The story of AMD & Intel; The modern CPU battle

It’s best to get this written up and posted now because the way things are shaping up AMD is about to become the giant in the CPU market and Intel is going to fall behind.

In a battle of two companies that has existed for a long time as seen in the early 2000’s by PCmax and Paste Magazine’s rundown. The focus on this post is the modern arena, The time when AMD came back onto the scene with a mighty force and shook everything up, throwing Intel off its planning, prices and their massive market share.

Late 2011 AMD release its Bulldozer processing microarchitecture, With its CPU line being called FX and Opteron.  The response to this by consumers wasnt great; Whilst they had many cores and threads at that time the chips performed badly in benchmarks, ran hot, sucked a lot of power and were beaten by Intel’s range of second generation chips. You wouldn’t be mistaken as the years went on to think that AMD was down and out in the CPU segment.

Intel’s Skylake microarchitecture release in 2015 was a big hit, mostly to gamers. The cheap i5-6600k was perfect for gaming or the i7-6700k for streaming or video editing. Value was through the roof at the low to mid end, but the market for the high-end workstation chips was an expensive one and left a gaping hole. If you needed Cores and threads you were gonna have to pay up a lot.

In 2016 Intel rolled out Kaby lake, using the same socket as Skylake this generation was about optimization therefor improvement. But very little had changed with Intel’s lineup, 4 core i5’s and i7’s CPUs with high single core performance but in multi-core performance there was a crack. Gamers were happy but what about streamers, encoders, media editors and devs running VM’s? They would have to pay bigger dollars for the i7-7820X for $599 which had 8 cores and 16 threads.

December 13, 2016 at the AMD New horizon summit there was a big announcement from AMD. It was the Zen microarchitecture with Ryzen being the branding of the CPU’s. AM4 and TR4 being the sockets that would house the new Ryzen chips. Not many would have thought at the time about how this would change an industry.

Ryzen; Revenge on the horizon?

There was 4 main segments AMD was catering for: Entry, main, Performance and High-end. The entry-level had the Ryzen 3 1300X with 4 cores, 4 threads for $129. Main: Ryzen 5 1600X 6 cores, 12 threads for $249. Performance: Ryzen 7 1700 8 cores, 16 threads for $329. High end consisted of something quite amazing that needs its own story, Threadripper CPU line which was developed outside of a work hours by AMD workers has the 1950X 16 cores, 32 threads for $999.

First generation Ryzen lineup:

NameCoresThreadsPrice at release (USD)

They may just be numbers or specifications to most but those numbers listed above were crucial for AMD. AMD had just undercut Intel’s pricing significantly in most cases and not only matched their cores and thread offering in the low-end (Ryzen 3) they came out and offered more! It was more for Less in a highly enticing announcement. All Ryzen needed was to perform.

Fortunately for AMD’s sake there was no repeat from 2011 with Bulldozer, those days were over. The Ryzen ran cooler (thanks to a good stock cooler, spire), it used less power and it performed well. In multi core and threaded benchmarks Ryzen stood strong beating of similar Intel variants that cost much more.

However there was a slight thorn in AMD’s side. Whilst all the extra cores and threads were great it was still below Intel’s performance for gaming and single core performance. Go on Reddit or forums and you will be guaranteed to find debate and insight into if you’re gaming go Intel otherwise Ryzen is great for streaming and video editing. The whole notion that AMD sucked at gaming wasnt exactly a free-flowing one. The Ryzen 5 1600X vs Intel’s equivalent the i5-7600k is a great example. From this PC World article or Anandtech the Ryzen smashed it in rendering and encoding tasks, the i5 did poorly (multi cores/threads) and in gaming the 1600X wasnt far behind. These two CPU’s basically equal in price yet the Ryzen 1600X has 2 more cores and 8 more threads!

It really didnt make sense to buy the Intel chip unless all you did was turn your pc on, game and then turn your pc off.

Up a level is the Ryzen 7 1700 vs intel i7-7700k. The 1700 doubled Intel’s i7-7700k in cores and threads and was cheaper…….by over $100. In benchmarks it was a similar tale Intel beating the Ryzen in gaming but Ryzen beating Intel’s offering in multi core/thread tasks source. It really didn’t make sense to buy the Intel chip unless all you did was turn your pc on, game and then turn your pc off.

Something more astonishing and driving the point home that Ryzen offers more for less than Intel is the i7-7820X selling for $600 with 8 cores, 16 threads gets beaten by the Ryzen 1700 which by now is selling for under $300 source. Whilst the i7-7820X did have wins its simply not a win when a chip half your price is essentially the same performer for the heavy tasks.

Half the price, just as good.

Ryzen being a cheaper or equal priced option across its whole range is a massive factor. Factor that with Ryzen again matching or having more cores/threads than the Intel variants and it clear now that AMD are hitting back. Swinging the market share and in the process bringing back competition which hadn’t been around for several years.

AMD had one more attack up its sleeve, Threadripper. A monster that brought a high-end CPU to the everyday consumer. The Threadripper in simple terms is two CPU’s glued side-by-side and was made remarkably through AMD employees spare time. The thing is a beast (16c/32t) and again with no surprises takes the fight with Intel.

In Techage battle of the 16 core enthusiast CPU’s article The Threadripper 1950X gets tested alongside Intel’s high-end range. At 16 cores, 32 threads the Intel i9-7960X is a decent matchup. The only issue is one thing of course the price, $1,699 compared to the Threadripper being $999. Massive difference. Whilst the i9-7960X did beat the 1950X in most areas the difference again was small. The big difference is the price and you’d be stupid to pay that much more for something that tiny bit better.

A year on from Ryzens strong introduction onto the scene comes Zen+ which is an upgrade to the Zen microarchitecture. Zen+ was said to bring 10% performance improvmemnts. The Zen+ lineup currently consists of 4 CPU’s: Ryzen 7 2700 and 2700X (8c/12t) plus the Ryzen 5 2600 and 2600X (6c/12t). The clock speeds are faster than the first generation Ryzen but still behind Intel in gaming.

Intels biggest and baddest consumer CPU being made look tiny, under powered and a rip off.

June the 5th 2018 and AMD have announced that the Threadripper 2 will be 32 cores, 64 threads. Monstering Intel again. Oh and yes the same trend applies again, a lower price. $1,759 is the expected price of the Threadripper 2. The Intel i9-7980XE is an 18 core, 26 thread CPU costing $2000. That is Intel’s biggest and baddest consumer CPU being made look tiny, under powered and a rip off.

It was at this announcement that Intel showed off a 28 core cpu running at a very high 5Ghz. Which in fact turned out to be a $10,000 server CPU running on a ridiculous cooling setup. Whilst AMD had a 32 Core CPU ready to release in months, Intel was mucking around trying to make buzz and steal headlines. The tide had turned, AMD knew it too.

AMD recently ran a giveaway mocking Intel celebrating 40 years of the x86 processor by giving people a Threadripper 1950X if they hand over their Intel i7 8086K which is half the price of the 1950X. 8086 Threadrippers were available for this exchange…

AMD look set; They are progressing with market share, more cores/threads and cheaper prices. Intel are cooked in a range of segments, expensive and becoming really bland. Gaming or fast single core speed uses are keeping Intel in this battle. As when Threadripper 2 drops the already low prices of the original Threadripper will go lower. If Intel don’t respond well before Threadripper 3 it’d be really concerning for them.

Its AMD’s game now

We will have a 32 core CPU on the market for just over $1000 and it will make most of Intel’s high-end lineup highly unattractive if it wasnt already. Intel has CPU speed on their side and its the only thing AMD don’t have going for it, but given AMD’s progression in the past couple of years who isn’t to say a year from now AMD will rule gaming, rule productivity and rule the CPU market?

Intel is falling behind, sales, development even with core count and once behind its hard to get back to the front. Such as when Intel release’s the i7-9700K (8 cores) in the second half of 2018 and it’s priced more than the early 2017 Ryzen 1700 (8 cores).Whats the point? At this stage you will be able to buy the 1700 for under $250 or the latest Ryzen 2700X will probably be cheaper than Intel’s new i7-9700K. Intel bucking the trend is going to be hard but rather than put all the focus on them let’s be thankful AMD took a hit, took time at the bottom and bounced back strong, very strong. Without AMD’s growth in the CPU sector computer users would not be able to purchase high core CPU’s for a few hundred dollars.