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Demystifying Intel Microprocessors

Shopping around for microprocessors these days isn’t as straightforward as just picking the model with the most cores or the highest clockspeed. But since there’s only two major manufacturers for the PC market right now, most people just pick a brand between Intel microprocessors and AMD, and just choose the microprocessor that fits within their budget. A lot of people tend to choose Intel, which makes it the current market leader. But what made Intel win over AMD in the current market?

Speed, Efficiency, and Overclocking Headroom

There’s no two ways to go about it. The simple fact, as proven by benchmarks and user experiences, is that Intel’s offerings are faster at both synthetic benchmarks and real world usage when compared to its AMD counterparts with the same clock speed and core count. In fact, there are even Intel microprocessors that “punch up” above their tier, such as the 3.7ghz dual core i3 6100 from Intel beating the 3.9 ghz AMD quad core A10 7870K in CPU-bound benchmarks.

Additionally, Intel also beats its AMD counterparts when it comes to power consumption. They are ahead in the race to shrink die-size of their CPUs, with smaller transistors resulting in lower heat generation and lower power requirements. It’s normal for some low-end Intel microprocessors to consume only a third of the power that a similarly clocked AMD CPU would consume when idle, and the gap widens even more during full load.

The lower heat generation also means that the Intel CPUs have more room for overclocking, making them great choices for enthusiasts who want to push their CPUs to the limit, but this brings us to the minor disadvantages of an Intel CPU.

Price Premium and Overclocking Restrictions

There is a reason why AMD is still able to compete in spite of Intel’s massive advantage in terms of performance and power efficiency. They are not necessarily perfect and will have disadvantages when compared to its primary competitor on the desktop space.

1. Restrictions on Overclocking – back when Intel first released their Core 2 Duo processors, the CPUs turned out to be such great overclockers that Intel literally became their own competitor, as consumers found out that they can just overclock lower-end CPUs in order to get the performance of Intel’s high-end offerings. It was a great time for consumers but somewhat of a negative for Intel’s business, as their budget offerings ate away at the profits that their top of the line products are supposed to bring.

In order to prevent future cases, Intel has intentionally prevented their processors from being overclocked. You won’t be able to tweak its front-side bus speeds or its actual clock speeds, so if you want high end performance, you need to actually buy the high end CPU.

Overclockers do have an option, as Intel releases models of their CPUs with a “K” prefix, which is an indicator that it is unlocked and can therefore be overclocked. The downside is that they are worth even more than the already premium-priced Intel. Additionally, you have to make sure that the motherboard you buy also supports unlocked processors.

2. Expensive – Intel CPUs, particularly on the high-end side of things, are considered the Porsche of desktop processors. You get as much performance as the market can muster, but you also pay a lot of premium for it. Their CPUs, on average, can cost almost twice an AMD’s offering in the same specs tier.

The real consideration here is just how much is the massive boost in performance and efficiency worth to you? If you have the budget for it and just want the fastest your money can buy, then it’s a good purchase but if you want to be a little bit conservative with your purchases, then it’s best to look at the competitor or at Intel’s lower offering and temper your expectations.


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