Buying a computer system/AMD or INTEL

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Question
Hi, I'm kind of an amateur when it comes to computer hardware. I'm building my own computer for the first time and I'm kind of stuck between AMD vs INTEL. I heard that AMD is cheaper and better when it comes to gaming. I tried to going on INTEL and AMD's website and it is hard to compare because it seems to me that AMD's turbo core is no different then INTEL's turbo boost. Am I wrong? It seems to me that INTEL has an advantage when it comes to new "stuff" like hyperthreading. Then again, AMD's site also throws in hypertransport and wide floating point accelerator which are really confusing the heck out of me. Please assist.
Thanks

Answer
Generally speaking, there is not much to worry about as a consumer between the two manufacturers. AMD processors tend to cost somewhat less, and Intel processors (as you noted) tend to have more "stuff" (really such a fantastic word), like HyperThreading (which is quite different from HyperTransport; I'll get to that). Furthermore, when it comes to gaming, there is even less to worry about in terms of performance - gaming performance is primarily dictated by the graphics processor, so as long as you have a reasonably modern and powerful processor (this does not mean top of the line, but don't buy the cheapest possible option either), you should be absolutely fine. For more specifics, check the system requirements on the games you are interested in playing (some newer games, for example Bioshock Infinite, tend to preference quad core processors, but this does not mean they require them; if your budget does not allow for a quad core processor AND a powerful graphics adapter, get a dual core and put the money into the graphics adapter (just as an example)). You can also check processor benchmark data from sources like Tech Report, Guru3D, or Passmark. Overall the differences between processors of a similar era will be minimal for gaming; for things like DCC (Digital Content Creation) you will tend to want the most powerful CPU you can afford though (as it will be able to perform rendering faster; this is somewhere that Intel's "stuff" often has an advantage (as they tend to have better/newer SSE implementations, among other things)).

My best advice is to go with what you can afford within reason - AMD tends to be the best option in that respect, as their CPUs tend to cost less for "high performance" models (a top AMD chip may be around $300, while top Intel chips are not uncommonly $1000). Ensure that you purchase a quality and compatible motherboard for the CPU you've selected, and then build up the rest of the system around that. Again, the graphics adapter will be a bigger factor when it comes to gaming performance.

As an aside, notes for the first time builder:

- Ensure that you select a quality power supply from a reputable manufacturer (like Antec or Enermax), and avoid the very cheap offerings (the $20-$30 models).

- Ensure that you select compatible memory based on the motherboard you've chosen - this is often more than just "DDR3 matches DDR3" - ensure that the board is able to handle the speed and voltage specifications of the memory you've selected (or more ideally, select memory that conforms to the board's specs).

- Work in a well-lit and clear area, and take your time; a lot of online guides and videos will demonstrate how "quick and easy" a build may be, but there is nothing wrong with spending 3-4 hours to do it right, especially when the end result is that the machine fires up correctly the first time.

Regarding HyperThreading and HyperTransport -

HyperThreading is Intel's SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading) implementation, originally developed for NetBurst (Pentium 4 and Pentium D) as a means of more efficiently using the available processor resources. It presents multiple logical "cores" to the operating system, and allows for improved multi-threading performance (not to the level of a true MP (Multi-Processor) system, mind you). It often nets a speed-up in multi-media and multi-tasking applications. More about HyperThreading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperthreading


HyperTransport, by contrast, is an industry standardized I/O backplane that AMD uses to interface its processors to the rest of the system. Other manufacturers use HyperTransport as well, including IBM and Apple. It replaces the more conventional "Front Side Bus" that Intel and AMD processors used historically (and Intel has since deployed QPI (QuickPath Interconnect, older documents may refer to this as CSI or Common System Interface) to compete with HT). More about HT: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertransport

(You may note that I reference HyperTransport as HT; HyperThreading is properly shortened to "HTT" for HyperThreading Technology)

-bob

Buying a computer system

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Bobbert

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I have nearly two decades of experience in IT, computer repair, and related fields and will attempt to provide the most solid, brand-agnostic advice when it comes time to purchase a new computer, or upgrade an existing machine. I can answer anything from the seemingly basic to the downright complicated - and will do my best to provide this information in a clear and concise manner.

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I have been an enthusiast of PC's for many years, and can answer questions about the purchase/use of a new computer or the purchase, installation, and use of upgrades for existing computers. There probably isn't a whole lot related to the home computer that I haven't seen over the years.

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15+ years of experience

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