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The Computer Buzz April 29th, 2010

Nome and Paul Van Middlesworth - owners - The Computer Fact


AMD or Intel: Which CPU is Best?

Which is the best vehicle, a Lamborghini Diablo or Subaru Outback? The Lamborghini is faster, more expensive and a real “chick magnet,” but is it best? It’s certainly not the best for a family picnic. It’s also not the best for off-roading or grocery shopping and it gets only six MPG around town.

In the case of vehicles, what’s best is determined by what you want to use it for. It’s the same for CPUs. Using the fastest and most expensive CPU for most home and business PCs would be equivalent to using a Lamborghini as a golf cart.

The CPU (central processing unit) weighs less than an ounce but is the engine that determines a PC’s capabilities. A CPUs performance is measured by timing how long it takes it to accomplish a specific set of tasks or “benchmarks.” The “benchmark” results are consolidated into a score or index number so that the relative performance levels between different CPUs can be compared. We’re using PassMark’s “benchmarks” today. They can be found at

Intel makes the two fastest CPUs on the planet with benchmark scores of just over 10,000. They’re used in network servers and designer workstations. By comparison, the CPUs from Intel and AMD that are sold to over 90% of home and business users today score benchmarks between 2000 and 4000. While these CPUs are only 20% to 40% as fast as the fastest Intel CPUs, they are plenty fast enough for nearly most applications.

Even five-year old PCs with CPUs like Pentium IV 3.0GHz or AMD 3200 are fine for most applications even though their benchmark scores are only in the 400 to 500 range. That makes them only 4% to 5% as fast as the fastest CPUs and 10% to 25% as fast as new PCs.

What does this mean to users? If you use your PC for Internet, E-mail and basic applications like Word, Excel, Power Point, Quicken, Family Tree Maker, music and playing DVDs you would notice little difference in speed between your five-year old PC and a new super-fast designer PC. On the other hand if you were playing high end games or using animation or solids modeling software you would notice a tremendous difference.

The answer to the question “AMD or Intel: which CPU is best?” is easy.

If you are buying a three or four thousand dollar PC with a CPU benchmark over 6000 you would select Intel because AMD tops out at around the 6000 benchmark level. For a CPU benchmarking at 6000 or below, your best buy is AMD.

Intel and AMD both have CPUs at the 6000 benchmark level. The Intel costs over $300 while the AMD is less than $250. This pattern continues throughout the entire range of CPUs. Wherever Intel and AMD CPUs are equal in performance, the AMD is 15% to 20% cheaper. Another way of stating it is that, at any given price level, AMD is 15% to 20% higher in performance.

The best reason we’ve heard for selecting Intel over AMD in a desktop PC is that the buyer was an Intel stockholder. Next week we discuss notebook CPUs.





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