Why Your Intel Computer Just Got Beaten

Why Your Intel Computer Just Got Beaten

For videographers and photographers, a good computer can mean the difference between struggling and success during post-processing. A combination of announcements means your Intel powered computer is no longer the best tool for the job.

As you’ve certainly seen, if you’ve read any tech news recently, AMD has released new processors. AMD’s 3rd generation Ryzen chips, including the 3900x, 3800x, and 3700x offer a number of key advancements for digital content producers. The launch of these highly acclaimed chips couldn’t come at a worse time for Intel, as their long awaited 10nm desktop chips have been further delayed and their existing processors face numerous performance-crippling vulnerabilities.

The combination of high performing chips from a newly resurgent AMD, new technologies like PCIe 4.0, and a deterioration of Intel’s performance thanks to patches to vulnerabilities means it's time for both new buyers and current users to re-evaluate their computer choices. If you just upgraded or bought a new computer, these concepts should still be kept in mind for future purchases. If your computer is older, you’ve recently gotten a higher megapixel camera, or are shooting 4K+ video, there are a number of compelling upgrade opportunities.

AMD’s New Chips

AMD’s new Ryzen processors are a continuation of their higher thread count design philosophy, but now have the single thread performance to go toe-to-toe with Intel’s best. Historically, the higher thread counts of AMD’s processors meant reduced IPC and single threaded numbers, forcing users to prioritize things like video rendering performance at the expense of performance in Photoshop, for example.

Now however, the top 3000 series CPUs, like the 3700x and 3900x feature 16 and 24 threads respectively, which match or beat Intel’s top offerings at a lower cost, while virtually matching their chips in single threaded workloads.

These chips offer leading performance in almost any workload, at a comparative bargain to Intel’s top offerings. Beyond just the performance gains, AMD also introduced a new chipset, the X570. This chipset, which determines much of the motherboard’s functionality, is the first to provide support for PCIe 4.0. This new standard means faster drives and higher performing graphics cards. For example, these new PCIe 4.0 drives are capable of 5 GB/sec transfers. Boards like MSI's X570 ACE offer all these new features at a competitive price.

MSI's new board supports 128GB of DDR4 RAM, 3 M.2 drives, and PCIe 4.0

Taken together, a new computer built with the 3900x and PCIe 4.0 devices can offer top of the line performance, without the incredible premium previously required for this level of computing power.

Newer, Faster Standards

While PCIe 4.0 is one of the headline offerings of the new chipset, for users of older computers, there are a number of tech advancements they may have been missing out on. These include Thunderbolt, USB-C, and NVMe. Each of these standards offers a substantial step up in performance from the standard it replaced. 

USB-C, along with a far better connector design, typically includes support for USB 3 or 3.1. By allowing for 5Gbps and 10 Gbps transfers, files can be moved around quickly and easily across any devices. USB PD enables much higher current to pushed across the wire, allowing for 1 cable to charge your laptop while plugged into an external display, or a device to be quickly recharged in the field, right from a portable battery. While USB C adoption was slow, an increasing number of devices support it, and it is clearly the future of cabled connections for most purposes.

NVMe, a storage interface for SSDs, allows for greatly reduced latency over SATA based SSDs. Faster drives are always better, since many operations relevant to users can be bottlenecked by disk or cache speed. 

While older standards are still perfectly viable, a number of these new standards have reached levels of adoption across devices that they are becoming relevant to daily use. They can offer a meaningful improvement over older gear, while also being backwards compatible in many cases.

Intel’s Old Chips Are Getting Stale

Intel’s current top offerings for content creation, such as the i9-9900K, face a number of challenges. Besides being bested in many benchmarks by AMD’s top offering, the processor’s performance has had to be reduced to fix a number of recently discovered vulnerabilities. The aging 14nm process, first introduced by Intel back in 2014, is showing its age, while its replacement 10nm tech has been repeatedly pushed back.

Among the biggest issues facing users of Intel’s current offerings are the patches to fix security problems like Meltdown and Spectre. These catchy names refer to issues where rogue processes can access memory that it isn’t authorized to read. The fixes introduce performance losses of up to 14%. Meanwhile, a newer flaw, referred to as Zombieload, could require disabling HyperThreading to fix, turning your 12 thread processor back into a 6 thread processor.

Importantly, these fixes do not impact AMD chips at all, or at least to the same extent that they reduce performance of Intel’s offerings.

What To Buy Going Forward

Considering the impact that the vulnerability fixes have had, in combination with AMD’s new product introductions, many users should consider basing a new computer around the 3000 series Ryzen processors. The 3900x appears to be a performance king, while the 3700x is a more compelling value for the majority of users who will not need a full 24 thread chip. Regardless of the exact Ryzen processor, a X570 motherboard will enable greater throughput on current and future SSDs and graphics cards, as well as greater connectivity with USB 3.1 devices.

If you have an older Intel chip, consider testing the performance of your rig when fully updated. With degraded speed and heavier workloads like 50MP+ raw files and 4K video now commonplace, it may be a great time to upgrade.

I’ve personally built many computers around Intel’s top chips, while still using a i7-4770K as one of my primary computers. I’ve not had a compelling reason to upgrade since then, with all the subsequent generations offering only slight performance improvements. I suspect, however, that the combination of these factors will mean an upgrade is imminent. If you’re in a similar situation, you should consider it too.

Are you still using an older processor? What degree of increased performance would it take for you to upgrade?

Lead image courtesy of Simson Petrol

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53 Comments

Rob Wolsky's picture

The new Ryzen's aren't on the chart, not sure what you are trying to say?

Follow the link to the full article.
Lots more data there.

Sorry, Rob. You are correct. The data set is all from the previous iterations.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

"There is none so blind..."

You do realize this is a lopsided comparison. The i9 is $485 and the top AMD on that list, 2700x, is $248.

Go find a comparison that includes AMD's 3900X.

When building a workstation, $200 difference is negligible. They do have comparisons that include Threadrippers as well, but they are not any better. As soon as the 3900X is readily available, Pugetsystems will test it.

The problem with AMD Ryzen is that while it can come close to the performance that Intel offers, it comes with many caveats. Ryzen 3 has known compatibility issues with Nvidia GPUs, and no serious content creator is going to give up CUDA and settle for a fraction of the performance that AMD's highest-end offerings can realize. Ryzen & Ryzen 2 have RAM issues that don't really affect gamers, but can seriously affect content creators. No Intel quick sync to speed up .h264 exports (broadcast industry standard codec). Plus there are several bugs that still exist even after firmware, OS, and software suite updates. Bottom line, it's not mature enough to be stable for professional work.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

No, you're not get getting it. I didn't post the price just to show a $200 difference. I posted the price to remark they were comparing one of Intel's top end CPU against AMD's mainstream CPU. They should have compared comparable top end vs top end.

AMD is kicking Intel's teeth in this time around. I know I know, that may be hard for you to swallow. That's just reality. Bench marks after bench marks shows it. Reviews after reviews confirm it. Intel is dead, for now. The only thing Intel has on AMD is a slight advantage on games; and applications that use QuickSync.

Haha, being dramatic aside, I'm sure Intel will eventually come back with something. Their back and forth rivalry is better for us.

Puget has a vested interest in being disingenuous: they don't sell AMD systems.
It's ridiculous to put a $500 CPU up against a $250 CPU.
Notice how Intel's $250 CPU loses to AMD's $250 part.

They don't sell AMD because it is not reliable enough for a professional workstation. It has nothing to do with them having bias, they build their own machines with parts available to any retailer. What they provide is thorough testing, lifetime warranties, and custom machines meant to max out performance in the specific programs you work with at your given budget. The fact that they share their testing results and methodology is further proof that they are open and transparent. I don't know why you think they are part of some conspiracy theory.

"I don't know why you think they are part of some conspiracy theory." -- money
It isn't a conspiracy, it's a conflict of interest. No journalist would compare a $500 part with a $250 part.
No, really, show me on the doll where AMD touched you.
You sound like the people that say no one would ever shoot video with Nikon, meanwhile my clients are very happy with the videos I deliver to them.
"no serious content creator is going to give up CUDA" what about all those Mac users with AMD graphics that don't have CUDA?

Do you actually have any data to back that up?

Daris Fox's picture

Tom, I've built Threadripper and Ryzen rigs, going back to Gen 1 and not one has failed yet. We've got a Threadripper 2 render server that runs on average between 12-18 hours a day with a Vega VII. We saved over a thousand bucks on the hardware. Sure it's slower, but realistically it's running batch tasks overnight when the business is closed. It's also got a key advantage over the costed Intel rig we looked over: it can handle more RAM.

For Compute AMD has trounced nVidia, if you want proof AMD GCN/Vega cards was the choice for the Cryptocurrency mining. The only reason Intel/nVidia are the 'choice' is because of marketing and then throwing money at OEMs. It'll take a long time to shake that inertia especially since Intel just can't compete with AMD as they've hit a wall and nVidia are screwing the pooch with prices.

Mark Richardson's picture

Tom, they are quite reliable. Been using Ryzen or Threadripper systems since Ryzen started and have been quite happy.

Ariel Martini's picture

"They don't sell AMD because it is not reliable enough for a professional workstation. It has nothing to do with them having bias"

Saying AMD is not reliable is a bias. And a wrong one.

I’ve owned Intel for over 30 years, AMD Athlon 64, Ryzen 1700 and now I just upgraded to 3900x. No reliability problems with any processors period! The reason for Puget Systems insistence on Intel is simple, Adobe like it or not is the industry leader on all creative products and their programming is biased towards Intel. Is it on purpose? Who knows, but almost every other creative product leverage core count better and have favored AMD for the last few years (at the same price point).

With the incredible jump in IPC performance, I think Puget Systems will likely start offering Ryzen systems. Even Lightroom is faster, Lightroom(!), do you know how hard it is to move that glacier.

For the CPU Geeks:

Early Gigabyte Bios was running the VCore a bit high according to CPU-Z, after compensating the VCore -.1125 and no other changes (no overclock) and I am getting all core speeds between 4.1-4.2MHz and boosts up to 4.6MHz.When in idle VCore stays around 1.2V average, can fluctuate between .05V to 1.35V, under full Prime95 load VCore settles to 1.26V.

By the way, I mentioned Lightroom is faster, but it is still a joke that Adobe still caters to Intel's lower core count. Note that only 6 threads are being used on the latest version of Lightroom CC Classic that supposedly makes better use of multi-core processors. Well within the major Intel releases the last few years (7700, 8600, 9600, 9700). But as of late, Intel has been forced to increase their core count so Adobe will have to respond.

Alex Coleman's picture

While I don't think Puget has tested the 39 or 3700x yet, most benchmarks support the 3900x matching or beating the i9-9900k in many workloads. Additionally, I suspect with some bios updates and Windows scheduling updates in the next few weeks, it'll be a clearer improvement. Lastly, I'd make sure to compare numbers when the 9900k is fully patched/updated for flaws.

Not a perfect benchmark source, but Forbes has a relevant comparison :https://www.forbes.com/sites/antonyleather/2019/07/07/amd-ryzen-9-3900x-...

Photo Kaz's picture

Found this while searching for benchmarks. Puget has an update, Ryzen on top at the time of this posting.
https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Photoshop-CPU-Roundup-AMD-Ryz...

Photo Kaz's picture

New Ryzen now tested, I stumbled on this page while searching for build advice. Adding info here in case anyone does the same.
https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Photoshop-CPU-Roundup-AMD-Ryz...

"virtually matching" = losing. Intel is still winning with Premiere.
I'm waiting to see some benchmarks in Davinci Resolve. If the numbers look good, I'll update my 3770k to the 3900x in the fall just before my CC subscription is up for renewal. F*** you Adobe. I need a C-camera and the BMPCC4K makes sense considering I get the $300 Resolve Studio included.
I very much look forward to ingesting 4k ProRes footage at speeds much greater than my SATA's 500mbps.

Alex Coleman's picture

I'd be interested to see those numbers as well. I think benchmarks in a couple weeks will be telling, after the BIOS and Windows scheduling updates.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I've been building my own PCs since the mid 90's. My last build was back in late 2012. Intel i5-3570K (OC 4.5 mhz). I've been looking to upgrade mostly in part to wanting the Samsung m.2 NVMe SSDs read/write 3500/2300-3300 mb/s. My system is pretty fast for what I do: browsing, Capture One, and Affinity Photo. But, I just want something faster. Not just incrementally faster, but substantially faster. In the end, I think I just want to build again.

I must be somewhat tech-impaired! When my old AMD-based computer really started struggling, I replaced it with my current i5-based computer and it's running just fine. No performance problems at all. If and when this one starts having problems I'll look at replacing it with a ???... will have to see what's available at the time. Oh, my old AMD-based computer has been around for seven years as a Windows machine. It's now running Linux Mint 19.1 with the Cinnamon desktop and doing very well running GIMP.

Alex Coleman's picture

AMD has definitely turned things around with their new generations of chips, and they are much more competitive with Intel now, compared to a few years ago.

Daris Fox's picture

I'm in the process of pricing an upgrade to my old X99 5930, it's getting long in the tooth for rendering. I'll be looking at the Ryzen 3800x, probably an ASUS or Gigebyte mobo and a AMD RX 5700XT, the gfx card is surprisingly powerful when you use AMF encoder. I'll probably end up using 64Gb RAM. Oh and to give you an idea of what AMD pulled off: The reactions here to this budget rig here sums everything up:

https://youtu.be/fY2fbAzFiUE

That said I'll be waiting a few months for the AGESA BIOS to shake out and for non-reference graphics cards to show up. To add this, we know Threadripper 3 is coming even though AMD hasn't announced it yet, and considering the performance Zen 2 brought to the table a lot of people are eagerly waiting to see what their HEDT will bring especially with the Epyc 2 leaks.

One thing to note, PCIe v4, is of marginal use to most people unless you fall into a very specific niche set or are looking to future proof your hardware.

Alex Coleman's picture

As you mentioned with your reference to X99, motherboards can have a long life. PCIe 4 isn't a must have today, but is definitely promising for the future.

Jon G's picture

This resurgence of AMD is great for consumers, as it is forcing Intel - long the complacent incumbent - to get their act together and actually compete for a change.

These new Ryzen chips look like a fantastic option for someone building a new rig today. Personally I’m going to wait a couple more years for DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 to arrive in chipsets from both Intel and AMD before I make the choice for my next upgrade.

The fact that I use a hackintosh as my daily driver does complicate things a bit regarding AMD CPUs - since they are not natively supported by macOS - but that situation is likely to improve as the hackintosh community gets more interested in these AMD chips.

Alex Coleman's picture

Now is a great time to upgrade, like you mentioned, but there is always promising new tech up ahead. I've not used a hackintosh personally, but I'd imagine it really dictates your choice of hardware. Compared to the Mac Pro's prices, even a little bit of driver trouble is worth it!

Alex, a friend of mine turned me onto this site and if you want to build a machine and have few to no compatibility issues, go here first: www.pcpartpicker.com

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