AMD Ryzen vs. Intel Coffee Lake: Full System Comparison

fore1gn

A Ryzen CPU and an Intel CPU. Which system is a better value if we compare the full PC?

In the past few months, we have written comparison after comparison of AMD’s very successful Ryzen CPU series to Intel’s ultra-fast 8th generation Coffee Lake chips. (For a quick recap, here are a few: Ryzen 7 1700 vs Core i7-7700K and vs Core i7-8700K, Ryzen 5 1600 vs Core i5-7600K and vs Core i5-8600K.)

These processors are often comparable in terms of price and performance, but building a complete PC is a different story. In this article I will show the differences between two comparable Intel and AMD Ryzen systems, based on the i7-8700K and Ryzen 7 1700 respectively.

Practical price differences

The Ryzen 7 1700 was announced at a retail price of $329, which has since noticeably fallen to under $300 at most retailers. The i7-8700K, on the other hand, has a price tag of $360, but often goes for $400 or more, due to consistently unreliable availability. Comparing the CPUs by their suggested prices seems reasonable until you factor in the additional information. (We choose the R7 1700 over the 1800X because the 1700 can be overclocked to essentially match the performance of the 1800X.)

Motherboard options can considerably alter the system price. For Ryzen, any B350 motherboard will allow any lower-tier Ryzen CPU to gain 10-15% extra performance from overclocking, and those motherboards can often be had for less than $100. Intel’s overclockable K CPUs require an obligatory Z-series motherboard for overclocking support. Those motherboards start at $120, and can be significantly pricier than that.

The third factor people often forget to account for in their total system price is the stock cooler. Intel’s K processors come without any sort of heatsink, so you need to spend another $20-$30 to get the most basic cooling solution with a possible 200-300 MHz overclock. The Ryzen 7 1700 comes bundled with a decent heatsink that can be compared to what the $20-$30 ones offer.

So far, we see that an i7-8700K system is already costing $150+ more than a Ryzen 7 1700 system.

Choosing the parts

Building a similar computer with either the Ryzen 7 1700 or Core i7-8700K is not an easy task. Some compromises must be made. Firstly, it must be possible to put the build together and allow the PC to run at stock speeds with a possibility of overclocking. Secondly, all parts must be the same, apart from the CPU, CPU cooler and motherboard. Thirdly, the motherboards must be comparable and allow for overclocking. And lastly, the graphics card and storage solutions will be left out to show what the difference in price allows us to achieve.

I put together two comparable part lists on pcpartpicker.com, which can be found here (Intel) and here (AMD).

These parts are the same in both builds:

  • Case: Fractal Design Meshify C, one of the best cases this year, as per GamersNexus; one extra intake fan for improved airflow.
  • Power supply: Corsair CXM 550W 80+ Bronze-certified, a semi-modular power supply that will easily support any configuration up to a heavily overclocked mainstream i7 and GTX 1080.
  • Memory: Corsair Vengeance LPX, 2×8 GB sticks of DDR4-3000 memory — perfect for both Intel and AMD systems.

The i7-8700K-based build comes in at around $860 for a decent, upgradeable package. The be quiet! Pure Rock CPU cooler has a decent heatsink and four heat pipes, which is a good solution for under $30. The MSI Z370 Gaming PLUS motherboard was selected because it has a decent VRM setup and heatsinks, allowing for MOSFET cooling.

 

The Ryzen 7 1700-based system does not require a separate purchase of a CPU cooler to operate out of the box. The stock cooler allows for a slight overclock as-is. I chose the MSI B350 Gaming Plus motherboard because it is the same product line as the Intel one, only built for Ryzen. Its VRM design is not as good as that of the Intel equivalent, but it will not hinder the overclocking capabilities of the Ryzen CPU as that is more silicon-based.

Comparing these two builds, we can see a price difference of $190. Even if we say that a Ryzen 7 1700’s typical price is $300 and the i7-8700K’s is $360, the difference will still be $120. This money would allow the user to not only purchase a higher-tier graphics card — for instance a GTX 1080 instead of a GTX 1070 — but also upgrade the storage to a higher-capacity SSD.

The reality of the situation is that the Ryzen 7 1700, at least in terms of price, should be compared to the i5-8600K, which is still better at gaming, but noticeably slower in content production tasks. The Ryzen 5 1600’s competition should be the Core i5-8400, but then again, due to the current lack of B- and H-series motherboard availability, buying an i5-8400 can hardly be justified.

GTX 1080s can often be found for around $100 more than the cheaper GTX 1070s.

In the long run, I feel it is important to say that this does not in any way invalidate the i7-8700K as the fastest CPU on the market. For both gaming and content creation, the 8700K is around 20-25% faster than the baseline Ryzen 7 1700. The 1700 does catch up with some good overclocking, but you can also overclock the 8700K significantly with a good enough cooler. Of course, for gaming, getting a more powerful graphics card will make more of a difference than a faster CPU.

These price comparisons show how much difference the platforms could make in selecting a graphics card. A minimum of $100 saved by going with the Ryzen CPU will net a 25-35% better gaming experience if the savings are invested into a more powerful GPU (i.e. a GTX 1080 vs. a 1070). Anything over that will give the user more room to play around with the storage capacities or the appearance of the build.

In instances where price is not an issue, Intel’s Coffee Lake processors are definitely the right choice. For a consumer with a fixed budget, however, the savings from buying Ryzen will allow to invest into components more important for the gaming experience: the graphics card or a higher capacity SSD. Or maybe even start saving for that G-Sync monitor…

Sources: