In recent years, AMD has been unafraid to push back against a dominant Intel by talking up not just the value-per-dollar but also the high-end performance that end users can find in their next-generation Ryzen processors.
[Related: Ryzen 5 vs Intel Core i5 CPU review]
The first wave of AMD Ryzen CPUs offered 8 cores and 16 threads and superiority when it came to the price-tag. The second pushed things even further, with the Ryzen-powered Threadripper 2 rocking a staggering 32 cores and 64 threads. With the third iteration of Ryzen well on the way, we figured now would be a great time to take stock and run the numbers.
Which CPU is best: Intel or AMD Ryzen?
You’ll see many multi-page reviews on the internet with all kinds of benchmarks, complex overclocking scenarios and interminable technology-based theorizing regarding which is best but we’re taking a slightly different approach.We're taking things one at a time, and breaking them into discrete sections. If you want a big spreadsheet that shows the difference in clock speed between Intel and AMD Ryzen CPUs, we've got that. If you want a breakdown of the price-difference between AMD Ryzen and Intel CPUs, we've got that. If you want a benchmark-to-benchmark comparison, we've got that.
And if you’re the kind of person who just wants to buy the best CPU in terms of performance, features and value, we’ve got you covered too. The following
buyers guide is all about getting to the difference in a nutshell between these two CPU options.
AMD Ryzen — in a nutshell
This initial three-tiered approach also made it pretty easy to compare AMD’s Ryzen chips against the competition. The Ryzen 3 was an entry-level alternative to the Intel i3, the Ryzen 5 was a mainstream counterpart to the Intel i5, and the Ryzen 7 was pitched in opposition to the performance offered by an Intel i7.
Then, in 2018, AMD introduced their second wave of Ryzen CPUs. Relying on a new 12nm manufacturing process and Zen+ architecture, this second series of Ryzen CPUs was broken out into four families. The Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 all returned. This reincarnated Ryzen family offered higher boosted clock speeds, reduced power consumption
However, this time around, AMD also topped out the range with a set of ultra-high-end CPUs called Threadrippers.
Where the mainline Ryzen range offers an impressive 8 cores and 16 threads, the Threadripper series starts at 12 cores and 24 threads and goes all the way up to 32 cores and 64 threads. It’s wild.
The extra processor cores offered by Ryzen compared to Intel’s Kaby and Coffee Lake CPUs means that certain tasks will run MUCH faster. If you do a lot of 3D rendering/video encoding or any of your favourite games run better on multiple cores (few do, but some popular titles like Battlefield 1 and Civ are included in the short-but-growing list) then the extra money is well worth paying.
The extra cores can also help with video game streaming on services like Twitch.
With Computex on the horizon, AMD are sure to be readying the next wave of Ryzen hardware. But, right now, every AMD Ryzen CPU you can build a desktop PC around falls into one of the following four families:
Ryzen 3 ($134 on Amazon)
Ryzen 5 ($249 on Amazon)
Ryzen 7 ($394 on Amazon)
Ryzen Threadripper ($1434 on Amazon)
Intel Core - In a nutshell
Generally speaking, Core i7s are better than Core i5s, which are in turn better than Core i3s. Core i7 does not have seven cores nor does Core i3 have three cores. The numbers are more of an arbitrary way to distinguish between their relative processing powers than a specific designation based on core count or clock speed or anything technical like that.
Then you’ve got the new Core i9. Introduced in 2017, the Core i9 series is a super-high end range of processors that boasts incredibly high thread and core-counts. The top-end Core i9-7980X (Amazon) touts 18-cores (clocked at 2.6Ghz) and can handle 32 threads at once while the cheapest option - the i9-7900X boasts 10 cores (capable of serving 20 threads) and a base clock speed of 3.3GHz.
Unfortunately, as fearsome (and appealing) as those numbers might sound, most modern software isn’t really ready to make use of these capabilities - especially in the gaming space. They’re also really expensive.
So while i7s and i9s do offer higher performance than i3s or i5s, whether or not that they’ll be better for you really does ultimately depend on what you’re using your PC for and how much money you want to spend.
Next Page: How does AMD's Ryzen CPU compare to Intel's Core CPU for performance?