Introduction, Background Features
[Editors’ Note: Parts of this review appeared previously in our review of the AMD Ryzen 3 1300X.]
AMD Ryzen 7 1800XRyzen 5 1600Xwe’ve tested and reviewed all of them, alongside chips from the new Core X-Series lineup from Intel. (The current head of that line, at this writing, was the 10-core Core i9-7900XRyzen Threadripper enthusiast chip platform is also imminent, gauging by AMD’s pricing reveals and leaks of finished motherboard packaging.
All that’s not to even mention the graphics-card side of things. We’ve tested versions of AMD’s Radeon RX 580 and Radeon RX 570 cards so far this year, and next-generation AMD Radeon RX Vega cards are expected to arrive very shortly as we write this, at the tail end of July.
But there’s no time for hardware fatigue, because AMD’s lower-end Ryzen offerings, the Ryzen 3 CPUs, arrive today too. Both are four-core, four-thread parts, which lack the thread-doubling SMT tech (similar to Intel’s Hyper-Threading), which is found on all of the previous, higher-end Ryzen CPUs. But in part because of that, they’re also quite a bit more affordable. Both are also overclockable, though to overclock you’ll want to invest in an aftermarket cooler, which will add enough to the price that you may be in Ryzen 5 territory.
As noted, AMD is releasing two Ryzen 3 processors. The entry-level Ryzen 3 1200, which we’re looking at here, is priced at $109, while the Ryzen 3 1300X, with higher 3.5GHz-to-3.7GHz clock speeds, is expected to sell for $129.
How do these chips compete with Intel’s similarly priced Core i3 offerings, such as the overclockable Intel Core i3-7350KRyzen 5 1400. The family comprises two six-core and two four-core Ryzen 5 offerings.
Then there’s Ryzen 3. With just two chips in this lowest Ryzen tier—at this writing, anyway—Ryzen 3 is the slimmest of the Ryzen launches. Both of the processors have four cores, and they vary primarily in their base clock speeds.
Like all other Ryzens, the Ryzen 3 CPUs are unlocked for easy overclocking. But as we noted, unlike the Ryzen 5 and 7 families, these chips lack the thread-doubling SMT technology, AMD’s counterpart to Intel’s Hyper-Threading. Competitively speaking, this isn’t a huge deal, considering that Intel disables Hyper-Threading on most of its Core i5 and Core i3 chips. The Core i3-7350KRyzen 5 1600Intel Core i5-7640XCore X-Series platform, which is compatible with massively more powerful processors, such as the Intel Core i9-7900X, a 10-core brute that runs about $1,000. But the Core X-Series chips also have higher TDPs than the Ryzen 3 ones, and they require new X299-chipset motherboards, most of which cost $250 or more. So they’re not exactly competition for the lower-end Ryzen 3 chips.
The Ryzen 3 1200 we’re looking at here has a base clock speed of 3.1GHz and the ability to jump up to 3.4GHz, while the stepped-up Ryzen 3 1300X we also tested is stock-clocked between 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz. As we’ll see in testing, those clock differences make for some substantial performance differences. Given the $20 price difference between the two chips, that makes the Ryzen 3 1300X much easier to recommend, unless you’re really cash-strapped and don’t care much about general system performance. Given that dynamic, we’d like to see the Ryzen 3 1200 priced at $99, rather than $109, to give the two chips a price spacing that’s more in line with their performance differences.
That said, the company does have plans for those lower price points. On the same day as the Ryzen 3 launch, AMD is announcing a further wave of chips it’s calling “7th Generation” A-Series and Athlon processors. The lineup is below…
Pricing for these chips hadn’t been shared yet when we wrote this, but to be sure, many of them will fall below the Ryzen 3 1200’s $109 asking price. A couple of things are of note here. The A-Series processors are the company’s “APUs” (“accelerated processing units”), AMD’s own lingo for its processors that combine a CPU and integrated graphics on a single die, meaning that they don’t need to be used with a video card (although you can pair them with one, of course). The Athlons, in contrast, are processor-only chips that, like the Ryzen 3/5/7 CPUs, will require pairing with a dedicated graphics card.
Also of note with the 7th Generation chips: These are not based on the Ryzen architecture or the company’s new Vega graphics. Rather, they use AMD’s older “Bristol Ridge” architecture, an evolution of what’s found in the company’s FX chips. The Bristol Ridge silicon was previously found only in mobile processors. According to AMD’s briefers, the graphics solution in these chips is very similar to the “Polaris” graphics silicon found in AMD’s Radeon RX 400- and RX 500-series desktop graphics cards. The “Raven Ridge” chips, which will combine both Ryzen and Vega architectures in APU-style processors, aren’t expected to arrive until very late in 2017 or early in 2018.
One last note on the Ryzen 3 chips: AMD says both of them (and all of the Ryzen 3, 5, and 7 lineup) are “VR Ready,” meeting or exceeding the base processor specifications for both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive headsets. But the company has also specified a “VR Ready Premium” tier for the Ryzen 7 line and the three higher-end Ryzen 5 chips that we were told will deliver a better VR experience. While we haven’t tested all of these processors in-depth in VR, we’d say the VR Premium tier is marketing-upsell fluff, at least to an extent. We ran the SteamVR Performance Test with the Ryzen 3 1200 (which, remember, is the lower-end of the two Ryzen 3 chips, the lowest-end Ryzen to date), along with a Radeon RX 480 card, and the meter was well in the green zone for “Ready”…
You should be in the VR safe zone for now with any of the current Ryzen CPUs. That said, if you’re building a system for VR that you want to have work well with demanding titles for a few years to come, there’s nothing wrong with spending more for a higher-end “VR Ready Premium” CPU with some performance overhead for tomorrow’s VR games.
There are, of course, quite a few other details about the Ryzen platform in general to consider if you’re building or buying a system, including the finer details of the chip architecture, the various AMD Ryzen-compatible motherboard chipsets, and motherboard details and pricing. We’ve covered these issues numerous times before in great detail. So rather than rehash it all here again, we’ll point you to our review of the AMD Ryzen 5 1400 if you need a refresher or are just getting up to speed with Ryzen.
One last thing of note before we jump to the Performance section: the underside of the Ryzen chips will look familiar to the AMD faithful…
The Ryzen processors still employ pins on the CPU itself, not the socket-side pins and on-chip contacts that Intel has long since moved to with its consumer CPUs.