Gaming Rig CPU – Intel or AMD?

My gaming rig is 10 years old, and I'm in dire need of a replacement. But what is the best gaming rig CPU to use? Intel or AMD?

Every time I buy a new computer, I have to learn everything about hardware and the state of various operating systems all over again. In a series of posts, I’ll got through some of the important things to consider when buying a gaming rig:

  1. Operating system: Windows or Linux?
  2. CPU: Intel or AMD?
  3. Graphics Card: Nvidia or AMD?
  4. Form factor: Laptop or desktop?
  5. Tinkering factor: Parts or pre-assembled?
  6. Sustainability: New or second-hand?
  7. Conclusion: So what’s the ultimate gaming rig setup, then!?

I’ve decided on this specific order of things because decisions taken on the top of the list might limit the available choices later.

This second post is about finding the right gaming rig CPU.

The Playing Field

I’ll focus on CPU in this post because that’s one of the areas where I will spend the most money. The choice of CPU will also dictate what kind of hardware I can (and should) choose later. Motherboard, RAM and other hardware are also important1, but the CPU is one of the core components of a gaming rig. I have not forgotten about the graphics card, but we’ll cover that on its own in a later post.

The CPU market is dominated by two big players: Intel with their Core CPU technology, and AMD, which makes the Ryzen CPUs.

Intel is the market leader, while AMD is the David that tries to take on Goliath. My current gaming rig has an AMD CPU, and I never felt that using an AMD CPU instead of a more traditional Intel model gave me any sort of disadvantage. But a lot has changed in the hardware world since I built my rig back in 2009.

I’m pretty agnostic when it comes to hardware. For me, there are 3 important things to consider:

  • Is the hardware Linux compatible? Since I want to use Linux as my primary operating system, this is important.
  • How does the hardware perform on Linux compared to the competitor’s?
  • How much bang will I get for my bucks?

The logo on the hardware doesn’t matter. It’s inside the chassis, after all.

Gaming Rig CPU

In terms of Linux comparability, using an Intel Core or AMD Ryzen CPU will make no practical difference. Both are compatible. The performance is also pretty much the same on Linux for both architectures. So the important factor when selecting the CPU will be bang for the buck.

The Intel Core CPU comes in four flavors, i3, i5, i7, and i9. The i5 and i7 CPUs are most relevant for me. AMD has been kind enough to name their Ryzen CPUs in a way that makes it obvious which Intel CPUs they are pitting them up against. As with Intel, AMD’s Ryzen series comes in for flavors, 3, 5, 7, and 9, with 5 and 7 being the most relevant ones.

AMD’s Ryzen is generally cheaper than Intel’s Core. And according to multiple sources on the internet, AMD Ryzen performs on the same level as Intel Core. For multi-core processing, which some games have actually started doing now, AMD Ryzen can even be a better choice than Intel Core.

If you’re thinking about overclocking, the internet believes Intel Core is a better choice than AMD Ryzen - especially if you’re using Linux. But that is not something I’ll dabble with anyway. Also, it seems that Intel Core is a better choice if you plan to use a high end graphics card, like the RTX 2080. But that kind of GPU is way over my budget. It’s also worth noticing that the AMD Ryzen’s AM4 socket is a newer architecture than the LGA1151 socket used by Intel Core.

It looks like the AMD Ryzen is the CPU for me. It’s Linux compatible, performs on par with Intel Core, offer a better value for my money, and is (probably) more future proof.

  1. The motherboard, in particular, might have some issues on Linux if it has any crazy-ass proprietary features. ↩︎


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