Introduction, Background Features
[Editors’ Note: Parts of this review appeared previously in our review of the AMD Ryzen 5 1400.]
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.
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 do that 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 is priced at $109, while the Ryzen 3 1300X that we’re looking at here, 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 Ryzen 5 lineup consists of two six-core and two four-core Ryzen 5 offerings.
But of course, we’re here to talk about Ryzen 3. With just two chips in this lowest-tier Ryzen line—at least for now—Ryzen 3 sees the fewest chips released in any of the three 2017 Ryzen 3/5/7 level launches. Both of the processors have four cores, and they vary primarily in their base clock speeds.
Like all other Ryzen CPUs, the Ryzen 3 chips are unlocked for overclocking. But unlike the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 offerings, as we noted, these chips lack the thread-doubling SMT technology, AMD’s counterpart to Intel’s Hyper-Threading. This isn’t a huge deal, considering Intel disables Hyper-Threading on most of its Core i5 and Core i3 chips. The Core i3-7350KRyzen 5 1600Core i5-7640XCore X-Series platform, which is compatible with much (much) more powerful processors like the 10-core Core i9-7900X. But the Core X-Series chips also have higher TDPs than the Ryzen 3 ones, and they require more-expensive X299-chipset motherboards (the vast majority of which are $250 and up). So they’re not exactly competition for the lower-end Ryzen 3 chips.
The Ryzen 3 1300X we’re looking at here has a base clock speed of 3.5GHz and the ability to jump up to 3.7GHz, while the lesser Ryzen 3 1200 is stock-clocked between 3.1GHz and 3.4GHz. As we’ll see in testing, those clock differences make for some substantial performance deltas. Given the $20 price difference between the two chips, that makes the Ryzen 3 1300X easier to recommend unless you’re really cash-strapped and don’t care much about general system performance. Even then, 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 whole passel of chips it’s calling “7th Generation” A-Series and Athlon processors. The full menu is below…
Pricing for these chips wasn’t available when we wrote this, but doubtless many 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-speak for its chips that combine a processor and integrated graphics. 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 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 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 7s and the three higher-end Ryzen 5 chips, that we were told will deliver a better VR experience. While we haven’t, of course, tested all these chips in-depth in VR, we’d say the VR Premium tier is marketing-upsell fluff, at least in part. We ran the SteamVR readiness test with the lower-end of the two Ryzen 3 chips, the Ryzen 3 1200, 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 CPU with some performance overhead for tomorrow’s VR games.
our review of the AMD Ryzen 5 1400 if you need a refresher or are just getting up to speed with Ryzen. Here, we’ll focus on just one more feature of Ryzen, as it pertains to the Ryzen 3 1300X we’re looking at here.
You may have noticed that the entry-level Ryzen 3 chip, the Ryzen 3 1200, lacks an “X” at the end of its name, unlike the Ryzen 3 1300X we’re looking at here. This X indicates the inclusion of a feature AMD calls Extended Frequency Range (XFR).
XFR makes use of what the company is calling “SenseMI,” sensors and algorithms that, among other things, measure voltage, power, and temperature in fine detail, a thousand times per second. The sensors monitor where the chip is situated within its power and heat envelopes, as well as where it expects to be in the near term.
When it comes to clock speeds, SenseMI allows the chip to “sense” when it has sufficient cooling and, assuming you have an XFR-enabled model (again: one of those CPUs that end in “X”), to clock higher than the top boost-clock speed. The idea, at least in part, is to reward buyers or builders who invest in large air coolers or liquid cooling to enjoy some performance gains.
Now, that sounds good. But, most of the XFR-enabled chips get a boost of just 100MHz with this feature and robust cooling. The Ryzen 3 1300X (as well as the Ryzen 5 1500X) get a bigger XFR boost of 200MHz. So in one sense, the Ryzen 3 1300X is capable of hitting speeds of up to 3.9GHz without overclocking.
Caveat time, though: You’ll need an aftermarket cooler to hit those speeds consistently, and going out of your way for XFR for an extra 200MHz with this chip only makes sense if you already own an existing cooler that works with the new AM4 mounting mechanism. Many cooler manufacturers are offering adapter kits for a small price, or even free, though you’ll have to send away for them.
Our bottom line is that we don’t recommend buying a new, expensive cooler for the Ryzen 3 1300X. If you do so, you should get slightly better performance, but that money would be better spent either stepping up to an SMT-enabled eight-thread Ryzen 5 chip (which costs as little as $30 extra), or putting the cash toward a solid-state drive (SSD) or a graphics-card upgrade. A 200MHz peak clock-speed increase isn’t going to be something you’re likely to notice outside of benchmark results.
Also, a quick further note on XFR: Technically, the Ryzen 3 1200 has a bit of XFR boost, as well, even though it lacks the “X” at the end of its name. But AMD says the boost on that chip with extra thermal overhead is just 50MHz.
One last thing of note: the underside will look familiar to the AMD faithful…
The Ryzen chips still use pins on the CPU itself, not the socket-side pins and on-chip contacts that Intel has long since moved to.