AMD vs. Intel CPUs for Gaming: Who is Better in 2019?

For nearly a decade, Intel has had control of the desktop CPU market, especially in the gaming space. AMD’s disastrous Bulldozer release in 2011 set back the company for many years as AMD’s CPU market share continued to decline.

However, AMD has finally emerged with the Zen architecture in Q1 of 2017, which promised massive improvements over the flawed Bulldozer architecture.

AMD came out with the Ryzen 3 that competed with the Intel i3, the Ryzen 5 that competed with the i5, the Ryzen 7 that competed with the i7, and the Ryzen Threadripper that competed with the i7 X-series CPUs.

Intel vs. AMD: Performance

Today, the current second generation of Ryzen CPUs deliver incremental improvements over the first gen Ryzen. On the Intel side, Intel has refreshed it’s 8th gen Coffee Lake lineup, though with much smaller performance improvements.

Overclocking Potential

Comparing overclocking potential between Intel and AMD is interesting, because there’s no clear winner.

Every single Ryzen chip has an unlocked multiplier, from the Ryzen 3 2200G all the way up to the monstrous 16 core 32 thread Ryzen 2950X Threadripper. You also don’t need any special motherboard to overclock with AMD — any cheap B-series motherboard or will do.

On team blue, overclocking is much more limited. Only the flagship ‘K’ CPUs from the i3, i5, and i7 lineups can be overclocked, though all the i9s can be overclocked. You also need to have a Z370 or Z390 chipset motherboard to overclock with Intel — setting you back at least another $15o if you want a good quality motherboard.

However, even though overclocking is open to all AMD users, not just the special 9600K or 9700K club for Intel users, overclocking doesn’t yield as much performance from AMD chips as from Intel chips.

Intel’s ‘K’ chips have more overclocking headroom, maxing out at around 5.0 GHz, higher than the boost clock of 4.3-4.7 GHz. Meanwhile Ryzen chips max out at around their boost clock of 4.1-4.3 GHz so there’s really nothing substantial to be gained from overclocking Ryzen.

Core Count & Core Performance

The main factor that differentiates AMD chips and Intel chips is core count and the performance of the individual cores. AMD chips generally have more cores and/or threads while Intel chips make up for the lack of cores by having superior single-core performance. Intel has even killed off hyper-threading (basically splitting one physical core into two threads) for it’s Coffee Lake Refresh i7s, adding two extra cores to compensate.

General Comparison of 2nd Gen Ryzen and Coffee Lake Refresh

 Cores/ThreadsBase/Boost ClockL3 CacheTDPUserbenchmark.com Effective SpeedApprox. Price
Intel i9 9900K8 / 163.6 / 4.7 GHz16MB95W120$530
Intel i7 9700K8 / 83.7 / 4.6 GHz12MB95W113$400
Intel i5 9600K6 / 63.7 / 4.3 GHz8MB95W104$270
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X16 / 323.5 / 4.4 GHz32MB180W117$900
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X8 / 163.7 / 4.3 GHz16MB105W100$310
AMD Ryzen 7 27008 / 163.2 / 4.1 GHz16MB65W87$260
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X6 / 123.6 / 4.2 GHz16MB95W93$200
AMD Ryzen 5 26006 / 123.4 / 3.9 GHz16MB65W88$160

AMD’s high number of core’s is well suited for a workstation PC and multi-threaded applications like editing and rendering while Intel’s more powerful single-core performance is better suited for applications like gaming which have trouble utilizing more than a few cores at a time.

The AMD Stock Cooler

AMD Ryzen CPUs come with very good stock coolers compared to the Intel stock cooler. You can even overclock using the AMD stock coolers. The Ryzen 7 2700X and 2700 both even have RGB LED coolers!

Stock CoolerCPUs that it comes with

AMD Wraith Prism RGB
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

AMD Wraith Spire RGB
AMD Ryzen 7 2700
AMD Ryzen 7 1700

AMD Wraith Spire
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X
AMD Ryzen 5 1600
AMD Ryzen 5 1500X

AMD Wraith Stealth
AMD Ryzen 5 2600
AMD Ryzen 5 2400G
AMD Ryzen 5 1400
AMD Ryzen 3 2200G
AMD Ryzen 3 1300X
AMD Ryzen 3 1200

The unlocked Intel CPUs don’t come with stock coolers as Intel expects you to get an aftermarket cooler yourself, but the locked CPUs come with a very crappy stock cooler:

Value

We’ve going to say it here: Ryzen is a usually a slightly better value than Intel Coffee Lake, especially with the free stock cooler factored in. Here is a price comparison between Ryzen and Intel CPUs that have similar performance.

Intel i7 8700K/9700K | ~$370/~$410 vs. Ryzen 7 2700X | ~$310

Intel i5 8600K/9600K | ~$260/~$270 vs. Ryzen 7 2700X | ~$310

Intel i5 8400| ~$200 vs. Ryzen 5 2600/2600X | ~$160/~$200

Intel i3 8100 | ~$120 vs. Ryzen 3 2200G| ~$100

Conclusion

Right now, if your total build budget is under $1000, Ryzen is clearly the better value.

If you have a high budget, AMDs are still a better value, but it’s a little less clear because higher budgets are less sensitive to prices of individual components.

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