GCN LAB IMPRESSIONS

Intel or AMD? It depends on if you want performance or value

Benchmarks reveal Intel’s power and AMD’s bang for the buck

The GCN Lab has been using the Passmark Performance Benchmarks for about three years now. It’s a wonderful benchmark that lets reviewers “see” inside a computer being evaluated. It looks not only at the processor performance, but at memory, disk access, 2-D and 3-D graphical power, and throughput within a system. Recently the Lab upgraded to Version 7 of the software, having used 6.1 for years before that. Version 7 works perfectly with Vista and Windows 7, so the changeover was inevitable.

One of the new features with Version 7, and the subject of this Impressions piece, has to do with the reporting capabilities of the benchmark. We’ve always been able to upload scores to a Passmark database, so that we can see how a system or system configuration compares with thousands of others that have also been tested. But now, Passmark has added a value score and a performance score. The performance score is based solely on the processor, whereas the value number is that score divided by the cost of the CPU.

When creating a new database, it’s always interesting to see what happens. In this case, the results were fairly surprising. First off, Intel has a lock on performance. The Intel Core i7 X 980 processor is the fastest chip anyone has ever tested, with an astounding score of 10,194, which is almost a third higher than anything we’ve experienced in the lab so far. But beyond just that one victory, Intel also has the top 13 slots for performance before AMD finally charts with its Phenom II X6 1090T chip. A score of 6,510 for the AMD is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s pretty far away from the five-digit i7 score.

But what about value? Here’s where AMD really gets to shine. This list is almost the complete opposite, with the top 15 slots held by AMD chips, sweeping the rankings until Intel finally gets on there with its cheaper Celeron E3300 @ 2.5 GHz processor. Remember, that this is performance divided by price, so the AMDs not only had to be inexpensive, but also fairly powerful. In fact, the Phenom II X6 1090T, which fought with Intel on performance, charted very near the bottom on value due to its $295 price tag.

The No. 1 performing Intel i7 chip cost $999, which is a good price if you need that performance. This is especially true given that the second highest performing Intel, the Xeon X5670, cost $1,459.

So which is better, Intel or AMD? That debate will live on for a long time. But according to these new charts, if you can get by with good (but not stellar) performance, AMD might be the way to go. And if you need true bleeding-edge processor performance, Intel chips win hands-down. You’ll just pay for the privilege of having them.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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