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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, with recent technological advancements on both sides blurring the lines. For example, while Intel claims to have the ‘world’s fastest gaming desktop processor’ with the Intel Core i9-10900K, it’s not necessarily worth the high cost, especially with AMD setting more affordable prices. 

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 3000 Series is the latest and greatest range of processors. The Ryzen 3900X may not be the most powerful in the family (that honour goes to the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X), but it’s one of our top-recommended options and a fierce rival to the i9-10900K. 

The Ryzen 3900X sees 12 cores, 24 threads and a 4.6GHz max boost clock speed. Sticking to the tradition, the Ryzen boasts better core and thread counts than its Intel rival, but can’t get the maximum clock speed boosted quite as high. That said, our own benchmark tests suggest the Ryzen 3900X isn’t far behind Intel for gaming performance, especially with modern titles. 

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 3900X is almost one hundred quid cheaper right now despite offering a comparative performance. 

Of course, these are just the high-end chips, but these generalisations can usually be made throughout both family trees. If you want a good value desktop PC that’s multi-talented across productivity, gaming and creative applications, we suggest siding with AMD. If you want to build a PC specifically for gaming and want to push your budget as hard as possible, then Intel is likely your best bet.

However, this is all about to change with Intel Rocket Lake-S and AMD Ryzen 4000 desktop processors set to launch in the coming months 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. 

The new AMD Ryzen 4000 G-Series desktop processors have already been announced, but these will only be available in pre-built systems and lack the Zen 3 architecture that will really make a difference for next-gen chips. Still, these look to offer third-party manufacturers the ability to produce super-affordable systems capable of casual gaming (1080p at low settings) and content creation.

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 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 10th Generation mobile chips are the latest and greatest on the blue side. They’ve been out for nearly a year now, and so can be found in lots and lots of modern machines. The family of processors can be split up into two branches: Comet Lake and Ice Lake

Comet Lake is your typical laptop CPU, focused 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’s Ice Lake laptop chips (usually identified with a G suffix on the SKU) aren’t quite as powerful but feature respectable integrated graphics as a compromise. This means that Ice 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. You’ll find Intel Ice Lake chips in many ultrabooks, including the Dell XPS 13 and Surface Laptop 3.

Intel Ice Lake - Intel vs AMD

With all these different SKU branches, Intel’s 10th Gen 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. 

Intel still boasts an advantage over Ryzen 4000 in terms of high-end frequency speeds, but the Ryzen 4000 chip allows for better all-round performance, while also allowing laptop designs to remain compact. 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 Ryzen 4000 laptops arrive in stores in masses, but we’re really impressed with the high multi-core performance and lightweight designs it allows for so far. Plus, in typical AMD fashion, prices look to be very reasonable. 

That said, Intel’s 11th Generation mobile processors (Intel Tiger Lake) will reportedly launch in a matter of months, which will no doubt change the laptop landscape 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.

If you want an all-round performance computer that doesn’t break the bank or a machine that can tackle intense creative applications such as video editing, then you’re likely best off with an AMD chip. But if you want a high-end gaming system and aren’t afraid of testing your budget, then Intel remains your best bet.

The laptop scene is a tad more complicated, with Ryzen 4000 systems only just starting to trickle through to shops and Intel’s Tiger Lake expected to launch before the close of the year, but the general rule still applies.

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