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AMD and Intel (and Nvidia) – How Things Stand

Much has been written about how Intel has trumped over AMD cleanly in recent times, with it’s Dual and Quad Core processor (Santa Rosa, Penryn, Nehalem, etc).

Well, to begin with, do no take this article as review. This is just a opinion, a presentation of kinds. This article will not help you buy a processor – this is not a buying guide. This is simply for reading pleasure.

Intel’s processors are good. Almost all current reviews rate Intel processors over AMD in terms of general benchmarks. Even in terms of performance per unit money, many now call the balance in favour of Intel, particularly in the Dual Core domain.

However, things are not as simple as they seem. Read my full case against benchmarking here, or read on for a short recap:

… benchmarking does not make sense for regular desktop use. I am not interested in the speed score of the computer I am going to buy (or already have, but want to compare), I want to know if it gets the things I want done faster than others that compete. And in that kind of test, I have often found benchmarks to be awful liars: my laptop does the exact same sequence of Photoshop processes, video conversions, Matlab compilations and webserving faster than another computer with 3DMark, PCMark scores considerably than my own…

…benchmarks may often be optimized for one specific kind of computer hardware. For example, nowadays, Intel processors of the Core 2 Duo breed are said to be triumphing over the AMD 64 X2 processors – based on benchmarks. But what if the benchmark algorithms are more optimized for Intel processors? They would then obviously be faster on the Intel! Even more complicated, I do know of a few benchmark results that run faster on an AMD Turion X2 than a Core 2 Duo Mobile of the same specifications, while other tests run faster on the Intel. Is it fair to say that the Intel is faster simply because it tops more benchmarks? After all, it all depends upon the hardware environment each processor is set in…

…One benchmark may test the processor for super number crunching, whereas that computer may normally be used for, say, multimedia. Another benchmark may test multitasking, when the computer’s main use may be Adobe Photoshop. That is where the problem lies: benchmarks are often portrayed – and accepted – as absolute ranks, when they are almost always relative to task specific requirement…

This, then, is where problems come in: how do you test a processor for power? Truth is, that may actually be impossible without actually having the exact requirements, and the final, optimized hardware build for that processor.

And that is where AMD is still holding fort: there are benchmarks that AMD still tops, particularly in the domain of super fast linear computing.

People have even begun to claim that AMD is going down the drain, while Intel has become dominant. I am inclined to agree. AMD, while having a history of comebacks, is simply cash-strapped. They have recently been forced to split their company into two, a section each for design and fabrication. That is an ode to how powerful Intel actually is. And while we may not want a competition less Intel (that would send prices skywards), it does prove that Intel is the strongest player in the game.

However, AMD never ceases to surprise. Their most recent shot was not in the processor industry, but the graphics: after years of yielding their graphics card market to Nvidia, they suddenly bounced back recently with the ATI (a.k.a AMD) Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics card, and blasted apart the integrated graphics chipset market with the 780G.

And Intel may soon be in line: courtesy, the AMD Fusion Processor with integrated GPU. Intel has no real plans to counter such an innovation, to the best of my knowledge.

Last Words

So. As things stand, AMD is bumped and Intel is flying. But this is a phase that AMD may come out of in the near future, since the company restructuring. Moreover, AMD’s innovation (and Intel’s lack of imagination) may once again put AMD in a position to attack. For users, that will mean another glorious era of high speeds and low prices.

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