Intel and AMD are two of the largest CPU companies which dominate the consumer market for x86 desktops and laptops. Both have a strong legacy in semiconductor engineering dating back to the 1970s. They’ve been at the forefront of key innovations such as fabless manufacturing, multi-core processors and recent advances in chip miniaturization.
The following comparison between Intel and AMD will seek to answer which company is winning the CPU war in 2019. In comparing the two CPUs, we will use the latest data from two independent, well-known evaluation websites: UserBenchmark and 3DMark. Each of them has computed and analyzed millions of PCs in real time.
Comparing the performances would require the matching versions of both CPUs. Accordingly, a Ryzen 9 should be compared with Core i9, a Ryzen 5 with Core i5, and so forth.
According to UserBenchmark, Ryzen 9 3900X has superior specs with 12 cores, 24 threads and 3.8 GHz base performance compared to Core i9-9900 K’s 8 cores, 16 threads and 3.6 GHz base performance. But this version of Ryzen is more expensive as well, costing $85 more.
Does the extra price actually beat Intel? The answer is no. This is because UserBenchmark uses another criterion called “effective CPU speed index” where hundreds of tasks such as watching videos, surfing the Web with multiple tabs, and playing popular games are compared to arrive at a single score.
Based on this, Intel Core i9-9900K ranks topmost at the 100th percentile with Ryzen 9 3900X ranking fourth.
Also, based on percentage measures of a CPU’s suitability, Core i9 scores better than Ryzen 9 for desktop (101 percent vs. 96 percent), and gaming (100 percent vs. 96 percent). But Ryzen 9 does have a superior workstation performance (118 percent vs. 100 percent), which is a symbol of better multitasking capabilities.
Verdict: if you’re saving money for the most expensive PC in the market, go with an Intel Core i9 processor. It simply rules over Ryzen 9 and every other CPU in the market. It’s also cheaper than Ryzen 9, which is really an outlier because AMD CPUs are cheaper on average than Intel’s.
For high-end CPUs, we will compare Core i7-9700K with Ryzen 7-2700X. For Intel, Core i7 is one of their most valuable and highly-used CPUs. The latter costs at least $155 less than Intel’s Core i7. Similar to the highest models, Core i7 has less threads (8 vs. 16) but the same number of cores as Ryzen 7.
However, Core i7 still has a higher speed (21 percent higher) compared to Ryzen 7. In fact, it is the third-fastest processor, even ahead of Ryzen 9, the highest benchmark of the AMD family. While Ryzen 7 certainly doesn’t match Intel Core i7’s gaming and desktop speed, it also lags behind in workstation performance (83 percent vs. 87 percent).
The other advantages of Core i7 include more energy efficiency (more than 10 percent), slightly faster turbo frequency (more than 14 percent), and the presence of integrated graphics (UHD 630) compared to no such available feature with Ryzen 7 or even 9 for that matter.
Here is an important learning lesson: more cores and threads do not always translate to a superior speed.
Verdict: if speed matters to you for a high-end CPU, Core i7 trumps over Ryzen 7. However, it’s also far more expensive. Even if you’re price-sensitive, Core i7 is the next best thing to Core i9 rather than Ryzen 9.
First, we will compare Core i5-9400F with Ryzen 5 3600. Both were ranked by UserBenchmark as the most popular CPUs at first rank and fourth rank respectively.
In this comparison, Core i5 is available cheaper than Ryzen 5 ($143 vs. $184).
However, the gaming (87 percent vs. 82 percent), desktop (90 percent vs. 83 percent) and workstation (75 percent vs. 58 percent) performance of Ryzen 5 was found higher than Intel Core i5. Clearly, at this level Ryzen is slightly superior to Intel Core i5.
Verdict: if you’re looking for a mid-range CPU, you will get slightly better performance with Ryzen 5 compared to Intel Core i5. It has faster base frequency and more overclocking speeds as well.
For budget CPUs, we will compare Core i3-8100 ($125) with Ryzen 3-2200G ($79).
Similar to most above trends, Core i3 has slightly better performance than Ryzen 3, including as a workstation PC.
Verdict: If you want a budget CPU, Core i3 is better than its counterpart from the AMD family. However, it is only slightly cheaper than Ryzen 5 ($125 vs. $184). Imagine getting a business-class upgrade from economy with Ryzen 5.
How much can you stretch your CPU? A stress test tool will give you the complete details. Overclocking is one performance criteria, where AMD’s Ryzen 9 might have a slight advantage over Intel. This is why it often got higher workstation scores in previous criteria. A Ryzen 9 can utilize all sixteen cores @4.3 GHz, a Ryzen 5 can utilize all six cores @3.6 GHz, etc.
Based on a test of multiple cores by Maxon Cinebench, it was found that AMD’s Threadripper 2970X and 2990 WX, as well as Epyc 7601, scored even higher on average than Intel Core i9. So if you’re looking for a multitasking workstation, you should prefer AMD’s Threadripper, Epyc or Ryzen high-end CPUs over comparable Intel models.
AMD’s Ryzen 5 to 9 series scores high on almost all performance criteria thanks to its Zen 2 micro-architecture based on 7nm node.
Verdict: when it comes to raw performance, Intel’s high-end CPUs have a slight edge over AMD’s Ryzen series. However, if you’re using AMD Threadripper or Epyc, you will get superior multitasking.
Do you work a lot with loaded media and creative software like Adobe products? Then you would definitely require a great amount of overclocking potential and multitasking capabilities.
Verdict: as discussed earlier, AMD is the clear winner here, and the extra threads and cores do come handy in the design business.
High-End Intensive Gaming
The performance battle between Intel and AMD recently heated up after revelations that AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950 pipped Intel’s Core i9 10980XE in 3DMark’s Fire Strike Physics Score. Fire Strike is a proprietary graphics rendering test using DirectX 11 benchmark for gaming PCs as an ultra-high definition display.
However, as shown here, at the moment Core i9 is again back in the lead in Fire Strike score. These are tenth-generation CPUs, and the performances are variable. But that’s where the lead ends. AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper and even Ryzen 7 offers higher Fire Strike score except for Intel Core i9. We have to remember that Ryzen 7 is way cheaper than Core i9.
Verdict: if you’re looking for a fully-equipped gaming PC, you will have more choice for less price with AMD’s Ryzen series (5 and up) compared to even Intel Core i7.
To summarize our findings, Intel’s Core i9-9900K is still the undisputed leader in each and every comparison segment. Hence, it can be said that in 2019 Intel is winning the CPU contest against AMD. The effective speed of its products is higher for Core i3, Core i7 and Core i9.
However, it must be remembered that most people won’t be using the highest range CPU for the foreseeable future. Therefore, other decision-making parameters such as performance at a mid-range price becomes more critical. AMD’s Ryzen 7 and 5 definitely have an advantage here over Intel’s comparable processors. They give faster overclocking, multi-threaded performance, and more energy boost.
What this means is that if you’re price-conscious and still expect superior performance, you just might be better off with AMD. Therefore, gamers, designers, and creative people would, on average, find far better performance at a lower price with AMD’s Ryzen 5 or 7 series.
In summary, the runners-up of this comparison, AMD, have a more versatile set of offerings for the right price point. I would personally recommend buying an AMD Ryzen. The negligible speed difference with higher-end Intel CPUs is not really noticeable to the human eye, but it is always better to have an all-round PC that supports advanced multi-tasking.