For many of us, the launch of AMD’s Ryzen 3000 series is the culmination of long months of eager anticipation. Since the launch of the Zen back in 2017, AMD has radically shifted the CPU market, delivering higher core counts and exceptional performance for the cost. Today, we have the refinement of that architecture featuring a new 7nm process and chiplet design that’s quite literally ushering in the next generation of computing with PCIe 4.0. Let’s take a close look at these processors and see if their real world performance is as good as it looks on paper.
Ryzen R7 3700X
- Current Price: $329
- Core Count: 8
- Thread Count: 16
- Base Clock: 3.6 GHz
- Turbo Clock: 4.4 GHz
- L2 Cache: 4MB
- L3 Cache: 32MB
- PCIe 4.0: 16+4+4
- TDP: 65W
Ryzen R9 3900X
- Current Price: $499
- Core Count: 12
- Thread Count: 24
- Base Clock: 3.8 GHz
- Turbo Clock: 4.6 GHz
- L2 Cache: 6MB
- L3 Cache: 64MB
- PCIe 4.0: 16+4+4
- TDP: 105W
Today, AMD is releasing its third generation CPUs to the world. Five are available now: the Ryzen 5 3600 and 3600X, the Ryzen 7 3700X and 3800X, and the current flagship, the Ryzen 9 3900X. The sixth, most powerful, new CPU, the bombastic 16-core/32-thread, Ryzen 9 3950X, is due to make its splash later this year.
In this review, we’ll be looking at the R7 3700X and R9 3900X. Each offers impressive specs. The R9 is designed for the high-end enthusiast gaming, coming to market with a stunning 12-cores and 24-threads of performance with a whopping 64MB of L3 cache at $499. The R7, on the other hand, is designed for the upper-mainstream gamer, bringing 8-cores, 16-threads, and 32MB of L3 cache for only $329.
Indeed, it’s quite a strange thing to see either of these processors in the mainstream gaming scene as only a few short years ago, quad-core/eight-thread seemed like the only viable option for gamers wanting to maximize their system without breaking the bank. Zen 1 changed the paradigm, a combination of its own performance and the rising demands of mainstream gamers for multitasking performance. Today’s gamer isn’t just playing a game and running Ventrilo in the background. They’re playing their AAA game, streaming it in HD, capturing video with their webcam, talking in high-fidelity Discord chat rooms, running stream assets and plug-ins, and possibly even recording their feed using ShadowPlay or a capture card. And that’s all before you consider the five Chrome tabs, intelligent peripheral apps, and other programs running on their computer. In that context, the need for massive core counts begins to make a lot of sense and the demands only rise as stream quality goes up.
The original Ryzen began to answer these demands and did a good job, while still falling a bit short in gaming performance. Ryzen 2000 did better but wasn’t the 7nm refresh we all really wanted. Ryzen 3000, on the other hand, is exactly that answer.
Ryzen 3000 brings with it the brand new 7-nanometer fabrication process. This more efficient design has allowed AMD to remain exceptionally power efficient with the R7 and R9 requiring only 65W and 105W of power respectively. That alone is incredibly impressive, considering the i9-9900K and i9-9920X both require between 30-and-40 percent more power on TDP. The new design also allows boost clocks to be improved and, yes, improved gaming performance. In fact, AMD claims that the IPC, or instructions per clock, this generation is up 15%, so even clocked identically to last generations chips, Ryzen 3000 should offer all around more bang for the buck.
And then there’s PCI Express 4.0, the first major update to the standard in nearly a decade. It’s an important leap for modern computing, doubling the bandwidth of the PCI Express bus. Leading up to launch, SSD manufacturers and AMD itself weren’t shy about the improvements of the new tech would bring, including SSD speeds of up to 5GBps! Of course, this also has major implications for graphics cards which also use the PCI Express bus, though it will be some time before reap the benefits there as game-makers need to fully utilize the extra bandwidth. Right now, though, AMD is the only place to get access to PCIe 4.0 which makes it quite the killer feature if you want the fastest possible SSD money can buy.
The new design here also means a larger amount of dedicated PCIe lanes for your GPU and NVMe SSDs. 16 PCIe 4.0 lanes are dedicated to connecting your graphics cards directly to your CPU, as well as additional solid state drives. The X570 PCH delivers another 16 lanes, so you should have no trouble running multiple NVMe drives at full x4 speed.
One thing you may not need to buy, however, is a new motherboard. The new Ryzen processors continue with AMD’s AM4 slot, so taking advantage of the new CPUs on your existing motherboard may be possible. It’s not 100-percent, and there may be some feature limitations, so be sure to check with your motherboard manufacturer to explore its full compatibility.
One thing is for sure, though, the value for the cost here is absolutely outstanding. The processors we’re looking at today come to market at $499 and $329 respectively. Comparing the R7 3700X to its Intel counterpart, the i9-9900K, the 3700X is more than $150 cheaper, while also having an additional 16MB in L3 cache and lower cost of ownership with the reduced TDP, definitely gives the R7 the edge. The R9 3900X is most closely matched with the Intel i9-9920X which retails for a whopping $1199 as a HEDT part. Not only is it $700, but it offers higher clocks and more than three times the L3 cache. Deciding between the two is a no brainer, even while the 9900K remains competitive.
Test System: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master Motherboard, AMD Ryzen R7 3700X/R9 3900X CPU, NZXT Kraken X72 AIO Cooler, G.Skill TridentZ Royal DDR4-3600MHz 16GB DRAM Kit, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply.
As you can clearly see, the R7 3700X and R9 3900X are improvements over the last generation and are the strongest competitive processors we’ve seen from AMD. When it comes to single-threaded performance, there are some hits and misses but in multi-threaded workloads, each processor is a veritable powerhouse, particularly the 12-core/24-thread R9 3900X. This isn’t a surprise, of course, but is great to see nonetheless.
For gaming performance, Intel still has a slight lead but the gap is clearly narrowing. Games that are intentionally designed for increased core counts obviously perform better, but in the array of games we’ve chosen (ranging from older, popular games to newer and more demanding titles), the lead narrows even further if you’re streaming or multitasking at the same time.
Precision Boost Overdrive and Overclocking
For the first time, AMD is bringing their Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) technology to their mainstream CPUs. PBO, to keep it simple, allows your CPU to intelligently raise the power and thermal limits of your CPU without risking the damage inherent in disabling those yourself. AMD’s Ryzen Master software also features an Auto Overclocking feature which assesses and finds the best stable overclock for your system within safe parameters.
Unfortunately, part of my review period was cut short as I recovered from sinus surgery, so my opportunity to test manual overclocks was very limited. Based on my early experiences, there doesn’t appear to be much overclocking headroom, though I’ll update in the comments as I get more time to explore. I say that because on my R7 3700X I was able to achieve an all-core stable overclock of 4.2GHz at 1.45v, though this is more voltage than I am personally comfortable with.
For the Ryzen 9 3900X, I relied on the Auto Overclock tool which landed me at 4.1GHz for both processors. As always with these things, it comes down to the silicon lottery so your results may vary. In the case of my two test chips, there didn’t seem to be enough benefit to manually overclocking to not simply use the tools built into Ryzen Master.
With the Ryzen 3000 series of chips, AMD has successfully ushered in the next generation of gaming computers. The improvements over last generation are impressive, though vary by application. For pure gaming performance, Intel still has a slight lead - but if you’re doing anything else, like streaming or recording gameplay at the same time, or also use your PC for creative work like photo and video editing, AMD is the clear best choice. The price to performance ratio simply cannot be beat and deserves our highest recommendation.
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.