AMD vs. Intel: Two CPU giants are battling it out in 2018, but who will win?

Intel and AMD CPUs
Intel and AMD CPUs (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

AMD really stuck it to Intel in 2017 with the launch of the Ryzen family of CPUs. The company has been struggling to retain processor market share with the older FX series of processors, allowing Intel to hold back on innovation by releasing incremental upgrades across its Core line of CPUs. Times changed when Ryzen was released, forcing Intel to wake up from its slumber now that a competitor had risen against the blue side.

But who will come out tops in 2018?

AMD Ryzen from the ashes

AMD Ryzen

AMD Ryzen

AMD already has capable mainstream desktop processors available, including the ridiculously powerful Ryzen 9 series of CPUs. For 2018, the company will work hard at tackling an area that has been the Achilles heel for AMD — portable Windows 10 PCs. Laptops, 2-in-1 notebooks, and other devices all run Intel processors and is an area AMD will want to tap into. The new Ryzen Mobile CPU line comes packing Vega graphics processing and we'll likely see more portable computers rocking these new CPUs.

Ryzen and Zen was big for AMD. Zen 2 could be huge.

The company even went as far as to launch the AMD Ryzen 7 2700U and the Ryzen 5 2500U, both with a thermal design power (TDP) of just 15W. This opens the doors to ultrabooks and other form factors and not just bulky black slabs for AMD. What's more is AMD says these processors can outperform an Intel Core i5-7600K desktop processor, all whilst being six times more power efficient. That's huge for AMD and the mobile computing space. It's down to OEM partners to throw AMD's mobile processors into laptops.

Vega graphics aren't just being packed into mobile Ryzen processors either. AMD has already announced the Ryzen 5 2400G and the Ryzen 3 2200G desktop processors with a discrete Vega GPU. The former is about as capable as an Intel Core i5-8400 paired with an NVIDIA GTX 1030, but costs around $100 less. That's massive news (and stellar timing on AMD's part) for those who are looking to build a PC and don't wish to pay out ridiculous amounts of money on a GPU, due to the high demand created by cryptocurrency mining.

Finally, we have Ryzen 2 (codenamed Pinnacle Ridge) that is expected to hit the stage sometime in April with some faster and more efficient processors, rocking the new Zen+ architecture and using a new 12nm production process. While there's expected to be a new chipset to go with the new CPUs, the same AM4 socket will be used — which is also shared by the Vega-touting CPU/APU combo processors.

Flabagasted Intel

Huawei Matebook Intel

Intel is having a tough time, caused by AMD forcing the company to react to the launch of Ryzen. A "tick-tock" release schedule was in place for processors released by Intel over recent years, but this was switched out for "process technology" that saw Intel optimize its line of desktop CPUs, resulting in Coffee Lake. Intel is also having some trouble with its 10nm production process, and the next Canon Lake family of processors is looking more likely to be dead on arrival.

Zen 2 is also looking to pack a serious blow. Set to launch later in 2018 using Global Foundries' 7nm production process, there is rumored to be a new EPYC server CPU with 64 cores, 256 MB of L3 cache, and support for DDR4-3200. If Intel is unable to get its act together with 10nm, team red could really hammer in the nail and start absorbing market share at a faster rate, at least in the server sector.

Canon Lake is already out with production set to ramp up as we move further into 2018. Ice Lake will follow late this year or 2019. Both of these architectures are based on Intel's 10nm production process.

Intel was caught off guard and is scrambling to recover.

Even if AMD and Global Foundries manage to leapfrog Intel with the release of Zen 2 using 7nm, the blue processor giant will not be knocked out cold — especially with Ice Lake in the pipeline. What this will do is signify a change in the industry. AMD has played the long game, bet on the right color and is now slowly revealing all the tricks it has packed into its sleeves.

Whatever happens in 2018, it's going to be solid news for CPUs. Unfortunately for those watching the GPU segment closely, we'll likely not see much innovation at all since NVIDIA is simply too far ahead of AMD right now with its current GTX 10 series. Still, things can change, and upsets occur. We'll have to see what the big tech giants bring consumers as the year progresses.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • AMD and Intel have been battling it out for over 20 years!  I don't foresee a "winner" for quite some time.  For the last few years, AMD was far behind, but they are back and pushing Intel.  If one of them actually lost and gave up, then we would pretty much only have a monopoly for CPU manufacturers (unless ARM cpus make huge leaps), and innovation would slow down immensly - we would get stuck in a CPU rut.
  • You are kind of correct, but Intel pretty much did have a monopoly for the last decade. It is the biggest reason they didn't upgrade their architecture for nearly 5 years. AMD was near bankruptcy before Lisa Su took over as CEO.   What we witnessed in 2017 and now upcoming 2018 is the most action CPU's have seen since 2004. 
      I do think you are right that we will likely not see a winner for some time, as AMD has a lot of ground to make up. But when you are at the bottom, the only place to go is up. Intel's ever-changing roadmap is like whack-a-mole and it is not helping them.  For me, I just bought my first AMD CPU (Threadripper) since my Athlon X2. back in 05. And I just don't see how Intel could have missed this monster of a CPU. No other way to put it than Intel got depantsed & wedgied at the same time. 
  • Cpuwise Intel is going down!
  • Qualcomm isn't exactly the most profitable company, in fact they have lost against Samsung and Apple, and in a few years Mediatek or Huawei could make it worst for Qualcomm financials, so in conclusion, the monopoly of CPU makers is dead on any platform today, and the laws of market will drive the future the CPU industry
  • Intel is facing it from both ends between amd and mobile cpus, they are starting to get a little heartburn I think. They won't lose but they won't be the monopoly anymore which is great for us.
  • They will keep the monopoly, but this will change the public view of them enough to make them win a few more anti-monopoly suits. Remember that Intel's business is based on being 'sticky'. Customer retention made the fairly awful P4 chip still solidly outsell AMD K7/8, even in server. Intel outsold AMD the entire time it was slower, in fact having faster chips usually just means the discounts they offer the important customers are lower.
  • The 'stickyness' was brought about by Intel funnelling cash into OEM pockets, for which they were subject to investigation and fines of anti competitive behaviour. AMD were GIVING the CPUs away but the OEMs couldn't afford not to take the bribe money from Intel. You simply couldn't buy an AMD PC from many vendors and it had nothing to do with consumer retention..
  • I certainly think consumers were hoodwinked about products too. The kaveri a10 APUs e.g. should have been a hit, despite its slower cores.
  • I've always used Intel in the past as AMD did have a bad reputation. My new build is Intel again but who knows what the next one will be.
  • Ryzen definitely have changed things, and with newest APUs , future looks good
  • Personally, I would love to see a high performing AMD K12 & Vega APU or similar. Now that Windows 10 on ARM with x86 emulation is a reality, we can finally say goodbye to x86 for good.
  • X86 can always find sanctuary at my house. 
  • X86 is VASTLY superior to ARM. ARM olny wins in power consumption, that is it.
  • Intel has needed AMD to stick around to keep out of anti monopoly proceedings. With Qualcomm sliding into the mobile compute business that necessity isn't what it used to be. Intel has always left certain markets for AMD to exploit. In the early 2000 it was the low end SMB and consumer space. Two years ago they told their share holders they were focusing on enterprise (Xeon, Memory/Storage, Networking). It's no surprise that AMD is making gains in consumer desktop and soon mobile. Intel is just selling into markets with the highest margins. Intel has something like 30 FABS, AMD has to wait in line to use the Chinese owned FAB they built with IBM and lost. Intel may "go down" but it won't be anytime soon.
  • I love Qualcomm my phone uses their Snapdragon, but don't put to much faith in their future. Broadcom is working on doing a hostile takeover on them. If they succeed you know what they plan to do? You ever watch the movie Wall street with Gordon Gecko? Yeah they plan to gut Qualcomm and sell off any intellectual property of any value and walk away rich, and leave Qualcomm as a shell of what it is now. This is what Broadcomm does.
  • To me, intel already lost.
  • Great article.
  • I think this question is perhaps based on a wrong premise. I am seeing more than usual cooperation between AMD and Intel this year. AMD has agreed to provide Radeon GPU packaging with Intel processors while Intel is now available on-board AMD based motherboards as a Gigabit Ethernet controller. In the past, AMD's were almost exclusively available with Broadcom and similar no-intel hardware for integrated peripherals. The real question in my mind is, are Intel and AMD now co-operating more than ever before to fend off competition from ARM.
  • Indeed they are trying to fend off ARMs but their only hope is to bank on backwards-compatibility not on technicall superiority. With both Apple and Samsung both have now ARM CPUs, which have higher performance/MHz than the fastest Intel or AMD cores. Currently AMD and Intel are lucky that the ARM competition only producing mobile chips with below 5W power envelope.
  • ARM is not the real target. NVidia is. NVidia's the biggest threat to Intel's hopes in the GPU/AI business, which is where the major future growth is. Intel has all manner of irons in the fire around AI, ranging from the new team working on a seriously competitive GPU to acquisitions like Nervana. But they have to do something, anything, to put some drag on NVidia. AMD's joint chip with Intel is a great way to push back on NVidia's leadership in gaming laptops, and who knows what else it might lead to eventually. If ARM becomes a serious factor then AMD has the K12 design on the shelf.
  • Always had a soft spot for AMD, my first PC was a AMD 386 DX40, that 386 beat half of Intel's 486s. Stuck with AMD for a while after Intel's original Pentium math error, even tried a Cyrix processor but that was just one problem of compatibility over another... My next system will be a AMD Ryzen sometime this year.  
  • "AMD vs. Intel: Two CPU giants are battling it out in 2018, but who will win?" ARM will win.  Again.  Just like the last 5 years.  
  • Windows ARM will bring a revolution of Ultra Mobile devices that can replace an Ultrabook for less price,  so yes 2018 can be the year for ARM on Windows devices
  • Intuitively, I would guess there are similarities between arm & C/GPU - both use many, simpler processors. arm may not have a big power edge over gpu compute? Re arm vs x86, we know the winner in gpu power will need MCM products to do it. Moores law is ~over, and monolithic chips can no longer compete at the top. Nvidia seem to have been caught flatfooted, like intel, by amd'S modular architecture, coming to amd gpuS in Navi (or sooner in simpler form). Navi is multiple simpler GPU cores, linked by Fabric, much as Ryzen is fabric linked cpu cores. MCM is the only way forward, and AMD's mcm solution is more advanced in both senses. Nvidia have a stay of execution til then. They seem to be dusting off and accelerating their solution to teaming multiple gpuS, which is nvlink (?) - multiple discrete gpu cards with an additional paralell data harness, which also links to an arm based cpu card. I think any old timer will tell you arm servers have been just about to take over IT for so many years now, they are sick to death of hearing about it. The smart money seems to be on x86 being around a lot longer. Nvidia will encounter skepticism and have to sell a non standard ecosystem for their mcm products.
  • In my case, I am planning to purchase a Windows ARM budget device, no need more than 4 GB of Ram and Mediatek midrange Cpu, I really hope Oems like Asus or Acer can bring Windows ARM budget devices later in 2018