When it comes to choosing a processor, new computer builders and people looking for prebuilt PCs aren’t really given information with clarity. Higher clock speeds and more cores don’t necessarily equal a faster processor, some processors have integrated GPUs (another name for graphics processor), and there always seems to be a new brand refresh to worry about, especially in this part of the year.
So I’m going to cover the two brands of processor you can get — Intel and AMD. Direct comparisons between their processors isn’t a good idea, though — generally, newer Intel processors with fewer cores and lower clock speeds are still better than AMDs.
You should go with Intel processors if you want pure performance advantages. Intel processors run faster and see wider optimization with most applications, as well as obvious advantages whenever performing processor-intensive tasks, such as rendering video (though your GPU affects this too) and using graphical editing software.
AMD offers better price-performance ratios compared to its competition. AMD processors, while generally slower than its rivals, offer a reasonable price point and are typically bundled with AMD graphics cards and AMD RAM sticks, both of which are some of the best in their class. While the AMD FX-8350 processor rivals the Intel i5 3570k processor in terms of gaming performance, the Intel still wins by a long shot in other applications.
AMD’s FX-series processors, unlike Intel’s Core processors, do not have integrated graphics. AMD’s lower-performing A-Series processors do, but Intel’s other processors — Atom, for example — don’t hold relevance to a desktop builder. Even so, Intel Core is preferable to Atom if you’re looking for a premium laptop experience, and AMD’s muscling in that area isn’t a bad choice, either.
Finally, cores. Multiple cores don’t necessarily mean better performance. However, the more cores a processor has, the more smoothly your computer will run whenever you’re multitasking. AMD has a high number of cores in desktop processors to compensate for its lower performance — but it’s not necessarily quantity over quality, because most tasks a common user does on a computer don’t need that much power. Games that are optimized for multiple cores gain the most benefit — which is why the two new video game consoles both use AMD 8-core architecture.
However, a quad core Intel i5 or i7 is going to be leagues more powerful than an AMD FX 8350. Power-wise, AMD is nowhere close in terms of brute force — but for gamers and people with a lower budget, AMD is always a viable choice.
Basically, what processor you should get boils down to what budget you’re working with, and what you do the most on your computer. Gamers are typically advised to go with Intel processors, but AMD processors are a valid option themselves, especially for users restricted by a lower income. Additionally, AMD’s A-Series processors offer far superior integrated graphics than Intel’s Core Series Integrated, though gamers typically prefer buying a standalone GPU instead.
There’s no clear answer as to what processor you should buy. That’s a decision you have to make yourself, but I’ve laid out the facts for you. The choice should be easier from here.
Note: Overclocking is generally not a good idea, especially for inexperienced users. If you want to overclock, make sure you upgrade your cooling options and that your motherboard is compatible — otherwise, you could run into serious problems. Overclocking voids your warranty, so even if you take all the safe steps, something can still go wrong and you won’t receive compensation.
Steve Horton has been working with computers for over 20 years. He's dedicated to helping people get the most out of their PCs, and likes playing cards and writing comics.
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