With the launch of Ryzen 3000 CPUs (3900X, 3800X, 3700X, 3600X, and 3600), AMD has closed the gap with Intel’s most premium offerings.
In fact, some of AMD’s CPUs seem to flat out beat their direct competition in every task imaginable.
I felt it was prudent to take a look at both the products these companies offer today and assess which is the best choice for a PC build this year.
Let’s answer the hotly debated question – Intel or Ryzen Processors in 2019?
Intel vs Ryzen: Recommendations for 2019
For those who want a quick recommendation, I got you. Here you go:
|Category/Task||No-Compromise Performance||CG Director |
|Video Editing||Intel Core i9 9980XE||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||AMD Ryzen 7 2700X|
|Encryption/Decryption||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||AMD Ryzen 7 3700X||AMD Ryzen 7 2700X|
|Viewport Performance||Intel Core i9 9900K||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||AMD Ryzen 5 3600|
|(CPU) Rendering||AMD Threadripper 2990WX||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||AMD Ryzen 5 3400G|
|General Productivity||AMD Ryzen 9 3900X||AMD Ryzen 7 3700X||AMD Ryzen 5 2600X|
A Quick History Recap: AMD vs Intel
If you’re curious about how we came to these conclusions, read on!
AMD and Intel have been at loggerheads for nearly half a century now; the rivalry certainly isn’t new, and it isn’t going anywhere any time soon either.
While Intel maintained a tight grip on the CPU market for the past decade, AMD lagged behind it until the release of Ryzen in 2017.
The vast performance differential and better efficiency of Intel processors over their AMD counterparts made them an obvious choice for any use-case.
Whether you were building a gaming PC, workstation PC, or even an office PC, the best choice was undoubtedly Intel.
Intel IPC advantage and AMD Bulldozer
The performance differential stemmed from the radically different architecture approaches that these companies adopted in CPUs released around 2010-2011.
Intel opted to focus on IPC improvements; AMD focused on parallelism. One approach equipped processors with fewer, but extremely powerful cores and the other equipped CPUs with more, albeit far weaker, cores.
What is IPC?
IPC (Instructions Per Cycle/Clock) is the number of instructions that a processor executes in a single clock cycle. What does this mean?
Well, here’s an easy way to understand this.
We’ve had processors touching 3 GHz for over a decade now. However, if we directly compare the performance difference between a modern processor at the same clock as an older processor, we find that the modern processor is much faster.
In a single clock cycle, the newer processors can execute more instructions compared to the instructions executed by an older processor in a single cycle.
Since it improves efficiency by a considerable margin, an IPC uplift is considered the best kind of improvement we can get when it comes to processors.
Bulldozer: Plagued by Low IPC
AMD’s Bulldozer CPU lineup (FX series) launched in 2011 and was a ground-up re-design. The problem? It was a fiasco.
The newly-launched products were, in some cases, even slower than the older counterparts that they were set to replace!
Although Bulldozer (FX 4000 series) launched a few months later, it just couldn’t compete with Intel’s amazing Sandy Bridge processors.
Intel seized this opportunity and captured the market.
The next few years saw a similar story unfold, with both companies continuing to make incremental improvements to their processors.
The result – Intel was crowned king of both single-threaded as well as multi-threaded workloads.
Intel’s lead was bound to come to an end sooner or later. The engineering brilliance it showcased in 2011 helped Intel maintain a substantial lead over AMD for close to a decade.
A remarkable feat.
1st Generation Ryzen vs 7th Generation Intel
When AMD first announced Ryzen, people were skeptical. Even I was, to be completely honest.
After all, we’d been promised the moon by AMD before and got, well, Bulldozer instead – an 8-core disaster that couldn’t go toe-to-toe with a 4-core CPU from Intel even in heavily multi-threaded workloads.
Throw in operating temperatures that spawned a whole generation of ‘heater’ memes, and well, you get the picture.
However, Ryzen’s release took even the most vocal AMD fans by surprise. It offered a whopping 52% improvement in IPC compared to the Bulldozer core – positioning it pretty dang close to the 7th Generation Intel processors.
Of course, this uplift was more a testament to how far behind Bulldozer was more than anything else.
But still, AMD finally caught up.
Here’s a benchmark for Premiere Pro’s Warp Stabilize – a popular effect used to reduce shake/jitter in video footage.
The Zen microarchitecture used core-complexes connected by the Infinity Fabric, making it easier, and cheaper, to offer more cores without increasing latency too much or giving up performance.
Hence, AMD’s 8-core, 16-thread offering was priced around the same as a 4-core, 8-thread part from Intel.
Unlike Bulldozer, Ryzen offered excellent clock speeds as well as stellar IPC. When this was combined with higher core counts, AMD Ryzen took the multi-threaded workload crown with ease.
AMD’s 8-core powerhouse was pitted against a 4-core offering from Intel because of AMD’s aggressive pricing. The results were hardly surprising at that point.
However, Intel had refined their architecture and clock speeds for years, and still maintained a lead in both clock speed and IPC – ensuring that it remained the best choice for single-threaded workloads.
Moreover, being a market leader for close to a decade does come with certain advantages. Applications were optimized to run on Intel processors, and some benchmarks confirmed this disparity.
For Gaming and Viewport performance and even a few production workloads, Intel remained the better choice due to snappier single-core performance.
Ryzen vs Intel in 2019
Everything changed with the launch of processors based on the Zen 2 microarchitecture – the Ryzen 3000-series of processors.
AMD knew precisely where they were lagging. A concerted effort at improving IPC has brought its newest range of processors on par with Intel’s 9th Generation CPUs.
In fact, if not for Intel’s clock speed advantage, this wouldn’t even have been a contest.
Benchmarks: Intel vs Ryzen
We build PCs for all sorts of purposes. So, I’ve compiled a range of benchmarks that should help most people make an informed choice.
I’ll cover video editing, encryption/decryption, rendering, and much more in the charts below – followed by CPU recommendations for those tasks.
Ryzen vs Intel: Cinebench Scores
Although the 12-core Ryzen processor, the 3900X, was bound to beat Intel’s 8-core 9900K in multi-core performance, I don’t think many expected it to beat Intel in single-core performance as well.
Of course, if you overclock, the results swing back in Intel’s favor.
But for our workloads, we’re focused on stability over all else and don’t recommend overclocking to such levels.
You can find the full table here.
Ryzen vs Intel for Video Editing and Encoding
In these tests, 3rd Gen Ryzen is impressive, especially at its price point. The 12-core, 24-thread processor, seems like a preview to the 16-core monster that is due for release in September.
With just 12 threads, it comes uncomfortably close to Intel’s much pricier 18-core 9980XE.
If you consider price and platform costs, the Ryzen 3000-series has Intel beat in video production workloads from a value perspective.
When it comes to Premiere Pro and other video encoding tasks, Intel still has a lead.
However, seeing the 12-core 3900X come so close to an 18-core Intel processor is a sign of good things to come. I fully expect the soon-releasing 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X to take the top spot in these tests.
Nonetheless, until then – the very best CPU you can get is still an Intel Core i9 9980XE.
Ryzen vs Intel for Encryption/Decryption (VeraCrypt)
When it comes to encryption/decryption tasks, the Ryzen 9 3900X seems to be blowing away the competition.
Ryzen is the only choice that makes sense for a workstation build that will primarily handle AES encryption/decryption.
For these tasks, even 1st and 2nd Generation Ryzen processors offer incredible value.
Intel vs Ryzen in Viewport Performance / Active Work Speed
We’ve seen viewport performance swinging the way of Intel these past few years, even outperforming Ryzen 1st and 2nd Generation processors.
Viewports generally rely on clock speed and IPC, so, this was expected. You’ll get a snappier experience with processors that have better single-core performance.
However, things are looking much better for AMD with this release. The 3rd Generation Ryzen processors now offer a very similar viewport performance to Intel’s top-end parts.
A Ryzen 9 3900X on stock with PBO (Precision Boost Overdrive) enabled should perform better than a stock Ryzen 7 3800X (theoretically).
I, unfortunately, don’t have access to a Ryzen 9 3900X processor yet, so I can’t say for sure whether it will match the 9900K or exactly how close it’ll get.
For now, all I can do is extrapolate from the Ryzen 7 3800X result with PBO enabled.
You can find the complete list of Viewport benchmarks here.
Even if the lead is slim, I still got to hand the crown to Intel for viewport performance.
However, I don’t recommend grabbing a 9900K to get a negligible boost in viewport performance.
The Ryzen 9 3900X offers four additional physical cores at the same price – a much better option when looking at it from a common-sense standpoint.
Ryzen vs Intel for CPU & GPU Rendering
For CPU-focused renders using V-ray, the Ryzen 9 3900X seems to be the best option at the moment. If you’re in the market for a workstation that needs CPU rendering performance (corona, V-ray, and so on), grab a Ryzen 9 3900X.
You can jump to a Ryzen 9 3950X if/when you need without a platform change as well.
Although CPU-only rendering tests are meaningless for some render engines like Blender’s Cycles, which can render in GPU+CPU hybrid mode, the following benchmark does throw some light on the CPU’s contribution this kind of process.
Even a mid-range GPU has a profound effect on performance as the Blender Classroom CPU+GPU render chart shows.
AMD offers the best when it comes to CPU rendering performance. I see absolutely no reason to go with any Intel offering for any kind of CPU render-focused workstation like a render node.
If you’re itching for a Threadripper build, I recommend waiting. The next generation (3rd) is bound to be much faster and should be releasing sometime this year.
General Productivity (Compression, Decompression, PC Mark, Excel)
Although most CPUs can handle most general productivity workloads, some might need a more robust systems for more complex work.
Frequently compressing/decompressing large files, dealing with complex Excel sheets, and so on.
Here are a few benchmarks focusing on some popular tasks to help make your choice easier.
Again, Ryzen dominates the stack. For any sort of productivity workload, you can safely go with AMD in 2019. You aren’t compromising on performance at all.
Didn’t find a benchmark you need? Leave me a comment below, and I’ll see what I can do!
Ryzen vs Intel: Price and Platforms
When building a workstation, it’s essential to factor in price, platform support, and upgradability.
Upgradability of Ryzen vs Intel: Is Ryzen More ‘Future Proof’?
Short answer – yes.
Any PC built on the AM4 platform offers much more upgradability compared to Intel’s LGA 1151 platform.
Intel has picked up a bad habit of forcing motherboard upgrades even with iterative processor improvements each generation. Even with competition from AMD, they don’t show any signs of supporting their sockets past 1-2 years.
If you’re building a workstation today that you want to upgrade over the next few years, I wouldn’t feel okay recommending an Intel build. If you want to build a no-compromise machine for, say, Adobe Premiere Pro workloads though – then yes, an Intel-based system might be the way to go, even if it isn’t as future-proof as the competition.
Only you can make that decision.
However, those looking for excellent performance at an incredible price, in addition to staying future-proof, will find that the Ryzen 3000 series processors currently are the best choice.
What Should You Buy in 2019? Intel or Ryzen
Unless you’re working with Adobe Premiere Pro, Ryzen is the clear winner for a workstation PC in 2019.
Even with Adobe Premiere Pro, I expect Ryzen to close the gap with the Ryzen 9 3950X – due for release next month (September 2019). Of course, Intel might still be better for some niche use-cases.
Please do consult benchmark charts pertinent to your workloads before reaching a decision.
AMD is in the lead for most workstation tasks and has caught up in areas where it was lagging earlier.
What’s more, if you build a PC on the AM4 platform, you could upgrade to the 16-core Ryzen processor releasing soon and also, to the Zen 3 CPUs that’ll release sometime next year (2020), without changing your motherboard!
So, what PC are you building? Leave a comment below if you need help with your build!
Also, if you’re looking for some specific benchmarks, do let me know.