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One of the most critical parts of a PC build is the CPU. Many consumers have loyalty to AMD or Intel, and this guide will look at the pros and cons of each brand. No matter the choice, there are steps to narrow down which chip to purchase. The CPU is core to any PC, so it is critical to take time when deciding, especially when working on a budget.

AMD Vs. Intel

There are distinct differences in how AMD and Intel CPUs process data, but this generally doesn’t affect average users. Unless completing one very specific task is a goal, either chip will fulfill its purpose.

Intel has boasted far greater performance numbers than AMD. Even with AMD’s Ryzen offering a competitive alternative, Intel is still the top dog of performance. On top of that, Intel CPUs run far cooler, meaning they are compatible with more devices. These major factors mean that Intel is often the more popular choice. That also means manufacturers build more motherboard options for Intel than AMD.

Image copyright by AMD.

While Intel holds the belt for performance, AMD sits on the throne of affordability. Looking at new generation CPUs, AMD has the best cost to performance ratio. If typical usage includes running multiple programs simultaneously, they are an even better option, as AMD often boasts of having more cores than Intel. With the Ryzen release, they have Simultaneous Multi-Threading to answer Intel’s Hyperthreading. To top it off, for those who choose to overclock their system, AMD chips often have more options for doing so.

AMD

  • Cheaper
  • More Cores
  • Overclocking

Intel

  • Higher Performance
  • Better Heat Dissipation
  • More Motherboard Options

The Specs

Cores refer to the number of physical points of processing that a CPU has. For each core, a CPU is able to process a different request. That means that the number of tasks a system can process at once is limited to the number of cores.

Threads are a virtual core of a CPU–two virtual cores exist in a single physical one. These virtual cores are not as effective as physical cores, but do provide an advantage. When there is a pause in a task, the virtual core changes gear and work on another. When there is a core count of 4/8, that means four physical cores and eight total threads.

Clock Rate is the frequency that a CPU core runs at, and indicates the speed it runs at. For example, a 4.2 GHz processor would run twice as many cycles a second as a 2.1 GHz CPU.

Cache is an actual hardware memory cache on the chip. It holds some frequently used data on the chip rather than on the system memory. This speeds up the response time of data. As a whole, the more, the better.

While these stats can help with initial comparisons, knowing which CPU will perform better than another is still a complicated process. Due to old architecture performing different than new, sometimes slower processors will outperform faster ones and other oddities. Unless there is dedicated time spent doing research, it is often easier to go to a site like cpubenchmark.net to get a general comparison. The greatest advantage of cpubenchmark.net is that it takes benchmark results information from a large group of people who have different system setups. This allows the results to better represent average performance for an average user.

Image copyright by Intel.

Image copyright by Intel.

My Decision

When it comes to building a budget system with current generation parts, AMD is really the only option. Intel has performance behind it, but high end chips often cost more than an entire AMD system. For my system rebuild, I chose to go with an AMD Ryzen 7 1700. In regards to price to performance, the Ryzen series is the best on the market at the time of this article.

Results

The AMD Ryzen 7 1700 has performed far beyond my initial expectations. My CPU needs aren’t demanding, so the lesser of the 7 series was the perfect solution. It handles audio, photo, and video editing, as well as file conversion without any issues. High utilization times could be better with a more expensive chip, but it handles each task thrown at it.

The downside I have encountered has been limited to single core intensive processes. For the most part, this is exactly what games require, and the differences are slight but noticeable. The 7700k from Intel is close in price, and when it comes to games it comes out clearly on top. If gaming is your absolute top priority from your system, the 7700k is where you should look for your budget option.


Budget Build Upgrade is a series of articles on learning the resources and tools to create a modern PC on a budget. To see the previous article in this series, click here.

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