AMD’s CPU division is on a roll. Excuse me while I pinch myself, but the company’s Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 CPUs (as well as its Epyc server chips) have breathed fresh competition into what was until quite recently a stagnant x86 CPU market. AMD has further promised that its Threadripper high-end desktop platform will launch early next month, apparently far ahead of Intel’s higher-core-count Core i9 chips.
This morning, however, AMD’s attention is on the entry-level end of the CPU market. The Ryzen 3 1300X and Ryzen 3 1200 chips launching today demonstrate the scalability of the basic eight-core, two-core-complex (CCX) die that underpins Ryzen and Epyc CPUs. To make Ryzen 3s, AMD disables two of the four cores on each CCX, turns off simultaneous multi-threading, and halves the amount of L3 on board to get four-core, four-thread chips. With those resources at their disposal, the Ryzen 3 1200 and Ryzen 3 1300X seem like ideal competitors for Intel’s various Kaby Lake Core i3s and their pairs of Hyper-Threaded cores.
|Model||Cores||Threads||Base clock||Boost clock||Two-core
|Ryzen 5 1600X||6||12||3.6 GHz||4.0 GHz||???||100 MHz||16MB||95W||$249|
|Ryzen 5 1600||3.2 GHz||3.6 GHz||50 MHz||65W||$219|
|Ryzen 5 1500X||4||8||3.5 GHz||3.7 GHz||200 MHz||$189|
|Ryzen 5 1400||3.2 GHz||3.4 GHz||50 MHz||8MB||$169|
|Ryzen 3 1300X||4||4||3.4 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.7 GHz||200 MHz||$129|
|Ryzen 3 1200||3.1 GHz||3.1 GHz||3.4 GHz||50 MHz||$109|
The end result of all that trimming looks a lot like the difference between the four-core, eight-thread Ryzen 5 1500X and its Ryzen 5 1400 stablemate. The $130 Ryzen 3 1300X starts out at a 3.4 GHz base clock, and it promises a 3.6 GHz all-core boost clock and a 3.7 GHz two-core boost clock. It tops out with 200 MHz of XFR headroom when load and thermals allow, possibly yielding speeds of up to 3.9 GHz in bursty workloads. Those appealing clocks are similar to those of other X chips in the Ryzen family.
The Ryzen 3 1200 offers somewhat less appealing specs. This $110 chip has a 3.1 GHz base clock, a 3.1 GHz all-core boost speed, a 3.4 GHz two-core boost speed, and 50 MHz of XFR on top. Like other non-X Ryzens before it, the Ryzen 3 1200 seems most appealing to overclockers who aren’t going to want or need AMD’s SenseMI voltage-and-frequency-scaling magic. Builders can tweak both the Ryzen 3 1300X and Ryzen 3 1200X to their hearts’ content thanks to the chips’ unlocked multipliers. Both chips come with AMD’s compact Wraith Stealth cooler in the box.
There’s one major challenge for Ryzen 3 beyond mere performance parity, however. No matter what, Ryzen 3 builders (or system integrators) will need a discrete graphics card to make a complete PC. Even if they don’t fancy gaming, end users will need to shell out anywhere from about $40 to $70 on a low-end discrete graphics chip, and they’ll need to spend at the top end of that range to get a part with any sort of modern provenance.
Intel-fancying folks need not endure any such headache. As we’ve come to expect from the blue team’s parts since Sandy Bridge, builders can drop any Kaby Lake Pentium or Core i3 into any Intel motherboard with video outputs to enjoy a machine that’s ready to rumble at no extra cost. AMD says buyers who don’t want the hassle of using a discrete graphics card should consider its now-available-at-retail Bristol Ridge APUs, but those chips hardly seem like appealing Core i3 alternatives at this point.
Regardless of how much they’ve been tweaked and optimized, Bristol Ridge APUs still trace their CPU cores’ heritage through the maligned Piledriver and Bulldozer “modules,” and we already know that Zen handily outpaces a representative of that architecture from our Ryzen 7 testing. Bristol Ridge parts will surely lessen that gap, but we’re betting they won’t come anywhere close to closing it.
On top of our own experience with AMD’s construction cores in 2017, we know that Ryzen APUs are slated for release in the second half of this year. Even within the thermally-constrained mobile market, AMD is promising 50% better CPU performance and 40% higher integrated graphics performance from its Ryzen Mobile APUs with Zen cores and Vega graphics compared to its Bristol Ridge mobile parts. It’s not a stretch to imagine similar APUs will eventually find their way into the AM4 socket, and they would seem to be vastly superior to Bristol Ridge. If you want an AMD APU to power a basic desktop or HTPC, it seems wise to wait.
Now that we know all that there is to know about the Ryzen 3 lineup so far, let’s dive into performance testing.
Our testing methods
As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking numbers. We used the following hardware to perform our tests:
|Processor||Ryzen 3 1200||Ryzen 3 1300X||Ryzen 5 1400||Ryzen 5 1500X|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5|
|Memory size||16 GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3866 (rated) SDRAM|
|Memory speed||3200 MT/s (actual)|
|Memory timings||16-18-18-38 1T||15-15-15-35 1T|
|System drive||Intel 750 Series 400GB NVMe SSD|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-7500||Intel Core i3-6100||Intel Core i3-7350K|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Aorus GA-Z270X-Gaming 5|
|Memory type||G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3600 (rated) SDRAM|
|Memory speed||3200 MT/s (actual)|
|Memory timings||15-15-15-35 2T|
|System drive||Samsung 960 EVO 500GB NVMe SSD|
They all shared the following common elements:
|Storage||2x Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SSD
1x HyperX 480GB SSD
|Discrete graphics||Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming|
|Graphics driver version||GeForce 384.94|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro with Creators Update|
|Power supply||Corsair RM850x|
Some additional notes on our testing methods:
- Our AMD test bed was updated with the latest BIOS based on AMD’s AGESA 18.104.22.168 base firmware.
- For our Intel test system, we used the Balanced power plan, as we have for many years. Our AMD test bed was configured to use the Ryzen Balanced power plan that ships with AMD’s chipset drivers.
- Our test systems’ monitor was set to a resolution of 3840×2160 and a refresh rate of 60 Hz. Vsync was disabled in the graphics driver control panel.
Our testing methods are generally publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions, leave a comment on this article or join us in the forums to talk about them.
Memory subsystem performance
To get a basic idea of how much data these CPUs can move around, we use the benchmarks built into the handy AIDA64 utility.
With DDR4-3200 in play across the board, Ryzen 3 chips generally enjoy similar or slightly higher theoretical bandwidth than the Intel competition, at the expense of much higher latency. Ryzen 3 doesn’t do anything to change this well-worn story.
Some quick synthetic math tests
AIDA64 offers a useful set of built-in directed benchmarks for assessing the performance of the various subsystems of a CPU. The PhotoWorxx benchmark uses AVX2 on compatible CPUs, while the FPU Julia and Mandel tests use AVX2 with FMA.
Since Intel’s Skylake and Kaby Lake cores have about twice the theoretical AVX throughput as their Ryzen competitors, it’s no shock that dual-core Core i3s and quad-core Ryzens are close competitors in this test. The i5-7500 and its four discrete cores let it double the floating-point performance of the rest of the field as a result of this throughput difference, as well. Otherwise, the Core i3s and Ryzen 3s seem closely matched. Let’s see how that scenario plays out in games.
Doom likes to run fast, and especially so with a GTX 1080 pushing pixels. The game’s Vulkan mode is an especially hard test for keeping that beast of a graphics card fed. We cranked up all of Doom‘s eye candy at 1920×1080 and went to work with our usual test run in the beginning of the Foundry level.
Doom’s Vulkan renderer generally runs well with most any reasonably capable CPU, but our results do turn out a bit oddly regardless. The Core i3-6100 comes out on top, while the Ryzen 3s land midpack. The Kaby Lake Core i5-7500 and i3-7350K have a much harder time with Doom than we would have expected.
These “time spent beyond X” graphs are meant to show “badness,” those instances where animation may be less than fluid—or at least less than perfect. The formulas behind these graphs add up the amount of time the GTX 1080 spends beyond certain frame-time thresholds, each with an important implication for gaming smoothness.
The 50-ms threshold is the most notable one, since it corresponds to a 20-FPS average. We figure if you’re not rendering any faster than 20 FPS, even for a moment, then the user is likely to perceive a slowdown. 33 ms correlates to 30 FPS or a 30-Hz refresh rate. Go beyond that with vsync on, and you’re into the bad voodoo of quantization slowdowns. 16.7 ms correlates to 60 FPS, that golden mark that we’d like to achieve (or surpass) for each and every frame. And 8.3 ms corresponds to 120 FPS, an even more demanding standard that Doom can easily meet or surpass on hardware that’s up to the task. For that reason, we’ve also added a button for the 6.94-ms mark, or 144 Hz.
None of the chips here give the GTX 1080 any significant trouble at the 16.7 ms or 8.3 ms thresholds, so mash that 6.94 ms button and have a look. Even at this demanding threshold, the Ryzen 3 1300X only perturbs the graphics card for about two seconds of our one-minute test run, and the Ryzen 3 1200 makes it spend about three seconds working on frames past the 8.3 ms mark. Both Ryzen 5s cut that figure down even further, while the i3-6100 seems to have had a lucky day in our test rig, or something. This data doesn’t tell us why our Kaby Lake chips had so much trouble running Doom, relatively speaking. Still, all of these CPUs provide a pleasurable gaming experience in Doom under the Vulkan API.
Hitman (DirectX 12)
Hitman‘s DirectX 12 renderer can stress every part of a system, so we cranked the game’s graphics settings at 1920×1080 and got to testing.
Hitman‘s DX12 mode seems to favor a combo of high clocks, high IPC, and lots of threads. Unfortunately, that means both Ryzen 3 chips end up toward the back of the pack in both our average FPS measurement of performance potential and in our 99th-percentile frame time metric of delivered smoothness. Despite its lower clock speed versus the Ryzen 3 1300X, the Ryzen 5 1400’s eight threads appear to let it deliver a much smoother experience overall. That said, the Ryzen 5 1500X comes out on top, and it delivers a significantly smoother experience than any other chip on the bench. Perhaps Ryzens with 8MB of L3 are at a disadvantage in this title compared to the 16MB on board the 1500X.
Checking in at the 16.7-ms threshold, the Ryzen 3 chips both make the GTX 1080 wait more than any other chip here on tough frames that would drop the delivered frame rate below 60 FPS. The Core i3s in our test suite make the GTX 1080 spend considerably less time waiting, and the Core i5-7500 is better yet. The crown still goes to AMD in Hitman, however. The Ryzen 5 CPUs both incur only minuscule delays, and the Ryzen 5 1500X is just one millisecond away from a perfect result at the 16.7-ms threshold.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
With its rich and geometrically complex environments, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided can prove a challenge for any CPU at high enough refresh rates. We recently tweaked our preferred recipe of in-game settings to put the squeeze on the CPU, and it’s proven quite the torture test.
Like Hitman’s DX12 mode, Mankind Divided wants all the CPU power one can throw at it. Once again, the Ryzen 3 contingent ends up trailing the Core i3-6100, and only the most powerful CPUs of this bunch can deliver 99th-percentile frame times below the ever-so-desirable 16.7 ms.
At that crucial 16.7-ms threshold, the Ryzen 3 1200 holds up the graphics card for nearly twice as long as the Ryzen 3 1300X does. The Ryzen 5 1400 marks the point where we’d start considering those disturbances nothing to worry about. Flipping over to the 8.3 ms graph demonstrates that none of these chips are really up to the task of letting the GTX 1080 sustain 120 FPS undisturbed. Still, the Core i5-7500 and Ryzen 5 1500X keep the card waiting for about half the time the Ryzen 3 chips do. The Ryzen 5 1400 exhibits a large delta in the delays it incurs versus the Ryzen 5 1500X. Might be that cache halving at work again, among other things. Whatever it is, the Ryzen 3s still can’t quite catch the i3-6100.
Although Crysis 3 is nearly four years old now, its lavishly detailed environments and demanding physics engine can still stress every part of a system. To put each of our CPUs to the test, we took a one-minute run through the grassy area at the beginning of the “Welcome to the Jungle” level with settings cranked at 1920×1080.
We know that Crysis 3 isn’t really happy with just four threads at its disposal from our past experiences, and our test data here continues to bear that impression out. The serious fuzz in the frame-time graphs for the Ryzen 3s and Core i3s reflects the less-than-smooth gameplay I experienced with the less-powerful chips in our suite. The Ryzen 3 1300X chases the i3-7350K in our average-FPS results, but the unlocked Core i3 still delivers substantially lower 99th-percentile frame times.
Our time-spent-beyond-16.7-ms threshold shows just how far the Ryzen 3 1300X is behind the Core i3-7350K here, and the answer is about a second longer spent working on tough frames. The 1300X can be proud of a handy victory over the Core i3-6100 here, as well. The Skylake dual-core spends about three seconds longer on tough frames that would drop the instantaneous frame rate below 60 FPS, about on par with the Ryzen 3 1200.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V can still put the hurt on CPUs as well as graphics cards, so we ran through our usual test run with the game’s settings turned all the way up at 1920×1080. Unlike most of the games we’ve tested so far, GTA V favors a single thread or two heavily, and there’s no way around it with Vulkan or DirectX 12.
Surprisingly, Grand Theft Auto V is the first title we’ve tested that really lets the Ryzen 3 1300X demonstrate a clear lead over the i3-6100. It’s not a large lead, granted, but it’s a lead. The Ryzen 3 1200 doesn’t do too badly for itself, either. Note also that every chip here delivers a 99th-percentile frame time comfortably below our preferred 16.7 ms.
As our 99th-percentile frame time numbers predicted, none of our chips spend notable amounts of time past 16.7 ms with GTA V. Flipping over to the demanding 8.3 ms threshold reveals some major differences, though. The Ryzen 3 1300X shaves about two seconds off the time the Core i3-6100 spends working on tough frames past this threshold, its best showing over the Core i3-6100 so far. The Ryzen 3 1200 can’t break free of the back of the pack, though.
Watch Dogs 2
Watch Dogs 2 can occupy every thread one can throw at it, so it’s a perfect CPU test. We turned up the eye candy and walked through the forested paths around the game’s Coit Tower landmark to get our chips sweating.
Watch Dogs 2 doesn’t improve the fortunes of Ryzen 3 chips. At least the Ryzen 3 1300X can deliver performance on par with that of the Core i3-6100 here. The game especially seems to like the Core i3-7350K’s high clock speed, although the Ryzen 5 1500X and Core i5-7500 still dominate the pack.
The 16.7-ms mark is the most relevant threshold for seeing where tough frames crop up for these chips in Watch Dogs 2, and our time-spent-beyond data shows that the Ryzen 3 1200 struggles especially hard to deliver a smooth gaming experience. Despite their similar 99th-percentile frame times, the Ryzen 3 1300X spends about two more seconds on tough work than the i3-6100 does here. The Core i3-7350K performs substantially better than the i3-6100, nearly halving the amount of time spent working on tough frames versus its 500-MHz-slower cousin. Even so, you’d still need to step up to the Ryzen 5 1500X or Core i5-7500 to really smooth things out.
As we’d expect, Ryzen chips generally trail the Skylake and Kaby Lake competition in this test, but not by much. Hot-clocked Core i3-7350K aside, most users shouldn’t notice a huge difference in lightly-threaded tasks while using all but the slowest Ryzen 3 CPUs.
Compiling code in GCC
Our resident code monkey, Bruno Ferreira, helped us put together this code-compiling test. Qtbench records the time needed to compile the Qt SDK using the GCC compilers. The number of jobs dispatched by the Qtbench script is configurable, and we set the number of threads to match the hardware thread count for each CPU.
Our compilation test tells a story that will reverberate through the remainder of our results: if your time is money, it pays to step up to a Ryzen CPU with eight threads or more. The Core i3s and Ryzen 3s aren’t really up to doing this kind of demanding work quickly.
7-Zip file compression
Zipping and unzipping compressed folders is a common desktop task, and the Ryzen 3 1300X leads the four-threaded pack here. Once again, though, higher-performance Intel quad-cores and Ryzen 5 chips with SMT are hard to beat.
VeraCrypt disk encryption
If you rely on full-disk encryption for security purposes, the Ryzen 3 family and Core i3 chips are about equivalent. Peep those Ryzen 5 numbers if you really want swift encrytion throughput, though.
The Cinebench benchmark is powered by Maxon’s Cinema 4D rendering engine. It’s multithreaded and comes with a 64-bit executable. The test runs with a single thread and then with as many threads as possible.
Intel CPUs take the checkered flag in Cinebench’s single-threaded benchmark, but Ryzen 3 chips pull ahead in the fully multithreaded half of the test. Once again, the Ryzen 5 1500X’s multi-threaded prowess is hard to ignore.
Blender is a widely-used, open-source 3D modeling and rendering application. The app can take advantage of AVX2 instructions on compatible CPUs. We chose the “bmw27” test file from Blender’s selection of benchmark scenes to put our CPUs through their paces.
You could render complex 3D models on your Core i3 or Ryzen 3 PC at about the same speed, but if time is really money for you in this regard, it would really seem to pay off to grab a Ryzen 5 1500X instead.
Handbrake video transcoding
Handbrake is a popular video-transcoding app that recently hit version 1.0. To see how it performs on these chips, we converted a roughly two-minute 4K source file from an iPhone 6S into a 1920×1080, 30 FPS H.265 .MKV using the x265 encoder’s otherwise-default settings.
Here’s one test where the Ryzen 3 1300X really separates itself from the pack. The hotter-clocked Ryzen 3 sandwiches itself nicely between the pricier Ryzen 5 1400 and Core i3-7350K. Not bad.
LuxMark OpenCL performance
Because LuxMark uses OpenCL, we can use it to test both GPU and CPU performance, and to see how these different types of processors work together. We used the Intel OpenCL runtime for all of the CPUs at hand, since it delivers the best performance under LuxMark for x86 CPUs of all types in our experience.
Luxmark tends to deliver somewhat chaotic results, and this run is no different. In general, we’d bet that Ryzen 3 chips and Core i3 chips pair about as well with graphics cards as one another if OpenCL performance is important to you.
Image analysis with picCOLOR
It’s been a while since we tested CPUs with picCOLOR, but we now have the latest version of this image-analysis tool in our hands courtesy of Dr. Reinert H.G. Mueller of the FIBUS research institute. This isn’t Photoshop; picCOLOR’s image analysis capabilities can be used for scientific applications like particle flow analysis. In its current form, picCOLOR supports AVX2 instructions, multi-core CPUs, and simultaneous multithreading, so it’s an ideal match for the CPUs on our bench today. Check out FIBUS’ page for more information about the institute’s work and picCOLOR.
Ryzen 3 1200 aside, the Ryzen 3 1300X and Core CPUs we have on hand are all about as good as each other for running this scientific benchmark. Once again, though, the Ryzen 5 1500X takes the lead.
CFD performance with Euler3D
Euler3D tackles the difficult problem of simulating fluid dynamics. It tends to be very memory-bandwidth intensive. You can read more about it right here. We configured Euler3D to use every thread available from each of our CPUs.
I have a hunch that Euler3D may be reaching the end of its useful life in its currently-available form, since its maintainers admit the benchmark is compiled in a way that’s hostile to AMD CPUs. Might have to see if we can get ’em to recompile it with a more modern and neutral compiler soon.
Digital audio workstation performance
Although digital audio workstation applications tend to strain CPUs enough to deserve the “workstation” label in our experience, we still ran the freshly-available DAWBench DSP 2017 and DAWBench VI 2017 benchmarks on our test rigs to see just how much (or how little) we could do with inexpensive CPUs.
We used the latest version of the Reaper DAW for Windows as the platform for our tests. To simulate a demanding workload, we tested each CPU with a 24-bit and 96 KHz sampling rate, and at two ASIO buffer depths: a punishing 64 and a slightly-less-punishing 128. We then added VSTs or notes of polyphony to each session until we started hearing popping or other audio artifacts. We used Focusrite’s Scarlett 2i2 audio interface and the latest version of the company’s own ASIO driver for monitoring purposes.
A very special thanks is in order here for Native Instruments, who kindly provided us with the Kontakt licenses necessary to run the DAWBench VI project file. We greatly appreciate NI’s support—this benchmark would not have been possible without the help of the fine folks there.
The DAWBench DSP 2017 benchmark relies on a VST that seems to run into other bottlenecks pretty quickly once we lessen the strain of the 64-deep buffer. The Ryzen 3 1300X nips at the heels of the Core i5-7500 at a buffer depth of 64, and it only gets slightly outpaced by the more-expensive Ryzen 5 1400 with a buffer depth of 128. For once, both Core i3s struggle mightily in this test. The Ryzen 5 1500X seems to be the most logical entry point if you need to do serious audio work with your PC, though.
The DAWBench VI test really punishes our test lineup at a buffer depth of 64. While the i5-7500 and Ryzen 5 1500X can run the benchmark at those settings, it’s questionable whether that would translate into actual usefulness for DAW applications given how few voices of polyphony either chip can support. The picture is brighter for the Ryzen 3s and Core i3s at a buffer depth of 128, though. The Ryzen 3 1300X matches the Core i3-6100, but the Ryzen 3 1200 just barely gets off the ground.
A quick look at power consumption and efficiency
Between our gaming and productivity results, we know that Ryzen 3 chips can hang with Intel’s Core i3s in absolute performance. The flip side of that coin is whether they do it efficiently. We can get a rough idea of the Ryzen 3 1200 and Ryzen 3 1300X’s efficiency by monitoring our test system’s power consumption at the wall with our trusty Watts Up power meter under a test load. We can then estimate the total amount of energy they to complete a task. Our observations have shown us that Blender consumes about the same amount of power at every stage of the bmw27 benchmark we test with, so it’s an ideal guinea pig for this kind of calculation. First, though, let’s check idle and peak load power consumption numbers.
Perhaps because they have two fewer cores active, the Core i3s let our test system consume quite a bit less juice at idle. Under load, however, the field is a little more closely matched. Interestingly, the dual-core Intel parts consume about as much power as the quad-core i5-7500. The Ryzen 3 1300X and Ryzen 5 1500X would seem to suck down the most system power of this lot, but that’s not the whole story about power consumption.
For reference, here’s the amount of time it took each processor to complete our Blender “bmw27” benchmark scene in seconds. To estimate the total power consumed over this period, we can take our observed instantaneous load power consumption numbers and simply multiply watts times seconds to achieve an estimated number of kilojoules.
This visualization of our data suggests the Ryzen 3 CPUs are less efficient than the Core i3 competition, simply because they’re consuming more energy over the period of time it takes them to render our test scene. The Core i5-7500 consumes the least energy over the course of our testing, but the Ryzen 5 1500X only needs a bit more energy to complete the task much faster, so it’s the best chip here if you need both speed and efficiency.
Before we issue a verdict on the Ryzen 3 duo, it’s time once again to sum up our gaming and productivity data using our famous value scatter plots. To make our higher-is-better visualization work, we’ve converted the geometric mean of each chip’s 99th-percentile frame times into FPS values. For our productivity chart, we take the geometric mean of all of our real-world testing results to arrive at a final performance index. The best values on these charts tend toward the upper left, where performance is highest and prices are lowest. Where possible, we gathered retail pricing from Newegg for these chips.
Our gaming value charts might mark an interesting turn for what makes a good gaming CPU in 2017. TR has long extolled the value of single-threaded performance to a good gaming experience, but it no longer seems like single-core throughput alone is enough to prevail in situations where games are CPU-bound. Our testing suite of CPU-limited games now seems to want the whole enchilada: fast cores and lots of threads in tandem.
At the entry level of the market, though, one can’t have everything, and so the Ryzen 3 1300X delivers performance potential (as measured by average FPS per dollar) and 99th-percentile FPS per dollar that are right in line with Intel’s Pentiums and Core i3s. Our i3-6100 representative might be slightly outpaced by the newer-and-200-MHz-faster i3-7100, but we wouldn’t expect major variations from these results if you bought the newer chip. The Ryzen 3 1200 trails its sibling in both of our value measures at stock speeds, underscoring the point that it likely needs to be overclocked to shine.
In light of our past experiences with hot-clocked dual-core chips, I was hoping for great things from the Core i3-7350K. Its no-questions-asked 4.2 GHz clock speed matches the Turbo clock of the silky-smooth i5-7600K. However, its 99th-percentile frame times just couldn’t beat even the relatively pokey Ryzen 5 1400, and its performance potential is seemingly no greater than the 1400’s on balance, either. Overclocking might change that result, but paying for a suitable cooler to do so would likely take buyers into Ryzen 5 1500X territory. We just don’t see how it would be worth it.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 family brought the cost of many-core performance out of the stratosphere, and its Ryzen 5 family delivered new levels of multi-threaded performance to the under-$250 bracket. Ryzen 3 CPUs achieve a more modest goal: competitive performance against Intel’s Core i3 family in productivity and gaming. Our tests show that whether one gets four threads from discrete cores or Hyper-Threading, the resulting performance in both work and play is about a wash. That’s good news for AMD, but Ryzen 3 parts will still sell for as much as Core i3s—a fact that I find a bit hard to stomach.
As I noted at the beginning of this review, those prices seem ambitious for one major reason: onboard graphics and Ryzen’s lack thereof. Intel’s similarly-priced Core i3 chips offer a plug-and-play PC build for those who don’t game. That missing graphics processor won’t matter for gamers shopping Ryzen 3, of course, but it matters for the much larger market of basic PCs and home-theater machines out there. The unavoidable need for and cost of a discrete graphics card limits the appeal and design envelope for Ryzen 3 chips. All this will change with the eventual arrival of Ryzen APUs and their Radeon Vega onboard graphics, but for now, Intel would seem to maintain its lock on the basic DIY PC.
Considering Ryzen’s missing integrated graphics, AMD might have considered even more aggressive pricing. A Ryzen 3 1300X for $99 or $109 and a Ryzen 3 1200 for $79 or $89 would have really given us something to talk about for performance-per-dollar, and it would also leave plenty of wiggle room for buyers to squeeze that discrete graphics card into their budgets. Those price points wouldn’t be unprecedented, either: the company’s unlocked and graphics-free Athlons of years past occupied similar brackets. Ryzen 3 chips seem like a perfect successor to those products.
In that light, Intel’s Kaby Lake Pentiums and Core i3s (except the pricey i3-7350K) still have plenty of appeal in the face of the Ryzen onslaught. Kaby Lake chips still have a single-threaded performance advantage that will make basic desktop tasks feel snappier, and more well-heeled Core i3 buyers can add an Optane Memory cache to big hard drives for SSD-like performance from their large Steam libraries and other applications. That might be an appealing prospect given the industry-wide NAND supply crunch that’s occurring right now.
No, you can’t overclock any Core i3 (again, except the pricey i3-7350K), but I feel like that restriction isn’t that choking given Kaby Lake chips’ already-solid performance, high efficiency, and built-in graphics processors for those who need them. Intel also doesn’t seem to lock down memory multipliers on its locked CPUs, so it’s easy enough to run fast RAM with one of those chips for extra performance. Solid-looking Z270 boards are available for about the same price as AMD B350 boards, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 support is about the only thing missing from those inexpensive Intel mobos.
All that said, if you’d rather build an all-AMD budget gaming box with Ryzen 3, I wouldn’t blame you. Socket AM4 motherboards should offer a fine upgrade path to Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 CPUs if more computing power is needed down the line, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 support baked in is a nice bonus versus affordable Intel mobos. AMD’s Wraith Stealth cooler is both quiet and pleasant-sounding, too, a nice change of pace from Intel’s bottom-dollar stock coolers of late.
Of the two Ryzen 3 CPUs launching today, I’d grab a Ryzen 3 1300X for its high stock clocks and wide XFR range, but that’s because my patience for overclocking has waned in my old age. Folks willing to spend some time in firmware with the Ryzen 3 1200 may find enough performance left in the tank to make it worth the money saved, and since every dollar matters for gaming machines at this price point, AMD’s unlocked multipliers on the Ryzen 3 1200 could help to move quite a few of those chips in budget gaming builds. Either way, you can’t go wrong, and that should be music to AMD’s ears as the Ryzen buzz continues to build.