When buying a new computer, be it a laptop or a desktop, you will have to make a choice between two CPU manufacturers; AMD or Intel.

Historically there has been a bit of a seesaw effect between the two as to who’s the most powerful or best value, so this article will look primarily at today’s landscape and seek to explain the major differences between the two choices.

Intel

Probably the better known of the two, Intel was founded in 1968 and is best known for its Pentium range of processors. These days, high end Intel CPUs come in different designations that differentiate their performance by what category they are. A quick breakdown of these categories are:

     i3 – Mostly dual core processors, these are the entry level high performance CPUs

     i5 – The mid-range of the high performance offerings, generally quad core but can be dual.

     i7 – The top of the range CPUs, showcasing the fastest Intel has to offer.

You’ll see Intel CPUs advertised with a 4 digit number after them, such as the i7-2630. Basically the designations are first digit for the generation (so 2xxx would be second generation) and the numbers that follow are an indication how fast the CPU is going to be (higher numbers are better). There are also designations such as M for mobile (found in laptops primarily) and K for CPUs that have unlocked multipliers.

Intel still supplies Pentium and Celeron processors which are significantly slower than the Core line-up but consume far less power, hence they can be found in smaller devices such as netbooks, hybrid computers and tablets.

AMD

For a good many years in the early 2000’s AMD CPUs were the way to go in desktop computing. They outperformed Intel at almost every turn, and often were easier on the wallet too. These days AMD struggles to compete with Intel in the sheer power stakes, instead opting to go with features such as integrated graphics and lower prices.

AMD’s CPUs can be broken down into major categories: CPUs and APUs. An APU is an Accelerated Processing Unit which most notably has an onboard graphics processing unit (GPU) which can be used for graphically intensive purposes. APUs come in a few different varieties, the A-series comes in A4, A6, A8 and A10 (the higher the better) and there are the Athlon and Sempron series of APUs that are cheaper but less powerful. CPUs with no onboard graphics are contained in the FX range and follows the usual designation of the higher the number the better.

Uses

So what’s the bottom line, should you buy a machine with an Intel or AMD CPU? Well, the answer to that is … it depends! What would you like to do with your machine? For light gaming you might be able to get away with an AMD APU that will negate the need for a graphics card at the cost of not being able to play everything on full settings. For a home theatre PC an AMD APU would be great due to cost and features. If you need absolute raw power then an Intel CPU is for you, be it at work or at home. If you are a light or casual user then you won’t notice the difference, in which case go with whichever is cheaper! There are solutions out there for everyone’s needs, and now you are better informed to choose them.

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