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AMD vs. Intel, Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up?
AMD vs. Intel, Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up? - PCSTATS
Age has mellowed my thirst for speed, and my upgrade schedule has slowed to a yearly pace, but that doesn't mean I'm settling for any less. (Summer 2006)
Filed under: Editorial Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Intel / AMD Jun 14 2006   C. Sun  
Home > Reviews > Editorial > Intel / AMD

Once again it's time to get into the boxing ring for another battle of AMD vs. Intel! And despite the strong opinions this editorial is likely to stir up, I always appreciate hearing back from you. I'm sure plenty of people will disagree with my take on the processor industry, but hey that's why I'm the tech analyst!

With that in mind, it's time for some up to the minute commentary on the state of the computer world. The AMD vs. Intel battlefront has changed dramatically over the last three years, and like you, I have gone the path that most enthusiasts have. I want the best performance for my hard earned cash, so I choose the fastest available hardware without really considering who manufacturers the parts... after all, does it really matter who makes the fastest CPU?

Age has mellowed my thirst for speed, and my upgrade schedule has slowed to a yearly pace, but that doesn't mean I'm settling for any less. To fit into this leisurely schedule I've had to focus a bit more on evolving technologies, and do my best to avoid the lemons (hello RDRAM!?) and technological evolutionary branches which aren't going anywhere... say for example ATI's Crossfire.

Here's how it all plays out in five easy steps.

Step 1: It's the Performance, Stupid!

There's little doubt that AMD's K8 Athlon64 processor is currently the fastest architecture available. The Athlon64 architecture is superior to Intel's Netburst (the architecture that drives the Pentium 4) in every which way, and Intel's band-aid fixes have not been enough to keep up with the perpetual underdog from Austin. It's true that Intel does have a real winner with its Pentium M and Pentium III pedigreed Core Duo, but these are primarily mobile CPUs, and consequently beyond the scope of what I'll be speaking on.

What was it that happened to so dramatically shift the position between Intel and AMD's processors?Why is Intel faltering on the desktop front and AMD winning the hearts and minds of geeks world wide? It certainly isn't for lack of advertising, but that's another story.

The real reason for all of this upheaval and change is Intel's Netburst architecture. It was supposed to last for 10 years when it was introduced in 2000, however that lifespan was cut short in 2003 when Intel struggled so publicly with the Prescott core. The initial product was full of kinks, its performance was lousy, it suffered from voltage leakage, and it was pretty obvious that many of its faults were due to the way Intel "improved" its processors from one speed generation to the next. The days of the good old die shrink and ramp up are certainly dead now.

After some initial questions to the necessity of a 64-bit processor in a 32-bit world, AMD's Athlon64 processor was well on its way to becoming the sweetheart of computer geeks. It's efficient core architecture allows the Athlon64 to handle more work per clock cycle than the Pentium 4/D (which was also the case with AMD's previous generation), so more gets done with less so to speak.

Intel's wildcard has always been its special CPU SSE series instructions, but that advantage has also dwindled away. While AMD's parts often do not support the latest Intel instructions at the time of introduction, the company does tend to integrate them in time to coincide with the release of software that uses these new features. In fact, if you look at the enhanced instruction sets in the latest AMD Athlon64 processors, you'll notice that it supports more instructions than an equivalent Intel Pentium 4 processor!

Perhaps Intel's one saving grace is that the Pentium 4/D can still overclock quite well, with a little inventive cooling it will achieve frequencies that AMD users can only reach with extreme cooling. Realistically though as nice as the round numbers are, these are empty goals. An Athlon64 may be clocked a whole gigahertz slower than a Pentium 4, but it still performs much better in benchmarks; the correlation between frequency and performance is pretty much dead.

On the horizon, Intel's upcoming 'Conroe' core is starting to look like it might give AMD a run for its money, but it's not available yet so comparing it with current technology is not appropriate.

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Contents of Article: Intel / AMD
 Pg 1.  — AMD vs. Intel, Will the Best CPU Please Stand Up?
 Pg 2.  Step 2: Heat and Reliability
 Pg 3.  Step 4: The Forgotten Factor is the Chipset
 Pg 4.  There once was a world of two desktop processors

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