AMD has just announced two new 7nm Ryzen 3 processors that bring the latest Zen 2 architecture to their lowest cost Ryzen 3 line. This is an interesting and welcome development, because more choice at the low end is good. They are supposed to be available in May. The question is, do these new Ryzen 3 processors actually make sense for a new build in 2020? I’ll give you my perspective in this post.
Ryzen 3 3100
The entry-level model is the AMD Ryzen 3 3100. This 7nm processor has 4C/8T, with a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, and a turbo clock of up to 3.9GHz. It has 16MB of L3 cache, PCIe 4.0 support, and a 65 watt TDP. This new processor comes with an included Wraith Stealth CPU cooler. It has an SRP of $99.00.
This new processor is a big improvement over the previous AMD Ryzen 3 1200 processor. That old 14nm model only had 4C/4T, with a base clock speed of 3.1GHz, and a turbo clock of up to 3.4GHz. It only had 8MB of L3 cache, PCIe 3.0 support, and a 65 watt TDP. This CPU was using the original Zen architecture. It has an SRP of $99.00.
So, we have a two generations newer architecture, higher base and turbo clock speeds, double the L3 cache size, and PCIe 4.0 support. This makes it a very capable CPU, that will perform much better than an Intel Core i3 9100F.
Ryzen 3 3300X
The high-end model is the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X. This 7nm processor has 4C/8T, with a base clock speed of 3.8GHz, a turbo clock of up to 4.3GHz It has 16MB of L3 cache, PCIe 4.0 support, and a 65 watt TDP. The processor also comes with an included Wraith Stealth CPU cooler. It has an SRP of $119.00.
This model is also a big improvement over the previous 14nm AMD Ryzen 3 1300X processor. This CPU only had 4C/4T, with a base clock speed of 3.5GHz, and a turbo clock of up to 3.7GHz. It only had 8MB of L3 cache, PCIe 3.0 support, and a 65 watt TDP. This CPU was using the original Zen architecture. It has an SRP of $139.00.
So, we also have a two generations newer architecture, higher base and turbo clock speeds, double the L3 cache size, and PCIe 4.0 support. This makes it a much more capable part, that compares very favorably with Intel’s flagship 4C/8T SKUs from 2017 and earlier. We also have a lower price, compared to the older part. These are all good things! So what is the problem?
What is the Problem?
The first issue is that in order to get PCIe 4.0 support, you currently need a more expensive X570 chipset motherboard. Current X570 motherboards range in price from about $160.00 all the way up to $1000.00. Decent models typically cost at least $200-250.00. This is not a great match for an entry-level processor for cost-sensitive consumers.
Another issue is that some B450 chipset motherboards will not work with 3rd generation Ryzen processors without a BIOS update. Depending on how long the motherboard has been in a warehouse or store shelf, it might have a very old BIOS version.
If you buy a brand new 3rd generation Ryzen processor and install it in a brand new B450 motherboard, it simply might not work (until you update the BIOS). That can be very frustrating, especially to a novice PC builder.
There are three ways around this. First, if you (or the retailer who you bought the parts from) has a 1st or 2nd generation Ryzen processor available, you can temporarily install that, and then flash the BIOS. Second, some B450 motherboards have a BIOS flashback feature that lets you flash a BIOS without having a CPU installed. Finally, AMD used to have a loaner program, where they would send you a “boot-kit” which was an older processor that you could temporarily install in order to flash your BIOS.
AMD B550 Chipset
Right now, you can chose from an older B450 chipset or the newer, more expensive X570 chipset for a motherboard choice. If you don’t care about PCIe 4.0 support, and you don’t need some high-end features, B450 is a great choice for many people. Decent B450 chipset motherboards can support any Socket AM4 processor (with a BIOS update). Whether you have a lowly Ryzen 3 1200 or a top-end Ryzen 9 3950X, it will work in most B450 chipset motherboards.
Soon, you will have another chipset choice, which is the B550. We don’t know too much about B550 yet. It will definitely have PCIe 4.0 support, and it will support 3rd generation Ryzen processors (and 4th generation, with a BIOS update). If the pricing is comparable to B450, then B550 should be a great product, with a long life. Low cost B550 chipset motherboards will make these new Ryzen 3 processors even more attractive. They are due to launch on June 16, 2020.
Other AMD Processor Choices
The second issue is that AMD has at least three other existing processors that might be a better choice for a new build, depending on your workload preferences and budget. These include the 6C/12T AMD Ryzen 1600 “AF”, the 6C/12T AMD Ryzen 5 3600, and the 8C/16T AMD Ryzen 3700X.
AMD Ryzen 3 1600 “AF”
The 6C/12T AMD Ryzen 5 1600 “AF” (YD1600BBAFBOX) is a 12nm refreshed version of the original 14nm Ryzen 5 1600. It has a base clock of 3.2GHz, a turbo clock of up to 3.6GHz and 16MB of L3 cache. The CPU has a 65 watt TDP and it also comes with an included Wraith Stealth CPU cooler. It is sometimes available on Amazon for $85.00, which is an incredible deal! In most benchmarks it performs just like a newer Ryzen 5 2600.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600
Going higher up the stack, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 may be a better choice. This 7nm processor has 6C/12T, with a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, a turbo clock of up to 4.2GHz It has 32MB of L3 cache, PCIe 4.0 support, and a 65 watt TDP. The processor also comes with an included Wraith Stealth CPU cooler. It has a current price of $159.00.
AMD Ryzen 3700X
Jumping up to 8C/16T, the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X gives you even more flexibility. This 7nm processor has 8C/16T, with a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, a turbo clock of up to 4.4GHz It has 32MB of L3 cache, PCIe 4.0 support, and a 65 watt TDP. The processor also comes with an included Wraith Prism CPU cooler. It has a current of $269.00.
There are an increasing number of new “AAA” games that need more than 4C/8T to get their best performance. If you want to play those sorts of games or if you want better productivity performance, I would hesitate to build a new machine with a 4C/8T CPU. I would feel much more comfortable with a 6C/12T or 8C/16T processor.
Of course with AMD Socket AM4 systems, you have a very flexible upgrade path. You could start out with a budget 4C/8T processor in a B450 or B550 motherboard. If that doesn’t meet your needs over time, you can easily upgrade to a higher core count or newer generation CPU, and still be able to reuse the rest of your system.
Here are some recent posts that you might find interesting if you are thinking about building a new desktop system.
- Building an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X System
- Building a Home Computer Lab
- Gaming PC Component Choices
- Best Cheap CPUs: Q1 2020
- Comparing Mainstream AMD Ryzen Processors
- Seven Setup Tips for a New AMD Ryzen 3000 System
- Ways to Save Money on a New Desktop System
AMD is touting these new Ryzen 3 processors as great choices for budget gaming. They are much better than previous Ryzen 3 models, and they are going to do very well with eSports and older ‘AAA” games. The Ryzen 3 3300X should match or exceed an Intel Core i7-7700K in both single-threaded and multi-threaded performance. That makes it an incredible value.
If you are on a tight budget, having a less expensive CPU and motherboard will free up more money for your graphics card. Graphics performance is likely to be a bigger bottleneck than CPU performance in many games, especially at 1440P.
So, do these new Ryzen 3 processors actually make sense? Yes, for budget-minded buyers, they are a great choice. Personally, I would favor using a Ryzen 5 3600 if my budget allowed, just to have a more capable, versatile machine in the long run.