Intel Vs AMD: Which CPU Is Best?

By CPUAgent Staff

A rivalry for the ages, and a question often asked and wondered about. Whenever you want to build or upgrade your PC, you have to make a decision: Buy an Intel or AMD processor? Like many other comparisons, there’s no wrong choice here, but there’s certainly a better-suited one for you.

We will compare the popular choices for Intel and AMD desktop processors against each other, but since a CPU’s performance depends on other factors like the motherboard, overclocking support, CPU cooler, and memory, we will discuss those first then take a look at the overall benefits.

Motherboard and overclocking support

There’s more than meets the eye to a motherboard, and one has to dig into some of those details to find out which motherboard is best for their Intel or AMD processor. Some of the most important factors are the chipset type, CPU overclock support, and high memory speed support.

There are multiple chipsets to choose from, but for gaming, the ideal choices are Intel Z490 motherboards, and AMD B450, X470, B550, and X570. Although Intel also offers B- and H- chipset motherboards for their 10th gen CPUs, they are not recommended for mid-to-high-range builds due to their limitations like no support for RAM speed higher than 2933MHz for i5/i7/i9, or 2666MHz for i3, and no CPU overclocking, while the aforementioned AMD chipsets support both. It should be noted that AMD will allow the older chipsets - B450 and X470 - to support their upcoming Zen 3 (4000 series) CPUs as well.

CPU cooler

Some CPUs come without coolers like Intel i7-10700K, so we included the cost of a reliable cooler into our calculations. A reliable cooler is one that can support both stock and slightly overclocked CPUs, and it could cost anywhere between $60 like Noctua NH-U12S, to $90 such as the Dark Rock Pro 4 or $110 for Noctua NH-D15. There are even better liquid coolers like Corsair H100i, but they could cost you $140 or more. We will include the price of a decent cooler with each CPU that doesn’t come with one or for those with insufficient stock coolers.

Overclocked RAM speed support

This is one of those factors that you should always go for as it improves performance in every aspect and doesn’t cost much. Nowadays, a motherboard that doesn’t support overclocked memory speed of at least 3200MHz should be avoided when possible. The motherboard choices we recommend can support RAM speeds of at least 3200MHz.

Prices and Performance

Is the performance difference really noticeable? Well, it depends on where it is. For regular PC usage, it doesn’t differ much, but for gaming and productivity, it can be significant.

We compared a select number of ideal CPU choices from the latest generations, which are Intel 10th gen and AMD Zen 2 (3000 series), and included a suitable motherboard for each one. The CPUs were tested in several video games at 1080p and 1440p resolutions, and grouped into 3 categories, entry level, mid-range, and high-end, to compare in terms of price and performance.

The tests were performed with RTX 2080 Ti and 2x8GB 3200MHz CL14 RAM, in Battlefield V, Far Cry: New Dawn, Rainbow Six Sage, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and the features compared are the price, performance, total price of CPU, motherboard and cooler (if not included or insufficient for high temps), and the overall features of the CPU-motherboard combination, such as overclocking.

  •   Positive
  •   Neutral; depends on your usage
  •   Negative

Entry-level choices: Intel i3-10100 vs. AMD Ryzen 3 3100 and Ryzen 3 3300X

For entry-level gaming, AMD offers 2 great choices and takes the lead with the Ryzen 3 3300X, which offers around 5% performance increase at 1080p over the i3-10100 for just about the same price. Since i3 processors do not support RAM speeds higher than 2666MHz, it’s better to go for a more affordable B460 chipset motherboard than a Z490.

  • Intel i3-10100: B460M motherboard like Gigabyte B460M DS3H ($74). Total cost is $196.
    •   Good overall price.
    •   Cooler included.
    •   CPU is locked; can’t be overclocked.
    •   Motherboard doesn’t support overclocked RAM speeds.
  • Ryzen 3 3300X (Recommended): B450M motherboard like Gigabyte B450M DS3H ($73) or ASRock B450M PRO4 ($85). Total cost is $193-$205.
    •   Good overall price.
    •   Cooler included.
    •   CPU can be overclocked.
    •   Motherboard supports overclocked RAM speeds.

Mid-range choices: Intel i5-10400 vs. AMD Ryzen 3 3300x and Ryzen 5 3600

It has always been known that AMD offers the best mid-range CPU that is the Ryzen 5 3600. Although the i5-10400 usually performs better in games by around 3% at 1080p, the Ryzen 5 3600 outperforms it in almost every productivity program, such as Blender and Adobe Photoshop, and costs less overall. Still, the i5-10400 is a good choice for a budget-to-mid-range build.

  • Intel i5-10400: Z490M motherboard like ASRock Z490M Pro4 ($137). Total cost is $319.
    •   A little more expensive.
    •   CPU is locked; can’t be overclocked.
    •   Cooler included.
    •   Motherboard supports overclocked RAM speeds.
  • Ryzen 5 3600 (Recommended): B450/B550 motherboard like Gigabyte B450M DS3H ($73), MSI B450 TOMAHAWK MAX ($125), or Gigabyte B550M AORUS PRO ($130). Total cost is $243-$300.
    •   Good overall price.
    •   CPU can be overclocked.
    •   Cooler included.
    •   Motherboard supports overclocked RAM speeds.

Mid-to-High-range choices: Intel i5-10600k vs. AMD Ryzen 5 3600 and Ryzen 7 3700x

The i5-10600K seems like a very good choice and it actually is, but the fact that no cooler is bundled with it sure hurts it a lot. Going with a Noctua NH-U12S ($63) air cooler increases the total price to $348, which in return makes Ryzen 7 3700X a better choice especially given the 2 extra cores and 4 threads. Or if you want to save more money, you can get the Ryzen 5 3600 for a lot cheaper and a performance difference of only around 6.5% lower than the i5-10600K. AMD takes the win for the overall price, but Intel leads the performance race.

  • Intel i5-10600K: Z490 motherboard like Asus PRIME Z490-P ($160), and a cooler like Noctua NH-U12S ($63). Total cost is $508.
    •   High overall price.
    •   No cooler included.
    •   CPU supports overclocking.
    •   Higher gaming performance.
  • Ryzen 5 3600: B550 motherboard like Asus TUF GAMING B550-PLUS ($170). Total cost is $340.
    •   Very good overall price.
    •   Cooler included.
    •   CPU supports overclocking.
    •   Lower gaming performance.
  • Ryzen 7 3700X (Recommended): B550/X570 motherboard like Gigabyte B550 AORUS ELITE ($160), or Asus TUF GAMING X570-PLUS WI-FI ($190). Total cost is $440-$470.
    •   Very good overall price for 8 core, 16 thread build, but similar gaming performance as the Ryzen 5 3600.
    •   Cooler included.
    •   CPU supports overclocking.
    •   Lower gaming performance than the i5-10600k, but has more cores and threads and is overall cheaper.

High-end choices: Intel i7-10700K vs. AMD Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 9 3900X

The i7-10700K takes the gaming performance a step further while Ryzen 7 and 9 processors have their focus on the extra cores and threads rather than gaming performance. However, the 10700K doesn’t come with a cooler, which means an extra $60 to $110 for a reliable one. Normally, we would go for the Dark Rock Pro 4 ($90), but for the sake of keeping prices low with a decent cooler, we used Noctua NH-U12S ($63) instead, which increased the price from $405 to $468. This, again, makes the 3700X shine for its relatively cheap price and small performance loss of 8% less than the i7. You could also go for the 3900X, along with Noctua NH-U12S ($63), for an extra 4 cores and 8 threads if you fancy that. However, if you are building your PC purely for high-end gaming at 2K or 4K resolutions, the i7-10700K is a gaming beast for that matter and may be worth your investment.

  • Intel i7-10700K: Z490M motherboard like Asus TUF GAMING Z490-PLUS WI-FI ($167), and a cooler like Noctua NH-U12S ($63). Total cost is $635.
    •   High overall price.
    •   No cooler included.
    •   CPU supports overclocking.
    •   Great gaming performance.
  • Ryzen 7 3700X (Recommended): X570 motherboard like Asus TUF GAMING X570-PLUS WI-FI ($190). Total cost is $470.
    •   Good overall price.
    •   Cooler included.
    •   CPU supports overclocking.
    •   Lower gaming performance.

Extreme-end choices: Intel i9-10900K vs. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and Ryzen 9 3950X

The same story repeats itself once again. A superb performance with the pricey i9-10900k that doesn’t ship with a cooler. If you’re willing to pay for the i9, you may as well buy a powerful cooler to go with it and keep it in check, and to make sure you squeeze every bit of performance out of it. That’s about $90 more for an air cooler, or $160 for a liquid cooler, taking the total price to $620 or more.

On the other hand, we have the Ryzen 9 3900X which is 9% slower but offers 2 more cores and 4 more threads for a much lower price. Both the 3900X and 3950X come with coolers but they may prove insufficient under heavy load, so we used Dark Rock Pro 4 ($90) for both to avoid thermal throttling.

Overall, the i9-10900K is hard to recommend at all even for the avid gamer as it costs a lot more than the i7-10700K but performs almost the same. The Ryzen 9 3950X is not really a good choice for gamers either, but we included it anyway for the sake of comparison. For this type of build, we recommend Ryzen 9 3900X, or skipping the i9 for the i7-10700K.

  • Intel i9-10900K: Z490M motherboard like Asus TUF GAMING Z490-PLUS WI-FI ($167), and a cooler like Dark Rock Pro 4 ($90). Total cost is $787.
    •   Very high overall price.
    •   No cooler included; requires a high-end one.
    •   CPU supports overclocking.
    •   Great gaming performance.
  • Ryzen 9 3900X (Recommended): X570 motherboard like Asus TUF GAMING X570-PLUS WI-FI ($190). Total cost is $470.
    •   Good overall price.
    •   Cooler included, but a high-end one is recommended.
    •   CPU supports overclocking.
    •   Lower gaming performance but more cores and threads.

The picture becomes clear that AMD offers the best price versus performance CPUs, but the engineers at Intel have done a really good job in squeezing all this power into their 14 nm architecture with the Intel 10th gen CPUs, and with Hyper-Threading included too. The gist is Intel processors are slightly more stable temperature-wise and perform excellent in games, while AMD offers more for lower prices and performs better in most multi-core work and productivity, while also maintaining good performance in games. Because of that, it’s expected that one would naturally go for AMD.

On a quick glance, Intel processors seem very interesting for gamers, but when you look further into the details, you find many odd choices that could’ve otherwise made them a great option. From the lack of coolers to expensive prices, Intel sure has a lot to think about before the likely-to-be final blow hits that is the AMD Zen 3.