AMD Ryzen CPU Buyer's Guide - Top 5 Reviewed (2018)

AMD Ryzen CPU Buyer’s Guide

  • October 9, 2017

AMD is back! You just have to love underdog stories. And the biggest underdog story in tech this year is the arrival of the highly anticipated AMD Ryzen line of processors. These are CPUs live up to the hype, and deliver processing goodness at almost half the cost of their Intel counterparts.

It’s remarkable to think that the last time AMD had a genuinely competitive CPU, George W. Bush was president, Brazil had won their fifth FIFA World Cup, and the Lord of the Rings movies were tearing up the box office charts — in other words, a long, long time ago.

Ten years, Intel ruled unchallenged.

But developed under the code name Zen, the Ryzen CPU are here to stir things up in a world where Intel has been keeping 8-core CPUs at artificially high prices for far too long.

Previously: AMD Ryzen Officially Launched

Top Tips for Buyers

  • An important factor to consider when buying a Ryzen CPU is to choose between an X edition and the standard model. The X line of processors offer faster stock frequencies, are speed binned, yield higher overclocks, and have higher XFR boost speeds.
  • If you plan on overclocking, you will have to spend some money to get the AM4 motherboard that has adequate power circuitry cooling and more heatsinks.
  • Ryzen does benefit from faster memory speeds, but memory support above 3000MHz is insufficient on AM4 motherboards at launch. Stick with this frequency if you want to keep your build at a reasonable price.

What is Ryzen?

Four years in the making, AMD Ryzen is essentially a reboot of the company’s processor design — a clean sheet design that completely differs from previous AMD microarchitectures. GlobalFoundries, the state of the art 14nm facility, built these powerful new chips.

As the image below shows, each Ryzen core is now a distinct entity integrated into a four-core complex, as opposed to the previous designs that had every two cores share resources. It adopts a technique from Intel called simultaneous multithreading (SMT) to virtualize CPU resources.

Without getting too technical, think of Ryzen as more of a system-on-chip (SoC) than a CPU that contains many interface features on the die. In one chip, there are the memory, PCIe, SATA, and USB controllers as processor cores. This method delivers advantages in bandwidth and power, but at the expense of complexity and die area.

AMD Ryzen CPU Die Shot

It’s blazing fast, though, in many tasks. And this is what makes it the most disruptive CPU in a long time.

Read Also: This $320 AMD Ryzen CPU Takes On A $1,099 Intel Chip

Ryzen CPU Buyers Guide

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first, the models and their specs. AMD has several models lined up that cover virtually all price points aggressively. These chips hit the market starting March 2017, under the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7 and Ryzen Threadripper branding.

This short guide serves as an introduction to these new chips, the best CPUs that are available for purchase, and how they compare with their Intel counterparts.

It is in, no way, a detailed technical breakdown of these chips, nor is a massive benchmark rundown of each processor — countless such articles exist. Instead, this is an introduction to the best Ryzen CPUs that are on the market right now, and what value they offer to you as a buyer.

The Ryzen Family

Just like Intel, AMD has simplified the naming and nomenclature of its Ryzen processors. The company is back at the table, and finally, has a good hand to play. Meaning, it was vital for the chip maker to releases the right models at the right prices, and make it easy for buyers to identify them.

AMD Ryzen CPU Buyers Guide

AMD had one shot to get this right, and get right it did.

The chart above lists the currently available processors in the Ryzen family. On the desktop side of things, that is. More chips continue to surface at a regular interval, with rumors abound of new arrivals most noticeably the Pro model CPUs, and a ThreadRipper entry or two.

As you can see, the Threadripper line of chips goes up against the Intel Core i9 Skylake processors. They pair less expensive Ryzen 7 CPUs with the Intel Core i7 series. Only, in this case, they bring the power of 8 cores and 16 threads in legitimately affordable packages.

If the two most powerful chips in the Ryzen line ignited a price war, then the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 processors added fuel at the lower end of the spectrum. At a time when we are moving into the world where more cores with more threads matter.

Don't Miss This: Intel Preparing 8th Generation CPUs To Go Up Against AMD Ryzen

Best Buy?

Before we get into the nitty gritty, it’s worth mentioning that Ryzen is not a knockout. It may have arrived at a time when Intel has stumbled, allowing AMD to attack with its best chip family in over a decade, but there are some concerns with these processors that are sure to spook some buyers.

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Initial reception of the Ryzen chips has been excellent.

They have performed well with software and games that were already on the market, running cooler, faster, and using less power. In creativity tasks where all eight cores were utilized Ryzen chips outperformed competing Core i7 processors for a fraction of the price.

But if you are a gamer, then there are glaring disparities when gaming that might fill you with doubt.

Deficits when running older games, and even some newer titles at mainstream 720p and 1080p resolutions are disconcerting. AMD believes that it can indeed improve gaming performance with optimizations. The fact remains that Intel still has the upper hand in gaming.

That said, there is more than enough here to give AMD credit for what it has pulled off. And that is the democratization of the CPU core count.

What to look for in a Ryzen CPU?

The best price to performance ratio. Everyone likes to read about expensive CPUs that cost $1,000 a pop. But in the real world, few can, or are willing to spend that much on a chip.

AMD Ryzen CPU Buyers Guide

The upshot here is that Ryzen provides up to 8 physical cores, within a more consumer friendly surrounding infrastructure.

These are not exactly heavy-duty chips that burn through every task you throw at them. The context here is that these processors deliver multiple cores and proper threads at significantly lower prices than Intel chips.

And that is where the value lies in these Ryzen CPUs for most buyers.

One important thing to note is that Ryzen does not have an integrated GPU built into the chip, as many Intel chips do. AMD plans to launch its APUs to fill this gap later down the road. And these are what will power notebooks, ultrabooks, and tablets in the near and upcoming future.

But on the flip side, unlike Intel CPUs where only the K and X models have unlocked multipliers for overclocking, all of the Ryzen chips have unlocked multipliers.

Whether you can overclock or not, will depend entirely on the motherboard. The X370 and B350 series motherboards allow overclocking, while the A320 does not.

AMD Ryzen CPU Prices

While AMD did an excellent job of pricing the Ryzen processors at highly affordable levels, the chip giant has also been quick to reduce prices on CPUs at key intervals. Case in point the price cuts that all three Ryzen 7 chips received at the start of June that saw the 1700X drop to $360 from $399 at launch.

AMD Ryzen CPU Buyers Guide

This reduction has led Intel not only dropping prices across the board but upping its core count in its recently released 8th generation Core series processors. It is the reason that 6-core processors on the desktop are a reality in the Intel Camp. While notebooks now have access to 4-core chips.

Things start at just $109 for the entry level Ryzen 3 chip, which is a 4-core, 4-thread affair. Scaling things a little more to the mainstream section gets you the 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 processor, which retails for $219.

The performance enthusiasts can get the Ryzen 7 for $329. It provides access to 8 physical cores and 16 threads, making it a great option for content creators and those that work with processing intensive software.

Long story short, combine these CPU prices with affordable motherboards, and you can get yourself a fairly robust system at a relatively low price — which is what AMD is all about these days.

Which Ryzen CPU is Right for me?

Now comes the $64,000 question: Which Ryzen CPU is good for you? It is a simple question that requires a simple answer. Gone are the days of complicated answers to these hardware queries — AMD has simplified the equation for virtually everyone with Ryzen.

AMD Ryzen CPU Buyers Guide

All you need to do is define your workloads based on your needs, and make your choice.

Threadripper is for the pros, and the Ryzen 7 is a simple pitch. But things get a lot more complicated when you talk about Ryzen 5, as prices for Intel Core i5 chips are more reasonable.

Ryzen 3, again, becomes a straightforward decision, unless you bring 8th generation Intel Core i3 chips into the mix, which are quad-core parts.

If you do any form of CPU intensive content creation, game streaming, or compiler based programming, then the Ryzen chips offer the best blend of performance and price.

Some Best AMD Ryzen CPUs

Branding

Model

Cores

Threads

Clock Rate

Boost

L3 Cache

Socket

TDP

Price

Threadripper

1950X

16

32

3.4 GHz

4.0 GHz

32 MB

TR4

180W

$999

Threadripper

1920X

12

24

3.5 GHz

4.0 GHz

32 MB

AM4

180W

$799

Threadripper

1900X

8

16

3.8 GHz

4.0 GHz

16 MB

AM4

180W

$549

Rayzen 7

1800X

8

16

3.6 GHz

4.0 GHz

16 MB

AM4

95W

$499

Rayzen 7

1700X

8

16

3.4 GHz

3.8 GHz

16 MB

AM4

95W

$399

Rayzen 7

1700

8

16

3.0 GHz

3.7 GHz

16 MB

AM4

65W

$329

Rayzen 5

1600X

6

12

3.6 GHz

4.0 GHz

16 MB

AM4

95W

$249

Rayzen 5

1600

6

12

3.2 GHz

3.6 GHz

16 MB

AM4

65W

$219

Rayzen 5

1500X

4

8

3.5 GHz

3.5 GHz

16 MB

AM4

65W

$189

Rayzen 5

1400

4

8

3.2 GHz

3.2 GHz

8 MB

AM4

65W

$169

Rayzen 3

1300X

4

4

3.5 GHz

3.7 GHz

8 MB

AM4

65W

$129

Rayzen 3

1200

4

4

3.1 GHz

3.4 GHz

8 MB

AM4

65W

$109

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Ultimately, choosing a CPU these days is not as straightforward as it used to be. You also have to factor in additional costs like motherboards, memory, and cooling, and balance them out with your budget and potential workloads.

Still, some Ryzen chips are better than others. They deliver the best bang for your buck, which makes them ideal buys if you are putting together a new system. No matter if your intended use is everyday computing, gaming, content creation, or professional work, there’s something here for you.

Here is a selection of the best AMD Ryzen CPUs that are on the market right now, what they cost, and how they rival Intel chips.

1. AMD Ryzen 5 1400

The Ryzen 5 1400 clocks in at $169, and offers four cores and eight threads in a stellar package. While the cheapest quad-core chip from Intel right now, the i5 7400 is not too distant at $185, it only packs four threads. If you want eight threads, you’ll have to leap to $305 for the Core i7 7700.

Ultimately, it’s not the core and thread counts that matter, it’s performance.

And here the news is mostly good.

AMD Ryzen CPU Buyers Guide

1400 delivers just the kind of numbers you expect from it. In scalable multi-threaded workloads like rendering, video and image editing, it has the edge over much more expensive chips. But it falls a bit short when it comes to software optimized for a single core.

But we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves here.

First, let’s cover some speeds and feeds. This Ryzen hums along with four cores and eight threads at a solid, if unspectacular, 3.2GHz base clock. The maximum turbo speed is 3.4GHz.

An 8MB L3 cache meant that in the most scalable workloads, 1400 had the edge over much more expensive quad-core and quad-thread chips like the modern Intel Core i5 7600K.

It also comfortable achieved 4GHs of overclocking on our test system. This 4GHs allowed it close the single thread gap with the competition, and positively obliterating the Core i5 for outright multi threaded tasks.

All this makes the Ryzen 5 1400 a very compelling package at its particular price point. AMD has things packed pretty tight towards the lower end, and spending an extra $50 or so for the cheapest six-core offering from the company starts making more sense in this case.

However, as a budget CPU, you can’t ask for more from the Ryzen 5 1400.

Pros

Cons

  • Incredible performance
  • Excellent at multithreading
  • Spectacular overclocking
  • Single threaded performance just OK

2. AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X

Let’s start with to the most over-the-top CPUs in the Ryzen lineup. The massive 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, the AMD branded answer to Intel Extreme Edition processors. And boy, you will find no better workhorse than this — not at this price.

First things first

If you are getting this for gaming, then there is no point. The 1950X handles gaming fine, but can’t beat out the best Intel chips in single threaded performance, which is understandable. Only when games are fully multithreaded will we ever see a chip with this many cores and you can use the threads.

AMD Ryzen CPU Buyers Guide

But if you are a gaming content creator that streams or capture video, then listen up, because the price to performance ratio of this chip is unbeatable.

$1,000 for a 16-core system, in a world where Intel has been charging $1,200 for their 10-core creations, is remarkable and unheard. In our scalable tests like rendering and video encoding, the 1950X tore through the charts like there’s no tomorrow.

Ultimately, this is a chip that is ideal for select uses cases. Those that run computationally heavy tasks are stuck with quad-core chips, and looking to upgrade, will do well to take a look at what this Threadripper offers. Designers, programmers, media creators, researchers, and professionals.

This chip is not for everyone, but if you can afford it, then you are set for at least the next five years.

Pros

Cons

  • Ultimate performance, fantastic price
  • Easy install
  • Adept at multitasking
  • Basically sells itself
  • Does run a little warm
  • Limited compatibility with aftermarket coolers

3. AMD Ryzen 7 1800X

The most dominant part of the Ryzen lineup at launch, the Ryzen 1800X had a lot riding on it. Like its closest siblings, this one is an octa-core chip. Add some SMT magic, and it tricks your PC into thinking that it has an additional eight cores — for a total of 16 threads.

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AMD is specifically targeting the Intel Broadwell-E range, with this thread-heavy creation.

So, let’s get the single-core performance out of the way first.

The 1800X is not worth buying for single-core performance, which comes in just around what the previous generation Intel Kaby Lake 7700K delivers. But when it comes to heavily multithreaded tasks like content creation, the 1800X is an absolute bargain at the price it retails. It takes the fight to Intel CPUs that cost twice as much and lives to tell the tale.

Gaming is still somewhat of a weak point for this processor.

And its overclocking potential is little wonky, with AMD only including a mid-sized 120mm air cooler in the package that is not ideal for pushing clock speeds. Our test unit found it difficult to push beyond the 4GHz mark, while 4.2GHz came in as the perfect target for a water-cooled solution.

But even at stock speeds, Intel has no alternative that comes close to what the AMD Ryzen7 1800X offers regarding value for money. It launched at $499, but most retailers are now selling it at prices that are around 15% lower. All said and done; this makes it an entirely unbelievable purchase.

If you are involved in heavily multithreaded tasks like media editing and live streaming, you can’t go wrong with this one!

Pros

Cons

  • Speedy, powerful, stable
  • Excellent value
  • Ideal for workstations
  • Shaky overclocking
  • Gaming is hit or miss

4. AMD Ryzen 7 1700

The relatively affordable Ryzen 7 1700 has slower stock frequencies than the Ryzen 1700X and 1800X, and the lack of X in its name signifies less favorable overclocking potential. But this is a CPU that is defined by how far you can push it.

It's small clock out of the box of just 3GHz was no issue when we were able to push our sample to some remarkable heights using the AMD Ryzen Master overclocking suite. A tweak of clock speed here, and a tinker in the voltage there, and this chip was flying at 4.05GHz.

This 4.05GHz is where 1700 shines, delivering stunningly good value for money.

The multi threaded performance was right up there with an overclocked Core i7 6900K in tests, thanks to the boost of nearly 10% that the overclock provided. It also kept pace with the Intel chip in games for the most part. The total system power consumption of our overclocked Ryzen 7 1700 test system came in at 233 watts. When not overclocked, the Ryzen 7 1700 sips just 132 watts at load, which is a cracking result for a quad-core processor.

And if you consider 1700 alongside the 1800X, the latter has a price leap of about 50%, while performance improvements came in between 5% and 15%.

Ultimately, while the stock speed performance of this chip is not outstanding, when pushed, it delivers the best bang for the buck of all the 8-core CPUs that are on the market right now. Immense value for money, this, and a recommend buying for all.

Pros

Cons

  • Cool and quite operation
  • Steady overclocks
  • Tremendous value
  • Basic fan included in the package

5. AMD Ryzen 3 1200

While the big wigs from both AMD and Intel are duking it out at the top end, a battle is also heating up in the high-volume, low-priced CPU market. AMD has very recently entered its Ryzen 3 processors into the battlefield, with both the 1300X and 1200 being the stars of the show.

Like its slightly more expensive model, the Ryzen 3 1200 is built using a 14nm process and is here to challenge the Intel Core i3 7350K, which recently saw a price drop to match the Ryzen 1200 price. It’s still a dual-core chip, though.

The Ryzen 3 1200 is both quad-core and overclockable.

These new chips can easily be overclocked all the way up touching 4GHz, even though it has a base clock speed of just 3.1GHz and a turbo frequency of 3.4GHz. And since it also lacks simultaneous multithreading, it is limited to execute up to four threads at a time.

In our gaming tests, the Ryzen 3 1200 almost matched the Core i3 7350K despite its massive clock speed advantage. Long story short, the Intel chip gets battered in results where the extra cores in the AMD processor come into play.

You might want to opt for the slightly more expensive 1300X, which is the better option if you do not plan on doing any overclocking. But if you do, then the Ryzen 3 1200 is your best bet for a 4GHz quad-core CPU for the incredible price of just $109. Stunning.

Pros

Cons

  • Quad-core at an unbelievable price
  • Unmatched performance in most use cases
  • Solid gaming show
  • Low clock speeds out of the box

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