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Intel vs AMD processors guide: models, ranges and equivalents

With the launch of Intel and AMD’s latest generation of processors, some confusion has been created among our readers since they do not understand these processors’ ranges and positions on the market, and how they compare to previous generations.

Several of you have asked us directly to write a special segment about this topic in order to clarify where these new Intel and AMD processors stand, which is a very interesting challenge that we have decided to accept while also expanding it, as you will see at the end of the article where we will give you a recap reviewing processors from previous generations and their current equivalents.

Our goal is simple: for you to understand well where these new Intel and AMD processors stand, and at the same time for you to be able to identify each model’s basic characteristics, the type of user targeted by the brands and the performance offered by the processors in comparison to older ones.

Thanks to this, it will be clearer to you to tell if it is the right time to upgrade your CPU or, on the contrary, if it still is good enough to work seamlessly.

With this in mind, let’s get on with it. As usual, we hope you like it and find it useful.

Firstly: architectures and manufacturing processes

First of all, let’s review the architectures and manufacturing processes that are currently used in Intel and AMD processors, as it will allow us to easily understand each generation’s basic features:

  • Intel Skylake: they are based on a 14 nm manufacturing process and used in the Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 lineups.
  • Intel Kaby Lake: they are based on a 14 nm manufacturing process and used in the Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 lineups.
  • Intel Broadwell-E: they are based on a 14 nm manufacturing process and used in the Core i7 Extreme lineup. They are a step behind the Skylake lineup in terms of raw performance (IPC), but they have a great core/thread count (up to 10/20).
  • Intel Skylake-X: they are based on a 14 nm manufacturing process and used in the new Core i7 Extreme and Core i9 Extreme lineups. They raise raw performance and the core/thread count (up to 18/36).
  • Intel Kaby Lake-X: they are also based on a 14 nm manufacturing process and used in Core i5 and Core i7 processors. These processors use the same socket and chipset featured on Skylake-X processors, but they fall behind in terms of core numbers and advanced features (Kaby Lake-X processors do not support quad-channel memory, for example).
  • Bulldozer: they are based on a 32 nm manufacturing process and used in the Athlon and FX lineups, and in their different APUs featuring a graphics engine. In this group we include all the Bulldozer architecture’s successors, such as Steamroller and Excavator, which introduced minor improvements on an IPC level.
  • ZEN: they are based on a 14 nm manufacturing process and used in the new Ryzen, Ryzen PRO processors and the announced ThreadRipper processors, which will be Skylake-X’s direct rivals, featuring up to 16 cores and 32 threads.

Intel and AMD processors ranges

We will now proceed to summarize every key feature on the different Intel and AMD processors that are currently out on the market or that are very close to their official launch.

In this list, we will see the most important aspects of each processor in terms of their basic characteristics and performance, as well as showing what type of users are targeted, as we said before.

Before doing this, we remind you that Intel processors have letters to differentiate some models from the standard versions, so let’s clarify this before seeing all the ranges:

  • Letter U: they are ultra-low power processors used on laptops.
  • Letters T or S: they are used on consumer PCs. They indicate a lower consumption in favor of reducing operating frequencies.
  • Letters K or X: they indicate that the processor’s multiplier is unlocked.

Intel processors

  • Celeron: these are low-cost processors with two cores and two threads providing a good performance for office tasks, multimedia and web browsing. They also perform well with games that do not require more than two cores.
  • Pentium: these processors improve performance in comparison to the Celeron processors by offering higher clock rates, although they usually are almost identical since they feature two cores and two threads as well. The new Pentium G processors based on Kaby Lake have four threads and perform amazingly even when gaming, which makes them an excellent solution when building low-budget gaming PCs.
  • Core i3: these processors have two cores and four threads, which together with their high CPI make them an excellent solution for those who want to build low-cost high-performance and very efficient PCs. They are great for gaming and working.
  • Core i5: this is one of the best performance-price ratio ranges offered by Intel, and it is a great choice for doing anything. These processors have four cores and four threads, and they are an excellent choice four users with medium budgets. The ‘U’ models have two cores and four threads.
  • Core i7: here we have processors with four cores and eight threads that offer a performance nearly identical to the one provided by the Core i5 in most cases (as long as they use the same architecture). The ‘U’ series models have two cores and four threads. These processors are a good option for users wanting to play anything besides using multithreaded applications, although they do not make a major difference in comparison to the quad-core Core i5.
  • Core i7 Extreme and Core i9 Extreme: these are processors ranging from six to eighteen cores. They are useful for doing anything, but are very expensive and we would only take real advantage of them if we use professional applications that depend on a high multithreading capacity. They also support quad-channel memories and have more PCIe lanes.

AMD processors

  • Athlon: there are models ranging from two to four cores. Their performance is good for almost any basic task and the quad-core models offer a good performance even when gaming, although not quite at the same level offered by a current Pentium.
  • APUs: they combine the CPU and GPU onto a single chip. There are very different models, as we can find versions with processors ranging from two to four cores and with very powerful graphics engines. They are a good option when building gaming PCs under very limited budgets.
  • FX-4300: these processors have four cores and very high operating frequencies, which enables them to offer a good performance in general. They are a good option as a low-cost upgrade of an AM3+ platform, especially if we plan on running games.
  • FX-6300: they are one step ahead of the previously mentioned processors, as these have six cores as well as very high operating frequencies. They perform well when gaming and are also a nice upgrade if we already have an AM3+ platform.
  • FX-8300: these processors are the current AMD’s mid-end lineup along with the FX-9000, although these FX-9000 models are not recommended because of their high TDP. They feature eight cores and operating frequencies over 4 GHz, which make them a very versatile option.
  • Ryzen: they are AMD’s current high-end processors. They use a new architecture and are built on a 14 nm manufacturing process, and there are models ranging from four cores and four threads to eight cores and sixteen threads. They offer an excellent level of performance in any situation and their price is very attractive.
  • Ryzen Pro: these are the professional versions of the previous processors. They keep every key aspect of their normal versions’ counterparts in terms of performance, but they are enhanced in terms of hardware-based integrated security.
  • ThreadRipper: they also keep the basis of the Ryzen architecture, but they raise their core/threads count to the maximum, to 16/32, while offering quad-channel memory support and many more PCIe lanes. These processors are for advanced users who work with very demanding programs and applications, or for those who want to be able to game and work.
Intel and AMD processors: approximate equivalents

We wrap up this article with a comparison in which we will see Intel and AMD processors’ equivalents for each different generation.

Keep in mind that it is impossible to make an absolutely accurate equivalence, so all the values ​​that we are going to see below are an approximation, therefore there may be variations in specific tests tipping the balance in favor of either one or the other.

This being said, these are very accurate Intel and AMD processors’ equivalents overall, so you can completely rely on them:

  • Core 2 Duo and Athlon 64 X2: these are really old processors that have been surpassed by anything currently on the market. The performance of superior higher-end models, such as the E8400, would come really close to the one provided by the Core i3 530, but the latter can manage four threads thanks to the Hyper-Threading Technology, while the former are limited to two threads.
  • 1st-gen Intel Core: we can identify them because they are represented by only three numbers (Core i3 530, Core i5 750 and Core i7 920, for example). Up to the Core i5, we can make a nearly direct equivalence between the Core 2 Quad Q9450 (and higher models) and the AMD Phenom II X4, while the Core i7 860 (and higher models) are a step ahead since they can manage eight threads thanks to Hyper-Threading. We can also find AMD’s 1st-gen FX-8100 series, FX-6100 series and FX-4100 series based on Bulldozer in this category, as well as the AMD Phenom II X6.
  • 2nd-gen Intel Core: we can identify them by their 2000 numeration. They marked a significant leap in terms of IPC, so the only clear equivalence that we can see is ​​with the 2nd-gen FX-8300 series, FX-6300 series and FX-4300 series based on Piledriver. This means that an FX-8350 performs similarly to a Core i5-2500K, to give you a concrete example.
  • 3rd-gen Intel Core: we can identify them by their 3000 numeration. They do not show an important change in performance in comparison to the 2000 series, as their manufacturing process was reduced while keeping the same architecture, which means that everything that we said in the previous bullet would apply here.
  • 4th-gen Intel Core: we can identify them by their 4000 numeration and they mark a pretty clear leap in terms of performance even if it is not as prominent as the one taken by Sandy Bridge. In this generation, AMD’s most powerful models, such as the FX-8350, are comparable to the Core i5-4460, although the latter’s high IPC is noticeable in applications taking advantage of no more than four cores while the former wins in terms of multi-core performance.
  • 5th-gen Intel Core: this has somewhat turned into an anecdote because of Intel’s lack of support. They made the jump to 14 nm while keeping the previous generation’s base performance, so everything that we said on the previous bullet would apply here as well.
  • 6th-gen Intel Core: they increase performance in comparison to the previous generation, and they use the 6000 numeration. They widen the difference in terms of single-threaded performance in comparison to previous architectures, putting them far ahead of AMD’s FX processors. Ryzen processors offer a very similar performance and are nearly direct equivalents.
  • 7th-gen Intel Core: Intel’s latest processors. This generation’s processors can be identified by their 7000 numeration, offering virtually the same raw performance of the previous generation while also keeping the 14 nm manufacturing process.
  • AMD Ryzen processors: they are built on a 14 nm manufacturing process and use a brand new architecture known as ZEN. They offer single-threaded performance at almost the same level of that of Intel’s 6th generation. The models sporting six cores/twelve threads and eight cores/sixteen threads offer a performance on par with the Core i7-6800K, Core i7-6850K and Core i7-6900K.

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