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Intel vs. AMD CPU in desktop: Does it matter?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 6, 2012 8:44 AM PDT
Intel vs. AMD CPU in desktop: Does it matter?

I have to replace my 8-year-old Dell desktop soon, currently using
Windows XP SP3. In my research I found, among other things,
one thing that determines the price of a replacement machine is the
PC processor. It is the apparent difference in cost between the AMD
and the INTEL i3, i4,or i5. The price difference seems to be about
$100 or more if I look at Intel i4 or i5. (I hope I didn't goof on the Intel
product numbers). For my general household use with no gaming,
only light photo work, e-mail, Web surfing, and use of Microsoft
Office, will it matter much which I processor I buy? A computer with
the AMD processer is a lot cheaper. Will it be similar or would I
see a great difference between using AMD versus Intel. When
do processor brands and speed make a difference? Your
explanation and thoughts are appreciated.

- Submitted by Mel F.
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For me it's a budget decision.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / April 6, 2012 9:03 AM PDT

At the office we use Visual Studio a lot. The AMD machines never seen to have the punch so we skip all the debate and get the Intel. With the changes to the latest i7 models, we even use those in our laptops. covers it again.

But AMD has the budget down pat. And you may see some nice AMD powered Ultrabooks but unlike the old Ford vs. Chevy debate the Intel machines tend to get a little extra where the AMD machines tend to be cut to the bone at times. You may find AMD more often with 4GB RAM and the Intel box with 6GB. Who knows why except the makers are trying to reach your price point.

At the office, we pay by the hour so if we put in a faster machine, it's paid back faster. Going cheap at the office rarely pays off.

At home I use the same machines and enjoy what I have.

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AMD vs Intel
by ghost7772 / April 6, 2012 1:18 PM PDT

The main difference between the two CPU manufacturers is the price.
In the latest upgrade of CPU's in the CPU war, Intel first came out with the i7 CPU, but as only the people buying an i7 based system were the type of people who had a lot of money to spend, or the people who just HAVE to have the 'latest, and greatest' Intel, came out with a more economical i5 CPU, and then as the i5 didn't go as good as they thought, they then came out with the i3. AMD on the other hand didn't have to make cheaper versions in order to sell their product.
There are other things also such as architecture, and the way the CPU is programmed to carry out how it processes information, but unless you are a dedicated gamer or use a lot of high powered photo editing, or have the computer hooked up to a meter that measures in nano-seconds, you'll never notice the difference. There are certain instances where you might choose an AMD over an Intel or an Intel over an AMD, The Intel i7 has an onboard video controller, and memory controller and AMD doesn't, but if you're a dedicated gamer, you're not going to care about an on board video controller anyway because you're going to have a top of the line video card or two in your system. But it's the specialized things that you are going to be doing that will determine which companies CPU based computer you go with.
In your question you stated that you were not going to specialize in anything, i.e. gaming. You stated that the most advanced thing you were going to do is some photography, so as your new computer is just going to be a general use computer I'd suggest the most inexpensive computer that will do what you want to do with it. A lot of people will choose Intel over AMD because EVERYONE has heard of Intel, because they advertise all the time. Well, the advertising is not free, and the money for the advertising has to come from someplace, so next time you see an AMD, and Intel based computer side by side and the only difference is the price and the CPU, ask yourself if you want to spend the extra money for advertising, or if you want to pay for a night out with the money you saved.
Also whenever I've compared computers I've also noticed that the AMD based computer always came with more things in it, such as bigger hard drive, better video and things like that.

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Totally agree
by phoghat / April 20, 2012 10:55 AM PDT
In reply to: AMD vs Intel

If you want to play Crysis at full res, go buy the more expensive spread, but if you're like me at 95% of the rest of the world and just want the dam 'puter to do what you want, AMD's the answer. It's always worked for me, even no that I'm running Ubuntu on most of the machines in the house.

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AMD vs Intel
by william yeh / April 20, 2012 2:05 PM PDT
In reply to: AMD vs Intel

so next time you see an AMD, and Intel based computer side by side and the only difference is the price and the CPU, ask yourself if you want to spend the extra money for advertising, or if you want to pay for a night out with the money you saved.
THIS IS BEST. i agree to what u said. i for one am using an AMD LAP TOP and it is going great. i do loads of documentaion work that is IN MS WORD, POWER POINT AND FLOW CHART IN Dia SOFT. not just average joes documenting, real heavy stuffs. any ways i like AMD for it gives me almost same performance with cheaper PROCESSOR.


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by openliberal / April 26, 2012 11:43 AM PDT
In reply to: AMD vs Intel

I do video editing running an i7 with lots of video card. Intel is definitely better for that, however even for "real heavy documentation" (I just have to say that there is no such thing as "heavy documentation"), AMD is great. Intel would just be a pride point.

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by purestone / April 21, 2012 4:24 AM PDT
In reply to: AMD vs Intel

Amd has a memory controller, what are you talking about!!

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Onboard gfx
by redbeard74 / April 27, 2012 3:50 PM PDT
In reply to: Amd

Most AMD systems come with an onboard graphics processor as well. Since you are doing some video editing, albeit "light" editing, it is probably advisable to get a system with a discrete graphics board or at least one with onboard graphics and has a graphics card slot on the motherboard so you can upgrade the system yourself. This can be done either immediately or at a later date. The reason for this is that video editing work will suck a LOT of power from your CPU and significantly slow down your system speed. It also has the advantage of allowing you to choose the card which YOU want rather than the one the OEM decides you should be using.
Now this opens up another can of worms as to which brand of graphics card you should purchase. Basically there are two major players in the discrete graphics arena - nVidia and AMD/ATi. Both make fine products, and they are constantly doing battle with one another for "king of the hill". The top-end boards are generally for dedicated gaming and you should avoid the ultra pricey ones which are marketed as workstation graphics boards. These would simply be overkill for your needs and wallet and not fit in with the rest of your system configuration.

I hope that I haven't gotten too technical and clouded the issue for you even more.

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Working from home now...
by Rochellethequeen / June 26, 2015 6:04 AM PDT
In reply to: AMD vs Intel

Thank you for such a clear, concise answer. I am purchasing a new computer because I will start working from home soon and I experienced sticker shock at the store when comparing the AMD versus Intel processors. Thank you for helping me to make an informed decision.

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Go with Intel....always
by bammike / April 6, 2012 10:43 AM PDT

There's a reason the AMD is cheaper. I have found the AMD processors to be sluggish on most machines. This may be different on high end AMD processors, but none I have come across.


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by dwensch / April 10, 2012 2:17 PM PDT

I'm sure you worked on computers infested with spyware.. and if the drive is 5400rpm then yes, things will get slower.. but on a normal pc with 7200rpm or an ssd amd is really great.

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Funny I have been in IT sales for 15 years
by gsutton2 / April 20, 2012 11:56 AM PDT

I have sold everything from desktop to advanced servers and the only thing I can find difference is a matter of preference, nothing to do (or very little) with performance. For servers I mostly sell Intel because in advanced environments they must have complete compatibility among all the servers so they can easily move applications between them. However, in any other application it is not going to make a difference.

However, you are correct there is a reason Intel charges more, because they are Intel and they spend a lot more on advertising.

If you are buying the computer for homes use there is absolutely NO reason to pay more $$ for Intel other than some marketing BS.

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AMD units run cooler?
by GeBoulgaris / April 21, 2012 9:19 PM PDT

To my experience AMD units has reduced requirements on cooling and they live longer.
On the other hand INTEL has better support from microsoft.
If I m wrong please correct me.

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Ok you're wrong about better support from Microsoft.
by thewizardofahhs / May 4, 2012 4:32 AM PDT
In reply to: AMD units run cooler?

Intel and the corresponding support chips are not well supported by microsoft.
try and install windows xp on intel hardware with SATA hard drives and no floppy drive to load drivers from.
However AMD will install perfectly without a floppy driver (and most PC's no longer have a floppy)

The same is true for graphics. Even windowsupdate will not have drivers for your integrated intel video but they will for most AMD/ATI integrated graphics. This is true for XP, Vista and windows 7.

Take a typical Intel system like an HP Pavilion a6628f. when you install Vista or windows 7 and check device manager SM Bus is not supported and the intel chipset inf must be downloaded (separately from intel or HP, NOT available thru windowsupdate).

Now do the same thing with an HP Pavilion A1600n and virtually all the drivers are either native on the windows installation DVD or available thru windowsupdate.

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Support from Microsoft for AMD
by GeBoulgaris / May 12, 2012 6:38 PM PDT

Well, I have in mind the 64-bit architecture from AMD that was not fully exploited in windows and other applications. Several unix systems have better support.
Anyhow I buy AMD systems and use the money that I save for more memory and a descent graphics card.
Usually the bottle neck is on the memory and the data stream from the disk. If one really needs high data transfer rate, one has to consider a raid system.

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I need Intel
by openliberal / April 26, 2012 11:47 AM PDT

Intel is actually a big advancement in some applications. For example, I us After Effects and Premiere Pro (as well as photoshop and all other adobe creative software) for video editing. Those programs do not support AMD setups for offloading rendering to the GPU. I am also not a big fan of my AMD/ATI graphics card. Nvidia is definitely better for that.

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AMD Not Sluggish!!!
by kimbrazie / April 21, 2012 1:39 AM PDT

I just bought a Toshiba Satellite L645D-S4053 triple core laptop and it responds as fast as my Intel core i5( 2nd gen) desktop. I use it to play Runescape, Starcraft, and last but not least WOW. I did upgrade the memory to 8 gigs, same as my core i5. I have found no discrepancies between the 2 processors. As Mel stated he wants a desktop and is not a gamer, I don't really think there is a difference. I think it is a matter of upgrading the memory. My triple core was not as expensive as the i5, but performs as well as the i5. ***To Mel, Buy whatever you feel is the best for you, Just upgrade your memory and good luck!!!!!***

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reinstall os
by openliberal / April 26, 2012 11:48 AM PDT
In reply to: AMD Not Sluggish!!!

If you reinstall your os on your older desktop, it will probably be faster. Newer computers are ALWAYS faster right out of the box, but they may get bogged down much sooner.

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Reinstall OS
by kimbrazie / May 10, 2012 2:23 PM PDT
In reply to: reinstall os

Every 6 months I reinstall windows on my desktop so that it remains fresh. I will also do the same with the laptop. Again as I stated, I have found no difference in the processor speeds. Unless the rotational speeds between the 2 hard drives are different. I have upgraded the hard drives to 7200 rpm drives with the same amount of ram with no marked difference between the 2 processors. Both the laptop and desktop are running 7200 drives and the same amount of ram. It is also a matter of keeping up the updates and flashing the BIOS as well, to which I don't recommend unless you know what your doing.

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by falconflyer174 / April 6, 2012 10:50 AM PDT

I have always bought AMD proc's for financial reasons. There is no reason to pay the extra premium for an Intel proc if the AMD will do what you want. In the uses that you have specified there would be no practical difference. I use my AMD Phenom II Quad core (3.4 Gh) for Photo editing,surfing and MS Office as well as gaming. For the gaming I have gone to a GTX 550 Ti v-card as the video card is the most important part of gaming use. There is no reason to go for a high-end v-card unless you are planning to do some heavy gaming. Go with AMD and save the money for better peripherals, such as a larger monitor (22-23"), or a better printer.

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by falconflyer174 / April 19, 2012 10:49 AM PDT
In reply to: AMD/Intel

As addendum to my previous post, I would also recommend buying as much RAM as you can afford. If you do substantial Photo work or store lots of pic's, go with a large Hard drive, 1TB if you can afford it. Also you might consider using an SSD (Solid State Drive) for your Operating System ie Windows. My recent upgrade has gone that route with a 64GB SSD for the OS. Cooling is also important and for that reason I have moved my system to a CoolerMaster HAF 922 case which has 2 200mm fans as well as facility for the installation of 2 additional 120 mm fans. For CPU cooling I am using the older Hyper 212 Plus on the CPU. Stock cooling was OK but my apartment gets warm in the summer even with A/C and the cooler your PC runs the better.

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by DOSpower / April 6, 2012 11:02 AM PDT

Dear Mel F.,

Given your work patterns I would suggest you look at some reviews of processors. It is confusing but at any given price point the intel processors are generally rated better performers than the AMD processors at most (not all) price points. I would recommend you take a look at the various websites out there including Cnet, and a few others.

The real pain that exists at all times with technology is if you can wait you will be rewarded. Both intel and AMD are scheduled to release a new 'crop' of processors later in the year, which will almost certainly provide better performance and will almost certainly have a discounting of the cyurrent processors on the market.

If you can wait for six months or so then you will have a better position to assess the best value for money out there, otherwise my personal orientation for your needs would be an intel processor possibly one in the pentium range, which is a less costly option than the i3 range.

Good luck with the reasearch.

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There's always something six months out
by MightyDrakeC / April 6, 2012 4:12 PM PDT
In reply to: Research

There's always something great that's six months out. If you wait for that great thing, then there will be something else six months beyond that. So, unless it's a deal-breaker feature, don't wait. Get the best machine in your price range today, and chances are you'll be happy with it for years.

The bang-for-the-buck battle between Intel and AMD goes back and forth all the time. In the current iteration, I think Intel is a little in the lead at the mid to high end. Not by a huge margin, but that seems to be the consensus. At the low end I think they're pretty much on par.

While the individual tasks you mention are not very strenuous by today's standards, one thing you don't mention is your work habits. I tend to keep a bunch of windows and tabs open at one time. Most people I know tend to make a point of shutting down everything they're not currently looking at. If you're the type to have a lot of stuff open, then you're going to want to spend a little more on extra RAM, and maybe a little extra on the processor. At least dual core and maybe even quad core. But, if you're the type to routinely shut things down, then pretty much anything that you can buy new that's not rock-bottom-of-the-line will likely last you for at least a few years.

So, I'd say, don't obsess over the brand of processor. The other features of the machine will probably have a greater impact on the performance at whatever your budget is. For the vast majority of situations, at a given price point, you're not going to see a noticeable difference unless the two machines are sitting next to each other so you can actually see how fast they perform some task.

Having just said that, my brother works for AMD. So, unless the balance is way out of whack, I tend to buy AMD. But that's obviously a personal preference I have.


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you don't know what you're talking about
by kichigai808 / April 20, 2012 7:31 PM PDT
In reply to: Research

At most price points the AMD is a much better value and they are very reliable.
There is no reason to wait as CPU's will always be changing. I have been building my computers for a while now and have used both Intel and AMD cpu's and have recently gone only with AMD. I use photoshop extensively with very large files and yes the Intel is faster but in most cases only by a couple of seconds.

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CPU Benchmarks can point the way
by cgmusselman / April 21, 2012 3:00 AM PDT
In reply to: Research

In addition to the review sites DOSpower lists, you can get a comparison of processor performance at:
another service I use is:

I agree with the majority opinion that all modern CPUs provide more power than most persons can use.

I make a point of having both an AMD (now Athlon II X4 645) and an Intel (I3-2120) machine in my lab. Both are inexpensive and powerful.


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Intel Versus AMD Processors
by Ron Geiken / April 6, 2012 11:12 AM PDT

I have a Lenovo i7-860 in my Desktop with 8 gig of ram. This processor has 4 core plus hyper-threading which means that it looks like 8 processors. The speed is 2.8 GHz. I can't imagine ever going back to anything less that this. I have had it for about 1 1/2 years, and it works as great today as the day that I started it up. You will never be sorry for going for more power. Everything happens quick as a wink. This is the best computer that I have ever owned. I also have an i7-2760QM at 2.2 GHz in my Lenovo Laptop with 6 gig or ram. This one is really fast too. I plan on having these two computers for at least the next 5 or 6 years. It does everything that I have ever wanted. I have had computers with DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 98SE, Windows XP, and finally Windows 7 which is on all of my computers and also on my ASUS Netbook. That personal computer is my most disappointing. i7 or faster is the level to shoot for. Over 6 years, my Desktop would cost about $15 a month. The Laptop will cost about $10 a month. I will be more than glad to have a cost of $25 a month for 2 high power computers. For sure, buy one that you will enjoy using.

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AMD CPU vs Intel CPU
by ghost7772 / April 6, 2012 1:49 PM PDT

<<<When, Intel first came out with the i7 CPU, but as only the people buying an i7 based system were the type of people who had a lot of money to spend, or the people who just HAVE to have the 'latest, and greatest' thing.>>>
In reading your post, you seem to be one of the people being referred to in the above excerpt.
As I build custom desktop computer systems, I know that there is a LOT more to what goes into a GOOD computer besides the make of the CPU.
The most important thing in a computer is the motherboard. You could have the most expensive Intel CPU in your computer and a really cheep motherboard, and my real cheep AMD CPU with a top of the line motherboard is going to run rings around your i7.
Another determining factor in a good system is the RAM memory and its speed. As the most work is actually carried out in the memory having the most you can have and the fastest speed memory will be a MAJOR determining factor in how fast your system is. Who manufactured the CPU in your system is a MINOR factor in how fast your system is.
Some computer manufactures use a lot better components in their computers then others, and that should REALLY be the determining factor in which computer you purchase regardless of who made the CPU that went into it.
I've made systems for myself with both AMD, and Intel CPU's in them, when performance is solely based on who made the CPU, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE!!!

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AMD Upgrade ??
by bugged62 / April 21, 2012 5:33 PM PDT
In reply to: AMD CPU vs Intel CPU

These posts are great and yet more understandable by those in the Industry. I am seeking advice , My Desktop is 2 years old and seems obsolete at the lofty levels of these discussions. Now is there some kind folk out here who would advise on a upgrade path the Socket is +AM2. The processor is constantly running at Max speed 2600Mhz. Should I try to upgrade the CPU Or chuck the Motherboard out and buy what ?. When I added the 5670 Graphics I upgraded the power unit to 550 Watts. My usage of the system is General Purpose but with video conversion to DVD (+Edit) and music library with large Photography Library with Edit and touch up.
Help Please !!

My system is : Operating System
MS Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit SP2
AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+ 44 °C AM2+
Brisbane 65nm Technology
8.00 GB Dual-Channel DDR2 @ 371MHz (6-6-6-18)
LL3200T (1360x768@60Hz)
ATI Radeon HD 3200 Graphics (MSI)
ATI Radeon HD 5670 (ATI AIB) 61 °C
CrossFire Disabled
Hard Drives
488GB Seagate ST3500418AS ATA Device (SATA) 32 °C 7200 speed
488GB Seagate ST500DM002-1BD142 ATA Device (SATA) 28 °C 7200
Optical Drives
Realtek High Definition Audio

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You get what you pay for
by diveroli / April 20, 2012 11:25 AM PDT

Most people buy "the cheapest PC I can get", evaluate negatively the excellent reply by Ron, to find later that, as they install what they need in the PC, inevitably it gets sluggish, sometimes very much so.

Having used PCs for over 30 years, and spending in front of a PC hours every day for my hobbies and work, I have learned to invest on it as much as I can. Two months ago I built my own Intel i7-960 CPU. Between case, power source, motherboard, graphics card, peripherals and so on, I paid about 3,000 Euro. Had I bought an "el cheapo" CPU I would have saved, perhaps, 150 Euro. Instead I have now a PC that is blazingly fast, I no longer have to "wait for the computer to apply this bl... filter to this photograph", a general backup takes minutes instead of hours, even browsing the web is faster! I can keep open dozens of applications with almost no slowdown.

Of course, a fast CPU does not make sense for people who only read emails and google on the web. But then, almost everybody does also other things: editing holiday pictures, putting together documents with photos and sounds, playing one lovely game: all things that require significant CPU stamina.

My advice: ask a professional for advice before buying a PC: you may spend a 10% more in his fee, and then save much more in short- and long-term costs.

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I thought I had seen this before
by TWB404 / April 6, 2012 11:24 AM PDT
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Mel sent me an email on this and he must have posted it...
by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / April 19, 2012 7:17 AM PDT

in the forums also. No biggie, it doesn't hurt to have it answered twice by different people.

This one has a lot more people chiming in from the readers of the CNET Community newsletter.

The more the merrier.


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