Intel and AMD (Advanced Micro Devices) are two of the biggest names in technology, responsible for the chips that power millions of computers, graphics cards, servers and other devices. So what are the differences between these two giants of the industry?
Here we’ll lay out how Intel and AMD match up against each other in all the key areas – and which one you might want to trust with your next hardware purchase.
Intel vs AMD: the basics
Intel has been around since 1968, growing to become the biggest semiconductor chip maker at one point (it’s now second, behind Samsung). Thanks to the phenomenal success of its x86 architecture chips, Intel components can be found in most computers, whether they’re running Windows or macOS.
AMD isn’t anywhere near as big as Intel, but it’s still Intel’s biggest competitor in the x86 market – the laptops and desktops we all use every day. AMD continues to battle Intel for market share in consumer computer processors, and since the acquisition of ATI in 2006, also competes with Nvidia for the graphics card and chipsets market, too.
When people want to know about Intel vs AMD, they usually want to know about how their desktop processors compare, but broad generalisations are difficult – each firm makes so many CPUs, you really need to match up specific models against each other.
In general, AMD is known for better value, while Intel offers better performance, but this is by no means a hard and fast rule – and the balance tends to tip through the months and years as each company comes out with new components.
Intel vs AMD: the processors
Intel’s newest line of CPUs are the 8th-generation chips codenamed Coffee Lake. As has been the case for a number of years, you can pick from i3, i5 and i7 processors inside your desktop or laptop, with performance and price increases as you go up that list.
Over on the AMD side, the company’s top-end processors at the moment are the second-generation Ryzen set, following on from the excellent original Ryzen family that launched in 2016. As with Intel, you’ve got a choice of different performance levels for both laptop and desktop: from cheapest and least powerful to most expensive and top end, there’s the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7.
Which is best? It really depends what you want from your computer system and how much money you’re willing to spend: AMD’s chips typically offer more cores and more threads, whereas Intel chips have the higher clock speeds. On top of that, the two companies also take different architecture approaches to integrated graphics – which may or may not be a concern depending on whether you’re installing a separate graphics card.
To give you a couple of practical examples, Intel’s chips are likely to get you the faster frame rates on your top-end gaming titles, whereas AMD’s chips often have the edge where many tasks need to run concurrently, such as when you’re encoding or editing video.
Intel vs AMD: other products
As a result of its acquisition of ATI, AMD has a host of graphics cards in its line-up as well, an area which Intel isn’t directly involved in (though it does develop integrated graphics chips as part of its processor units). In terms of market share, AMD is playing second fiddle here too, this time to Nvidia – but it still has plenty to offer.
One area where AMD does undeniably dominate the market is in gaming consoles – custom AMD chips power both the Sony PlayStation and Xbox One lines, whereas Intel doesn’t get a look in. There’s no question of having to choose between Intel and AMD here.
Intel does dabble in more experimental projects than AMD: it’s tried its hand at wearables, drones, self-driving systems and all kinds of other tech, which of course it can afford to do given its gargantuan size.
In some ways these are two very different companies, but in the most important area – desktop and laptop processors – they’re more closely tied than they have been for years. You can buy from both manufacturers with confidence, but look up processor benchmarks on the web and compare prices for a full picture.
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