AMD has now launched the Zen 2-powered Ryzen 3 3100 and Ryzen 3 3300X, offering the same core and thread counts but for $99 and $120 respectively. These budget chips might have slightly lower clocks than a $350 Core i7 7700K, but are serious gaming CPUs and come with PCIe 4.0 support, for those speedy M.2 PCIe SSDs. Three years is clearly a long time in computing.
Base clock: 3.8GHz
Max boost clock: 4.3GHz
L3 Cache: 16MB
Memory support: DDR4 3200MHz
Cooler: Wraith Stealth
Price: $120 (£120)
Three years ago AMD released its first Ryzen CPUs into the wild. At that time the top gaming processor was the Core i7 7700K. Intel's 4-core, 8-thread CPU was the go to chip for gaming, and at a reasonable $350 found itself at the top of most CPU buying guides. It was fast in games, and that healthy thread count meant it could turn its hand to what some might call more serious tasks too.
In that time we've seen three generations of Ryzen CPUs, and while it's fair to say the first generation had their issues (patchy memory support and lackluster gaming performance), the latest generation has confined those problems to the history books. AMD Ryzen 3000 CPUs are now in a very good place, and a genuine alternative to Intel throughout the stack.
|Ryzen 9 3950X||16 / 32||3.5 / 4.7GHz||72MB||105W||$749|
|Ryzen 9 3900X||12 / 24||3.8 / 4.6GHz||70MB||105W||$499|
|Ryzen 7 3800X||8 / 16||3.9 / 4.5GHz||36MB||105W||$399|
|Ryzen 7 3700X||8 / 16||3.6 / 4.4GHz||36MB||65W||$329|
|Ryzen 5 3600X||6 / 12||3.8 / 4.4GHz||35MB||95W||$249|
|Ryzen 5 3600||6 / 12||3.6 / 4.2GHz||35MB||65W||$199|
|Ryzen 3 3300X||4 / 8||3.8 / 4.3GHz||18MB||65W||$120|
|Ryzen 3 3100||4 / 8||3.6 / 3.9GHz||18MB||65W||$99|
Intel does still have the slimmest of edges in gaming, and its imminent Comet Lake Core i9 10900K will hold the title as the 'fastest gaming processor', but only by drawing ungodly amounts of power. Elsewhere Intel has another iteration of its 14nm production node, with the rest of the 10th Gen roundup, which will see its own core counts increase and HyperThreading support make a welcome return across the range. The Core i3 10100 in particular is a dead ringer for these new chips from AMD, with four core and eight threads too.
Into this somewhat odd market, AMD has decided to release a budget-focused pair of chips that punch well above the price weight. Both featuring SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading), meaning these quad-core chips are capable of handling eight threads at once. They're basically in the same ballpark as that venerable Core i7 7700K, but cost around a third the price. They don't overclock as well, but that seems like a reasonable hit for the cash being asked.
Apart from the Ryzen 3 3100 and 3300X, there's more AMD goodness on the way in the form of the B550 chipset, which should be making its way to an affordable motherboard near you on the 16th June. This is important, because if there is an issue with these CPUs right now, is that in order to get the most from them, you're limited to using an X570 motherboard, which generally start at the $250 mark—double the price of the CPU. You can use an X470 or a B450, but you'll miss out on support for PCIe Gen4 if you do so.
|Header Cell - Column 0||B450 Chipset||B550 Chipset||X570 Chipset|
|CPU Graphics Support||x16 PCIe Gen 3||x16 PCIe Gen 4||x16 PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU Storage Support||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4||PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU USB Ports||USB 3.1 Gen 1||USB 3.2 Gen2||USB 3.2 Gen2|
|Dual Graphics Support||No||Yes||Yes|
|General Purpose Lanes||PCIe Gen 2||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU Chipset Uplink||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4|
There's no indication on the pricing of these B550 motherboards yet, but given B450 motherboards start around the $75 mark, I'm hopeful these will be roughly about the $100-$125 mark. When looking at the value proposition of these chips, that's what I've got in mind, rather than having to drop money on a X570 at the same time.
Both CPUs come with Wraith Stealth Coolers, which are the shortest versions of the Wraith available, and lack the RGB lighting of the top-end coolers, but like all the Wraiths they do the job well. This isn't a cooler designed to handle serious overclocking, but in testing temperatures only reached 66C for the 3300X and only 64C for the 3100 under full load, both of which are absolutely fine. It isn't a noisy cooler either.
One thing that may be of interest to those trying to save cash is Eco Mode, which effectively reduces the TDP (and the performance) of the 3100 and 3300X from 65W down to 45W. Useful if your machine is on all the time or if you simply want to reduce power draw.
Another thing of note is that despite the fact that the Ryzen 3 3100 and 3300X have the same number of cores and threads, they are actually configured very differently. The Ryzen 3 3100 has two active cores per CCX, while the Ryzen 3 3300X has all four cores in one CCX (and the other one is redundant). This gives the 3300X a further advantage over the higher clock speeds as there is less potential core-to-core latency.
Before we get to the testing, a quick note on our benchmarks: The impact of the coronavirus means that a lot of our usual testing hardware is trapped in the office, and like the rest of us, that office is in lockdown. This primarily impacts the graphics card we use for testing, so instead of turning to a 2080 Ti for the usual barrage of benchmarks, we've instead reached for a trusty GTX 1070. We already have comparable results for for some relevant chips, namely the Core i7 7700K (4-core, 8-threads, $350 at launch) and the Core i5 8400 (6-cores, 6-threads, $182 at launch). Intel's 10th Gen processors are on the way though, so expect more benchmarks when they do finally arrive.
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X
Wraith Stealth Cooler
Nvidia GTX 1070
Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master
16GB Thermaltake DDR4-3600
Samsung 850 Pro 1TB SATA SSD
Ikonik Vulcan 1200W PSU
The takeaway from these benchmarks is that the Ryzen 3 3300X compares favorably to both the 7700K and the 6-core 8400. It scores much higher in serious tests like Cinebench R15, X264 v5.0 and PCMark, while also maintaining the lead in games. Admittedly the difference there is often slight and in some cases within the margin of error, but importantly it isn't any slower.
The Ryzen 3 3100 puts in an impressive show as well, although the core configuration does seem to affect it adversely in gaming. It's still a good chip, but it doesn't quite have the performance chops of its bigger brother. Given there's only $20 between these two CPUs, the Ryzen 3 3300X is just the better option.
Recent Ryzen 3000 processors haven't wowed with their overclocking prowess, and the same is true here. The fact of the matter is that it doesn't really help performance. Both chips are unlocked, so if you do fancy playing around with the clocks to get the most from them, then it is at least an option.
You can overclock in the BIOS, but the AMD Ryzen Master software makes the whole process a little easier. Precision Boost should be your first port of call as that can improve clocks fairly easily, while Auto can potentially push it even further. Alternatively you can enter the murky waters of manual overclocking.
In testing, this is what I saw from trying these out on the 3300X. It's something that I'll revisit, potentially with a beefier cooler, but right now these chips appear to stick to the general ethos that this generation of Ryzen doesn't overclock very well. Importantly though, they don't really need to.
So in summary, the Ryzen 3 3300X is an impressive chip. AMD has taken its excellent Zen 2 architecture and given it a new lease of life for the budget-conscious gamer. It's fast, supports PCI Express 4.0, has enough cores and threads for current gaming, and doesn't cost the earth. It does need a B550 motherboard to really make the value proposition make sense, but those board should be here very shortly.
Is the Ryzen 3 3300X the best processor ever? No, of course not, it's a budget CPU that has half as many cores as our top recommendation. But that doesn't stop it being an incredible CPU for gaming, and for the money, there's nothing out there right now that's close. In fact the next best thing would be the six-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 3600. At least that's the case until the Core i3 10100 drops.
Should you consider building a system around the 3300X? Absolutely. Processor pricing has been creeping up for a while now (as the power has increased to be fair), but these two chips reset that. Paired with a budget motherboard, a cheap but speedy SSD, and affordable memory (the faster the better), and you have a great base to plug your graphics card of choice into. Something like an AMD 5600 XT would make for a solid, yet affordable system.