In a world in which hype and counterclaim are increasingly used to disguise lack of real innovation, it's a relief to get down to real data. Our indefatigable colleague Kai Schmerer from ZDNet Germany has taken AMD and Intel's fastest desktop processors and put them through exhaustive tests. The results are clear -- in almost every way, bar intensive multi-tasking, AMD wins.
Intel spends an enormous amount of money on research and development -- nearly $4bn (£2.2bn) this year -- and billions more has been spent on marketing the company's brand. AMD is worth a mere $5bn in total, a mere fortieth of Intel's net worth, but it has a solid 15 percent of the market. It can't come close to Intel's R&D budget. But it keeps coming out on top -- less power consumption, first to market with hardware security features, and first to market with 64-bit extensions. And the chips are often faster and always cheaper.
Intel's year has been rather different. Product recalls, delays, and a 64-bit desktop strategy which seems to involve quietly bolting on AMD's innovations and hoping nobody asks too many questions. In other fields too, the company seems to have lost the initiative: a year after such things mattered, it will finally announce its dual-band WiFi chip set this week, the same week that it's been beaten to the punch in next-generation memory by Samsung.
Meanwhile, AMD sticks to its knitting. It's pushing 64-bit to the developers, rationalising its product lines, and successfully parlaying its perception as the plucky underdog into solid support. It has problems too -- it's not immune to the 90nm fab problems everyone else enjoys, or supply chain hiccoughs -- but in the job of providing value-for-money high technology at the heart of computing, it's punching well above its weight.
While both companies slug it out with vicious price cuts, consumers can enjoy an unprecedented age of ultra-powerful computing at very low cost. The question isn't so much whether you should choose AMD or Intel, but why should you pay over the odds for a heavily promoted brand when the figures say otherwise.