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I am prepared for this question to be closed. If that happens...so be it.

I am not looking to start a flame war as I have a real question that I have researched and not found any satisfactory answer to. I am looking to build a new machine and would like some real answers.

I know that there are differences in the specs and models. I'm not a newbe to this arena.

My main questions is this:
What is the real, concreted difference between Intel and AMD CPUs? What makes me choose one over the other? When I compare cost vs performance, I have to go with AMD...or maybe I am missing something.

Related thoughts:

  1. Price is the most obvious difference to the casual shopper. What is the reason for the price difference? Does AMD simply build cheaper and lower quality products?

  2. When you buy an Intel are you paying a lot for nothing but a name?

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closed as not constructive by Sathya, Diago Oct 4 '10 at 18:38

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Good question. I also wanted to ask it here :-) –  liori Oct 4 '10 at 17:38
    
I am closing this not because it's not a good question, but no matter how much you don't want a flamewar, it will become one. It's a discussion. There is no way to provide a concrete technical answer that can be verified. This question is best asked on a discussion forum. –  Diago Oct 4 '10 at 18:40
    
@Diago: I realize this question is potentially subjective & argumentative, but as the OP asked: "What is the real, concreted difference between Intel and AMD CPUs" which I felt was a pretty non-flamewar-ish question. I totally understand your position as a moderator so closing it is no big deal. It just seemed like the OP was asking a genuine question and that he tried to ask in a very neutral/non-biased way. Just my two cents. ;) –  osij2is Oct 4 '10 at 19:20
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@osij2is I agree the OP has good intentions and asked an overall good question. However the problem is that it is not a good fit for Super User, and the title alone is going to draw attention from Google which is going to turn this into a flamewar. –  Diago Oct 4 '10 at 20:36

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Most people mention good points. Heat can be an issue. Price is definitely a big factor. One factor people tend to forget is socket compatibility. AM2,AM2+ and AM3 sockets have been around for a relatively long period of time. At the very least, some AMD motherboards have a large degree of compatibility for CPUs. I can't recall how many different frickin' sockets there are for Intel CPUs (wikipedia). It's getting completely ridiculous as to just how many sockets there are for Intel CPUs.

Intel definitely has interesting technology and performance (usually) on their side, but at the price of not only the CPU, but the motherboard (socket and chipset/northbridge) and at times RAM. AMD has been fairly cognizant of upgrade paths for CPUs/sockets and motherboards and it's clear AMD positions themselves as a value brand which I believe is a very critical strategy in these economic times.

Now, at some point, the engineering does come into play. Newer designs maybe completely incompatible with previous sockets which it's understandable. But I often feel like Intel has little to no regard for upgrade paths for users. Maybe I'm an AMD fan boy, but years ago, Intel was worth buying (IMO). I've owned Pentium IIs, IIIs, even Pros and even the first Xeons they made back in the early 2000s. After a while, I got fed up with their upgrade paths for their newer CPUs which always seemed to ditch the previous socket or chipset and I couldn't see any real benefits after a while.

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You can check out this article: AMD vs Intel. This might shed some light

It is quoted at the very bottom:

"Intel has a much larger market share than AMD and has had plenty of time to build a solid public image. Intel also aggressively advertises their processors, which might explain why they are about double the price of their major competitor, AMD."

Hope this helps.

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3  
That article you linked is so old that it really doesn't mean much today. –  Icode4food Oct 4 '10 at 16:27
    
@Jeffreymb: Well the quote I posted is the most significant part (I linked to the site only to give reference to the quote). I believe that concept still applies today. I've seen so many Intel commercials with AMD advertising few and far between –  A.Donahue Oct 4 '10 at 17:11

My main questions is this: What is the real, concreted difference between Intel and AMD CPUs? What makes me choose one over the other? When I compare cost vs performance, I have to go with AMD...or maybe I am missing something.

AMD and Intel actually have a lot of processors that fall into the same price AND performance range. As an overclocker of both brands I have been very pleased with both, and I have always felt I have gotten what I have paid for. I have never had a processor from either brand fail and I build around 10 custom machines a year... usually overclocked.

Price is the most obvious difference to the casual shopper. What is the reason for the price difference? Does AMD simply build cheaper and lower quality products?

Price is a major difference when it comes to different performance ranges. AMD doesn't have anything that can even come close to touching Intel's high end processors, thus the price difference.

When you buy an Intel are you paying a lot for nothing but a name?

Again, the performance range you are buying in matters a lot. Yeah you will typically pay a little bit more for an Intel processor than you would an equivalent AMD processor (like $20 - $30) but that is not much. When you buy a high end processor from Intel you are paying for performance pure and simple.

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I once made a diagram to compare price vs. speed of some desktop processors:

A diagram

X axis is speed (estimated time of doing some specific action in minutes, smaller is better), Y axis is cost (in PLN, two months ago, a local computer shop). Speed taken from cpubenchmark.com. As far as I remember, I took every processor that could be bought from a specific shop here.

Given careful choice you can match Intel and AMD processors, so factors other than speed and price start to make difference. Things I know of:

  • AMD has better upgrade policy, as noted by other people here.
  • Intel processors are said to have lower temperatures. I couldn't find any studies that could confirm that, but this is a common note.
  • Intel processors are said to be more energy-efficient. Again, I couldn't find any real info about that.
  • AMD MoBos almost always come with integrated Radeon graphics, if any. Intel has more choice here. This might be especially important if you want to run Linux, for instance--Radeon cards have a history of exceptionally bad Linux support. Of course you can always put another graphics card into PCI-Express slot.
  • MoBo prices are comparable too, at least in the low price segment (which I aimed at when gathering knowledge).
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what do you mean by "upgrade policy"? –  ubiquibacon Oct 4 '10 at 19:00
    
@typoking: compatibility between sockets. –  liori Oct 4 '10 at 23:21

Mostly, price. AMD has always been the cheaper option because that's exactly what they were engineering for.

That said, I have found that their CPUs are just as reliable as Intel CPUs. Also, if you want a decent comparison between two different CPUs, I'd Google for "AMD benchmark" and maybe throw in "intel" into the search as well.

Also, AMD CPUs run hotter. That's the big difference from the end-user's perspective. There's a boatload of differences at the chip level, but that's so far beyond the scope of Superuser.com that it's not funny.

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1  
In the Pentium 4 Prescott vs Athlon 64 days, AMD made the more efficient and cooler running CPUs, so what you say is just the case at this moment in time (and the forseeable future). –  paradroid Oct 4 '10 at 17:48

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