The CPU markets are hotter than ever before. AMD and Intel are duking it out for supremacy, vying for the attention of regular users and gamers alike. The result? A golden era for PC gamers, with the two major CPU manufacturers pushing development further, moving boundaries faster, and best of all, keeping prices accessible.
So, is AMD or Intel better for gaming? What CPU should you choose for your new gaming rig? Let’s look at AMD vs. Intel gaming processors.
AMD vs. Intel Processors
When it comes to desktop CPUs, there are two names in town: Intel and AMD. These are the desktop processor behemoths that dominate the market. When you want to build or buy a new gaming PC, it’ll have an Intel or AMD CPU powering your games.
The desktop CPU market dynamic has shifted in recent years, too. For a long time, AMD processors were only good for entry-level or budget options. The introduction of AMD Ryzen CPUs changed that perception drastically, with AMD’s Zen architecture creating substantial competition against Intel’s stranglehold on the market.
So much so that AMD Ryzen CPUs dominate the CPU market, at least for the most recent CPU generations. Mindfactory regularly releases up to date CPU sales figures, illustrating a decent snapshot of the market, as per the below image.
How to Choose Between AMD and Intel?
So, let’s get down to the big question: is Intel or AMD better for gaming?
It is an interesting question and one that requires a base understanding of how to compare CPUs. There are a few key CPU specifications that will sway you to one processor for gaming or another:
How to Compare Different CPUs the Right Way
Processors have come a long way over the last decade — so much so that effectively comparing one CPU with another can be difficult. Here’s what you need to know to compare them properly.
- Single Thread Performance: CPUs are advertised as a dual or quad-core, but some applications and games still only use a single thread on a single CPU core. Thus, your CPU must have decent individual core performance.
- Multicore Performance: While some games only use a single thread, most modern games now spread the load over multiple cores if available. Understanding how your CPU performs when more than one core is in use helps you understand overall performance.
- Clock Speed: The clock speed defines the operating speed of the CPU. Generally, a higher number equates with a faster CPU. However, there are other factors to consider, such as the CPU age and generation and the number of CPU cores.
- Cache Size: Your CPU has internal memory, known as a cache. There are several cache levels of varying importance. When you compare CPU cache sizes, you should only compare similar cache levels. For example, compare an L3 cache to an L3 cache—a larger cache is better.
- Price: How much cash are you willing to part with for a top-tier Intel or AMD gaming CPU? AMD’s resurgence forced Intel to get realistic with their CPU pricing, but god-tier gaming hardware doesn’t come cheap.
There are other factors at play, too. Power consumption (you’ll need a good power supply unit), CPU architecture, socket type (which dictates the motherboard you will use), and integrated graphics (which you can use instead of a dedicated graphics processing unit) are all considerations.
Now you’re armed with which vital specs to check, you can figure out which gaming CPUs you like the look of. Alternatively, check out our easy gaming CPU comparisons below.
The Intel Core i9-10900K is a gaming behemoth, making the top perch its own—but not by much. Check out the table below for the CPU specs overview.
There are some standout CPU specs on that list. The Intel CPU’s base clock of 3.70GHz, single-core boost of 5.30GHz, and all-core boost of 4.90GHz are fast. Like, really fast. As such, the Intel Core i9-10900K just beats the Ryzen 9 3950X in single-core performance in almost all benchmarking tests.
However, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X holds its own in several important areas. Notably, the 3950X has a massive 64MB L3 cache, excellent multicore performance, and the bonus of PCIe 4.0 support. It also comes with 16 cores and 32 threads and supports faster RAM, too. While very few applications and games will use all 16 cores, the additional overhead is handy future-proofing.
Really, there isn’t much in it between these two excellent gaming CPUs. When it comes down to it, the price will settle the score, depending on your budget.
In the table, you’ll see the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, too. The 3900X is an exceptional gaming CPU in its own right, running the Intel Core i9-10900K close to benchmarking tests. Like the 3950X, the 3900X has excellent multicore performance but is slightly behind in single-thread tests. However, it outperforms the Intel Core i9-9900K, the previous top Intel gaming CPU.
On the next gaming CPU rung down, you have the Intel Core i5-10600K and the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, two excellent CPUs for gaming. Despite them coming from the “second-tier” for each processor manufacturer, the i5-10600K and the Ryzen 5 3600K still pack a serious punch, as you’ll see in the table below.
Interestingly, despite the i5-10600K’s faster clock speed, the Ryzen 5 3600X scores very similarly in single-core benchmarking tests. The AMD CPU outscores the Intel model in multicore benchmarking tests, too, gaining some extra oomph.
Like the top-tier gaming CPUs, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X has some perks over the Intel processor. The 3600K has larger L2 and L3 caches, supports faster RAM, has a slightly lower TDP, and is priced extremely competitively.
But, in-game frames and graphics settings are what matter to gamers. And despite the Ryzen 5 3600X’s hardware advantages, the Intel Core i5-10600K delivers high frame rates on top-level settings.
Best for Entry-Level Gaming: Intel Core i3-10320 vs. AMD Ryzen 3 3300X
These two CPUs are shining examples of how far the Intel vs. AMD battle has pushed CPU development. Even entry-level CPUs provide excellent quality and substantial performance, especially in comparison to CPUs several generations old.
For example, in my desktop is a now aging Intel Core i5-3570K, which can still handle most games on decent settings. Both of these CPUs blow that i5 out of the water, both from the “bottom tier.”
Enough about that, let’s talk about the processor specs and which CPU suits an entry-level gaming rig.
The Intel Core i3-10320 and the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X are fairly similar in performance. Benchmarking tests show the i3-10320 performing marginally better in single-core situations, with the Ryzen 3 3300X nudging ahead in multicore situations.
Like its bigger siblings, the Ryzen CPU brings a larger cache to the table, as well as support for PCIe 4.0 and faster RAM. However, that doesn’t give it much extra in terms of gaming performance, with both cards returning very similar in-game frame rates.
Is AMD or Intel Better for Gaming?
So, should you opt for an Intel or AMD CPU for gaming? AMD’s development surge over the past years has closed the gap significantly. In many ways, AMD processors are better investments for the future, consistently delivering better multicore performance scores.
There’s another consideration, too. You must pair your gaming CPU with a decent GPU for the best results. GPUs are another area that AMD has drastically stepped up its game, taking the fight to Nvidia in the battle for gaming supremacy.
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