Over the past few years, AMD has been on a tear thanks to its newest Ryzen CPUs. But how do you know which is the right Ryzen CPU for your build?
In years past, Ryzen CPU models were considered the bargain CPU for those looking to make a budget build PC and save a few hundred dollars on their processor. But now Ryzen CPUs have all but caught up with Intel processors in nearly every area.
In order to pick the perfect CPU for your rig, you need to know what the Ryzens are all about.
AMD Ryzen CPUs in a Nutshell
Without going into dizzying technical details, AMD's third-generation Ryzen CPUs are broken up into four families with the Ryzen Threadripper existing in its own universe — more on that later. The four families include Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9 CPUs.
With these AMD CPU models, the higher number represents a higher processor specification. This all sounds simple enough, right?
Initially, Ryzen offered the Ryzen 3, 5, and 7 models as a simple way for consumers to compare these models against Intel's Core i3, i5, and i7 processors. However, in 2019, AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su introduced the Ryzen 9 3900x chip, which serves as the flagship of its higher-end third-generation processor family.
The main thing that sets Ryzen apart from Intel is the number of processor cores their chips offer as compared to comparable Intel models. These extra cores make Ryzen CPUs ideal for multi-tasking.
While traditionally, Intel's CPUs were better suited for single-core tasks such as gaming.
However, it's now clear that AMD's third-generation Ryzen CPUs are more than able to hold their own against many popular Intel models. And they still cost less than Intel CPUs on average.
Here's a video explaining AMD's third-generation technology in greater detail.
Other Important Factors to Consider
There are a few very important factors you should look at when buying one of the newest AMD Ryzen CPUs. These factors are cooling, clock speed, overclocking, cores, threads, TDP, and cache.
Clock speeds are measured in gigahertz (GHz). They represent the operating speed of a CPU, therefore, the higher the number, the faster the chip.
But keep in mind, that you'll need a motherboard that can handle the speed, otherwise, you'll just create a huge bottlenecking issue. That means you won't get nearly the performance you should get out of the chip.
Bottlenecks can also stress your motherboard, RAM, and chip, shortening the lifespan of each component. Higher clock speeds also increase the temperature of your chip.
Generally, the stock cooler that comes with the chip should be able to handle the temperatures of CPUs set at base clock speeds. Temperatures can also increase because of certain applications such as resource-demanding games or other programs.
For instance, strenuous usages such as long gaming sessions and data mining, you may want to consider an aftermarket cooling solution such as water cooling for your system.
Overclocking continues to play a major role in many CPU purchasing decisions. Nearly all of the third-generation AMD Ryzen CPUs are overclockable to a certain extent. They include a boost feature that allows you to push the chips beyond their factory settings without crashing your system.
However, be aware that you'll probably need a high-quality overclocking-friendly motherboard as well as an after-market cooling solution to ensure long-term stability.
Cores are best explained as processors within the CPU. Today's CPUs use between 2 and 32 cores. The majority of processors will offer between four to eight cores.
Each core is capable of taking care of its own tasks. Four cores are the minimum that we recommend for any system.
When most folks think of the term "threads," they may think about clothes. However, for tech-savvy folks, especially gamers, it means something completely different.
Threads represent the number of separate processes a chip can handle at one time. In theory, the number of threads should correlate with the number of cores on a CPU. However, many processors today offer what is called "multithreading," which gives a single core the ability to create two threads.
AMD calls this process SMT (Simultaneous Multithreading). More threads deliver better multitasking and can provide enhanced performance when it comes to thread-heavy applications such as transcoding and video editing.
Thermal Design Profile/Power (TDP)
The TDP represents the maximum amount of heat a CPU generates at stock speed. This factor is measured in watts (W). That's important to know when choosing an after-market cooler because you'll need to know that it can handle at least the minimum TDP.
This number also allows you to calculate how big of a power supply unit (PSU) you'll need to operate your system. Every component has certain wattage demands, so you want to make sure that your PSU has enough wattage to cover everything.
Also, higher TDP typically coincides with faster system performance.
Most processors today offer an on-board memory cache, which is used to speed up access to your data as well as speeding up instructions between your processor and RAM. There are three types of on-board cache:
- L1: Represents the fastest type of cache, but it is generally cramped
- L2: Is a bit roomier but slower than L1
- L3: Is the most spacious, but also the slowest cache
Whenever the data a processor need isn't available from any of those three sources, it goes to the RAM, which is slower than all three caches because it is physically farther from the CPU than the on-board cache.
However, don't worry too much about cache size, because it's hard to measure real-world performance, and there are usually much more essential factors one should consider.
The Latest AMD Ryzen CPUs Available
As mentioned earlier, there is a total of five Ryzen CPUs on the market today. These models are the AMD Ryzen 3, 5, 7, 9, and Threadripper CPUs.
Most of these processors still line up closely to similarly named Intel models. However, in some cases, Ryzen CPUs have managed to surpass Intel in certain areas.
Here's a breakdown of each Ryzen CPU.
The Ryzen 3 processor is designed to accommodate budget PC builders. These are folks who are not going to use their PCs for resource-intensive tasks. That said, these processors all have quad-core architecture.
That means they sport four physical cores, so they are by no means weak processors. In fact, you could build a very respectable gaming rig that can take on even the biggest titles using only this Ryzen CPU model.
The Ryzen 3000 series uses a newer version of the architecture of the Zen and Zen Plus cores that were used in the first and second-generation CPUs. This series represents a dramatic overhaul of the processors.
The AMD Ryzen 3-2300X is one example of a lower-end CPU that a lot of builders are using for their budget builds.
The AMD Ryzen 5 is where things start to get interesting for AMD's third-generation line of processors. These CPUs are designed to compete directly with Intel's Core i5 processors in every area, including cost. Not to mention, they are incredible for gaming.
In fact, in 2019, many PC sites such as PCGames picked the Ryzen 5 3600 model as the best CPU for gaming. This upset hit the PC gaming community like an earthquake, shaking previous conventional wisdom about AMD processors.
AMD Ryzen 5 CPUs have a mix of hexacore and quadcore processors. That means they offer more than enough power for tasks such as video editing and other CPU intensive workloads.
- The world's most advanced processor in the desktop PC gaming segment
- Can deliver Ultra fast 100+ FPS performance in the world's most popular games
- 8 Cores and 16 processing threads, bundled with the AMD Wraith Prism cooler with color controlled LED support
Just like Intel's line of Core i7 processors, Ryzen 7 CPUs may be a bit of overkill for most folks. But, it does allow for advanced computing at a more affordable cost. Plus, if you happen to own a capable graphics card, you may be able to extract greater benefit from a Ryzen 7 CPU.
This processor is also a good security blanket for those concerned about future-proofing their PCs. It would be a very long time before these CPUs are made obsolete.
Here's a video talking about Ryzen 3, 5, and 7 processors.
- The world's most advanced processor in the desktop PC gaming segment
- Can deliver Ultra-fast 100+ FPS performance in the world's most popular games
- 12 Cores and 24 processing threads, bundled with the AMD Wraith Prism cooler with color controlled LED support
AMD's Ryzen 9 family of CPUs is the company's newest batch of powerful processors. They pack up to 12 cores and 24 threads, making them the perfect middle ground CPU between the Ryzen 7 and the Threadripper line.
One of the biggest selling points for this CPU is its massive L3 cache, which AMD calls the "gaming cache." This cache dramatically reduces memory latency while boosting gaming performance.
It also reduces latency for other applications as well, but we suppose no one would get as excited about having a bigger "app cache."
Here's a video of Dr. Lisa Su introducing the Ryzen 9 3950X at E3.
Let's be honest. You probably will never need anything remotely as powerful as a Threadripper CPU. But, it's still pretty awesome to have one, kind of like owning the fastest car in the world. This processor is for advanced users who wish to push their rigs beyond their limits.
We're talking up to 32 cores and 64 threads here people! If you're trying to build Skynet or the Matrix, you might need this type of processor to make that happen. But seriously, folks like content creators and those who want to use programs such as 3D modeling while running games at the same time will more-likely get more benefit out of these CPUs.
Here's a video talking about the market that the Ryzen Threadripper was designed for.
Here's a chart for all Ryzen CPUs
AMD Ryzen CPUs
Ryzen 3 3000 series: 3200G
Ryzen 5 3000 series: 3600X
Ryzen 7 3000 series: 3800X
Ryzen 9 3000 series: 3950X
Ryzen Treadripper 2000 series: 2990WX
Which of the AMD Ryzen CPUs is Right for You?
By now, we've looked at 32 different Ryzen CPUs, and while they are all pretty powerful processors, we understand how it can be daunting finding the right one for your needs.
For students and light gamers, the Ryzen 3 will likely be more than enough. For heavy gaming and moderate video editing, we would recommend the Ryzen 5 line.
Then for heavy video editing and other intensive multi-tasking operations, you can't go wrong with the Ryzen 7 line. After that, the Ryzen 9 and Threadripper series are going to be for more advanced users, such as data miners, and content creators.
At any rate, if you're looking for a cost-effective processor that delivers as much if not more than an Intel Core CPUs, then AMD Ryzen CPUs are going to be your ticket.
Do you own one of the latest Ryzen CPUs? Please tell us about your experiences with Ryzen processors in the comments section.
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