AMD vs Intel multicore madness (for non-techies)

By June 14, 2018

Cores here cores there what is the catch?

2018 is the year of multicore as both companies teased their 28 and 32 core beasts. HEDT (High End Desktop) enthusiasts are very happy as we are talking for 2x time increase in multicore performance.

It is a dream come true if you remember how the market was formed a year ago and we should thank competition which is the best medicine for a market that was stationary in 4 core CPUs for a decade paying premium price for mediocre performance. For the record, everything changed last year after AMD announced the Ryzen platform with 4/6/8/12/16 core CPUs and the result was the ignition of healthy competition after so many years.

HEDT category is targeted to a smaller portion of the market that would pay the premium for the extra performance. The real target is not just professionals that benefit immediately from the multicore power as it transforms their workflow drastically but to a certain extent the effect on the consumer graded CPU market and I will explain that right away.

HEDT category gives prestige to manufacturers for what they can achieve and attract the lights of publicity that helps to boost sales in the consumer market too. For braking it down further, everyone would love to have a super car but the majority can afford and need a regular everyday family car.

My problem as a techie that works in the industry for many years (and as a result I understand all the tech jargon) I feel that many times some tech influencers makes it more difficult for the average user to make the right choice for their needs as the products’ naming and characteristics have become confusing (and I am not happy about this). Also benchmarking scores that are published seem like mumbo jumbo for the most consumers as they cannot understand how much speed they need for their everyday workflow and what they mean in real life when they are working or playing on their PC.

As this article is targeted to non-techies it is time to break down a little bit more on how many cores are actually needed.

In simple words the more cores have huge impact in specific apps that benefit from multiple cores but is not the only factor that counts in real life scenarios. It depends to a great extent on the workflow and habits of every individual user.

In reality buying a 6 core i7 8700k or an 8core Ryzen 2700 is not a great difference between the two in terms of multicore performance but moving from 6/8 cores to a 16 core i9 or Thread ripper instead is huge difference both in performance and cost.

If someone works with multi-threaded applications like Maya, Blender, Cinema 4D, Archviz apps, Premier, the more CPU cores the better, as the price difference in the builds saves time and time equals to money in a business.

Virtually for any other application a 4 to 8 core CPU cover everything including gaming.

We have seen multi thousand-dollar systems tested from tech influencers every day but in reality, the majority of the systems that are sold cost from 500 to 1500€.

 

 PC for basic staff

 

For simple everyday tasks (Office, Browsing, Emailing, watching content) a PC or Laptop with the barely minimum specs (2 core CPU) can do the job. Even a Celeron or a coreM that can be found in cheap Chinese laptops can cover all the basic needs. 

 

PC for entry to mid-range solution for gaming

 

There are many combinations that can be done in that price range. For an entry point pc for gaming and general tasks an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G (4cores)  that has integrated Vega GPU (you do not need to buy an extra GPU) or an 4 core Intel i3 paired with AMD RX 560 / Nvidia GTX1050 is sufficient.

 

PC for mid-range solution for gaming

 

A more powerful Ryzen5 2600 or i5 8400 both (6cores CPUs) combined with an AMD RX580 / Nvidia 1060 GPUs are powerful enough to play the most intensive game titles in the market in Full HD. 

 

PC for high end-range solution for gaming

 

Someone that need extra power can spend more on an i7 8700k (6core) or Ryzen 2700x (8core) plus a better GPU like an AMD RX VEGA 56/64 or Nvidia 1070/1080. Going more that 8cores is a waste of money as there are not many games that can use more that 4 cores. Ιn the meantime, games that are using more than four cores, are no more than a couple of titles that I am aware of.

The multicore CPU for gaming is only needed for playing and streaming at the same time without the need of an external video encoder.



For business use, there are many factors as it is workflow dependent.

Workstation PC for basic staff

 

For productivity applications like MS Office and accounting the cheapest pc in our days performs very well. Even a two core CPU is sufficient for most cases. Although spending on a more powerful i3/i5 or a Ryzen 3/Ryzen 5 in the long run is better as in business the average upgrade cycle (is less frequent) ranges between 5 to 7 years.

 

Workstation PC for entry and mid-range

 

For professionals that are using their systems for intensive application like photo and video editing, cad etc the entry point is a system with 6/8 cores and one or more GPUs with a price range starting from 700€ and up.

 

Workstation PC for high end

 

For more demanding application like CPU based raytracing for arch viz and motion graphics or large-scale video productions with 4k or 8k content the upgrade to HEDT platform (10+ cores) is a necessity combined with a powerful GPU. 

 

Some words for Consumer and Professional GPUs (in plain words)

I know that this article is for CPUs but it is good to examine briefly the differences of pro vs consumer GPUs as they play very important role in workstations.

Quadro and FirePro naming skims represent the professional GPUs, GeForce and Radeon the consumer.

In general, they are based in the same architectures with the difference that PRO grated GPUs are using double precision (that gives better accuracy and this is important when running eg weather simulations or when designing high fidelity models). Also, they have optimized drivers to run professional applications with greater impact in terms of performance compared to their consumer cousins. Another very important matter is the support both in duration and quality. There are plenty of other features that justify the hefty price difference and we will examine them in another article in the near feature.

In many cases a professional GPU is not entirely needed always. Although in many other workflows a professional card will be more efficient. For example GPU rendering with a consumer GPUs is perfect and cheap. In cad / cam applications like solidwords the difference of the viewport refresh rate on large scale projects is in favor of the professional GPUs as the consumer versions lag heavily.

 

 

Most CPUs have a feature called Hyper Threading. What is it ?
 

Hyper Threading Technology enables every CPU core to execute two threads at the same time and allows two streams to be executed in parallel. Not all applications benefit the most but apps like 3D rendering and audio/video encoding do. Hyper-Threading is not the same as doubling the physical cores of the CPU. The gain in performance ranges from 10% to 30% and is application dependent.

In simple words it is like a worker of an assembly line.  Let’s assume that the worker is assembling a product that is using two different parts and those parts are served to the worker from one conveyor belt.

If the conveyor belt is slow or because a wrong part was sent, this forces the worker to slow down as he/she needs to wait for the correct part.

Hyper-Threading is like adding a second conveyor belt in the assembly line and separate both parts to be sent one from the first conveyor belt and the other part from the second conveyor belt.  The worker is just one but is using the assembly time in a more efficient way as the delays of having the parts are brought down to a minimum.

You should be aware that some sales representatives are either ignorant or whiling to lie just to make the sale. For example, they might say that this computer has 8 cores and in reality, it is a CPU with 4 cores with Hyper threading.

How do I know how many CPU cores I need for my workstation?

All the above are general assumptions as every system should be tailored precisely for the current needs of every professional. For example a 3d artist or an Architect that is in archviz business and use GPU based rendering engine for raytracing is better to use an 6/8core CPU and spent the extra money on a second GPU instead spending for a 16core CPU and one GPU as it will benefit more from a second GPU than the extra CPU cores.

Price is a critical factor especially for freelancers and small businesses that need to invest in a respectable number of expensive workstations and the better strategy is to hire tech analysts to provide their services. You will save money in the long run and you will have a better picture as those analysts will not just help you choose the right hardware for the job. They also give advice on what scale of work you can do with the workstations after examining your workflow and that will protect your investment by spending the correct amount of money for getting the job done.

I have seen many times professionals overspending or underspending for hardware/software and in the long run this affected the viability of their business. In the first case spending on exotic equipment without having a proper customer base or projects needed to have a healthy and balanced operation. On the opposite side not having the correct equipment in terms of performance to win the required time needed to grasp deadlines.

 

 Simplified CPU core guide
up to 4
efficient for productivity or entry level to mid gaming combined with an entry/mid GPU.
6 to 8
combined with a proper GPU efficient for mid to high end gaming or entry to mid business workstation that use intensive CPU applications.
10 to 32 combined with a proper GPU(s) for heavy workloads with multithreading apps that mostly professionals will benefit from.

 

In whatever build you are interested in very important in our days, the use of SSD for the Operating System combined with a mechanical HDD for storage. Using a conventional HDD as your boot/system disk is like having a Ferrari with wooden wheels.

Closing thoughts

If there is someone that can guide you to make the right choice for a PC tailored to your real needs then you are lucky. I have seen many to make the same mistake over and over again, paying more for a system that is too fast or too slow for their real needs.

Do your research. Ask or pay if you need a professional to get advice from before buying a PC for home or Work.

 

You can visit our CPU Guide and GPU guide that we have listed the most recent CPUs and GPUs available in market.

Serious Techie

Charalampos Moraitis: Computing Specialist with multiyear experience in the fields of 3D and VR, Networks and infrastructures, Mobile Applications, Web development, CAM and CNC machining.

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