Monday, January 21, 2013

Choosing The Right Platform: Intel or AMD

The process of building a new rig always brings to mind a very common dilemma- Intel or AMD, as a platform to build on. Both are really great brands which are often engaged in a royal kind of tug of war! Both insist on having a better product than the other or make ever-so-slight changes in order to get performance advantages to tip in their scale! You might have noticed that Intel processor and supported motherboards are much more expensive than the AMD ones, even though sometimes AMD processors offer seemingly better features in same price range. Here, you’re going to see how you can confidently and coolly make that oh-so-important choice between AMD and Intel.
Selecting a platform always comes down to two major things- the primary factor being how much you wish to cough up for that particular processor platform, and the other being what you intend to use your new PC for!

Why AMD?
AMD offers an 8 core FX 8350 processor which is their top-of-the-line pile driver based (which is an improved bulldozed architecture) processor at the moment. You’re probably thinking, “Why the hell should I go for Intel which offers only 4 cores on the same budget?” Here’s the thing, there is much more to consider than just number of cores!  There are various software apps like Photoshop and media encoding software which require multiple cores in order to encode the media. The FX 8350 would be the ideal solution if your budget is very low. This processor simply smokes other Intel processors which come in same price range in the case of multicore intensive apps. But in case of sheer performance the Intel processors win without a doubt. You can notice the difference of frame rates in games. The difference however, is minimal and not very glaringly obvious with the naked eye unless you use some kind of benchmarking tool. But again AMD wins in the price-to-performance ratio as it offers a delicious amount of raw power at a low price.
With the AMD platform you can expect full backward compatibility whereas you need to change the motherboard in order to support new processors in case of Intel. Going with AMD may save you from expensive upgrades in the future when there is an ongoing battle raging on between processor manufacturing giants.

And, Why Intel? 
Intel processors have better architecture and greater efficiency than their AMD counterparts. Their current generation Ivy Bridge processors run on only 77W TDP, resulting in lower power consumption, lower heat generation and better performance, (though new Ivy-Bridge processors do get hot if overclocked). Which is why even an 8 core AMD processor can’t win against a 4 core and 6 core Intel i5 3750K or i7 3770K in gaming applications or performance exclusive applications. This can however, always be an ambiguous statement between Intel and AMD elites as you can always overclock the processor by tweaking voltages and frequencies. The thing is, each processor core in an Intel processor is undoubtedly more powerful than the AMD cores.
Intel does offer extreme series Sandybridge processor i7 3950x, which is insane for the kind of performance it offers at similar insanely high prices. A  6 core i7 will win against AMD fx 8350 every single time in each application. This processor’s an enthusiast’s choice- the kind who want top of the line computer systems with the latest and most powerful combinations technology can offer at the moment without caring about their pockets.

I’m kinda price-conscious. What should i go for?
One of the nicer features of AMD is that it puts your pocket at ease without compromising on performance in a big way. Their product offerings always attract consumers who are in need of low cost solutions and getting more value for money around the same price bracket.

What about the visuals?
I do not need to say how hair tearingly frustating it is, to play modern games which run like power point slides on your your outdated desktop or laptop, while you watch in helpless wonder, how your peers drool while playing thge same on their outrageously overpriced custom gaming rigs. Well there is a little bit of good news to give your aching scalp some respite. The processor industry is moving towards making onboard GPUs built in processor chip as strong as possible so as to make them comparable to entry level graphics cards. If you look closely at the new generations of processors, you should be able to notice that there are huge improvements in onboard graphics. Incoming Haswell processors are also going to come equipped with a much better GPU. AMD’s trinity processors and Intel’s ivy bridge processors are great examples of this revolution.
Although in case of onboard GPUs, AMD’s trinity lineups literally demolish Intel’s HD4000 solution even in the i7 3770k processor. AMD is way ahead of Intel in this case. Piledriver based trinity processors can run new games like Sleeping dogs, dirt 3, Assassins creed 3, etc in 30 fps on medium settings. Even if these frame rates are not satisfactory they sure as hell are playable! Whereas Intel’s HD4000 graphics can only run them in 15 fps on low settings. GPUs built in trinity processors are identical to dedicated low end graphics cards. This was not possible before. So you can build yourself an htpc or a small computer rig which is decent enough to run new games without buying any expensive dedicated graphics card. I recommend waiting for this solution to be implemented in laptops in case you’ve got plans on getting your hands on one. With this chip, any cheap laptop can run the latest games, that too in style. This feature can be a really awesome advantage in case of mobile gaming as windows 8 tablets were just launched. Games on tablets could use some GFX boost you know! Just imagine the possibilities! ;)

And how about overclocking?
All AMD processors are unlocked from start- so you can squeeze more juice out of them by overclocking them where as you need to play more in order to get an unlocked processor from Intel. There you have it! One more reason to choose. Overclocking the processor can get you the maximum performance you desire.

What about The Chipset!
The most crucial point you should notice is that the features the particular chipset that manufacturer (lntel or AMD )offers. Chipset is the main component on the motherboard which provide the features and thus performance offered by a particular system combining it with compatible processors. The latest chipsets from Intel are Z77, H77, and the B77. While those from AMD are FX990, X990, X970. Chipsets are the main reasons for which motherboards support certain processor sockets, features and hence a particular range of processors.

Platform Exclusive Features you might need…
Features offered by Intel’s  Z77, H77 with Ivy-Bridge processors:
  • Intel 2nd & 3rd gen core i3, i5, i7 processor support
  • Intel  smart response technology: This is what is used to boost up your booting performance and overall system performance by utilizing SS. SSD is very high speed drive which offers speedy read and write rates. Basically Intel smart response technology uses SSD as cache drive to improve system performance.
  • Lucid virtu mvp: It is used to boost your graphics performance by combining onboard graphics with dedicated graphics. It also enables us to connect monitor input cable to either of dedicated card or motherboard display ports.
  • mSATA ports: mSATA can be used to connect to a small SSD chip to boost system performance by utilizing Intel’s smart response technology.( As this is relatively new, we hope to see this standard  used in incoming chipsets offered by AMD.)
  • Dedicated PCI express gen 3 and USB 3 support
Features offered by Intel x79 chipset:
  • Intel core i7 3820, 3930k, 3960x,3970x
  • Quad channel memory support
Features offered by Intel b75 chipset:
  • Perfectly optimized for small business use
  • Intel 3rd gen processor support
  • You can lock usb ports so as to limit the connecting of pen drives
  • Intel Rapid Recover Technology
Features offered by 990FX, 990X, 970 chipsets with piledriver based or bulldozer processors:
  • AMD Athlon™ II, AMD Phenom™ II, AMD FX support using AM3+ socket
  • Sata 6Gbps support
  • Quad-gpu sli amd quad-crossfirex support
Features offered by AMD A85X FCH chipset:
  • AMD trinity processors, Athlon processors
  • Native usb 3 suppport
  • Sata 6 Gbps support
(Please note that not all provided features are mentioned here. Only those which are competitive and matter most to customers are included here)
All you need to know is your budget and requirement. Then select the processor which attends to your needs and wants and search for the right motherboard with the best compatible chipset which offers enough features. Compare different processors and motherboards in the same category and select that combination which best fits in your budget.
Always remember to allott separate budgets for your platform which include processor and motherboard while building a new system so that you don’t end up compromising with the other aspects of the system

And finally, HOW should you should choose?
1. For video encoding, video editing, Photoshop, animation:
  • AMD: 8350k plus any suitable 990fx motherboard
  • Intel: Intel extreme series processor with x79 motherboard
2. For gaming:
  • AMD :
    • 8350k plus any suitable 990fx motherboard
    • A10 trinity processor with FM2 socket motherboard (low cost gaming solution if you don’t want spend bucks on expensive graphics card)
  • Intel :
    • Intel i5 or i7 processor with z77 motherboard (h77 if you don’t intend to overclock)
    • Intel i7 extreme processor with x79 motherboard
3. For business:
  • AMD :
    • Phenom II with 990fx or 990x motherboard
    • fx processor with 990fx or 990x motherboard
  • Intel :
    • Intel i3/i7/i5 processor with b76 motherboard

Though there are quite some more deciding factors to hit upon the best configuration for the perfect rig, this should be enough to give you the boost you require in deciding the things you want in your system.

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