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Intel vs AMD 2020: Which processor should you opt for?

The Intel vs AMD face off is as fierce as any rivalry, and poses the first question you need to ask yourself before building a desktop computer or buying a laptop.

There isn’t a “one size fits all” solution here, as the two companies specialise in different use cases. Intel chips traditionally offer the best frequency speeds and single-core performance, ensuring great gaming performances. 

AMD chips, meanwhile, often see larger core and thread counts to give the multi-core performance a boost, which comes in handy when multitasking and running complex creative applications. 

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. For example, AMD has recently claimed the Ryzen 9 5950X is the world’s best desktop processor for gaming, despite Intel traditionally holding that accolade.  

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.

Related: Best Intel Processor

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 10th Generation family. The headline chip here is the Intel Core i9-10900K, which boasts 10 cores, 20 threads and a 5.3GHz max boost clock speed.

On the red side, the Ryzen 5000 Series is the latest and greatest range of processors, which are so new that they won’t be available to buy until 5 November this year. The Ryzen 9 5950X will be the most powerful chip in this family, featuring 16 cores, 32 threads and up to a 4.9GHz boosted clock speed. AMD claims it’s more powerful than any of Intel’s desktop processors, and we’re inclined to believe them judging by the specs. 

The upcoming Ryzen 9 5900X also looks to be faster than Intel’s chip, with 12 cores, 14 threads and clock speeds that can climb as high as 4.6 GHz, despite costing a similar price to the Intel Core i9-10900K. Of course, we still need to test these Ryzen chips to make sure the performance is as good as it looks on paper.

Intel vs AMD

In April 2020, Intel announces new desktop processors as part of the 10th Gen Intel Core processor family. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Price also has to come into the equation here. The Intel Core i9-10900K is an expensive chip with a recommended retail price of £530. The Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen Ryzen 9 5900X will cost $799 and $549 respectively. AMD has yet to reveal UK pricing, but we expect it very soon. 

AMD looks in a very strong position with its Ryzen 5000 processors, not just for the high-end chips, but also for more affordable options such as the AMD Ryzen 7 5800X and AMD Ryzen 5 5600X. We’ll have to wait until we can review the processors before we declare them a better buy than Intel’s 10th Gen processors, but it’s difficult to see why you’d buy a high-end Intel desktop chip right.

Of course, this will all change in a few month’s time when the Intel Rocket Lake processors launch and push the performance ceiling even higher. We’d suggest waiting until then before making a decision, but it’s understandable if you can’t wait to get your system up and running. 

Related: Best Gaming CPU

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, MacBook Air and Razer Blade 15 laptops are only currently available with Intel processor configurations.

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 vs AMD - Ryzen 4000

Intel’s 11th Generation mobile chips (Tiger Lake) are the latest laptop processors on the blue side. They only launched a few weeks ago, so laptops featuring the Intel processor are still trickling through to the market. Intel has so far only launched its U-Series processors for the new 11th Generation series, which covers light and slim ultrabooks.

Intel’s Tiger Lake laptop chips (usually identified with a G suffix on the SKU) feature respectable integrated graphics as a compromise. This means that Tiger Lake laptops can dabble with entry-level gaming and creative applications without the need for a dedicated graphics card while still retaining a small and ultra-portable design. 

If you want a laptop for content creation or gaming, 10th Gen Intel Core processors (Comet Lake) are the latest and greatest chips that Intel currently has on offer. We’re sure that will change at some point in 2021 though, as Intel prepares to jump to 11th Gen.

Comet Lake focuses solely on high-end processing performance which makes them a good companion to dedicated graphics cards. For this reason, you’ll find this processor range in many high-end gaming laptops, such as the Razer Blade 15 2020. But while powerful, the processor is usually only found in big hulking machines – think desktop replacement rather than ultra-portable laptops. 

Intel Ice Lake - Intel vs AMD

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 4000 laptop chips feature both dazzling processing speeds and game-ready integrated graphics. 

Ryzen 4000 laptop processors arrived early this year, and have shipped in numerous laptops including the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 and the Acer Swift 3. The Zephyrus G14 is one of the only Ryzen 4000 systems we’ve been able to test so far, but it shot right to the top of our Best Gaming Laptop rankings, which shows the potential of this chip.

It’s going to take a bit of time before Intel Tiger Lake and Ryzen 4000 laptops arrive in stores in masses, so it’s far too early to make a final judgement on which is best. Rumours also suggest that Ryzen 5000 mobile processors will launch in early 2021, which will change the landscape of the competition once again. 

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.

AMD arguably has the upper hand in the desktop space given the recent launch of the Ryzen 5000 processors, but we’re yet to review the new processors. Intel is also expected to launch its Rocket Lake chips in the coming months which will change things once again. If you want the absolute best desktop processor right now, we suggest having a look at the new line-up of Ryzen 5000 chips.

The laptop scene is a tad more complicated, with both Intel Tiger Lake and Ryzen 4000 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. 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.