Ryzen for the Rest of Us: AMD’s New Ryzen 3 Takes On Intel Core i3

It’s been a little less than five months since AMD launched its first Ryzen 7 products, and the company is finally ready to introduce its Ryzen 3 family of CPUs. While Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 may have captured more headlines, Ryzen 3’s lower price points are targeted at the mass market of gamers that want a decent CPU with solid performance, but who don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on it.

Let’s take a look at what AMD is launching, and how it compares with Intel’s offerings in-market. As we expected, AMD is launching two Ryzen 3 CPUs today — the Ryzen 3 1300X and the Ryzen 3 1200.

Ryzen3-Chips

The Ryzen 3 1300X is capable of maintaining an all-core boost of 3.6GHz, with XFR options to clock as high as 3.9GHz if thermal and power envelopes allow the CPU to hit that clock. The Ryzen 1200, in contrast, is more limited by default, with an all-core boost clock of 3.1GHz (identical to its base clock) and a 3.45GHz limit on its XFR scaling.

AMD is obviously doing some market subdivision here, though not nearly to the same degree that Intel does. The Ryzen 3 1200 is a $ 109 CPU that competes most directly with Intel’s Core i3-7100 at $ 119 (3.9GHz base) while the Ryzen 3 1300X costs $ 129 and doesn’t actually have a great competitor. The Core i3-7100 may be $ 119, but Intel’s other 7th-generation Core i3 chips are considerably more expensive, starting at $ 149 for the Core i3-7350K.

AMD-CCX

Ryzen 3 uses the same Zeppelin die as Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7, which means each chip contains two CCXs, with each CCX having four cores. All of AMD’s quad-core chips in both the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 product lines are what is known as a 2+2 configuration, with two cores active on each CCX. The performance impact of 2+2 vs. 4+0 doesn’t appear to be very large and is somewhat workload-dependent in any case, meaning some workloads perform best in one state and some in the other.

What sets Ryzen 3 apart from the other Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs is its lack of SMT support. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense for AMD to segment its own lineup in this fashion. Its Ryzen 5 CPUs all support SMT (unlike Intel’s Core i5, generally speaking) and its Ryzen 3 chips are quad-core designs competing against Core i3 dual-cores with HT enabled. So far, so good — at least, in multi-threaded workloads.

The problem for AMD is that its SMT implementation gives it significantly more performance compared with Intel. We’ve seen different numbers quoted as the average gap size, with more conservative figures of +1.3x performance for AMD vs. 1.2x performance for Intel when SMT is enabled. In other cases, I’ve seen SMT add up to 1.6x more performance for AMD. The reason AMD gets more “out” of SMT than Intel is fairly straightforward: AMD has more execution units per individual CPU core and can therefore achieve a higher level of relative gain when using SMT. Without SMT to draw on, the Ryzen 3 can’t achieve the same gains.

One other thing to note:  Ryzen 3 does not contain an integrated GPU. It can’t, since it’s based on exactly the same die as Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5, and neither of those CPUs have an integrated GPU, either. AMD will launch Raven Ridge APUs based on Zen later this year; Lisa Su promised they’d be in shipping systems in time for the holiday season.

Hot Hardware’s test results are an interesting example of how AMD’s SMT segmentation affects various tests. In lightly threaded applications Ryzen 3 (and Ryzen in general) struggles more against Intel’s Core i3 and Core i5 CPUs. This is friendly territory for CPUs like the Core i3-7350K. As threading support increases, Ryzen 3 finds its sea legs. We suggest reading HH’s entire review, but we will use Cinebench R15 scores to examine how this plays out. Cinebench R15 is well-known for essentially being a core architecture test and its CPU benchmarks aren’t really affected by DRAM speeds.

Ryzen 3 Cinebench

Image and data by Hot Hardware

In the single-threaded test, the Ryzen 3 1300X is far behind the Core i3-7350K, 147 to 179. In the multi-threaded benchmark, however, those results flip. Intel’s Core i3 goes from leading by 1.22x to offering just 0.84x of the Ryzen 3 1300X’s performance. In fact, even Intel’s Core i5-7500 is only 1.1x faster than the Ryzen 3 1300X in the multi-threaded version of this test, despite a vastly higher price ($ 204.99 for the Core i5-7500 vs. $ 129 for the Ryzen 3 1300X). Cinebench R15 captures both of Ryzen 3’s strongest and weakest points in one graph.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, AMD’s own Reviewer’s Guide, and HH’s review, we’d characterize Ryzen 3 as follows:

Single-Threaded: Ryzen 3 tends to lag the Core i3-7350K, though this is partially offset by the Core i3-7350K’s price (1.15x more expensive than the Ryzen 3 1300X). The Core i3-7100, which is the closest price competitor to Ryzen 3, is also clocked 300MHz slower than the base clock on the Core i3-7350K, which would also close the price/performance gap somewhat. Put those two factors together, and AMD has a reasonable (but not bulletproof) price/perf argument for itself, even in single-threaded tests.

Multi-Threaded AMD’s Ryzen 3 is at its strongest in tests that serve up at least four threads. In these tests, it tends to serve up scores that float between the Core i5 and Core i3, depending on the specific factors and optimizations of the test. It’s not unusual to see Ryzen 3 split wins between single-threaded and multi-threaded versions of a test. Piledriver, when it debuted back in 2012, had a similar performance differential, with the primary difference being that AMD’s single-threaded performance has vastly improved since the FX-8350 launched. Because its single-threaded performance is stronger, its multi-threaded performance is also stronger, and it performs quite well against the Core i3, if typically not quite as well as a Core i5.

Gaming: HH’s results show Ryzen 3 losing against the Core i5, but suggest better performance against the Core i3. AMD’s own Reviewer’s Guide seems to confirm this, with FPS measurements that are close to HH’s, and a small gap in favor of AMD in average frame rate. Ashes of the Singularity also suggests that the Core i3-7300 and the Ryzen 3 1300X are matched against each other (with the Intel chip costing substantially more) while the Ryzen 1200 and Core i3-7100 are also fair matches against each other. There is, however, still a gap between the Core i5 and Ryzen 3. AMD is only claiming to outpace the Core i3-7300 by 10-13 percent, and that seems broadly in-line with what we’ve seen to-date.

Ryzen3-Gaming

We’ll hold our gaming comments there until we’ve seen more results, but the bottom line is that the Ryzen 3 family seems to hold its own fairly well.

Power Consumption: Power consumption for Ryzen has been quite favorable for AMD, and that seems to hold for the Ryzen 3 as well. Idle power competes well against the Core i3-7350K at 48W for both platforms (keep in mind, Ryzen 3 requires a discrete GPU, while the Core i3 doesn’t). At full load, the 1300X can draw more than the Core i3-7350K, but the difference (82W vs. 88W) isn’t very large. The Ryzen 3 1200 is a true power-sipper, only pulling 41W idle and 69W at full load. All measurements refer to total system power.

Conclusions

With Ryzen 3, AMD is targeting (relatively) budget gamers who don’t have a lot of cash to throw around, but who want more performance in multi-threaded applications than Core i3 can provide. True budget buyers who only require a basic system will be best served by the Core i3-7100, which offers an integrated GPU that Ryzen 3 lacks. But Intel’s GPUs, while far better than in the past, still never get the chance to strut their stuff on that platform. Intel reserves its highest performing GPUs for mobile products, which means you can’t really expect great 1080p performance out of a Core i3 without buying a GPU as well. AMD is betting that a true quad-core that frees up $ 20-40 in spending is more attractive to the budget gamer than the prospect of paying for an iGPU that never gets used at a higher price. Time will tell if they’re right about this.

Beyond that, Ryzen neatly slides into place at the bottom of AMD’s refresh cycle. If you’ve followed the launch of Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7, this won’t be a surprise. AMD’s decision to standardize its CPU configurations make performance fairly easy to predict. And in this case, Ryzen 3’s overall performance establishes it as competitive relative to the Core i3, though exactly how competitive will depend on what tests you care about and whether you want an iGPU. If you’ve got the cash to spend, we’d argue that the 1600X is the best multi-threaded performer in AMD’s lineup, with the best balance between price, single-threaded, and multi-threaded performance. But buyers who choose to save some money and opt for Ryzen 3 can count on a capable, solid CPU.

Now read: AMD Beats Q2 2017 Expectations on Strong Ryzen, Epyc Sales

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