my new system for now and let her use the on-board, and likely the only other things that will carry over are the harddrives and the BD-R drive.

The first question when planning a home build is…Intel or AMD? The motherboard, RAM and possibly the power supply all depend on that decision. The thing is, I’m not even sure who to go with this time. My last couple of builds have been AMD systems (Athlon, Sempron, Athlon X2) and the last time I had an Intel system, it was a Pentium 3! Right now, Intel systems are significantly more expensive than AMD systems, and I’m not sure if the extra cost is worth it, or what I’m even getting for that extra cost (I could give a rat’s ass about the Intel Inside sticker). I’ve heard issues over the years of some console emulators only working with one platform or the other, and I believe it’s the same deal if I wanted to run OS-X on my system (might be fun for novelty purposes, but not important).

I suppose I could break it down into a “what processor should I get” thread… all I know is I want at least a quad core, and something that will leave my current AMD X2 4200+ 2.2ghz in the dust. But before I get more specific, I need to choose sides here.

I’m a pretty hardcore user, and am on my system for as much as 10 hours a day, for both work and fun. I do NOT overclock (I don’t see the point of spending extra money for cooling systems when I could be putting that same money towards getting better hardware and running them normally). I haven’t done much PC gaming lately, but this might change again. I do a lot of console emulation, as mentioned above, and would love to have a system that can handle Dolphin well, for some 1080p Wii action! I also do a lot of work with Adobe Creative Suite and ESRI Arc Suite.

Any help appreciated, thanks.

Intel. Their new stuff simply blows everything out of the water. We still don’t know how Bulldozer will perform, but your timetable makes it moot anyway. Plus, any current gen AMD motherboard will be EOL’d when Bulldozer emerges so you’ll be limiting your upgrade path later on.


AMD is still strong in the video card segment with their Radeon cards.

Not just for games…Radeon cards are better in supercomputing applications than Nvidia is.

Want to mine BitCoins? Use Radeon cards.

That does not mean Nvidia is bad in games but Radeon’s architecture is far superior in business applications.

ETA: What is interesting here is whether the GPU will surpass the CPU in importance down the road. Not sure Intel has an answer in the GPU department.

Generally, the GPU does beat the CPU for most games these days. I paid way too much for my 8800GT and never got very much use out of it, so it’s still got a lot of life left in it. I’m gonna be shopping for:

  1. Processor
  2. Motherboard
  3. RAM
  4. Case
  5. PSU

GPU, Hard Drives, BD-R drive, monitors, keyboard, mouse will carry over from my old system. One more thing I’m more than likely gonna have to buy is a Parallel Port PCI card. My HP Laserjet 4 is still going strong, but it predates USB, and I doubt they’re putting Parallel Ports onto motherboards anymore…

Looks intriguing, but who knows?

Anyway, in my opinion there’s too much uncertainty right now with AMD. If you buy a verified, stable AM3 board, you can’t upgrade the CPU later. If you gamble on one of the early AM3+ boards trickling out, I think you’re bound for problems with the new chips should you upgrade (the current available boards look like odd hybrids; old 880/890 chipsets with a new socket slapped on).

It really does not sound you plan on doing anything very taxing to a fairly cheap system. For around $100 you can get some nice Athlon II X4 or Phenom II (925 or 955BE) processors. They are all quad-core and should run your stuff well.

These are AM3 socket processors and there are tons of MBs to choose from. I would go with a mATX from Gigabyte. Or anything cheap and well reviewed on Newegg. It sounds like you only need a PCI-E x16 slot and a PCI slot.

8GB of well-reviewed RAM (DDR3 1333Mhz); it’s cheap.

A Case is aesthetics.

As for a power supply, I really don’t think you need very much to power the whole thing. You can probably get away with a 500W power supply.

AMD is great bang for your buck, specially when I comes to 3d performance, but intel still beats them at the number crunching.

If CPU heavy productivity suites is what you use mostan intel CPU will probably serve you best. Tat said, amd is super friendly to your wallet.

I’d shoot for an i5 2500k and a matching intel mobo. 8 gigs of ram and 600 watt PSU.

And for goodness sake, over clock. All you need is a $20 after market cooler to bring you to the performance of a Much more expensive part. The k series specially are built for it. They can easily reach over 4 ghz without touching voltage.

Another CPU-heavy use I have is video recompression (i.e. converting HD video into Bluray-compatible formats). Would Intel have the edge over AMD there too? It slipped my mind when I started this thread last night, but that’s the area where I could really use MORE POWER Tim Allen grunt.

The GPU is probably the most expensive component of a good system. This is where I’m gonna save for now, since I don’t want to buy something top of the line until my current 8800GT can’t handle what I throw at it. And even though I really just need a PCI-E and a second PCI card for the parallel, my video essentially requires 3 ports, due to the size of the fan hanging off of it. The thing I really hated about my current MB is that I can’t use any of the PCI cards on the board, because the GPU fan blocked them! This is why I want to buy a full sized board that has some PCI slots at the bottom end of it. Also note that I doubt I will be hyperthreading multiple cards in the future (seriously, do ANY games actually require this???) so it makes no sense to pay an extra $100 or so for a motherboard which supports that.

Let me put it this way: Given what I can see from the list of uses you have planned for your new build, any AMD or Intel processor that costs more than $100 will be more than adequate. $100+ gets you all current quad core AMD processors, all current quad core Intel processors and some dual core w/hyperthreading Intel processors).

The processor Kinthalis mentioned is roughly $230 and represents the most expensive processor you should consider. The i5 2500k does overclock quite easily and even at baseline would keep you happy for a very long time. I think it’s a waste of money because you are implying in your post that a 8800GT is handling what you throw at it. That thing is a 2-3 generations old. If it can handle what you are doing then a processor to go with it does not need to be anything amazing. You are not a gamer, the productivity tasks you are doing need a processor with cores and Ghz as well as memory. Athlon II’s have 3 and 4 core models clocked at 3.0+ Ghz for around $100. The AMD Phenom II 955BE is clocked at 3.2Ghz and costs $114.

For some sick reason I find pricing out computers fun and I was able to put together the pc I described earlier for $350. With an i5 2500k starting at $230 and a full-size motherboard being roughly $150 (everything else is similar in price), you are looking at roughly $550 - $600.

This isn’t really accurate. Overclocking yields go way faster than what they offer, and way cheaper too.

I’m using an e8400 now, a 3ghz core 2 duo. I’m running it at 4.2 ghz. What does intel charge for a 4.2 ghz? Well, they don’t have one - fastest chip in this line is 3.33ghz. But even then, I’d have paid an extra $150 or so for that mild extra speed. And my “cooling system” consists of a $35 heatsink/fan unit and a $5 tube of arctic silver 5. I have a good case, but I’d have gotten that anyway even without overclocking. Not even my best overclock - I bought an athlon 1700+ a while back that was 1.4ghz … I clocked it up to 2.2 or 2.3 ghz. Cost me $70, and I clocked it to run circles around the highest end intel CPU at the time which was around $1000. I think it was a $50 HSF in that case. And… probably the same tube of AS5.

Anyway, it’s fine if you don’t want to bother with it but you shouldn’t shrug off the benefits as insubstantial.

Anyway, intel owns the high end, but $100 AMD processors can probably do anything you want them to, so it depends on how much you want to spend. My next CPU will probably be an i7 2600k unless something better comes out by then.

This is kind of a moot point because the OP is keeping his Nvidia card and isn’t a heavy gamer, but having used both an ATI and an Nvidia card recently, I can say that the ATI cards are much less supported for games. They’re not unusable, but they run into a lot of quirks and glitches that don’t exist in Nvidia cards. I’ve had a substantially better gaming experience with my Geforce than my Radeon, even if the latter is faster per dollar than the former.

I would suggest that concern is overblown. I’ve had a 5850 for about a year and a half and I haven’t ran into any AMD-specific problems with it, and in that time the only amd problems I can recall hearing about came from Brink.

There was some flickering problem for Super Meat Boy that was fixed with a driver update and LWJGL (for Minecrafters) was broken for all of 6 hours on ATI cards until a late night release of LWJGL fixed it. Those are the only two I know of offhand. On the other hand, WoW (a much bigger game) was Geforce hell for a while, especially with shadow flickering.

In addition, while I used to be an Nvidia person, I’ve had nothing but issues with their recent cards. A GTX 480 I wanted to watercool? Locktite on the freaking screws, it was almost impossible to fix. In addition, Nvidia cards run HOT for me, I’m not sure what it is, but my ATI card gets to maybe 75 under load, my Nvidia cards idled at 80, and regularly got to 105+, often getting to their overheat points at about 115. It was not pleasant.

I’m sure it’s possible to get Nvidia cards to work in different climates or systems, and I don’t discount them completely, but ATI is by far the best right now from my experiences.

I was an ATI person for years (i even used the on-board ATI chipset on my current MB for a whille) and I would often have drawing/compatibility issues with games. Never experienced that with my Nvidia card.

Right now I’m not a huge PC gamer (those who know me know that I prefer the 80-90s era of gaming) but I still want to have the capacity to play Crysis 2 when I feel like taking a vacation.

Then I’ll be the second. I had problems with Rift and Elemental, but updates released by ATI/AMD fixed the problem. Still, it’s frustrating when things don’t work perfectly out of the box.

That said, the 5850 is a very solid card for the money. It runs Rift, Civ V, Bioshock 2, and all my other games on the top graphics settings.

I’m also running a AMD Phenom II 955 Black CPU, which was at a very nice price point when I bought it. A lot of the Intel i5 series and practically all the i7 series are better but they’re significantly more expensive. The Black series is very overclockable, but I haven’t had the need. When I did my research, there were some i5 processors that were at nice price points above my CPU, but it hasn’t been a limiting factor. It could be the bottleneck be for video processing, but I don’t know much about that.

Crysis 2? Now you are talking monitor screen resolution and I would guess at least an AMD HD6850.

You should probably specify your budget.

I have dual 24" 1080p’s. I was hoping/expecting to spend less than $800 total for those 5 components. I might even hold onto my case,since I just realized I had a mini-tower in the closet which my current MB can probably fit. It might not have sufficient cooling for my old system tho…

I was a HUGE AMD evangelist for a long time. I’ve been a PC hardware enthusiast for over a decade now. Build my own systems, build systems for others, etc.

I think AMD’s high-point (from an enthusiast view) was back in the Thunderbird era (Late 90s, early 2000s.) These processors completely smoked the Intel offerings of the time, and for much cheaper. The comparable Intel processors - PIII and early P4s were frankly bad.

I was a bit reluctant to switch at first, but by the mid 2000s it was undeniable. Intel was putting out some really great CPUs. AMD was floundering. It was late and poor to the multi-core processor push.

So these days, I wouldn’t buy an AMD processor. It pains me, but they’ve fallen back into “budget CPU” territory. They’re not terrible, but the cost difference isn’t nearly good enough for me to recommend a budget AMD chip over a slightly more expensive but much better Intel CPU.

Regarding graphics cards - I’ve been unhappy with nVidia for a long time. My first nVidia card was a Riva TNT2, and that thing was glorious for its time (late 90s). I went Radeon (ATI, now part of AMD) in the early 2000s and loved it.

Caveat - the last nVidia card I bought was 2007. I installed it, had a terrible experience (shitty, shitty drivers, optimization and options) and returned it three days later.

I still love ATI cards, because the driver support is so good. ATI is great at constantly releasing new Catalyst drivers, and that makes a huge deal. Plus they’re easy to tinker with - graphics settings, overclocking, benchmarking, etc. I’ll still pick an ATI card over an nVidia card any day of the week.

I think you can see one thing in this thread: Brand loyalty is not much of a factor for PC builders. Whatever is objectively the best for the task is going to be bought.

That said, fusoya, you sound to me like deep inside you want to see Crysis, not Crysis 2, on max settings. It’s there someplace, lurking in your limbic system. You’ve been telling yourself 80’s games are fun but you know that watching a pretty sunset before blowing away a bunch of North Koreans is real fun.

Here’s what I put together based on your stated and unconscious wants:

The total was $500.

That leaves you $200 to buy the 6870 (slightly better than SenorBeef’s 5850). It won’t play Crysis at max settings 1080p but it will come close and I think by the end of this thread you will admit that you want a raging card or maybe even a crossfire rig.

If you think you are going to buy that processor, buy a decent heatsink, the only reason to buy it is for the overclocking - the supereasy and impressive overclocking.