It only takes a minute shopping for a computer to confirm that the battle between tech-titans AMD and Intel is still alive and well. The war these two companies are waging is not a new one; it’s been going on for more than forty years now, and it’s not likely to end soon. With such tight, unending competition, it’s not a bad idea to check in every now and then, take the pulse of the two companies, investigate their current products, and determine who’s really the better CPU maker: AMD or Intel.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the brightest and best of what each company has to offer. Intel’s current top-of-the-line is their second generation Core processors, code named “Sandy Bridge” (check out my complete Sandy Bridge article here). Sandy Bridge was officially released in January 2011 and possesses some tremendous upgrades over previous CPUs.
The most remarkable of these upgrades is the on-die graphics controller which has been built-into each of these chips. On-die graphics refers to integrated graphics which are physically located on the processor and run much faster, and with greater power, than motherboard-integrated video, allowing the processor alone to output video quality rivaling that of a discrete graphics card! Speed-wise the second-generation Core CPUs are a step above anything else on the market save Intel’s own enthusiast-level first-generation Core i7 CPUs which will probably continue to rule the Intel roost until the second wave of Sandy Bridge processors hit the shelves late in 2011.
AMD’s current front runner is the Hexa-Core Phenom II X6 1100T processor, released in mid-December of 2010. This processor boasts six logical cores over Intel’s four, and yet is not nearly as fast as are the upper echelons of Intel’s offerings. The ace up AMD’s sleeve is the up-and-coming line of “Bulldozer” CPUs.
The name Bulldozer refers specifically to a major redesign in the overall architecture of the processor, rather than an improvement to older technology, and will be the biggest change in the company’s product line since the Athlon line was released in 2003. Of this line, the consumer level product (codenamed “Zambezi”) will feature processors with 6-8 cores. In the Bulldozer architecture each processor core will be paired with another, the two will share memory and work as one. The combined cores are referred to as a “Bulldozer Module” (the source of the new line’s name) and there will be 3 or 4 of them on one CPU. Initial impressions of these processors suggest they’ll be up to 50% faster than Intel’s Core i7 950! (Check out the data here)
So who’s Better?
For the moment, it’s Intel. The Sandy Bridge line of processors is extremely fast, the weakest of which being only slightly slower than the best of AMD’s processors, and cheaper to boot. Not to mention that when purchasing a Sandy Bridge CPU, you don’t typically have to drop the cash for a graphics card. However, when Bulldozer hits shelves in April I think we can expect Intel to pass the torch. AMD’s new architecture will revolutionize multi-core processing and wow the PC world collectively.
Remember though, the current Intel line is meant for mid-ranged consumer market, similar to the LGA 1156 processors we’ve seen during the last couple of years. Intel’s true monster isn’t slated for release until Q4 of 2011, the LGA 2011, meant to supersede the current LGA 1366 enthusiast-level processors that are the fastest processors available today.
If you’d like to learn more about picking a processor upgrade, check out my post on Choosing a Processor Upgrade