Building a PC can be a complicated process, especially if you’re inexperienced, considering that there are an endless combination of parts that you could use to put a system together. There’s the issue of picking a set of components that are all compatible with one another, along with other factors that you need to weigh, including price, needs and more.

When it comes to CPUs, you have one of two firms to choose from: AMD and Intel. These companies make virtually all of the world’s desktop PC CPUs, but that’s where the similarities between the two firms end, for the most part. So, should you go for an AMD or Intel CPU when building your PC?

Here, we shed some light on the differences between Intel’s and AMD’s CPU offerings, which will help you make an informed decision when it comes to picking out a processor. 

Cost efficiency

Generally speaking, AMD’s chips are cheaper than their Intel counterparts. If your budget is tight, an AMD CPU is likely the best way for you to go. Once you’re above the $150 price point, Intel processors offer quicker and more powerful performance overall. Cost efficiency on AMD chips drops off when you’re in that area. Intel Core i5 CPUs have an entry level price point of roughly $200.

Baseline AMD FX processors start at about $100, and are gaming-capable once you’re roughly in the $150 range. You can grab an AMD FX-6300 processor for around $120 right now, which will offer a sufficient amount of performance without forcing you to break the bank on one component, allowing you to spread more of your budget around. Though there are a number of Intel Core i3 CPUs priced in the low-$100 range, those chips are generally weak for the price. On top of that, the sockets that some Core i3 CPUs require are also not compatible with some higher-end Core i5 and Core  i7 chips, which could block your path to upgrading down the line.

Overclocking

CPUs have a fixed clock speed, and they’re typically set at a level which ensures that they’ll remain stable while performing optimally. Users looking to get more performance out of their CPU sometimes perform a tweak to the processor known as “overclocking,” which increases the CPU’s clock speed above the base rate. AMD chips are solid options for overclocking, given that they typically offer more cores for less money, and are more receptive to users tinkering with their settings. Intel chips are typically locked at their default clock speed, without the option to overclock them unless you opt for an unlocked version of their CPUs.

GPU efficiency

GPU efficiency is one area where picking a CPU can get tricky. AMD processors can save you a good deal of money, but more powerful Intel i5 and i7 CPUs can take significantly better advantage of a high-end graphics card if you’re working with a higher budget. There can be a real, measurable difference in frame rate and latency when comparing how an Intel chip and an AMD chip are running apps when using the same graphics card.

The bottom line

There’s no real “right” answer when you’re trying to decide whether you should go for an AMD or Intel processor. Every PC builder has different needs and budgets. An AMD CPU is generally the right choice for those working on a tight budget, as AMD chips typically offer better performance at $150 and under than an Intel chip at the same price. Intel Core i5 and Core i7 series processors are the better choice if you have more money to spare and a high-end GPU at your disposal.

You must also ask yourself what you want your PC to do. If your computing needs consist of web browsing, watching videos, sending emails and productivity tasks, you can easily get away with an AMD CPU. If gaming is your priority and you have big bucks to spend, you’re probably best off with going the Intel route.

Feel free to check out our explanation of the differences between 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems.