Should I still buy Intel CPUs? | Ask an expert

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Q: Should I still buy Intel CPUs? Seems like most recommended DIY builds use AMD parts nowadays.

A: AMD may have claimed many hearts in the DIY community, but Intel still brings plenty to the table—so the answer to your question really depends on your needs, what’s available in your area, and what you can buy at a reasonable price.

Content creators benefit more from going with AMD, as its high-end chips offer more cores to work with. Same for enthusiasts seeking no-compromises performance, as the company’s new Ryzen 5000 series tops the charts in both gaming and multithreaded tasks. And prior to the pandemic, people on a budget could rely on AMD for affordability, especially those interested in doing later CPU upgrades without having to replace their existing motherboard.

But Intel hasn’t tumbled off a cliff. It’s lost the crown as the undisputed leader for consumer processors, but Team Blue’s chips still work as well as AMD in PCs used for everyday tasks and/or gaming. Depending on which generation of AMD CPUs you’re considering, the Intel counterpart may even be the stronger choice for gaming. So if your system requirements sit in this space, you’re not making a huge sacrifice by going with Intel.

intel v amd primary Rob Schultz/IDG

Intel might be less popular among DIY builders right now, but that doesn’t make the company’s processors a bad choice. Depending on your situation, Intel could still be the better option.

In fact, right now Intel is a solid alternative to the exhaustive searching required for some of AMD’s processors due to high demand and low availability. To score a new Ryzen 5000-series CPU, you have to watch product listings carefully and lean on communities dedicated to inventory alerts. (Learn more about shopping strategies for hard-to-find PC hardware.) Budget chips from the previous generation are in short supply, too—finding a Ryzen 3 3100 or 3200G at list price requires patience, and good luck if you’ve still got your sights set on the elusive 3300X. In contrast, Intel CPUs are available more widely and at MSRP.

So really, making the choice between Intel and AMD hasn’t really changed from previous years. Your personal circumstances still dictate what’s best for you; the only thing different is that the positions of each company has flipped. Prior to 2020, AMD received praise for being reliable and affordable, while Intel got top marks for performance. Now AMD sits on the throne, with higher starting prices for Ryzen 5000 and scalpers inflating prices on much of the other offerings, and Intel serves as the budget-friendly choice. But both companies are still bringing all that they’ve got to the table.

Welcome to Ask an Expert, where we tackle your questions about PC building. Have your own burning concern? Shoot us an email at thefullnerd@pcworld.com.

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