AMD Ryzen vs. Intel for Gaming

  • More cores or higher clock speeds?
  • Which is better for streaming?
  • Which is easier to upgrade?
  • Which offers the best budget CPU for gaming?

Edited by Nataly Bogorad

September 9, 2019

AMD vs. Intel for Better Gaming Experience

AMD had been long gone from the gaming CPU market, leaving Intel the sweet spot of undisputed leader when it comes to choosing a processor for gaming. But the situation radically changed when AMD came out swinging with its Ryzen CPU line, which appears to be so good that the Intel’s monopoly is now on shaky ground. Suffice to say it is a lot harder now to decide with any certainty which is better for games and why. We’ve written this short review to compare the two brands, isolate the differences between them, and help you make a decision on the subject.

AMD Ryzen or Intel for Gaming?

Making the right choice of processor is crucial when building your gaming PC because, in the end, it will determine the motherboard you’re going to need and therefore the compatibility of every other hardware component. Let’s look at some key criteria for choosing a CPU and use them to see what Intel and AMD have to offer.

Price

With CPUs, as with anything, it all comes down to finding the greatest bang for your buck. Although we’re all used to the idea that AMD processors cost less and work worse, that’s a story of the past now, and the current situation in the market is way more complex. First of all, AMD now has broadened its range of products so that it now includes some very costly and powerful processors, but it has also put forward new solutions that are not only budget-friendly but comparable quality-wise with the Intel models that sell for a slightly higher price.

Today both AMD and Intel offer a wide range of solutions, budget as well as enthusiast-friendly. The low-end of the scale starts at $40 to $60 for a few cores and efficient clock speeds. The high-end gaming chips from both brands are incredibly powerful and can cost up to $500. AMD’s champion is the Ryzen 3900X, with 12 cores and 24 threads, while Intel’s top gaming solution is the 9900K model, with eight cores and 16 threads. The main difference is that the 9900K’s clock speeds are higher, showing a 5 GHz single-core boost versus AMD’s 4.6 GHz. The price of the Intel model is a little less, around $485, but it has fewer cores and threads, which makes it more restrictive for multitasking and complex media editing tasks.

If we go down to the middle of the pricing chart, our picks on the Intel side would include the Core i5-9400F that costs about $160 and the Core i7-9700K at about $380. As for the AMD, there is a perfect option here, the 3700X, which is equipped with eight cores and 16 threads, and is significantly stronger in terms of clock speed then its predecessor (the 2700X), and it will cost just $330. That’s a real deal as it beats out Intel’s gaming offers price-wise and also has more threads.

Just as an aside, the prosumers among you will profit from the extremely multithreaded solutions proposed by both Intel Core and AMD Threadripper CPUs. Intel offers between 10 and 18 cores and up to 36 threads, while AMD goes for hard-core multitasking with up to 32 cores and 64 threads and allowing simultaneous multithreading! The prices are just crazy high here, and an Intel model can cost as much as $2,000. At this level, AMD appears set to win in the fight with its core and thread count and 64 PCI Express lanes over the Intel’s maximum of 44.

The thing is – if you need a CPU exclusively for gaming and do not otherwise handle extremely large workloads on your PC, you’re better off saving your money. We have already touched on this subject in our article dedicated to the choice between Intel Core i5 and i7: games don’t need more than four or, at the very most, six cores. They just won’t benefit much from the extra processing power. So, for a gaming machine, you can stop at a quad-core CPU with eight threads (here again, four or six treads will be quite enough). Mid-level CPUs from both Intel and AMD have at least 6 cores, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Unless you stream or use your PC for other multithreading tasks, there’s no need to allow for a larger number of cores and threads – rather, save your money for a more powerful graphics card, which is a lot more important for improving your FPS rates in games.

Clock Speeds and Overclocking

AMD Ryzen clock speeds hover around the 3–3.5 GHz range. Even the Precision Boost doesn’t increase this amount to 4.0 GHz unless you buy something 2nd generation or a Threadripper (Ryzen 5 1600X is currently the only exception to this rule).

But there is a possibility of overclocking, and that’s where AMD has a lot to offer, because every single Ryzen CPU allows overclocking. That opens a possibility for you to overclock a budget system that’ll work just fine.

Intel, on the other hand, has only two special series in the Core line that can be overclocked: those with a K or an X in the name of the model.

Both AMD and Intel support two ways of overclocking: via BIOS and via a native application – Ryzen Master for AMD and Intel Extreme Tuning Utility for Intel. Both utilities are very intuitive and, although they don’t offer as many overclocking parameters as the BIOS, they work perfectly well and are very useful for those who don’t want to worry about tweaking the settings.

If you do want to overclock, you’ll need a suitable cooling system. The more pressure you put on your CPU, the more powerful it should be, and stock choices that go together with most CPUs won’t take a serious hit. Also, figuring out your CPU’s ideal temperature can be tricky, for many different factors affect this parameter.

Ryzen processors come equipped with a cooler specifically designed for the thermal design power demands of that precise processor. This is already a great way to start, because such coolers handle minor CPU overclocking. If you’ll want to significantly overclock your system, it may be a good idea to invest your money in more solid solutions like a larger heatsink or an AIO water cooler.

Anyways, this is a big AMD advantage, because not only do they open overclocking all down the Ryzen line, but also take care of its decent functioning by providing customized cooling, while Intel Core processors come with basic coolers that will be effective only if you work at stock speeds.

Compatibility and Updates

Both AMD Ryzen and Intel Core processors have a number of compatible chipsets, and different levels of them will add more features to your motherboard (lanes, ports, etc.).

BothRyzen chipsets are both forwards and backwards compatible, which means that older generation motherboard chipsets will work well with a new generation of Ryzen processors, and vice versa. This makes you more flexible in terms of upgrading, as you are not forced to upgrade your CPU and motherboard at the same time.

BothIt doesn’t work like that for Intel. The chipset generation is intended to correspond with the CPU’s to work correctly, which makes upgrading a more demanding issue.

Graphics

A basic on-die integrated GPU is built into every Intel Core processor, but “basic” is really the key word here: that means it won’t really be enough even for the games with middling graphic requirements.

While AMD has included integrated graphics only in the APU line, where their CPU is combined with a Radeon Vega graphics core, the graphic performance of these APU processors tends to be significantly higher than those from Intel in the same price range. AMD’s APU series were actually designed for gaming and although you won’t be playing at 4K, it is a sure bet for those who need a low-budget gaming PC. They come in two configurations: 4 cores + 4 threads or 4 cores + 8 threads.

That being said, if you’re serious about gaming, you’ll probably want an add-in graphics card or a stand-alone GPU instead of integrated graphics. In which case, the best choice possible is Intel’s 9900K, which is probably the most powerful gaming processor today. On the other hand, the latest AMD 3900X and 3800X chips are nipping at Intel’s toes for its money: their performance in most games is comparable to the 9900K’s and they do better at multi-threaded tasks.

Conclusion

The question is: what do you really need for gaming? What is more important: faster clock speeds or more cores and threads? That depends on what you do with your PC. Do you only need a stable gaming performance with the highest FPS count possible for your money? Do you play games and stream at the same time? Or, maybe, gaming is not the only demanding activity you perform on your PC? All these questions matter.

If the only thing you really need your PC for is gaming, then there is probably no better choice than Intel 9700K or 9900K, but if you value quality over status, you should know that Ryzen 3000 CPUs of the same price range will deliver very close results in gaming and better results anywhere else. Also, due to its advanced multithreading, it is a better choice for those who game and stream at the same time.

But don’t forget that mid-range AMD processors, 3600 or 3600X, offer amazing performance, too, and even APU series are powerful enough on the graphics side to provide decent gaming, even if their processing weakness makes them less attractive in the long term. If you don’t want to bother about upgrades, if your budget is rather restricted, and you’re interested in multitasking (say, you make videos or edit large amount of photos) or streaming, AMD is for you.

Finally, our general feeling is that although Intel still upholds its standards, offers faster clock speeds and sets a higher ceiling for overclocking, it will have to lower prices to keep up with AMD’s fast and effective development that makes its CPUs the best bang for buck throughout the entire value range. Ultimately, Intel’s lead in top-notch gaming processors seems to be outweighed by AMD’s benefits in price, multitasking and compatibility.

Gecata by Movavi: A Simple and Reliable Game Recording Software

If you’re a gamer, the chances are you’ve already thought about recording your gameplay and sharing it with others. Actually, it is a lot simpler than you might think. Gecata by Movavi has been designed specifically for those who want an accessible and practical program for game recording: it takes little time to set up, is easy to use, and has all the features you’re likely to need.

  • Record webcam and mic as well as your gameplay.
  • Turn on Game mode so the program starts recording automatically as soon as you launch the game.
  • Save screenshots in one click and set the desired FPS and bitrate.
  • Capture separate audio streams so you can edit them differently and mix them as you like.
  • Add overlays to control the frame rate, system bit count and file size of your recording in real time.

The program is so intuitive, you’ll be tweaking the settings and starting recording in minutes.

Go ahead and give it a try!

Gecata by Movavi

The best way to preserve your gaming achievements.

  • Record HD game videos at up to 60 FPS
  • Grab sound from microphone and speakers
  • Add webcam video to the game footage
  • Save video in MP4 for easy uploading to YouTube