Intel, Ryzen & Shopping

Today this is a sad tale I have to share with you, my friends. My main gaming PC actually died just 2 weeks ago. As I was playing GTA V (thanks to Proton), suddenly everything went off at once.

Highly unusual. Even in Japan, a country ridden by earthquakes, giant bugs and nuclear meltdowns.

Sure enough, trying to power on my PC again resulting in a blinking blue power light. This was no joke. The sign that something not booting up as it should. My highly developed deductive senses hinted to either a motherboard or a PSU failure. This meant several things:

  • I would not be able to play games for several days!
  • There was no easy way to tell which part was actually the problem (I did not have any voltage meter either).
  • I would have to shop to fix that mess ASAP.

This was an unexpected expense. I wanted to get things working again but without wasting a whole suitcase of fresh cash. I decided to purchase a new motherboard, a new CPU and a new PSU. Like bikini fashion, sockets change almost every single year, so re-using the existing Intel CPU was not a reasonable option. I would have to grab some DDR4 RAM as well (I had DDR3 on that previous motherboard).

Had this occurred just 5 years ago, it would have been a simple story: buy Intel again, probably some recent i5 processor. But this is 2019, and AMD stopped being the kid everyone laughed at in the playground. They went to the gym, muscled up, probably did steroids and shit, and nobody dares to pick on them now. They have a decent game now both in CPUs and GPUs. Even girls find them attractive and sexy. It’s a new world alright.

This whole thing sucked for me. What should have been a 5 minutes decision transformed into a philosophical debate about the value of multiple cores, the importance of gaming and the meaning of life in general. Should I go for a Ryzen 2600x? Or an Intel i5 8400 CPU? Why those two? Well, they were both about the same price (around 200 USD in my area) and looked like they were good options for gaming CPUs in that price range.

Why even consider Intel at all? AMD Fanboyz, hold your guns. If you care about a wide number of applications on your desktop, the AMD 2600x would be a no brainer. It has way more cores that you can use for a wide range of stuff that benefit from parallelism. It features so many concurrent threads you can make a sweater out of it.

Games, though, don’t benefit that much from tons of cores on a CPU (at least at this point in time). The most important metric, in 2019, still remains single-thread performance. This is what drives FPS significantly up or down. Intel still has the upper hand in this area, and by comparing the Intel i5 8400 vs the Ryzen 2600x it was clear that the Intel CPU was a little bit better (between 5 and 15% depending on the game).

Honestly, I did not care that much about the difference in performance. At the same price, having more cores and a pretty close margin in games was good enough.

The Ryzen 2600x was in my virtual cart. I was about to move my finger to finally click on the infamous “Place your order” button. But something bothered me. Did I really consider all alternatives? Was there something I was missing? Was I rushing for a quick fix, leaving money on the table?

This is when I realized that there was indeed something else: not just the Intel i5 8400, but his little nephew called the i5 9400F. The F series are the new bastard children of the Intel’s line-up: identical in cores and performance to non-F versions, but surgically castrated, their integrated graphics chip removed for good.

In other words, you would need an external GPU to display anything on the screen, regardless of what connectors are present on your motherboard.

Meh!?

For a gaming PC that will constantly use the GPU for everything, that’s not an issue. And the kill shot is that this F series is cheaper. Not just a little. About 40 USD cheaper in my area compared to the Ryzen 2600x or the other Intel i5. This means there’s no competition anymore: you get slightly higher frame rates in games for 20-30% less.

Sorry AMD! You guys almost had me this time around. I don’t mean to favor the bully in the playground, but Intel has a very solid “value proposition” with this chip.

After assembling my PC, I am now back with a working configuration. I could confirm that in the previous configuration, the mobo was the culprit. Again the mobo. Always the mobo? I can’t count the number of times I have a PC die on me because of a mobo failure (and I don’t buy the cheapest ones).

Ryzen was out this time around. I am pretty sure that my next PC will use a AMD CPU (the Ryzen 3700x looks excellent and I can only imagine they will improve further with Zen 4 down the road) and who knows, maybe an AMD GPU?

The fact that I was so close to switching away from Intel is a good sign. Not sure how Intel is going to react at this stage. Apart from single-thread performance, about everything else is much better on AMD: more cores, easy overclocking, a stable socket (AMD used the same socket for 3 consecutive years! Changing next year though…), and usually cheaper than the Intel equivalent.

AMD keeps hitting the right notes. I’d wage more and more people are going to sing along.


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Ekianjo

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Mohandevir

Why not the Ryzen 5 3600 then? It’s head to head with the i5-9400F…

Sorry… Forgot about the deal you got. Where I live, both are the same price and Intel mobos are more expensive so…

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Guest

Like you say, awesome to have even considered AMD. My last system was a Ryzen 3 1200 with an RX 560 shoved into a LogicSupply MC600 case (with minor modifications). Different performance point, I know, but it was my way to show my appreciation to Valve and AMD for pouring resources into the open Linux graphics stack (and most games are quite playable!). I look forward to when AMD will make even more sense from a voting AND cost/benefit perspective. But, who knows how the landscape may change with Intels GPUs next year? (PS been reading and enjoying your blog… Read more »

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Joe mont

Now you get no overclock and you get speculative exploit attacks up the wazoo. Poor choice.