Now that Intel has released their new processors and their market price is a bit more stable and AMD released their B550 boards, it’s time to review those offers. When should you buy which processor? Did Intel manage to establish valid competition to the Ryzen processors? I’d say they did, but in a limited way.
The lowest possible budget: AMD Ryzen 3 3200G or Athlon 3000G
If you want an office system, media center or a low budget option that can play games, your first choice should be the Ryzen 3 3200G. With its Zen+ architecture, four cores and threads that clock only to 4.0 GHz it is not the strongest processor on the market, but it can play everything that does not rely on more than four threads, which will mostly only become an issue in the future. Its graphics side is its big advantage: With the integrated Vega graphics it can even play modern games. With more and more software being gpu supported, having a capable replacement for a graphics card for free is also helpful outside of gaming.
If the 80 to 90 bucks for the 3200G are too much, the Athlon 3000G is the next best option. It features the earliest Zen architecture, has only two cores (but four threads), so it’s worse in every way. But it’s cheaper, and it also has integrated Vega Graphics.
Intel has nothing that can compete here. Sure, you can get a Pentium or an i3, but why would you? It either would not matter, for a browsing machine for example, or it would be a worse option because of the weaker integrated graphics.
The two AMD processors can be combined with a cheap B350 or B450 board. Give them fast ram (DDR4-3200) for a speed boost, put only an SSD into the system, scale down the psu for their low energy usage. You end up with a fast system for an unbeatable price.
Pure Gaming: Intel, but…
For a serious gaming system you should get an Intel processor at every price point, if the system also gets a dedicated graphics stronger than what the 3200G would offer. Sub 200 bucks the i5-10400F or non-F beats the Ryzen 5 3600 in benchmarks. High FPS gamers want to get the strong i5-10600K and overclock it. And the strongest processor you can get for games, that’s the i9-10900K, with a high clock and many cores and threads.
But: You pay for it in price or limitations.
The i5-10400F is a good deal for gaming, but its real potential is with an expensive Z490 board for the faster ram support, that still would not allow the processor itself to be overclocked. With H470 you are limited to DDR4-2666, which puts it awfully close to the Ryzen 5 3600 that offers more outside of gaming. i5-10600K, i7-10700K and i9-10900K are fast processors, but not only are they expensive, they also need expensive Z490 boards, and on top of that their energy usage is ridiculously high. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be like that, but when overclocking them or running the default configuration of many boards it just is that high, regardless of what the more reasonable default specifications promote.
And as always: If you invest a lot into the processor, for most games that is a worse decision than using the money for a stronger graphics card. That does not matter much when you plan to get a 2080 Ti anyway of course. But if your processor makes the decision of getting a GTX 1660 Super or a RX 5700 XT, you almost always want the 5700 XT and the weaker processor.
From that perspective and given the minimal difference to the i5-10400(F), the Ryzen 5 3600 with a not as expensive board, promising upgrade options and faster ram is an equally valid alternative. But Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 9 3900X for gaming are a waste of money, and inferior to what Intel offers at those price points.
Outside of gaming you probably want a Ryzen processor. There are some exceptions. If your workload profits a lot from single thread performance, the higher clock of Intel’s 10th Gen processors from the i5-10600K on could be the better option. But in most applications, they can’t beat the multithread power of Ryzen 5 3600, Ryzen 7 3700X, Ryzen 9 3900X or 3950X.
If you are about to create a real high end workstation, Threadripper 3 is the processor series to consider. But the current TRX40 platform is very expensive.
Mixed workloads: It depends on your focus
If you mix everything together it becomes a matter of preference. If you still want the highest possible gaming performance, the Intel processors are best and since the last upgrade also a not as bad outside of games. But given how strong the Ryzen processors are in applications, that they are cheaper and their gaming performance still very strong, they are a bit more attractive to most. And it also does not hurt to consider that in a reversal of the situation when Ryzen launched, AM4 is now a mature platform, and it is Intel with the new Socket 1200 that is more likely to cause the typical issues early adopters often have to endure. The high energy usage caused by bad default configurations of many Z490 boards is an example for that.
A Ryzen 7 3700X can be a strong option here, as strong as a Ryzen 5 3600 and an Intel Core i5-10400F in gaming, but with its 8 cores a lot stronger outside of it. Give its stock cooler a chance and profit from its reasonable price.
Buy what fits your situation best & Outlook
The current market situation is great for customers. Both AMD and Intel have attractive offers, their competition lead to a big price reduction of more powerful processors. You can pick the best option for your budget and your specific workload.
In the near future, AMD will release the 3600XT, 3800XT and 3900XT, minimal upgrades to the existing X models. At the end of the year Ryzen 4000 arrives, compatible with X570 and B550 boards and promised to also work with a B450 chipset. It’s likely to be a big upgrade. Intel will probably release the next processor generation in 2021, and there might be support for those Z490 boards that got already prepared for PCI-E 4.0.