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Intel vs. AMD: Who's got the fastest chip now?

Has AMD finally got Intel beat? Overall, the answer is no.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read
Hewlett-Packard's upcoming Sleekbooks will use AMD's newest processors.
Hewlett-Packard's upcoming Sleekbooks will use AMD's newest processors. CNET

Advanced Micro Devices new Trinity chip doesn't deliver the performance trifecta necessary to threaten Intel's market-leading position, according to most initial evaluations.

It's an old story line now: AMD comes out with a new processor that offers better graphics performance, but, overall, does little to change Intel-AMD market dynamics -- which of course heavily favors Intel.

And AMD has done it again. Tapping into the graphics processing unit (GPU) expertise it got when after acquiring ATI in 2006, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company continues to ding Intel on GPU performance.

But AMD fails to threaten Intel on central processing unit (CPU) speed and power efficiency.

But don't take my word for it. "AMD's Trinity...doesn't unseat [Intel's] Sandy Bridge from its position of performance supremacy," wrote Tom's Hardware, referring to the Intel chip design announced in January of last year.

Let's insert a quick parenthetical here. Intel is now shipping its next-generation Ivy Bridge chip, and performance will only improve vis-a-vis AMD.

That said, there's plenty of praise for AMD's graphics silicon. Game play is good: AMD's Trinity is recommended "if you're a casual gamer" by Tom's Hardware.

But for higher end games, the advantage isn't necessarily there. "Your best bet continues to be laptops with an Intel CPU and a discrete GPU from Nvidia, at least of the GT 640M level," according to Anandtech.

And note that Intel these days is touting media processing performance for tasks like transcoding: converting a file from one format to another. For example, converting a movie so it is playable on an iPod.

In this area, Intel's Quick Sync is competitive with AMD, said Anandtech.

AMD is making strides with battery life, though. "It's worth pointing out that the concerns about AMD's battery life from a few years ago are now clearly put to rest," Anandtech said.

Then there's the school of thought that Intel needs to be afraid, very afraid. "AMD has a very credible chip on their hands with Trinity, and Intel should be very worried," said chip site Semiaccurate.

But one financial firm is not that enthusiastic. "Advanced Micro Devices'...Trinity seems unlikely to gain share, and will likely compete on price rather than performance against Intel's Ivy Bridge," said MKM Partners in a post on Barron's.