For the past 12 – 13 years for desktop computers Intel have been the CPU manufacturer of choice, their processors outperformed anyone else’s by a wide margin.
Before this period of domination a rival manufacturer called AMD had some success, however they fell behind Intel, and whilst they still offered processors for sale they couldn’t match Intel’s product line.
With Intel being the clear market leaders there was little pressure on them to innovate and push performance levels. They still released new lines of processors almost annually, and each release stepped up performance a bit, however we are talking single % point jumps.
Around 2 years ago AMD brought out a new line of chips called Ryzen, whilst still not matching Intels raw speed the gap closed massively. AMD also released a new series of HEDT chips (High End DeskTop) called Threadripper aimed at Intel’s Enthusiast chip line up.
Threadripper chips got a lot of press attention as they offered a lot of processing cores for your money. Processor cores allow chips to multi-task, a lot of cores in theory equals great multi-tasking performance. The problem is that cores need to be fast and AMD still lagged Intel in this key metric.
Most software depends on this raw speed or single threaded performance a lot more than having lots of processing cores, so Intel still maintained their advantage.
This has now changed.
Late 2019 AMD released their latest Ryzen lineup and have pretty much closed the gap on Intel’s single thread speed.
The major problem for Intel is that AMD have maintained their policy of packing in extra processing cores. So whilst Intel’s top end mainstream chips stop at 8 cores, AMD’s top Ryzen products pack in up to 16 cores, obviously this impacts some workloads considerably.
The high end Ryzen chips and associated motherboards do come at a price premium over the top end Intel setup but we are not talking crazy amounts of money here, maybe a couple of hundred pounds for potentially twice the multi-tasking capabilities…
This is obviously bad news for Intel but it gets worse.
AMD’s ThreadRipper line have also just been updated and they have decimated Intel’s equivalent chip line-up.
These HEDT chips from both Intel and AMD have always tended to be worse on single threaded performance but pack in a lot more processing cores, designed for a different type of workload.
AMD’s latest ThreadRipper offerings get very close to the single thread speed of Intel’s mainstream chips and the new AMD Ryzen chips, meaning they are way faster than Intel’s HEDT line-up.
To add insult to injury, the Threadripper processors pack in a lot more CPU cores.
Intel’s best HEDT offering at the time the new Threadripper was released had 18 processor cores, and retailed at around £2,000.
AMD’s entry level Threadripper is £1,000, is much faster at single threaded tasks, and has 24 processing cores! They also released a 32 core version and a 64 core chip is on the horizon.
Intel have reacted with panic and have slashed the prices of their own HEDT chips, their newly announced 18 core chip has dropped from £2,000 to £1,000!
This is good news for consumers but it still can’t stack up to the AMD Threadripper at the same price, it doesn’t even get close really…
So what does this all mean, are Intel chips pointless right now?
It’s a close call on which chips have the fastest single thread speed, some benchmarks give it to AMD, others show Intel still maintaining a small lead.
This single thread speed is the key metric for the majority of trading software, outside of backtesting or some of the more intensive platforms like X Trader, most traders require a faster single thread speed over lots of processing cores.
Intel’s platform which includes both the processor chip and the motherboard is a little bit cheaper than AMD at the higher end of things, mainly due to it being a more established setup with good value motherboards over the newer AMD platform, this may change in the future though.
I think Intel’s 9th generation series are still a great choice for many traders and the reality is that very few people need more than 6 or 8 processing cores.
We sell a lot of trading computers and I’ve not heard any feedback that the i7 9700K or the i9 9900K Intel chips couldn’t handle a workload.
That being said, for customers who want the best of the best, and run backtesting (or a lot of trading platforms simultaneously) then the AMD 12 / 16 core Ryzen chips would be a better option.
We do have some customers who definitely need a lot of processing cores and are specifically looking for multi-threaded performance. For these I would not currently recommend any of the Intel chips, even the new 10th generation HEDT series from Intel can’t realistically stand up to the ThreadRipper chips, and the 12 / 16 core Ryzens can more than compete with the lower spec Intel HEDT chips.
Of course we will be updating our processor reviews with these new AMD offerings over the coming weeks so keep an eye out for them.