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Sami 05-26-2006 01:33 AM

AMD vs. Intel: Which Chip Offers More Bang for Your Buck in Gaming PCs?
Computer enthusiasts have long known of the ongoing rivalry between Intel, the processing giant, and Advanced Micro Devices, or AMD. Since the early nineties, Intel and AMD have vied for technical dominance in the computer hardware field and in relation to computer gaming. For many years, AMD was like the “kid brother” of Intel; the latter held a seemingly insurmountable lead in terms of market share, and the former simply eked by and scrappily etched out a place in the industry for itself. Intel was also traditionally associated with more powerful chips while AMD came to symbolize greater value. Back in the nineties when clock speed meant everything, Intel’s Pentium III chip always managed to maintain a sizeable lead in terms of performance and speed over AMD’s Athlon offering. Product support also tended to lean decidedly in Intel’s favor; largely due to their history of success, there were no shortage of computer manufacturers ready to do business with the company. AMD, meanwhile, enjoyed an almost cult-like following amongst computer enthusiasts who lauded its price-to-performance ratio.

Eventually, however, the raw power of a processor began to be less important than its overall performance, information processing ability, and power consumption. The landscape began to really shift in about 2000. That year, AMD announced and began to develop its 64-bit line of processors, Opteron and Athlon 64. The company essentially staked its future on these chip lines, and in 2003 they released to much acclaim. The balance of power had shifted decidedly in the processor market; while Intel’s Pentium 4 chips struggled with power consumption and heat issues as they steadily increased in clock speed, AMD’s 64-bit offerings allowed consumers to take advantage of more powerful 64-bit code in their systems—including gaming systems. Whereas Intel enthusiasts could always point to the performance discrepancy between the two different types of chips, AMD quickly became the processor of choice for computer gaming and computer hardware enthusiasts. The processing power provided by the 64-bit AMD chips proved to be too great to pass up, and this was only reinforced in 2005 when the company released the first dual-core processors to the market. Since then, Intel has been playing catch-up in terms of hardware availability, and AMD’s market share has reached its highest point at roughly 20 percent, according to

What are the Advantages of AMD Processors?

As the processing landscape has shifted towards AMD’s side, there are some key benefits of using AMD-based hardware that have been revealed. The first is obviously the pure power edge that AMD has attained. Tom’s Hardware ( has long been regarded as a reliable authority in the field of computer hardware reviews. While Intel for years could always claim performance superiority over AMD at the high end, Tom’s reports that this is no longer the case. In conclusion to a comparison between AMD’s dual core Athlon FX-60 processor and Intel’s Pentium Extreme Edition, the reviewer writes, “With the exception of a few audio and video encoding benchmarks, the Athlon 64 FX-60 represents the new device to beat as far as performance goes, thanks to its two processing cores.” Furthermore, the reviewer adds that the increased demands of running dual graphics cards configurations means that “this processor is a great choice for the best-possible 3D gaming experience.” This status as the most powerful processor is reinforced by the fact that Alienware, renowned as the industry leader in terms of powerful custom computers, uses the FX-60 exclusively in its top-of-the-line Aurora ALX system.

Another advantage of AMD processors over Intel, at least for the time being, is the lower relative power consumption of their systems. According to Tom’s Hardware, AMD’s Turion 64 enjoys its status as the most efficient single core processor, and while Intel’s Core Duo is technically the most efficient dual core processor, the overall power efficiency of AMD systems offsets any advantage that the Core Duo might have. When you subtract the power draw of a graphics card, which can be massive, it remains clear that AMD processors just do their job in a more efficient manner.

So What about Intel?

None of this means that Intel processors should be completely disregarded, however. One key advantage that Intel maintains is in sheer numbers. Intel still maintains a roughly 80 percent share of the market today, and as such you are more likely to find a system sporting an Intel processor rather than its AMD counterpart. Furthermore, Intel’s long string of dominance ensures that there are no software-hardware compatibility issues; as Intel is the accepted leader in the processor industry, companies base their compatibility around Intel processors first.

It’s not as if Intel is resting on their laurels, either. As has often happened during the rivalry between Intel and AMD, competition is breeding a new level of performance. Intel has recently shifted to a 65 nm processor core process, beating AMD to the punch in the process. The reduced core size allows for greater possibilities in terms of chip efficiency and power. Intel’s top-level chip is still more expensive than its AMD counterpart, however, perhaps due to the relative newness of the 65 nm process.

So Which Chip Should you Buy for Your Gaming Computer?

All of these technical comparisons are well and good, but they don’t answer the fundamental question: which chip is best for computer gaming systems? Though they continue to use the 90 nm core process for the time being, AMD processors still represent the best “bang for your buck.” AMD’s highest-end chips are still priced lower than their Intel counterparts, and the performance numbers available for them don’t lie. Furthermore, AMD-based systems are more power-efficient in general, and certain technologies allow for technical innovation. nVidia’s nForce line of motherboards, for example, is just on the verge of achieving steady dual-channel DDR2-667 memory support for Athlon 64 FX2 dual core chips. What this means for the consumer is that the memory will operate faster, with a higher bandwidth, and in greater harmony with the processor than ever before.

Jordan Hall is an avid computer gamer and technology enthusiast that enjoys providing consumers with advice concerning gaming computers and gaming laptops. For more about gaming computers, please visit

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