AMD Ryzen or Intel i9, Which Is Best?

I remember not long ago when AMD was struggling to get some spotlight in a marketplace dominated by Intel. Times change, and it’s impressive how those two chip manufacturers now stand toe to toe with AMD even topping Intel in the multi-threaded performance territory.

In this article, I’ll be comparing AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and Intel i9-9900K, as both represent the flagship processor of their respective lineups. It also helps that both CPUs fall in the same price range, which gives you more room to focus on the technical differences and choose the one that better suits your workflow without any compromises.

At a Glance

Specs only tell part of the story, as the real-life performance you can squeeze out of your processor is influenced by a variety of factors like the efficiency of the thermal architecture and software optimization. With that said, let’s kick off our comparison with a quick glance at the spec sheet to get a good first impression on how each chip performs.

CPUAMD Ryzen 9 3900XIntel i9-9900K
Cores128
Threads2416
Base Clock Speed3.8GHz3.6GHz
Maximum Clock Speed4.6GHz (one core)5GHz (one core)
L2/L3 Cache Memory6MB/70MB2MB/16MB

Based on the specs alone, it’s clear that AMD Ryzen 9 3900X takes the upper hand. The sheer number of cores and threads delivers better performance when it comes to CPU-intensive apps like the software used for video editing and 3D modeling.

Furthermore, the cache memory is another area where AMD’s Ryzen knocks it out of the park. A sizable L3 cache memory sitting at 70MB can keep more data and instructions ready to be processed by the CPU. The processor doesn’t pull data directly from the RAM, as the computer’s main memory is much slower than the processor’s own cache memory.

The benefit of the larger cache becomes especially evident in gaming at a resolution below 4K. At such resolution, the CPU determines how smooth your games perform. With more data stored ahead in the cache, complex calculations can be done much faster for a better gaming experience.

On the other hand, at 4K resolution or above, it all boils down to the GPU’s horsepower. The differences between AMD Ryzen 9 3900X and Intel i9-9900K won’t have any significant impact on the game performance.

Finally, the clock speed is another area where the two processors show some differences in benchmark scores. The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X clocks at a base speed of 3.8GHz compared to 3.6GHz for its Intel counterpart. However, the maximum clock speed favors Intel i9-9900K this time around with 5GHz for single-core performance compared to 4.6GHz on AMD’s end.

Enough with the numbers, let’s jump into a more in-depth comparison between the two chips in terms of the performance they deliver when it comes to demanding tasks like gaming and content creation.

AMD Ryzen vs. Intel i9

Productivity

For any task that makes use of more multi-threaded horsepower, we could clearly see AMD Ryzen flexing its extra cores and threads to deliver smoother performance. For the most part, AMD’s chip lives up to its benchmark scores and outperforms its Intel counterpart.

When it comes to video encoding and editing, AMD Ryzen wins the round. Upon using all its cores and threads, we noticed that the video rendering time is cut significantly. This can be extra useful for content creators who live and breathe on driving the wait time to the absolute minimum.

On the other hand, tasks that lean heavily on single-core performance like video conferencing, photo editing, and working with massive spreadsheets, Intel i9-9900K steals AMD’s thunder.

With that said, we still believe AMD Ryzen 9 3900X offers a better productivity tool. There is a trend we see nowadays that more apps are updated to make use of the multi-core performance instead of being locked onto a single core. 

So, if you’re looking for a future-proof CPU that comes with a performance overhead to keep you covered down the line, AMD Ryzen 9 3900X offers the better value.

Gaming

Gaming is the one area where Intel has kept its throne for almost a decade, but AMD finally managed to narrow this gap with its latest offerings. Thanks to the generous cache packed into AMD’s CPU, gaming performance has seen welcome improvements.

We tested Fortnite at medium and high settings with the resolution locked at 1080p. AMD Ryzen scores a well-deserved win at medium settings, as the chip is capable of running the game at a higher and more consistent frame rate. Nevertheless, Intel’s i9 chip makes a comeback at high settings where the clock speed is king. 

Unlike productivity software, most of the games don’t make much use of multi-threaded performance. So, it’s always up to the cache memory and clock speed to decide how your games perform.

Aside from the specs, games’ optimization has a significant role to play on how they perform on each chipset. No matter how powerful the CPU is, if the game is not designed to harness such power, you won’t get the best results.

We’ve put more games to the test, and our main takeaway is that AMD is finally catching up and even outperforming Intel in some situations. We genuinely can’t wait to see how the competition between the two will help shape the next generation of gaming PCs.

Efficiency

Power consumption and the amount of heat produced are key factors to determine the CPU’s overall efficiency. The two chips are held to different standards here, so it’s tricky to pick the obvious winner.

On the one hand, AMD Ryzen 9 3900X has a rating of 105W, while its Intel i9 counterpart comes at a 95W rating. Numbers can be deceiving, as AMD’s power consumption is tested when the chip runs at maximum clock speeds, while Intel’s numbers are representative of the chip’s base performance.

With that said, the Ryzen 3900X offers a more efficient package. This makes a huge difference, especially in a laptop form factor. In theory, you can get more battery life out of your Ryzen-powered laptop. It also produces less heat, allowing your performance not to be capped by thermal throttling.


Our Verdict

AMD is back stronger than ever with its Ryzen CPU lineup. The company has proven that it’s not afraid to make bold moves like undercutting its own chips’ prices to deliver the best consumer CPU we’ve seen in a long time.

Even with Intel’s latest 10th Generation CPUs, we don’t see a processor that matches Ryzen 9 3900X in terms of the number of cores and threads. Nevertheless, the Core i9 CPUs are still a powerhouse when it comes to single-core performance.

Intel i9 chips also show better overclocking potentials with their ability to sustain higher clock speeds. This is put into great use to deliver a smoother gaming experience. Nevertheless, AMD now comes with comparable results and has finally set a firm foot in the gaming space.

Other than that, AMD’s Ryzen clearly has the upper hand when it comes to its multi-threaded performance, efficiency, and sizable cache memory. This makes it the obvious choice for users looking for the most value out of their CPUs as the multi-core potential ensures the chip’s relevance for years to come.