The Intel vs AMD face off is as fierce as any technology rivalry, and poses the first question you’ll need to ask yourself before building a desktop PC or purchasing a laptop.
There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution here, as the two companies specialise in different use cases. Intel chips are often the best choice for gamers since they offer the best frequency speeds, while AMD processors usually excel with creative applications due to the large number of core and thread counts.
Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as saying Intel is best for gaming and AMD is best for content creation, especially with recent technological advancements on both sides blurring the lines.
With all this in mind, it can be quite a minefield when trying to find the best CPU. For this reason, we’ve provided this Intel vs AMD guide so know whether you should commit to team blue or team red.
Intel vs AMD – Desktop processors
Let’s start with desktop processors for this ultimate showdown. The most recent additions in the Intel side arrived as part of the 11th Generation (aka Rocket Lake) family. The headline chip here is the Intel Core i9-11900K, which features 8 cores, 16 threads and a 5.3GHz max boost clock speed.
On the red side, the Ryzen 5000 Series is the latest and greatest range of AMD desktop processors. The Ryzen 9 5950X is the most powerful chip in this family, featuring a whopping 16 cores, 32 threads and up to a 4.9GHz boosted clock speed. When it comes to multi-threaded performance, AMD absolute crushes Intel, proving that Team Red is once again the best option for multi-threaded workloads.
Even the more affordable Ryzen 9 5900X offers a higher number of cores and threads than Intel, coming in at 12 and 14 respectively. However, Intel has concentrated its efforts into frequency speeds for Rocket Lake, claiming that the Intel Core i9-11900K is the most powerful mainstream chip for gaming.
After testing the Intel chip for ourselves, we’re inclined to believe Team Blue, as the Core i9-11900K pushed frame rates higher than what any current AMD chip can hit. That said, the gaming performance gap between AMD and Intel is undoubtedly shrinking, with Ryzen processors now becoming competitive on all fronts.
Price also has to come into the equation here. The Intel Core i9-11900K is an expensive chip with a recommended retail price of around £530. The Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen 9 5900X officially cost £750 and £540 respectively, but are proving very difficult to purchase at these prices dues to the ongoing chip shortages.
AMD and Intel also offer more affordable processors in their latest ranges, and are probably where you’ll find the best value for money. We currently recommend the Intel Core i5-11600K as the best value desktop processor for gaming, while the Ryzen 7 5800X is a solid option for an all-purpose system that can do it all.
Intel vs AMD – Laptop processors
The Intel vs AMD rivalry isn’t exclusive to the desktop space, as it also continues over to the laptop market. However, the argument isn’t always clear cut here, as the processors are integrated into systems built by other manufacturers.
One issue here is that third-party manufacturers like to make deals and remain faithful to certain processor manufacturers. The likes of the the Dell XPS and Razer Blade 15 laptops are only currently available with Intel processor configurations, for example.
Since the processor is just one element of a laptop, it shouldn’t be the sole factor of your buying decision; you need to consider the design, display, storage space and whether you want a graphics card too. That said, picking the right processor is still very important, as nobody wants a weakling system that takes an age to load a web page or open an application.
Intel’s 11th Generation mobile chips (Tiger Lake) are the latest laptop processors on the blue side. They only launched late last year, so laptops featuring the Intel processor are still trickling through to the market.
The most impressive Tiger Lake chips are arguably those with a G suffix on the SKU, as they feature respectable integrated graphics that can run select video games without the need of a discrete graphics card. This can be useful for those who want a laptop for work, but like to play the likes of Apex Legends and Fortnite on the side.
If you want a laptop for content creation or gaming, Intel also offers a H-Series variant of its Tiger Lake chips, hitting higher CPU speeds for an improved performance. However, these processors currently max out at 35W, so we’re still waiting for Intel to launch its most powerful 11th Generation laptop chips for gaming and the like.
With all these different SKU branches, Intel’s mobile processor range is undeniably confusing. Fortunately, AMD has a more streamlined approach, as all of its Ryzen 5000 laptop chips feature both dazzling processing speeds and game-ready integrated graphics.
Ryzen 5000 laptop processors arrived early this year, and are gradually appearing in more and more laptops. including the latest iteration of the Zephyrus G14. It’s going to take a bit of time before Ryzen 5000 laptops arrive in stores in masses, so it’s far too early to make a final judgement on which is best, but early signs show that both processor options are fantastic.
It also has to be mentioned that there’s now a third major player in the mobile processor market: Apple. The MacBook ranges are currently in the process of ditching Intel chips in favour of the new Apple Silicon CPUs, and the incredibly fast performance of the new M1 chip in the MacBook Air proves that Apple was right to make this ambitious move.
Neither AMD or Intel can currently compete with the performance levels of Apple Silicon right now. If you want the most powerful ultra-portable laptop right now, look no further than the MacBook Air.
AMD vs Intel – Which is better?
Strictly speaking, there isn’t a standout winner here, as it really just depends on how you’re going to use your system.
Intel’s new Rocket Lake desktop processors are pretty underwhelming truth be told, but the likes of the Intel Core i5-11600K still proves to be an excellent option for high-end gaming. And while AMD is certainly still competitive in the gaming space, it excels more in the content creation market where high multi-threaded performances are valued above all.
The laptop scene is a tad more complicated, with both Intel Tiger Lake and Ryzen 5000 systems only just starting to trickle through to shops. Both of the mobile processor series look very impressive, so you shouldn’t be disappointed with either option, although the allure of Apple’s M1 chip can’t be ignored.
Just make sure the specs adhere to your requirements, as there’s no point buying a juggernaut chip if you only want to browse the web and watch Netflix. And don’t make the processor the most important consideration when purchasing a laptop, as there are plenty of other important factors to take into account.