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Need help deciding between an AMD and Intel Build

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May 7, 2012 4:09:43 PM

I'd love to get some advice on choosing between an AMD or Intel build.

Goals: multitasking, internet, document editing, HD video, music, light gaming, and very light sound/video editing.

Budget: $570 Canadian

Distributor: preferably newegg.ca or ncix.com.

Needed: CPU, MOBO, RAM, GPU, HDD/SSD, and PSU.

Not needed: Case, Cooling, DVD-R, KB & M, Speakers, etc.

Alright, so these are the specs I'm looking at:

>>> Intel build <<<

* CPU: Intel Core i3-2120 Sandy Bridge 3.3GHz LGA 1155 65W Dual-Core Desktop Processor Intel HD Graphics 2000
* HDD: SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 1TB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
*** Combo deal for both = $218

* MOBO: ASUS P8H61-M (REV 3.0) LGA 1155 Intel H61 HDMI Micro ATX Intel Motherboard = $87

* RAM: Mushkin Enhanced Silverline 8GB (2 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 = $42

* GPU: XFX Double D HD-687A-ZDFC Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 = $170.00

* PSU: SILVERSTONE ST50F-ES 500W ATX12V v2.3 80 PLUS Certified Active PFC Power Supply = $59

GRAND TOTAL: $576

>>> AMD build <<<

* CPU: AMD FX-6200 Zambezi 3.8GHz (4.1GHz Turbo) Socket AM3+ 125W Six-Core Desktop Processor
* MOBO: ASUS M5A97 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard with UEFI BIOS
*** Combo deal for both = $240

* RAM: Kingston HyperX 4GB (2 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 = $25

* GPU: XFX Double D HD-687A-ZDFC Radeon HD 6870 1GB 256-bit GDDR5 = $170

* HDD: Samsung by Seagate Spinpoint F3 500GB 7200 RPM SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5" Internal Hard Drive
* PSU: Thermaltake TR2 W0379RU 500W ATX 12V v2.2 Power Supply
*** Combo deal for both = $138

GRAND TOTAL: $573

I'm always open to other configurations in the same price range.
May 7, 2012 4:25:01 PM

When are you looking at buying the parts for this build?
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May 7, 2012 4:28:25 PM

At the earliest, this Wednesday 05/09, but I could wait things out longer if necessary.
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May 7, 2012 4:34:06 PM

AMD's Trinity line of APU are coming out soon. might be worth waiting for as it may do everything you need. if not a hybrid-fire set up with trinity may be cheaper
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May 7, 2012 4:38:35 PM

vmem said:
AMD's Trinity line of APU are coming out soon. might be worth waiting for as it may do everything you need. if not a hybrid-fire set up with trinity may be cheaper


I was thinking about this too. May 15th isn't too far off. I haven't seen any benchmarks yet, but how would the trinity APU fair against the 6870? If I can get the same performance from that, or for the hybrid config (that is, if it's still cost-effective at that point), I might wait it out.
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May 7, 2012 4:49:35 PM

For a desktop, go the standard CPU + discrete GPU route. You'll get better performance and it will be easier and cheaper to update the GPU. For a laptop, APUs are a good option since you can't upgrade laptops easily / at all and discrete graphic cards are much more expensive.

Your Intel looks good and will be the better performing PC. There may be cheaper motherboards, hard drives, and PSUs that offer similar quality, so I think there's potential for you to shave ~$30-50 off your build if you look around (assuming Canadian pricing is similar to American pricing).
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May 7, 2012 4:50:31 PM

Apollo_is_Dead said:
I'd love to get some advice on choosing between an AMD or Intel build.

Goals: multitasking, internet, document editing, HD video, music, light gaming, and very light sound/video editing.



If your main goal is multitasking then the AMD build is your best choice, because 6 cores versus 2 cores will provide better multitasking performance. Also, if you could squeeze a few more funds, you might want to have 8Gb of RAM in the AMD build as well.

What resolution is your monitor? The reason I ask is that if you do light gaming then perhaps an HD6850 or GTX 460 might be a better choice and use the difference toward the RAM.
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May 7, 2012 4:53:56 PM

vmem said:
AMD's Trinity line of APU are coming out soon. might be worth waiting for as it may do everything you need. if not a hybrid-fire set up with trinity may be cheaper

I agree

another thing if you don't want trinity, benches here on toms showed the FX-4100 to be nearly equal to the i3-2100 so the FX-6100 should be a bit better
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May 7, 2012 5:04:33 PM

maui67 said:
If your main goal is multitasking then the AMD build is your best choice, because 6 cores versus 2 cores will provide better multitasking performance. Also, if you could squeeze a few more funds, you might want to have 8Gb of RAM in the AMD build as well.

What resolution is your monitor? The reason I ask is that if you do light gaming then perhaps an HD6850 or GTX 460 might be a better choice and use the difference toward the RAM.


Both systems seem to do what I need on paper, I'm just not sure if I'll get the real world performance. I've heard the multi-core Bulldozer's have problems using all their threads for example. If I base my system of passmark scores, then the 6200 crushes the 2120. But, again, I'm not sure how reliable these benchmarks are. I've seen a lot of contradictory results.

I'm using an Asus 21.5" monitor with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080. The reason I've been looking at the XFX 6870 is that there's a 10% discount on it for the next couple of days. At that price point it's only 15$ more expensive than the 6850 from Gigabyte and Sapphire.
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May 7, 2012 5:13:30 PM

Apollo_is_Dead said:
Both systems seem to do what I need on paper, I'm just not sure if I'll get the real world performance. I've heard the multi-core Bulldozer's have problems using all their threads for example. If I base my system of passmark scores, then the 6200 crushes the 2120. But, again, I'm not sure how reliable these benchmarks are. I've seen a lot of contradictory results.

I'm using an Asus 21.5" monitor with a native resolution of 1920 x 1080. The reason I've been looking at the XFX 6870 is that there's a 10% discount on it for the next couple of days. At that price point it's only 15$ more expensive than the 6850 from Gigabyte and Sapphire.



the AMD bulldozer chips will beat a i3 2120 on everything besides gaming. but you mention light gaming, in which case the difference may not be significant enough for you to notice. meanwhile, for all your multitasking needs, a quad or hexa-core AMD chip will be far better than a duo-core intel chip.

As for the 6870, don't worry about the discounts too much, video cards only get cheaper as more and more new cards are released... There's also a secret part of me that's hoping Trinity can hybrid-fire with the 68** series... but that would be so overpowering :bounce: 
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May 7, 2012 5:20:33 PM

SB > Bulldozer in terms of clock vs. clock performance and power consumption. If you specifically need more than 4 logical cores, save up for an i7.

When people talk about multi-tasking, they're usually referring to things like browsing the web + watching a HD video + having Photoshop open. Realistically, your computer isn't doing 3 things simultaneously, it's alternating between doing individual things. In this type of usage, it's better to have the faster/better chip (i.e. the SB i3). Now if you're running an OS + 5 active VM sessions (e.g. a server), you may see better performance with the two extra logical cores. But home users don't do this (and the i3 might do that better anyway).
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May 7, 2012 5:27:31 PM

At only $15 more than the HD6850 then definitely go with the HD6870!!!

I have read on these forums that Passmark benches are not reliable, however I haven't heard why.

Either build would suit your needs, with the AMD being slightly better for multitasking.
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May 7, 2012 5:36:01 PM

hapkido said:
SB > Bulldozer in terms of clock vs. clock performance and power consumption. If you specifically need more than 4 logical cores, save up for an i7.

When people talk about multi-tasking, they're usually referring to things like browsing the web + watching a HD video + having Photoshop open. Realistically, your computer isn't doing 3 things simultaneously, it's alternating between doing individual things. In this type of usage, it's better to have the faster/better chip (i.e. the SB i3). Now if you're running an OS + 5 active VM sessions (e.g. a server), you may see better performance with the two extra logical cores. But home users don't do this (and the i3 might do that better anyway).


Is the i3 truly faster in single/dual threaded apps? Is 3.3Ghz SB that much quicker than 3.8Ghz (4.1 on turbo) 6200? Wouldn't the increased clock speed make up for the better architecture and efficiency on the i3? If you have any benchmarks on this, I'd love to see them.

In terms of multi-tasking, I'll be running a home server using Java and the media wiki platform in the background practically 24/7. I usually have many other apps open too, but you're right that they wouldn't all be used simultaneously. So, in addition to the server I'll have Chrome (upwards of 10-15 tabs), 2-3 documents (pdf) on dual monitors, security / encryption software, and in some cases music or video (with some transcoding in some cases). Wouldn't this kind of set-up benefit from BD's six-cores over the SB 2 cores with hyperthreading?
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May 7, 2012 5:37:48 PM

Stop telling him to get a Bulldozer for multitasking, that's terrible advice.

"Multitasking" will not be limited by the CPU threads, it will be limited by the user. As humans, we are capable of doing one thing well at a time. ANY modern CPU will put the bottleneck on the user. In every situation that depends on a strong CPU (playing games, compiling code, rendering video), the Sandy Bridge chip will be better.
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May 7, 2012 5:42:17 PM

hapkido said:
Stop telling him to get a Bulldozer for multitasking, that's terrible advice.

"Multitasking" will not be limited by the CPU threads, it will be limited by the user. As humans, we are capable of doing one thing well at a time. ANY modern CPU will put the bottleneck on the user. In every situation that depends on a strong CPU (playing games, compiling code, rendering video), the Sandy Bridge chip will be better.


he specified he's running a home server... also, while you're correct for i5 and i7 chips, the i3 gets destroyed by bulldozer if it tries to run anything in the background while the OP is gaming... hence why we're leaning toward Bulldozer. we're strictly comparing it to the i3, not the i5 or the i7
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May 7, 2012 5:45:09 PM

Apollo_is_Dead said:
Is the i3 truly faster in single/dual threaded apps? Is 3.3Ghz SB that much quicker than 3.8Ghz (4.1 on turbo) 6200? Wouldn't the increased clock speed make up for the better architecture and efficiency on the i3? If you have any benchmarks on this, I'd love to see them.


The SB architecture is indeed much faster, clock for clock. So for apps that use only a single thread - which there are a lot of - then SB will be meteorically faster. Okay, maybe not meteorically, but there'll be a difference. Good example is the iTunes/LAME MP3 benchmark.

For more gaming comparison of i3-2100 and FX-4100, refer to this article.


In terms of multi-tasking, I'll be running a home server using Java and the media wiki platform in the background practically 24/7. I usually have many other apps open too, but you're right that they wouldn't all be used simultaneously. So, in addition to the server I'll have Chrome (upwards of 10-15 tabs), 2-3 documents (pdf) on dual monitors, security / encryption software, and in some cases music or video (with some transcoding in some cases). Wouldn't this kind of set-up benefit from BD's six-cores over the SB 2 cores with hyperthreading? said:
In terms of multi-tasking, I'll be running a home server using Java and the media wiki platform in the background practically 24/7. I usually have many other apps open too, but you're right that they wouldn't all be used simultaneously. So, in addition to the server I'll have Chrome (upwards of 10-15 tabs), 2-3 documents (pdf) on dual monitors, security / encryption software, and in some cases music or video (with some transcoding in some cases). Wouldn't this kind of set-up benefit from BD's six-cores over the SB 2 cores with hyperthreading?


Even the Pentiums of today (SB-based) are capable enough to do a lot of what you described simultaneously. The assumption that Bulldozer's 6-core setup benefits your setup is a bit iffy to me however. Encryption is Intel's strong point with AES functionality built into processor. Music transcoding tends to be single-threaded still. Video transcoding will benefit from Bulldozer. Document editing can be done on a 7-year old Pentium D.

In the end, look at the other factors. Power efficiency, future platform compatibility and price are all bigger factors at this price range, I think.
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May 7, 2012 5:49:57 PM

For a gaming build, I'd definitely say Intel. But since you've listed gaming as just "light," I'd probably go AMD. There are some caveats here.

*you'll use a lot more power.
*in anything that's lightly threaded, which includes most gaming but also a lot of not-very-optimized video/photo/office software, you'll take a slight hit.

But in the long run, I think you'll be happier with the AMD. This isn't just about "multitasking," which is a bit misleading since (as someone mentioned above) your ordinary desktop is rarely doing a lot of things (threads) at once; it's also about apps specifically designed to exploit more than one thread. Games these days only routinely use 2. But 4 is the future, and having 6 threads instead of 4 with HT is definitely preferable. And it will sometimes make a difference in heavy multitasking scenarios (though you'd also have issues with 4 GB of RAM in that case).
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Best solution

May 7, 2012 5:50:22 PM

Apollo_is_Dead said:
Is the i3 truly faster in single/dual threaded apps? Is 3.3Ghz SB that much quicker than 3.8Ghz (4.1 on turbo) 6200? Wouldn't the increased clock speed make up for the better architecture and efficiency on the i3? If you have any benchmarks on this, I'd love to see them.

In terms of multi-tasking, I'll be running a home server using Java and the media wiki platform in the background practically 24/7. I usually have many other apps open too, but you're right that they wouldn't all be used simultaneously. So, in addition to the server I'll have Chrome (upwards of 10-15 tabs), 2-3 documents (pdf) on dual monitors, security / encryption software, and in some cases music or video (with some transcoding in some cases). Wouldn't this kind of set-up benefit from BD's six-cores over the SB 2 cores with hyperthreading?


Tom's has done several reviews of both Bulldozer chips and SB i3s. I can't remember any situation where the Bulldozers out preformed the i3. I don't have the specific links, but I don't think they'll be hard to find in the CPU section off the main page. Maybe there are a few specific situations where the Bulldozer is better, but the i3 is a generally better chip.

My media PC is an AMD Athlon II x3 at 3.0GHz. I run XBMC, Sabnzbd, Couch Potato, Sickbeard, uTorrent, a Mumble server, and a Minecraft server (when I'm in the mood to play). It can actively run all those apps, extract a .rar archive, and play a 1080p video, all at the same time, with no issues. If a 3GHz Athlon II x3 can do all that, you won't see any issues with a SB i3.

Will the Bulldozer perform your functions well? Yes. Any modern dual core is probably enough for what you described. But, the i3 is the better choice because it WILL game better. It is a much, much faster architecture while using less power (cheaper to operate and cool).

For home desktop users, there is no reason to buy any AMD chip at this time. Intel chips in the same price range perform better at a lower wattage. If you were asking what laptop to buy, I'd say wait for Trinity APU (I'm waiting for that myself).

edit: spelling and wording
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May 7, 2012 6:08:57 PM

Lots of great responses here. I've read many of the negative reviews about BD, but was hoping a higher-end AMD chip could at least equalize Intel's lower-end i3. That doesn't seem to be the case. I plan to go with the SB i3 since it should, according to what you all have said (and from the few benchmarks I could find) perform better overall in processing speed and light multitasking (as I've described it anyway). Thanks for all the comments; very informative.
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May 7, 2012 6:10:19 PM

Best answer selected by Apollo_is_Dead.
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