Intel vs. AMD - Remember it's all Zeros and Ones
This is a question I get frequently from customers considering a new build. Which processor is better, Intel or AMD???
The question seems simple, but the answer is quite a bit more complex than the question. The problem with the answer is that BOTH companies make excellent CPUs, but they make it very difficult to determine which CPU is best suited for your particular need. As an example, we'll start with the Core i7-i5-i3 processors. This designation of processors is already in their second generation. Intel offers 24 different Core i7 CPUs, 23 different Core i5 CPUs, and 12 different Core i3 CPUs. That's just for desktops!!! That's a total of 59 CPUs to choose from in the Core i family. Not to mention another 14 families of CPUs aside from the Core i family. But the complexity goes beyond that.
Not only do you need to choose between CPUs, you also have to consider what motherboard you're going to use. Intel CPUs use 4 different Socket Configurations (LGA 1155, 1156, 1366, 2011) for their Core i family of processors. There are also a large range of motherboard selections depending upon your selection of CPU and your particular graphics needs (onboard or Graphics Card).
Not to be outdone, AMD currently advertises about 55 different CPUs including their Sempron, Athlon II, Phenom II, A Series and FX Series of CPUs. Fortunately, there are only a couple of CPU Socket configurations to consider when looking at the AMD Family of processors.
So your question is, "would I see a great difference between using AMD versus Intel?" The answer as you may have guessed by now is "It Depends." I like to use the analogy of buying a car, with the question being, "Will I see a significant difference in my commute time by buying a Ferrari instead of a Cadillac?" They're both fine cars in their own right. They will probably both get you to work in exactly the same amount of time. The Ferrari is fully capable of going very, very fast. A feature you'll pay for in considerable measure and seldom use. The Cadillac will get you there in comfort and style, without the outrageous price tag. Does anyone need a car that can go 200MPH??? But I guess it does impress the chicks, right?
Mel, the way you described your computer usage tells us that the most complex task you'll be performing is "light photo work". If you were my customer, and you asked me to build a system for you that would best suit your needs, I'd probably stick with the less expensive AMD system with lots of DDR3 Memory. If you really wanted to step things up, you would gain a lot more speed and overall satisfaction by adding a Solid State Drive (SSD) to hold your Operating System and Programs. This would give you ultra quick start up, very fast internet speed, and plenty of processing power for the light photo work you mentioned. This is a system that you could build yourself for under $500.00 with a few bells and whistles to boot.
Just to be clear Mel, this is a suggestion based upon your stated need for computing power. There are some users out there that WANT THE FERRARI!!! In that case, I'd have to say that a carefully balanced system using a multi-core CPU, high numbers in all CPU caches, ultra high clock speed, high volumes of high speed RAM, multiple high speed graphics cards, well engineered cooling and the fastest bandwidth internet connection would fit the build. Of course, this system would cost not $500.00, but closer to $12,000.00.
The short answer Mel is that you don't need a Ferrari to do what you do on your computer. Keep it simple and inexpensive. As I said earlier, the only "extras" I'd be looking for would be lots of RAM (8GB or so), and possibly an SSD for your OS and Programs.
I hope this helps Mel, and good luck.