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I decided this month that it was time to look at replacing my AMD Phenom II X4 965 BE chip with something that could transcode high-definition video faster. Sure enough, I chose the AMD FX-9590 CPU. Arguments against the AMD FX-9590 on forums such as Tom’s Hardware and AnandTech include “power efficiency is too low/TDP is too high” and “Intel has higher/better instructions per clock (IPC)” and “Intel’s i7 performs so much better.” Notably, the price to obtain the superior Intel performance was almost completely ignored in these discussions. Consider that the AMD FX-9590 retails for around $260 and the Intel Core i7-4770K it is often compared to costs $335; that $75 difference is enough cash to buy a cheap motherboard or a 120GB SSD, and also represents a 29% price increase over the FX-9590. Does the i7-4770K really perform 29% better than the FX-9590? The short answer is “no.” The long exception to that otherwise straightforward answer is “unless you spend all of your time calculating Julia mandelbrot sets and the digits of pi.”

Over two years ago, I wrote an article about how AMD CPUs beat Intel CPUs hands down when you factor in the price you pay compared to the performance you get. Most of the arguments I received against my assertion were against the single-figure synthetic benchmark (PassMark) I used to establish a value for CPU performance. This is understandable; synthetic benchmarks that boil down to “One Number To Rule Them All” don’t help you decide if a CPU is good for your specific computer workload. This time, I’ve sought out a more in-depth benchmark data set which can be seen here. I compiled some the relevant figures (excluding most of the gaming benchmarks) into a spreadsheet along with the Newegg retail price of each CPU as of 2014-10-23, used a dash of math to convert “lower is better” scores into an arbitrary “higher is better” value and some fixed multipliers per benchmark to make them all fit into one huge graph which can be downloaded here: cpu_performance_comparison.xls

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for: a graph of a wide variety of CPU benchmarks, scaled by the price you pay for each CPU (click to expand the image.)

amd_fx-9590_vs_intel_core_i7CPUs in each bar series are ordered by retail price in ascending order. The FX-9590 is in yellow on the left of each series and Intel only has a CPU that beats the AMD offering in 4 out of 17 price-scaled benchmarks, most of which are synthetic and don’t represent any typical real-world workloads.

AMD wins again.

Update: In case you needed more proof that the FX-9590 is the best encoding chip, someone sent me a few links to more x264 benchmarks: 1 2 3

We purchased a brand new $100 motherboard (socket LGA 1155) from Newegg for an Intel Core i5 desktop system, intended to replace the fully functional $50 motherboard we previously bought from them because the customer needed more PCIe x1 slots. We replaced a known good, burn-in tested, never-overclocked computer system’s motherboard with a better motherboard. Immediately upon powering up the brand new motherboard in the case with the Core i5 CPU properly installed (we’re not newbies to the PC building game), a voltage regulator on the motherboard fried. It was visibly charred and clearly the reason for the board not functioning; this component also killed the known-good power supply that was connected to it, requiring us to give the customer a free power supply. We immediately repackaged the board identically to how it shipped to us originally and performed an RMA of the board, and I just received this email about the RMA status:

Dear Customer,

My name is Carl and I am contacting you in regards to RMA [rma_number]. The RMA was placed on hold by our inspections department due to reported physical damage on the MB ASROCK|P67 PRO3 SE P67 LGA1155 R.

Normally when an item is received damaged or missing the retail box and/or accessories, it voids our return policy and the item becomes ineligible to be accepted by Newegg. When a motherboard, and other items, are returned back to Newegg, they are inspected under a magnifier and are supervised. We look to see if the board was ever installed and look for signs of end user damage, aside from testing the unit to check its functionality. Signs of installation include bent pins, missing CPU cover or thermal paste.

Our records reflect that when the motherboard was received under RMA# [rma_number] at the Newegg warehouse, an inspection was conducted based on the notes entered in the RMA as to the reason for the return. At that time, the inspection revealed that the motherboard had sustained physical damage to the CPU socket wherein bent pins were detected.

While the RMA does not fall within our return policy guidelines, Newegg has authorized an exception be made in this case and we agree to accept the item as is and process the RMA for a replacement.

At this time, the RMA will be processed, as originally requested and as soon as possible.

We want you to know we appreciate your relationship with us and if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me directly and it will be my pleasure to assist you.

Thank you and have an EGGcellent day!

Best Regards,

CPU/Motherboard RMA Team
T. 800.390.1119
F. 626.271.9524 – Once You Know, You Newegg!

Although Newegg did the right thing in this instance (replacing a DOA motherboard that fried due to a catastrophic voltage regulator short) a cursory search reveals that most people who have problems with LGA 1155/1156 motherboards are rarely granted the right to a replacement under warranty, and the reason is always the same:

The LGA 1155 and 1156 sockets for the Core i3/i5/i7 and (Celeron/Pentium equivalents) represent a terrible and unnecessary engineering decision by Intel that effectively neuters any warranty you may have while risking that somewhere down the line a very minor mishap could easily destroy the socket on an expensive motherboard, rendering it worthless.

Despite having written articles about how AMD beats Intel if performance-per-dollar ratios are considered, I have built many Intel-based systems for customers, often due to factors such as availability of parts and motherboard features such as onboard video (or simply at the request of the customer.) I don’t have a problem with Intel processors, and I haven’t exactly been unhappy with them in computers I have previously owned such as my (sold) Core i7-2630QM laptop. After having the LGA 11xx socket pin issue personally bite me in the backside, though, I am beyond bitter on Intel processors, and I would strongly encourage anyone who is building a new computer system or rebuilding an existing one with a new motherboard and CPU to boycott Intel processors and matching motherboards until they return to a sane pin-on-chip CPU design and dump the spring-loaded fragile pin-in-socket design they currently use.

There is no valid excuse for this, Intel. You make excellent chips with crap socket physics, and in the end, your Haswell processors are garbage if the boards are so fragile that they break at every opportunity imaginable.

Vote with your dollars. Buy AMD. In all honesty, my AMD Phenom II X6 1035T has been the best desktop processor I’ve ever had; on software compilation tasks, it blows my Phenom II X4 965 out of the water, plus my AMD A8-4500M laptop can play Portal 2 in 2xMSAA graphics without a hiccup. Given my personal experiences, I have to say that I don’t know why anyone would continue to purchase Intel hardware, especially now that all Intel motherboard RMAs can be denied by bending up a few pins in the CPU socket and calling it “user error.”

UPDATE: I wrote a newer “AMD beats Intel” article with much better information and more relevant processors.

This was written April 1, 2012 and is not an April Fool’s joke. If you’re reading this years later for some reason, check to see if my reasoning still applies.

I walked into a CompUSA store to purchase myself a new machine with lots of cores for faster compilation of the Tritech Service System, among other things I do daily that require Linux and for which I didn’t have a decent home machine to work with. Ever since I got Netflix, my Toshiba Satellite P775-S7215 (arguably the best laptop I’ve ever used in my life, and certainly more than I ever paid for a laptop before) has been stuck in Windows 7 so that I can watch things while I work. It’s also nice to have the Windows GUI running for Internet use and document reading while plunking around in Linux on the compiling machine, which I have given the name “Beast” because…well, it’s a beast…but I digress. I walked into a CompUSA store, started tossing items into the shopping cart, and got to the CPUs, for which someone must help me since they’re behind a counter.

I asked what they had, and then said I was debating AMD vs. Intel. The employee behind the counter made the blanket statement, “Intel is always going to beat AMD.” I knew better, so I headed over to my favorite place to compare raw CPU performance, and started asking him for CPU prices and names. When PRICE was taken into account, AMD always beat Intel, rather than what he had told me, and he seemed as if he had lost a piece of his religion when I told him about it. There’s a serious problem in the computer hobbyist world where blanket statements are made and repeated ad infinitum regarding a variety of things, and this AMD vs. Intel performance debate is the worst of them all.

Before I explain why I say Intel loses to AMD on every price-to-performance ratio comparison, I’d like to mention another hardware experience that came before this which illustrates that skepticism and Google-Fu are extremely powerful tools. The WD20EARS 2TB 5900RPM SATA hard drives no longer have the excessive head unloading issue, which was a severe problem and very common cause of failure before even a single year of use was had in those particular Western Digital drives (and I believe some other early WD Green drives as well). I know this because I looked it up while staring at two of these drives I wanted, and reading that the issue was no longer present in the newer series of WD20EARS drives, and then purchasing them and using smarton montools in Linux to CHECK THE HEAD UNLOAD COUNT during a variety of usage scenarios. The count didn’t exceed 100 unloads within a week, and that put the issue to rest for me. (The approximate unload count needed for a drive to start failing is 300,000 and 100 in a week would take 3,000 weeks to reach that unload count.) I got two 2TB hard drives for $80 before the Thailand flooding happened, and I don’t have to worry about a manufacturer-caused premature failure occurring in them.

On to the meat of this discussion. My methodology is extremely simple. Go to a website such as Newegg, pull up CPUs that are the same price (or very nearly so), and compare the CPUs at If you’d like to give them some sort of price-to-performance score so you can perform comparisons across prices, you can divide the CPU benchmark score by the price, then multiply by 100 (since you’ll get LOTS of decimal places). Let’s see how this works out in real-world terms. As of April 1, 2012, the price of an AMD Phenom II X6 1045T processor at Newegg is $149.99, while the best Core i3 available at Newegg (the Core i3-2130 dual-core) is also $149.99. There are two other Core i3 CPUs at that price, but they are slower or are a first-generation i3, and anyone who is a savvy buyer will get the best bang for the buck, so those are being ignored. Why not an i5 or i7? Well, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison when you put a Phenom II X6 against an i5 or i7, not because of some notion of “CPU generation,” but because you can’t even get a Core i5 desktop CPU at Newegg for less than $179.99, so there’s simply no i5 or better in the Phenom II X6 price range; also keep in mind that I’m justifying a personal purchase which fits personal budgetary concerns (mine was a 1035T for $130), and I put the price difference toward getting 16GB of RAM instead. If you have a higher budget, you’d need to compare against a better AMD CPU, which we’ll do in a minute. So if we perform the price-to-performance score calculation that I came up with earlier, what do we come up with for these CPUs? We’ll also compare the cheapest available i5, which on a price-to-performance scale is also beaten by the selected Phenom II X6.

AMD Phenom II X6 1045T Thuban 2.7GHz: 3355

Intel Core i3-2130 Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz: 2942

Intel Core i5-2300 Sandy Bridge 2.8GHz: 3130

So in terms of price-to-performance (which most of us refer to as “bang for the buck”) the AMD Phenom II X6 stomps both the i3 and i5 chips closest to its price. (Interestingly enough, we also see that the i5 is a much better value than the i3, both of which are the newer Sandy Bridge chips.) Let’s look at the new AMD FX chips that some of my friends have been raving about (and building gaming machines with) to see how they compare against the best possible Intel offering for the same price…

AMD FX-8120 Zambezi 3.1GHz ($189.99): 3743

Intel Core i5-2400 Sandy Bridge 3.1GHz ($189.99): 3222

The AMD FX chip pummels the Core i5 at the same price point, and even my Phenom II X6 fails to be “worth it” compared to the FX-8120. If I was not on a budget, I would have gone for the FX-8120 instead. Note how even though the i5-2400 is the best Intel chip in this comparison so far, it still scores 133 points lower than the Phenom II X6. Higher numbers mean more value for the price. Let’s do a few more comparisons against CPUs that I might be interested in if I was building a high-performance box with a higher budget, such as the awesome i7-2600K, just to see where the numbers fall.

Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge 3.4GHz ($324.99): 2799

Intel Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition Sandy Bridge-E 3.3GHz ($1049.99): 1342

AMD FX-8150 Zambezi 3.6GHz ($249.99): 3307

I’ve gathered all of these numbers into a chart to summarize the point of this article. I think the chart speaks for itself. I also invite you to do your own math and draw your own conclusions. Feel free to leave a comment as well!

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