A tortoise and a hare are on a racetrack.
Enlarge / Spoiler: Relating to efficiency over time, Intel is the gradual and regular tortoise to AMD’s speedy-but-intermittent hare.

The remark wars between Intel and AMD followers have been scorching for the previous couple of launch cycles, with lots of digital ink spilled about which firm has—or has not—improved considerably over time. There’s been no scarcity of opinions concerning the present uncooked efficiency of every firm’s quickest processors, both. We thought it could be fascinating to dive into archived efficiency benchmarks of the quickest desktop/fanatic CPUs for every firm to get overview of how every has actually finished over time—and maybe to even see if there are patterns to be gleaned or to make some bets concerning the future.

Earlier than we dive into charts, let’s begin out with some tables—that approach, you’ll be able to see which CPUs we’re utilizing as milestones for annually. Whereas we’re at it, there are a few irregularities within the knowledge; we’ll talk about these additionally and discuss concerning the issues {that a} easy chart will not present you.

Twenty years of fanatic computing

Yr Intel Mannequin AMD Mannequin Notes
2001 Pentium 4 2.0GHz (1c/1t) Athlon XP 1900+ (1c/1t)
2002 Pentium 4 2.8GHz (1c/2t) Athlon XP 2800+ (1c/1t) Intel introduces hyperthreading
2003 Pentium 4 Excessive 3.2GHz (1c/2t) Athlon XP 3200+ (1c/1t)
2004 Pentium 4 3.4GHz (1c/2t) Athlon 64 FX-55 (1c/1t)
2005 Pentium 4 3.8GHz (1c/2t) Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (2c/2t)
2006 Pentium Excessive 965 (2c/4t) Athlon 64 X2 5000+ (2c/2t) Intel takes the undisputed efficiency lead right here—and retains it for a decade straight.
2007 Core 2 Excessive QX6800 (4c/4t) Phenom X4 9600 (4c/4t) Intel and AMD each launch the primary true quad-core desktop CPUs
2008 Core 2 Excessive X9650 (4c/4t) Phenom X4 9950 (4c/4t)
2009 Core i7-960 (4c/8t) Phenom II X4 965 (4c/4t)
2010 Core i7-980X (6c/12t) Phenom II X6 1100T (6c/6t) Intel and AMD each introduce hex-core desktop CPUs
2011 Core i7-990X (6c/12t) FX-8150 (8c/8t)
2012 Core i7-3770K (4c/8t) FX-8350 (8c/8t) Intel abandons hex-core desktop CPUs—however few miss them, as a consequence of giant single-threaded positive aspects
2013 Core i7-4770K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t) AMD’s underwhelming FX-9590 launches—and it is Crew Crimson’s final fanatic CPU for 4 lengthy years
2014 Core i7-4790K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t) Intel’s fifth technology Core dies stillborn. AMD releases low-power APUs, however no successor to FX-9590
2015 Core i7-6700K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t)
2016 Core i7-7700K (4c/8t) FX-9590 (8c/8t) Strictly talking, 2016 was an Intel whiff—Kaby Lake did not truly launch till January 2017
2017 Core i7-8700K (6c/12t) Ryzen 7 1800X (8c/16t) Launch of AMD’s Zen structure, return of the Intel hex-core desktop CPU
2018 Core i9-9900K (8c/16t) Ryzen 7 2700X (8c/16t)
2019 Core i9-9900KS (8c/16t) Ryzen 9 3950X (16c/32t) AMD’s Zen 2 structure launches, Intel whiffs onerous within the efficiency section
2020 Core i9-10900K (10c/20t) Ryzen 9 5950X (16c/32t) AMD’s Zen 3 lastly crushes Intel’s long-held single-threaded efficiency file

Though each Intel and AMD clearly launch a wide selection of processors for various worth factors and goal markets annually, we’re limiting ourselves to the quickest desktop or “fanatic” processor from annually. Which means no server processors and no Excessive-Finish Desktop (HEDT) processors both—so we cannot be taking a look at both Threadrippers or the late mannequin XE collection Intel elements.

Even for somebody like myself who lived via this whole interval as a system builder, it is a large ache within the butt assembling an inventory like this—not to mention matching take a look at outcomes. It is particularly troublesome on the AMD aspect, the place there is not any actual equal to Intel’s Ark offering a single record of processors, sortable by technology, kind, and launch date. If you happen to assume I picked the improper “prime processor” for a yr, let me know within the feedback.

We should always deal with a few anomalies within the charts proper off the highest—to start with, no, the absence of a brand new AMD efficiency CPU in 2014, 2015, and 2016 will not be an oversight. 2013’s FX-9590—broadly (and deservedly) panned for its monstrous-for-the-time 225W TDP and unimpressive efficiency—was Crew Crimson’s quickest CPU for 4 years operating. Throughout that point, AMD launched a number of generations of low-power, cheap desktop APUs—none of which outperformed the FX-9590.

Intel additionally had a few stumbles throughout 2013-2017, although none so severe or for therefore lengthy. The fifth-generation Core collection was mainly stillborn in 2014, though a refresh of the fourth-generation Core i7 collection did present a major efficiency enhance. Two years later was technically one other whiff—Kaby Lake, with the Core i7-7700K, did not truly launch till January 2017. We fudged somewhat and allowed Kaby Lake in 2016’s row, as a result of in any other case it could disappear completely—Espresso Lake, and the i7-8700K, appeared later the identical yr.


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