With the launch of Ryzen 5000 CPUs (5950X, 5900X, 5800X, and 5600X), AMD has surpassed even Intel’s most premium offerings.
AMD’s CPUs seem to flat out beat their direct competition in every task imaginable.
I felt it was prudent to 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 AMD Ryzen Processors in 2021?
Intel vs. Ryzen: Recommendations for 2021
Availability is terrible going into this new year, and prices are, well, not ideal. That said, I can’t still be recommending 3rd Generation Ryzen processors and 9th Generation Intel CPUs when cheaper, faster options are available in some regions.
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|
Please avoid paying too much over the MSRP for these products. Do check out detailed reviews of Intel’s 10th Generation Core Processors, AMD’s Ryzen 5000 Series CPUs, AMD’s Threadripper 3000 parts, and Intel’s HEDT lineup.
Intel enjoyed a slight but noticeable lead in viewport performance compared to Ryzen 3000 processors until Ryzen 5000 launched. Now, that lead is lost. If you want the smoothest viewport experience, it’s no longer Intel – it’s AMD you should get (for the first time in over a decade).
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 than 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 CPUs.
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 AMD 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 than 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.
AMD Ryzen vs Intel in 2021
AMD’s effort to improve IPC finally allowed Ryzen processors to overtake Intel Core CPUs when it comes to snappiness within a viewport. In our review of Ryzen 5000 parts, we noticed a substantial improvement in fluidity.
Benchmarks: Intel vs AMD 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.
AMD Ryzen vs. Intel Core CPUs: Viewport Performance
Well, it’s all red. A glance at the viewport benchmark numbers should be enough to tell you what the story is. If you want the absolute best, most fluid viewport experience – try snagging a Ryzen 5000 processor.
Please do keep in mind that this doesn’t suddenly make the 10th Generation Intel parts terrible. There’s no reason to rush out and grab an upgrade right now. It won’t be worth it.
You can find the full list of Viewport benchmarks here.
AMD Ryzen vs. Intel Core: Cinebench R23
When it comes to multi-threaded performance, the new Ryzen parts aren’t as exciting, while Intel’s 10th Generation lineup is abysmal. The new Ryzen 9 5950X comes dangerously close to AMD’s 2nd Generation HEDT top-tier offering – the Threadripper 2990WX. But the 5950X also obliterates the older part in single-threaded performance.
If you don’t need access to HEDT features like quad-channel memory, more PCI-E lanes, and so on, I recommend going after a Ryzen 9 5950X.
Even with an overclock, Intel is unable to keep up with AMD’s newest processors.
That said, we’re focused on stability over all else for professional workloads and don’t recommend overclocking in general.
You can find the full table here.
AMD Ryzen vs. Intel for Video Editing and Encoding
The Ryzen 3000 CPUs were already quite impressive when it came to video production and could hold their own against Intel’s offerings. With the launch of Ryzen 5000, AMD has firmly taken the top spot even on the mainstream AM4 platform.
The new AMD processors are clearly better than their Intel counterparts, with the 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X pretty much destroying Intel’s top-tier Intel Core i9 10900K with ease. In fact, even AMD’s 8-core Ryzen 7 5800X edges out Intel’s 10-core Core i9 10900K by a slim margin. “Oh, how the turntables.”
Intel previously held the lead in several video encoding tasks. Now, except for QuickSync accelerated tasks, AMD Ryzen 5000 parts have a firm lead over Intel.
AMD Ryzen vs. Intel for Microsoft Office 2019 (Excel and Word)
After lagging behind Intel for so long, AMD’s offerings now finally sit at the top of all office and productivity charts. When it comes to Microsoft Office, most of the new Ryzen 5000 processors are quite a bit faster than even Intel’s top-tier Core i9 10900K. The Ryzen 5 5600X even goes toe-to-toe with the Core i9 10900K at a lower price.
Thanks to insane stock issues, AMD doesn’t have too many competing products at the $100 price range. The 4-core, 8-thread Intel Core i3 10100 is an excellent choice for a PC that needs to handle office tasks well. If you can stretch your budget, I would definitely recommend jumping up to an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 / Intel Core i5 10400F.
AMD Ryzen vs Intel for CPU & GPU Rendering
For CPU-focused renders using V-ray NEXT, AMD’s Threadripper 3000-series processors still reign supreme. However, the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X on a mainstream platform does manage to beat Intel’s top-tier HEDT offering, the Core i9 10980XE!
Although CPU-only rendering tests are meaningless for some render engines like Blender’s Cycles, which can render in GPU+CPU hybrid mode, you can still get a bit of an idea about what performance you can expect from your processor. That said, it’s still best to invest in at least a mid-range graphics card for the best experience.
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 right now, you can choose to wait. The Threadripper 5000 parts are bound to be amazing. However, availability might still be an issue, so do keep that in mind.
Didn’t find a benchmark you need? Leave me a comment below, and I’ll see what I can do!
AMD 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’?
2021 Update: The platform longevity factor no longer applies as AMD only promised AM4 support through 2020. They are now free to abandon the socket and go to a new platform for their next release.
Although Intel’s Z490 platform will support the incoming 11th Generation Intel processors, the product itself doesn’t seem to be exciting for professional use. All indications are, Intel is pushing for an IPC uplift to take back the gaming crown while sacrificing 2 cores at the top end of their product stack.
Pricing on both platforms is similar. If you’re going with an Intel processor, do grab a Z490 motherboard so you can overclock your DDR4 memory. For AMD Ryzen, a B550 or X570 motherboard will do the trick. Pick based on your preferences, features, and of course, looks.
What Should You Buy in 2021? Intel or AMD 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!”
– This is what I said around two years ago.
In 2021, there are no ‘buts.’ AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors completely obliterate Intel offerings at almost every price point, making Intel very hard to recommend.
However, at the very lower end of the product stack, Intel remains competitive. The Intel Core i5 10400F and the Intel Core i3 10100 are amazing options for those on a tight budget. Although the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 remains a good choice, it’s now priced much higher than before- making the cheaper Core i5 10400F look like a way better deal.
So, what PC are you building? Leave a comment below if you need help with your build!