CPU Shootout: Intel vs. AMD

I was just browsing the catalogue for MSY and discovered something interesting: the AMD Athlon64 X2 6000+ is going for $227. This is interesting because the closest Intel processor to this price is the Core 2 Duo E6320, at $217. All the buzz on the internet says that the Core 2 Duos are superior processors but with a price differential like that, I wanted to big a little deeper as see what provides the best bang for buck.

The first point of comparison is where in the product ranges these two processors fit. The 6000+ is the most expensive AMD processor available in the Athlon64 X2 line. The E6320 on the other hand, is $200 cheaper than the E6700 and below the E6600 and E6420 (at $296 and $249 respectively). Both companies have high-end product lines (the AMD AthlonFX and Intel Core 2 Quad and Extreme chips) so these processors both definitely fit into the mid-range category. The 6000+ is just at the top end of the category, whereas the E6320 is in the middle.

Here's a breakdown of the specs for the processors. (Taken from the official Intel and AMD websites as well as here, here and here.)

Athlon64 X2 6000+ Core 2 Duo E6320 Core 2 Duo E6420
Price $227 $217 $249
Frequency 3GHz 1.86GHz 2.13GHz
Cache 2MB 4MB 4MB
TDP 125W 65W 65W
FSB 2000MHz (HT) 1066MHz 1066MHz

From these numbers, a few things are obvious:

  1. Core 2s are much cooler chips.
  2. Core 2 chips have twice as much cache.
  3. The Athlon has the faster clock speed.

Now, apart from the TDP, these things are pretty meaningless by themselves and we're left with an "apples to oranges" comparison. Looking at the benchmarks from X-bit labs, Atomic PC, and Hardware.info it seems as though the 6000+ compares roughly to the E6600 in most tests (I believe the tests where the scores vary dramatically – SuperPiMod and Excel 2007 calculations – are due to the E6600 having double the cache of the 6000+). The E6420 and E6320 obviously have lower performance than the E6600. Previously, all this has meant that the 6000+ was an obvious no-no since its price was similar to that of the E6700. This is no longer the case.

So, based on these results I think the 6000+ is a good buy if you're looking for a well performing CPU and don't want to spend too much money. It should be noted, however, that AMD are still preparing their next-generation K8L architecture which will be designed to go up against the Core 2 architecture from Intel. The 6000+ is (possibly) the last dying breath of the old K8 architecture. Overclocking seems to be out as AMD have already pushed the limits of what the silicon can do. Finally, the hotter running 6000+ is not really a smart buy if you want to have a cool, quiet computer. Whether or not these things make any difference is entirely your own opinion.