In terms of cost-effectiveness, performance, power consumption, overclocking, and thermals – which brand offers better gaming performance? Some experts say AMD processors, while others say Intel. What’s the difference? Do any factors affect which would be better for you? We’ve compiled a quick guide to help you understand which processor is best for your gaming needs.
However, please note that AMD and Intel are both large companies with hundreds of SKUs under their belt. A more accurate comparison would be a particular processor from AMD vs. a comparatively similar processor from Intel – such as the latest AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D vs. the Intel i9-12900K.
Still, there are some “broad strokes” differences between Team Red and Team Blue and it is quite likely that these differences alone can and do influence the buying decisions of a gamer. If you are in no team, here we will discuss how both brands compare to each other in terms of key comparison metrics.
At one point or the other, almost every leading gaming hardware publication worth its salt has compared AMD vs. Intel: Tom’s Hardware, PCGamer, Spearblade, WePC, PC World – you name it. Today, we are going to present the comparison of comparisons – the master guide to truly understand which brand makes better gaming CPUs.
Let’s dive right in!
Generic differences between AMD and Intel CPUs
Choosing a processor is an essential part of building your first PC. There are many different options to choose from, and they are constantly evolving. This means that it can be difficult to compare which is the best option for you.
Intel was once the undisputed king of processors. However, over the last few years, AMD has been making inroads into this market with their Ryzen line of CPUs. They have some advantages over Intel’s offerings, including more cores per dollar and better integrated graphics on certain models such as the Ryzen 5 3400G. These chips also have competitive performance when it comes to gaming at 1080p resolutions or below thanks to their high clock speeds and core counts.
With the arrival of AMD’s Ryzen 3000 processors, the reign of Intel has been challenged. After years of stagnation, AMD has taken the lead in terms of raw performance per dollar and they have no intention of letting it slip away. But are they really better than Intel? It all comes down to what you’re looking for: gaming performance, cost-effectiveness, or thermals.
Intel has been the number one choice for gamers for years. They have been widely regarded as having the best single-threaded performance out there. AMD processors have generally been a little slower but they make up for it with better multi-threaded capabilities and more cores at a much lower price point.
Now that AMD has released their Ryzen 3000 CPUs things are more complicated. Intel’s i9 9900K remains the fastest gaming processor available but it costs almost twice as much as its nearest competitor from AMD and performs worse in multi-threaded applications. The newly announced i9 10980XE will be even more expensive with fewer cores and threads than either the Ryzen 9 3900X or 3950X, which perform almost as well in games at 1080p and 1440p resolutions.
Cost-effectiveness: AMD wins
With AMD, you get more cores and threads for the same amount of money.
The AMD vs Intel debate is a long-standing one, and it doesn’t show any sign of abating. Both companies have their own approach to chip manufacturing and both have their strengths, so the choice really comes down to what you’re looking for in a processor. And if that turns out to be the price-per-core or price-per-thread, AMD processors are remarkably more cost-effective.
When compared to Intel, AMD’s processors are usually more cost-effective for gaming builds. A typical AMD processor will be able to perform similar tasks at a lower price than the equivalent Intel processor. On average, AMD processors are less expensive than the Intel alternatives.
There are two types of performance we have to look at.
Single-core performance: Intel wins
Intel’s processors tend to perform better than those of AMD in single-core workloads. Because they have a higher single-clock speed and a higher number of cores, Intel processors are generally faster than AMD’s models.
The majority of computer programs including games don’t parallelize computing, meaning they need higher single-clock speeds to run faster. This, however, is fast-changing. This also doesn’t apply to larger workloads such as AI, machine learning, data analysis, 3D work, etc. where applications usually like to have more cores than higher per-core speeds. A lot more games, consequently, like higher core counts now.
Multi-core performance: AMD wins
AMD chips are generally better in multi-core performance or multitasking applications. Applications that today love them some more cores include 3D modeling, video editing, image editing, and rendering programs – and graphically-demanding games as well.
A content creator or someone who uses heavy productivity apps would rather go with AMD’s Threadripper anyway, whereas here we are mainly comparing AMD’s Ryzen series and Intel’s Core series – gaming-oriented processors.
In-game FPS/gaming performance: Intel wins
The majority of the games when tested on a test bench show a marginal or respectable lead of Intel CPUs vs. modern AMD Ryzen CPUs in terms of in-game FPS.
Intel has much better optimizations in place to run games and interact with the other hardware, including Nvidia GPUs.
Money, not an inconvenience? Want the highest FPS possible? Need the absolute fastest silicon on the market that won’t melt running ray-traced gaming sessions at 1440p over 150 FPS?
Choose any card from the Nvidia 30 series after the RTX 3070.
Oh wait, we are talking about gaming performance on processors for some reason. See, as long as you have a decent processor that was released in the last 3 to 4 years and costs above $100 all that really matters for high-FPS gameplay is your GPU, not the processor. Still, processors can bottleneck. Or not, who cares? You just want the fastest GPU and the faster processor. We get that.
Not even a comparison. Go with the best Intel processor on the market right now to pair with that RTX 3090 and your framerates will be in the top 5% of all gamers whether it’s Cyberpunk, Doom Eternal, Control, or the dreaded Crysis 3.
Features: Intel wins
Intel has a clear superiority when it comes to features such as DDR5 memory or PCIe 5.0 support.
Intel is generally at the forefront of innovation. Being the company with the lion’s share of the market, most hardware manufacturers and specification developers have to optimize for Intel platforms. This also applies to game developers optimizing their games for Intel-exclusive or Intel-native technologies rather than optimizing for AMD processor capabilities.
Thermals: AMD wins
AMD’s lower temperatures are a result of their lower power draw and allow for more overclocking headroom.
“AMD runs hotter than Intel” was a commonly thrown-around piece of computer hardware wisdom just a few years back. Apparently, AMD has improved their thermal game significantly across the board in their recent product ranges.
Lower thermals also make them easier to cool and allow for more overclocking.
A good point to note here would be idle temperature vs. during-load temperature. Intel’s processors remain cooler than AMD processors when sitting idle (no CPU-demanding processes running on the computer). But under load, AMD processors give much cooler average temperatures than Intel ones.
Without getting into detailed comparisons, you can safely assume that AMD annihilates Intel in any modern CPU-to-CPU comparison in terms of under-load temperatures.
Overclocking: AMD wins
All AMD processors are overclockable when you buy them. Intel provides different, costlier variations for overclocking.
Overclocking helps you feel in control. If you are not a CPU-overclocker then this metric means nothing to you. But if you, you would appreciate AMD’s ease of overclocking. Download the Ryzen Master utility and you can overclock any non-archaic AMD Ryzen CPU with a single click.
For Intel, you have to buy an overclockable model. The K and X suffixes in some Intel CPUs represent the lack of “unlocked” frequency multipliers – meaning you can manually overclock these processors.
- The Intel i7-12700F (non-K) cannot be overclocked. It costs $300.
- The Intel i7-12700K can be overclocked. It costs $370.
A Ryzen 5950X when maxed out can easily outperform an i9-10900K or 11900K. However, “headroom” is a debatable attribute. Historically, Intel CPUs had more overclocking potential or headroom whereas Ryzen CPUs were pretty limited in how much they can be overclocked. Sheer speed wise Ryzens were still faster, sure, but a roomier potential is always better.
However, with the 10th, 11th, and now 12th generation, that coveted headroom of Intel CPUs has shrunk. You can still overclock, but the power draw and temperatures will be insane if, say, you attempt to match Ryzen 9’s top overclock speeds with an i7-12700K. This means you need a beefier CPU cooler or liquid cooler.
Power consumption: AMD wins
AMD processors consume much less power than Intel ones.
AMD processors use much less power to deliver top performance than Intel chips. The complete package power in a multi-threader environment sees processes like Ryzen 5 5600X, Ryzen 7 5800X, Ryzen 9 5950X, etc. beating the i5-12600K by a significant margin.
AMD chips can easily cross 5,000 points in Cinebench while drawing sub-80 watts – whereas Intel struggles to keep its power draw below 110-120W.
So, who wins?
It depends on the situation.
- In any scenario where the more the cores, the merrier – AMD has a clear upper hand.
- If you wish to utilize modern technologies and have higher in-game FPS, choose Intel.
- If you have an AMD graphics card, choose AMD processors and if you have an Nvidia graphics card, consider going for an Intel processor.
- If you are a PC enthusiast who loves overclocking, lower temperatures, and lower power consumption, go with AMD.