AMD has been extremely busy this year, and they’re still busy with new products and software coming out in the next few weeks. One of those is, of course, Ryzen 3, the last of the Ryzen family that fills in the gaps for the low-end and mid-range markets. Ryzen 3 is not a very mid-range product, though. It’s priced to compete with the Core i3 family, but it will be competing instead in performance tests with the Intel Core i5 lineup. There are also some other things hitching a ride on this wagon today that AMD has slipped in, so hit the jump and let’s get through this.

AMD Ryzen 3 CPU comparison

Ryzen 5 1400 Core i5-7400 Core i3-7300 Ryzen 3 1300X Ryzen 3 1200 Core i3-7100
Cores 4 4 2 4 4 2
Threads 8 4 4 4 4 4
Base clock speed 3.2GHz 3.0GHz 4.0GHz 3.4GHz 3.1GHz 3.9GHz
Boost clock speed 3.4GHz 3.5GHz 3.7GHz 3.4GHz
Max boost speed 3.45GHz 3.9GHz 3.45GHz
L3 Cache 8MB 6MB 4MB 8MB 8MB 4MB
Overclocking Yes No Yes Yes Yes No
TDP 65W 65W 51W 95W 65W 51W
Price R2,999 R2,899 R2,399 R2,399 R2,099 R2,049

We start, of course, with a comparison table. While AMD did share pricing for Ryzen 3 in the United States during the press briefing, I was able to source local recommended pricing from a retailer. Thanks to that snippet of information, I was able to more accurately show where these new processors will fall in line compared to Intel’s lineup.

The Ryzen 3 1200 is set to square things off against the Intel Core i3-7100. It boasts two extra physical cores and a fairly high boost clock of 3.4GHz, with an extra 50MHz being added in by AMD’s Extended Frequency Range (XFR). In the U.S., AMD is pricing the R3 1200 for $20 cheaper than the Core i3-7100, so this is a role reversal for AMD locally. The R3 1200 is faster in multi-core workloads, but I don’t see it gaining too much ground locally with this kind of pricing. If AMD wants to maintain that same advantage, the recommended pricing needs to be R1,700 to make a significant difference. Thankfully, overclocking is allowed, so getting the R3 1200 up to 3.7GHz on all cores shouldn’t be a problem for most chips.

The Ryzen 3 1300X is slightly different. Retailing for R300 more, it offers an XFR of 200MHz, higher than the 100MHz of other X-series processors in the Ryzen family. I’ve been previously told that XFR was baked into the Infinity Fabric logic, that it was controlled by the system, and that it was a mixture of factory calibration as well as manual tuning by AMD to determine the best range for the silicon. Every other X-series chip has a 100MHz XFR value, which perhaps points to an upgrade to the silicon. I expect that AMD’s Threadripper family also has a higher XFR value if this is the case.

Keep in mind, as well, that the max boost clock for AMD Ryzen processors is for two cores and their virtual threads if hyper-threading is enabled. For lightly threaded workloads spread across two cores, it should stay at 3.9GHz for most of the time if the CPU cooler is up to the task. Intel’s Core i3 line, however, runs at their base clocks most of the time.

Against the Core i3-7300, R3 1300X has a lot of potential. With a high max boost speed of 3.9GHz, most chips will probably reach 3.8GHz out of the box, and around a quarter of those will probably reach clock speeds between 4.0GHz to 4.2GHz. That isn’t enough to beat the Intel CPU’s high single-core performance, but multi-threaded benchmarks should show it leading the Core i3-7300 at stock settings.

It’s for that reason, I suspect, that AMD is using multi-core workloads as a selling point for the Ryzen 3 family. While there’s a clear gap in performance in both single and multi-core benchmarks for the lower-end Core i5 processors versus Ryzen 5, Ryzen 3 has a tougher time justifying its existence against Core i3 processors that are clocked very high. That’s why they’re under-performing in multi-core benchmarks compared to the rest of the Ryzen family. Overclocking, of course, will close the gap in single-core performance considerably, and in multi-core benchmarks that existing gap will increase considerably because the Core i3 family can’t overclock. For those brave enough to move a few sliders and spend some time tweaking settings, Ryzen 3 will be great value compared to Intel’s offerings.

We see that idea come up again with AMD’s gaming benchmark numbers for the Core i3-7300 against the R3 1300X. It’s faster, but only by a small margin. Part of this is because Ryzen 3 is two core complexes (CCX) with two cores enabled in each. Each core complex is a separate unit, joined together with Infinity Fabric, with separate caches in each. Any cross-CCX communication happens over Infinity Fabric, which incurs a latency and performance penalty, and thus Ryzen 3 can’t be really as fast as a quad-core processor that doesn’t have this latency penalty.

In fact, Ryzen 3 could have been faster if AMD had decided to disable one CCX entirely, leaving us with the same number of cores and cache but with a much lower latency. We’ll see this bear out in future benchmarks comparing Ryzen 7 with cores disabled, but I think AMD is worse off for not taking that route because it would add some extra performance to extend their lead over the Core i3-7300.

Ryzen 3, 5, and 7 are also all now ready for virtual reality workloads. It’s interesting to see AMD slap this label on to Ryzen 3, because neither Oculus nor HTC have updated their system specification requirements to reflect Ryzen’s suitability for this kind of workload. Ryzen 5 1400 presumably doesn’t make the cut for VR Premium because of its low clock speed out of the box, but this is easily remedied in Ryzen Master with some tweaks. Of note is that Intel doesn’t try to apply VR branding to their Core i3 products yet, although processors like the Core i3-6100 are specified as the minimum requirements for the Oculus Rift.

Ryzen 3 ships with the Wraith Stealth in the box, a quiet cooler that doesn’t have LEDs like its bigger brothers. It would have been nice to see the R3 1300X get a LED-lit cooler though, because it’s one of AMD’s best designs and one of the reasons why getting a R7 1700 is such a good idea.

For those of you who’d like something beefier, but also have an older AMD system, the Wraith Max will soon be available for purchase separately. It’s suitable for cooling chips like the Phenom II X4 and X6 families, the AMD FX 83xx family based on Bulldozer and Piledriver, as well as socket FM1, FM2, and FM2+ systems running AMD APUs. AMD didn’t say how much the Wraith Max would cost, but expect a price somewhere around $50 (approximately R650). It’s on par with Cooler Master’s Hyper212 Evo, so it’s a decent alternative that comes with proper RGB controls as well.

Also launching today are AMD’s Athlon A-series processors based on Bristol Ridge. These are upgrades to the older Godavari-based APUs currently on the market, and they are compatible with socket AM4, are completely overclockable, and come with integrated graphics from AMD’s Radeon Technologies Group. The CPU part of the package is quite a boost from the previous family, with a 15% IPC increase on the table as well as optimisations to the production process allowing for higher overclocks and lower temperatures.

Cores/Threads Clock Speeds GPU Shaders GPU Clock Speeds TDP
Athlon A12-9800 4/4 3.8-4.2GHz 512  1.1GHz 65W
Athlon A12-9800E 4/4 3.1-3.8GHz 512 900MHz 35W
Athlon A10-9700 4/4 3.5-3.8GHz 384 1.0GHz 45W/65W
Athlon A10-9700E 4/4 3.0-3.5GHz 384 847MHz 35W
Athlon A8-9600 4/4 3.1-3.4GHz 384 900MHz 45W/65W
Athlon A6-9550 ? ? ? ? ?
Athlon A6-9500 2/2 3.5-3.8GHz 384 1.0GHz 45W/65W
Athlon A6-9500E 2/2 3.0-3.4GHz 256 800MHz 35W
Athlon X4 970 ? ? 65W
Athlon X4 950 4/4 3.5-3.8GHz 65W
Athlon A4 940 ? ? ?

The GPU part of the package is the main selling point here, with AMD claiming a 204% performance improvement compared to Intel’s HD Graphics 610 inside the Pentium G4560. Compared to AMD’s previous APU family, Bristol Ridge also offers a 25% boost in GPU performance compared to Godavari, but still boasts the same number of shader cores, ROPs, and texture units. I don’t think AMD expects many sales of these processors in regions where affordability isn’t a concern, but they’ll be a great option for cash-strapped gamers looking for a cheap alternative to sixth or seventh generation consoles from Sony and Microsoft.

Out of the lineups, a few chips stand out. If you’re considering a quad-core APU with enough graphics horsepower to run AAA games at 720p, esports titles, or stuff like Minecraft, the best option is the Athlon A8-9600. It ships with a configurable thermal level between 45 watts and 65 watts, which means that it’s really a more flexible version of the A10-9700, which costs more. Don’t buy the A10-9700, is what I’m saying. If you were looking at it already, you can either save money on the system, or spend more to grab the A12-9800 and enjoy the extra GPU horsepower.

On the other hand, the Athlon X4 970, 950, and 940 are all a little too late to the game to make much difference. Sure, they can overclock, but the architecture is still derived from Bulldozer, which means that compared to the Kaby Lake Pentium G4560 and its ilk, they’re not as efficient or as powerful for basic gaming setups. AMD could have comfortably left these out of the picture because the rest of the APUs now have unlocked multipliers, so grabbing an A8-9600 and overclocking it makes more sense than the X4 950, and you still have an extra GPU to connect displays to.

So Ryzen 3 and Bristol Ridge are all available for purchase today (country dependent), along with the rest of the Ryzen lineup. AMD is still on schedule with their predicted rollout, and they’re still in the first month of Q3 2017, so they have plenty of time now to focus on Threadripper and Vega, also due out this quarter. Ryzen Pro and Ryzen Mobile will also make their scheduled launch this quarter, and we’ll probably see those launch at the enf of August.

I’m still of the opinion that had AMD made the decision to release socket AM4 starting with the A320 and B350 chipsets and the Bristol Ridge family, then they would have enjoyed a sizeable boost in market share as people gear up for the Ryzen 5 and 7 processors. It would have drawn out the launch more, but AMD would then have been able to boast about releasing one new product without fail every month. By having Bristol Ridge launch now, AMD also gets to fill in the gaps covered by their APUs, buying them some time while Ryzen mobile gets ported to the desktop platform. That’s going to be an impressive product, with a Zen-based core complex and Vega-based GPU graphics offering 40% more performance compared to Bristol Ridge.

That’s all for today. AMD has more announcements coming your way soon, so stay tuned to NAG to keep up!