Should You Buy an AMD Ryzen 3000XT?


Update: On July 16, 2020, Micro Center lowered the price of the Ryzen 5 3600XT to $229.99 and also lowered the price of the Ryzen 9 3900XT to $479.99. This makes those two processors marginally more interesting, especially the 3600XT. They also lowered the price of the Ryzen 9 3900X to $389.99 and raised the price of the Ryzen 5 3600 to $169.99.

On July 7, 2020, AMD released their new “Matisse Refresh” processors. There are three SKUs, which are the Ryzen 5 3600XT, Ryzen 7 3800XT, and Ryzen 9 3900XT. These three processors are now actually available for sale. The question is, should you buy an AMD Ryzen 3000XT?

What is Better About These Processors?

These processors are identical to the previous Ryzen 5 3600X, Ryzen 7 3800X, and Ryzen 9 3900X, except for 100-200 MHz increases in max boost speeds. The new Ryzen 5 3600XT still includes a Wraith Spire CPU cooler, but the new Ryzen 7 3800XT and Ryzen 9 3900XT do not include a CPU cooler. 

The thinking behind this is that most customers for those more expensive processors will buy an aftermarket CPU cooler. That is it. There are no architectural improvements, and no other specification changes. This small boost clock speed improvement is supposed to be possible because of improvements in the 7nm manufacturing process at TSMC. So, should you buy an AMD Ryzen 3000XT?

AMD Desktop Processor Value Comparison

With this release, AMD has eleven SKUs in their mainstream Zen 2 desktop CPU segment. I am ignoring their APU lineup. Of these eleven SKUs, only two are great choices, with three others that are good choices. This is when you compare them from a price/performance perspective.

AMD Desktop Processors
AMD Desktop Processors

Great Choices

The two “great” choices out of this family are the Ryzen 5 3600 and the Ryzen 9 3900X. These are simply the best two choices for most use cases.

Ryzen 5 3600

The 6C/12T Ryzen 5 3600 is the general purpose value leader. Stock, out of the box, it has good gaming performance and it can handle moderate production workloads. If you are willing to do some manual CPU and memory tuning, the results are even better.

With tuning, the Ryzen 5 3600 can be made to perform nearly identically to the 3600X or 3600XT. Certainly close enough that you won’t notice the difference in real life. An AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is also a substantial upgrade over any 4C/8T Intel CPU you might be using right now. I am thinking of an Intel Core i7-7700K, 6700K, 4790K, 3770K, etc. If you have an even older or lower-end Intel desktop CPU, the improvement will be much greater.

If you have an old Intel desktop system that you have been thinking about finally moving off of, a new AMD Ryzen 5 3600 is a great budget choice that is also relatively future-proof. You could get a Ryzen 5 3600 combined with a decent B550 motherboard and some good DDR4-3600 RAM. When the Zen 3 processors are released later this year, you could then upgrade your CPU. You could get a shiny new Zen 3 or jump on a used, but higher-end Zen 2 CPU. There are sure to be some great bargains on both closeout new Zen 2 and used Zen 2 processors once Zen 3 is released.

Ryzen 9 3900X

The other great choice is the 12C/24T Ryzen 9 3900X. Having twice the cores compared to a Ryzen 5 3600 makes a big difference on production workloads. It won’t make much difference on most games though. If all you do is game, then a Ryzen 5 3600 or a Ryzen 3 3300X would be a better, much more affordable choice. If you are willing to spend $400 on a CPU instead of $160, you will have roughly double the compute capacity. Any CPU-bound multi-threaded tasks will complete noticeably more quickly.

Ryzen 9 3900X
Ryzen 9 3900X

Good Choices

Starting at the bottom of the stack, the $120 4C/8T Ryzen 3 3300X is potentially a better choice for a budget gaming machine. Most games do just fine with 4C/8T, and the slightly higher clock speeds compared to a Ryzen 5 3600 can be beneficial in some situations. On the other hand, some newer games actually do better with more than 4C/8T, a trend which will grow in the future. Saving $40 but losing 2C/4T is not a good swap for production usage. On top of that, the Ryzen 3 3300X simply is not available in many parts of the world.

Ryzen 7 3700X

Moving up the stack, the $260 8C/16T Ryzen 7 3700X is a real bargain compared to the $300 Ryzen 7 3800X or the $400 Ryzen 7 3800XT. Similar to the Ryzen 5 3600, the Ryzen 7 3700X can usually be manually tuned to have better performance. This can get it to the point where you won’t notice any difference in real life performance compared to the two more expensive Ryzen 7 options. Even stock for stock, you probably won’t notice any difference on most tasks.

Paying $260 for 8C/16T compared to $160 for 6C/12T is dubious from a cost/core perspective. Still, the Ryzen 7 3700X is not a bad choice overall. It is certainly a much better choice than a 3800X or 3800XT!

Ryzen 9 3950X

Finally, there is the top of the line, $670 16C/32T Ryzen 9 3950X. Performance-wise, this is a great processor. It can do gaming quite well (even though it is overkill for gaming). This processor also handles production tasks very well. It will humble any Intel mainstream or HEDT processor in most tasks.

Still, paying $270 for 4C/8T more (compared to a Ryzen 9 3900X) does not make sense economically. Unless you really need the extra compute capacity, most people would be better off spending that money on better storage or more memory.

Again, I can’t fault anyone for getting a Ryzen 9 3950X. After all, I have one myself for my main workstation. But if I am honest, I would have been just fine with a Ryzen 9 3900X.

Bad Choices

None of the current Zen 2 AMD Ryzen desktop processors are really BAD choices. They all offer very good performance, especially compared to most of Intel’s current desktop processors. The problem is that some of the AMD SKUs just don’t compare favorably with other AMD SKUs. This is because of the pricing and the very small performance deltas between some SKUs.

Ryzen 9 3900XT

Starting at the top, paying $100 more for the new Ryzen 9 3900XT compared to the existing Ryzen 9 3900X simply doesn’t make sense. This is compounded by the fact that you will have to get an aftermarket CPU cooler, that might cost between $50 and $150.

AMD Wraith Prism CPU Cooler
AMD Wraith Prism CPU Cooler

To be fair, you might have done this anyway, but the stock Wraith Prism RGB cooler that comes with the Ryzen 9 3900X is not that bad. In most benchmarks I have seen, the Ryzen 9 3900XT only does between 1% and 4% better than the Ryzen 9 3900X. Paying 25% more for 1-4% more performance is not a good ROI.

Ryzen 7 3800XT and 3800X

The $400 8C/16T Ryzen 7 3800XT is a terrible choice. In most benchmarks I have seen, it also only does about 2% to 4% better than the Ryzen 7 3800X. If you want an 8C/16T CPU, the Ryzen 7 3700X makes a lot more sense. Assuming you are willing to spend $400 on your processor, the Ryzen 9 3900X is a much better choice than the Ryzen 7 3800XT. You will get 50% more cores and threads for the same price. You will also get a stock Wraith Prism RGB cooler instead of being forced to buy a CPU cooler.

Ryzen 5 3600XT and 3600X

The $250 Ryzen 5 3600XT and $200 Ryzen 5 3600X are also bad choices compared to the $160 Ryzen 5 3600. They only offer very small performance deltas, for significantly more money. They do have the slightly better Wraith Spire cooler compared to the Wraith Stealth cooler, which somewhat offsets the cost difference. If you are willing to spend $250 on your processor, you would be better off to spend $10 more and move up to the 8C/16T Ryzen 7 3700X (which also comes with the better Wraith Prism RGB cooler).

Ryzen 3 3100

Finally, on the budget end, the $100 Ryzen 3 3100 has a different CCX layout and lower clock speeds which make it a bad choice compared to the $120 Ryzen 3 3300X. But right now, neither one of those processors are available in many parts of the world. Again, the $160 Ryzen 5 3600 is a better all-around choice for most budget use cases.

Ryzen 3 CCX Differences
Ryzen 3 CCX Differences

So Why Did AMD Release These Processors?

The short answer is money. AMD wants to raise the average selling price (ASP) for their desktop processors. This will increase revenues for AMD. Releasing these Matisse Refresh processors is also an easy poke in the eye to Intel, coming so soon after Intel’s Comet Lake-S desktop processors. These XT SKUs will get AMD even closer to the best Intel Comet Lake-S processors in gaming performance.

These three new processors do offer slightly better performance. There are also some indications that they have more headroom for manual overclocking. Many people are not going to know or care about the extra cost compared to other AMD SKUs. For some people, paying $50-$100 more for the CPU is a trivial increase. They simply want the “best”.

Luckily, AMD has not discontinued any of their existing desktop processors, so you are not forced to buy an XT processor. If they had done that, there would have been a lot of justifiable anger directed at AMD. Since AMD is doing so well with performance compared to Intel in this space, AMD is probably going to move up market when Zen 3 is released. If these XT SKUs sell well, this will encourage AMD to move in that direction. The simple fact is that AMD doesn’t have to compensate for bad performance with low pricing anymore.

Other Perspectives

Here are a few of the initial reviews of these new XT SKUs. Some reviewers are more excited than others, but nobody is jumping for joy…

Amazon Links

If you are in the market for a new AMD Ryzen processor, you can get many of these from Amazon.

Note: Links to Amazon and Newegg are typically monetized on my blog (affiliate links) and may return a commission of sales to me from the retailer. This is unrelated to the product manufacturer and does not increase the price you pay.

Final Words

As you can probably tell, I am underwhelmed by these Ryzen XT processors. They simply don’t offer good performance increases for the extra money. This is a slightly more negative take than I had a few weeks ago.

I think most people will be much better off with either a budget Ryzen 5 3600 or a higher-end Ryzen 9 3900X. On the other hand, some people won’t care about the extra cost, and will happily buy an XT processor. That is fine, as long as you realize what you are doing. So, should you buy an AMD Ryzen 3000XT? For most people, the answer should be no. What do you think?

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerry. Thanks for reading!

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