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AMD vs. Intel: It's An Eternal Struggle

AMD vs. Intel: It's An Eternal Struggle - PCSTATS
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Abstract: I was not a fan of Intel's Pentium 4 processor when it came out about 2 years ago. I didn't like the longer pipeline which resulted in lower IPC each MHz could handle... (Summer 2002)
Filed under: Editorial Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Intel Aug 14 2002   Colin Sun  
Home > Reviews > Editorial > Intel

I find it very amusing when I get an email calling me an AMD zealot or saying that I am biased towards AMD. I have never considered myself "loyal" to either AMD or Intel, I simply go with whomever is faster.

Since I upgrade my motherboard and/or CPU pretty much every six months I have an interesting dilemma... Should I stick with an AMD setup and get a Thoroughbred processor or should I perhaps do something more radical and go with a Pentium 4? Here are a few of the things I contemplated while making my decision.

Performance:

Like many others I was caught up in the hype surrounding the "Thoroughbred" 0.13 micron AthlonXP based processor. I honestly thought it would bring AMD back into the spotlight and allow them to retake the performance crown from Intel.

However, after playing with a Thoroughbred I was brought back down to reality. Why would a shrunken core (0.18 micron Palomino to 0.13 micron T-Bred) improve performance by leaps and bounds? It wouldn't since AMD didn't add any features to the core.

I was not a fan of Intel's Pentium 4 processor when it came out about 2 years ago. I didn't like the longer pipeline which resulted in lower IPC each MHz could handle. Because of this the P4 had a very rocky start, the 1.5 GHz Williamette (0.18 micron, 256 L2 cache) P4 could barely out perform Intel's own Pentium III 1 GHz!

Coming back to the present, now with lots of software supporting SSE2 and with the introduction of the Northwood (0.13 micron, 512KB L2 cache) Pentium 4, things are totally different. Clock for clock the P4 is still not as powerful as the Athlon but it's much closer. Also thanks to the new core's ability to clock high, Intel has retaken the performance crown away from AMD and doesn't look like they'll be losing it any time soon.

Previously in this PCSTATS Series

AMD vs. Intel - Which is the Better Processor Now?
(November 2008)

AMD VS Intel: What to Get? Which is Better?
(September 2007)

AMD Vs Intel: Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up?
(June 2006)

AMD vs Intel: It's An Eternal Struggle
(August 2002)

Comments and Feedback?
I know AMD loyalists will scream this "Ya, Intel has the performance crown, but their CPU's run 700-800 MHz higher then AMD's! That's not fair, also you can overclock an Athlon to beat a P4." First, life's not fai r- that should be pretty obvious and so what if Intel CPU's need to run 700-800 MHz higher in order to beat an AthlonXP 2200+ (1.8 GHz)? Faster performance is faster performance and Intel's wearing the crown at the moment. AMD CPU's do overclock well and they're more fun to play with thanks to the ability to unlock the multiplier but you can also overclock P4's. Almost all 1.6A's out there can hit 2.4 GHz without even breaking a sweat, and many even can do 2.7 GHz!

With both processors overclocked, Intel still wins in terms of performance. Of course AMD's saving grace has always been price. AMD based systems and CPU's have always been a much better value, and they still are.

Cooling:

This is a place where Intel is far and away way superior to AMD. Of course, as they are a much larger company Intel can hire more dedicated engineers to design cooling solutions for their CPU's - but have you actually looked at the heatsink/fan's that come with retail boxed P4's and AMD processors?

The retail Intel heatsink is just designed so well. Not only does it have a massive amount of surface area to draw away the heat a P4 produces (highly clocked P4's can generate close to what high end AMD CPU's do), it also acts as a huge EMI shield! They're so good that even enthusiasts are using them to cool their overclocked processors! Another nice thing is just how quiet the fan is. In an enclosed case it's often almost impossible to hear it.

AMD could learn a thing or two from Intel on this, of course though I do understand that AMD is much smaller and cannot devote their engineer's time to designing better thermal solutions. They're moving in the right direction though, from those cheap generic heatsinks to Skive based models, to now requiring heatsinks to have a copper base in order to get AMD approval.

One problem AMD has is actually not their fault. If you go to your local "mom and pop" computer store look at the AMD based systems they have on sale. Often hidden away in the specifications is the CPU cooler. You're more likely to get an OEM AMD CPU rather then a retail one because OEM's are usually quite a bit cheaper so what they do is just slap on some generic cooler like the Thermaltake Volcano 6+ (I chose this cooler because a few of the local stores I frequent use this heatsink because of its low price). Most of these shops also include secondary fans to help keep things cool and again another fan add's to the decibel level.

Another point to keep in mind is how fragile the AMD CPU is. When's the last time you heard of someone that killed a P4 or P3 with heat? Or maybe having a heatsink crush the core? Now think about the horror stories you've heard about from AMD based processors... I know I remember !

Hardware websites and benchmarks are cheating AMD...

I don't frequent forums much myself anymore but whenever I see people claiming that the benchmarks being used are skewed towards Intel, it really makes my blood boil. That has got to be the most uninformed thing I've ever heard. Yes, there's a huge conspiracy against AMD and all the hardware sites are secretly being paid off by Intel to run "Intel based benchmarks", that's the only reason why Intel beats AMD... ludicrous!

Most software like the MadOnion benchmarks (PCMark, 3DMark) have SSE2 optimization but is that cheating? They also have 3D Now! code written in them too! How about the notorious SysMark2001 with the Windows Media Encoder 7.0 not using AthlonXP's SSE? AMD themselves stated that SysMark 2001 is a valid benchmark, AMD did release a patch to allow Media Encoder 7.0 to use SSE but they liked the original SysMark 2001 because even without using SSE, the Athlon scored well and it showed off the mighty FPU of the Athlon.

Quake III Arena does love the bandwidth available to the Pentium 4, it always has, but that is something which is isolated to that one game. Games like Return to Castle Wolfenstein or Jedi Knight II which use the Q3 engine don't show the same signs of loving the P4.

Like it or not SSE2 is here to stay, heck Intel even licensed SSE2 to AMD to run in their "Hammer" line of processors!

Time to set the record straight...

"Oh no, Colin has turned 180 degrees and is now a total Intel fanatic!!!" I'm sure that's what a lot of you will be saying after reading this. No, I'm not biased towards Intel, I'm simply trying to point out some facts. I don't love either company, Intel or AMD, but I do like them. They're good for each other. Just think about a world where only Intel or AMD exists. With a virtual monopoly on x86 processors, who's going to stop either company from charging you through the nose for processors? I actually like AMD more then Intel, AMD seems to listen to the public on what they want and in general they usually do try and deliver. Intel on the other hand seems a little more arrogant, pushing things down people's throat (RDRAM + P3...) instead of listening.

When people e-mail me asking about systems, I almost always tell them to go with an AMD based system. Why? AMD is, and probably always will be a better value then Intel. Value doesn't mean lousy performance either! AMD CPU's are damn fast and can give Pentium 4's a good run for its money but in the end P4's are faster!

In terms of CPU "care" Intel has this down. Their retail heatsinks are designed very well, not only to cool the CPU but the larger foot print of the socket 478 heatsinks helps shield against EMI. AMD has a lot of catching up to do. They're moving in the right direction in terms of heatsinks, the current ones bundled with the Thoroughbred XP2200+'s are a heck of a lot better in design and cooling capability then the ones that originally came with the AthlonXP (Palomino core). AMD CPU's still have severe heat issues to conquer; even the Thoroughbred (0.13 micron) runs extremely high. At those temperatures it takes only a few seconds before the little processor dies of over heating.

As an independent hardware tester and reviewer I'm quite offended when someone attacks my integrity. The benchmarks that are being used on the web are not biased towards Intel just because they use SSE2. if I wasn't allowed to test with SSE2 enabled benchmarks, it would be like testing a car's top speed without using the 5th or 6th gears.

I'm not biased towards Intel but since with all the crap floating around I just wanted to try and set the record straight. This is more of a personal rant then anything else, but hey, I'm also a consumer. If you want to flame me and my opinions you're more than welcome to e-mail me here.

Oh and just for the record, I went with a P4 1.8A which runs at 2.4 GHz on an Abit TH7II-RAID with 512MB PC1066 RDRAM and it's running faster (and quieter) then my AthlonXP 2000+ on an Abit KR7A-RAID with 512 PC2100 CL2 DDR.... for the moment that is.

Check out the most recent word on the street about processors right here, the latest memory technology here, motherboards at the end of this link, and heatsinks and cooling solutions at FrostyTech.

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Here are a few other articles that you might enjoy as well...
- AMD vs. Intel, Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up?
- The Art of Overclocking; Is It For You?
- AMD vs. Intel: It's An Eternal Struggle


 

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