There are countless companies in the computer industry
but there is only one battle that counts... AMD vs. Intel. This is a favorite
topic in the forums, yet instead of
blindly pledging allegiance to one CPU or the other, let's take a look behind the scenes
and find out which companies processor is the best bet.
Now I should say that I'm a hardware enthusiast at
heart, so for me CPU performance matters the most. I stick with gear only as
long as it keeps my PC at the front of the performance curve. After that, I drop
it like a rock and move onto greener pastures, regardless if it's the same brand
or not. After all, what's the point of brand loyalty? AMD and Intel don't love
you back, no matter how much you might sing their praises. Put another way, it's
not like AMD only sells to you, or Intel has a smiling shot of your mug on every pay stub as a testament to your past processor purchases now is it?
The nice thing about being computer enthusiast is that right
now both AMD and Intel platforms support a lot of cross compatible
hardware. Sure the CPU and motherboards are platform specific, but you can
share DDR2 memory, videocards and other peripherals easily enough. If
PC speed is what you crave, you can jump from one processor platform
to the next ever couple months, taking your memory, videocards, hard
drives and everything else along with you.
Anyway, the point I'm trying make is this. As a hardware
enthusiast you have the pick of some of the fastest computer hardware
on the planet. Ignore the urge to stick with AMD or Intel out of
tradition, go out there and find the best gear based on benchmarks!
So, who offers the best performance - is it AMD or Intel? I'm glad you
asked, the answer is....
...Intel. For the moment anyway, Intel's dual and quad core processors are the king of the heap. In particular, the companies Core 2 Duo/Quad processor lineup is out-pacing AMDs current Athlon64 X2/FX processor families. That may indeed change by the end of Q4'07, or it may not.
AMD is partly to blame for its current
situation. Big green has not refreshed its CPU lineup since the last time
PCSTATS dished the dirt on the AMD vs. Intel slugfest. AMD
won the battle back then, but relying on the now somewhat dated K8 Athlon64
processor has left AMD without a good competing CPU for Intel's "Conroe". Intel
published performance results on "Conroe" for quite some time before it was
officially released, so it's not like AMD was blindsided by it either.
Back To The Top
For its efforts, Intel has undergone more than
a few self-evaluations. It had to deal with a "Prescott" Pentium 4
voltage leak issue, it stopped pushing GHz as the singular processor metric and adopted the same kind of rating system AMD had been using for years. Then, Intel abandoned Netburst and modernized the P6 core into what we now know as the Core Solo and Core 2 Duo processor.
The Core Solo was nice, but Intel's Core 2 Duo is the real beauty. The CPU was an immediate hit among gamers from the time of its release, and it continues to out pace comparable Athlon64 processors.
Intel's previous NetBurst architecture had de-emphasized FPU power in favor of special instructions (SSE, 2, 3). This is partly the reason so many gamers ditched their Pentium 4/D computers in favor of AMD Athlon64 processors and it's more powerful FPU.
With the Intel Core processor architecture, the company finally addressed the FPU issue. Intel's "Conroe" CPU core has a very powerful FPU, and that has guaranteed a very welcome reception by gamers ever since.
As it stands in the fall of 2007, the
Intel Core 2 Duo processor is generally more powerful than AMD's Athlon64 X2/FX
series in games, and all around.
Whether you're working on multimedia
tasks, workstation or just need raw data crunching power, the Core 2 Duo
trounces AMD's best almost every time.
It's also proved its mettle as an excellent overclocker!
stepping Intel Core 2 Duo processors could overclock to 3.2 GHz+ on air cooling, and the recent 'G0' stepping can go even further. I've overclocked to the region of 3.8 GHz with the stock heatsink in fact.
By comparison, AMD's 90nm Athlon64 X2/FX processors have difficulty overclocking much past 3 GHz.... Make no mistake about it, clock for clock Intel's Core 2 Duo is currently faster than AMD's Athlon64 X2 and FX processors.
Thermal Output Improving
The Intel Pentium 4 and D processor series were notorious for
consuming a lot of power, and consequently running quite hot. The architecture
Intel based the Core 2 Duo processors on is much better in
this regard. While Pentium 4 architecture was at one time headed towards 150W TDP (Typical Design power),
many of its current processors are now pushing 85W or less. One generation before,
Intel Pentium D CPUs hovered around the 125W TDP range, late model Core 2 Duo processors (like
the E6750 ) have a 65W TDP!
It's true enough that the power values AMD and Intel
specify are not entirely comparable with each other, but total system power
measurements give a good basis for comparison. I've conducted some power draw
measurements recently, and those tests showed that Intel is genuinely kicking
high power habit. An average Intel
Core 2 Duo E6750 based computer system draws about 7W more power than a
budget AMD Sempron 3600+ based PC system with its single CPU core running at
idle. You'd think the lower power budget AMD chip would be significantly easier on
the juice than the fairly high end E6750 Core 2 Duo, but the difference
is pretty small.
With an Intel Core 2 Duo system under load,
total power draw results are impressive. For instance, a Core 2 Duo E6750 system
consumes 163W of power (total PC power draw) when running with both CPU cores
A comparable Intel Pentium D 940 system consumes 253W of power with both
processing CPU cores stressed, and an AMD Athlon64 FX-62 power system consumes upwards of 235W! It's
clear you can save a lot on the utility bills by switching to a CPU that sips
electricity. Intel offers this, with great performance. (Please keep in mind
that these are total system power draw values, not just the processor.)
I've often thought that Intel is the more innovative of the two companies when it comes to designing heatsinks for its processors. The current Core 2 Duo bifurcated radial fin heatsinks are remarkably good, and very quiet.
Gone are the days of throwing out the stock heatsink for an after market
cooler the second the box is opened... For good all around CPU cooling, it's
tough to beat Intel in terms of noise level. The stock heatsinks are just so
quiet, thanks in large part to 90mm fans and Pulse Width Modulation which allows
the rotational speed to vary based on moment to moment thermal output.
Of course, these aren't the only reasons Intel is leading with the Core 2
Duo, as we'll talk about next, chipsets play a big role....