The AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT is the somewhat surprising star of the XT release line-up, simply because it's privy to the highest boost improvement of any of the new chips. While the Ryzen 9 3900XT and Ryzen 5 3600XT get a 100MHz uptick to the top Boost clock, the 3800XT gets 200MHz instead. Heady stuff.
Base clock: 3.9GHz
Max boost clock: 4.7GHz
L3 Cache: 32MB
Memory support: DDR4 3200MHz
TDP: 105 W
Launch price: $399 (£399)
The base clock hasn't changed, and when you're using all 16 threads at the same time you won't really get near this new 4.7GHz ceiling either, but on those occasions where a single core is pressured into strutting its stuff, you should see improvements. And indeed that is the case. In Cinebench R20 the 3800XT hit one of the highest single-core figures I've seen, with a score of 539—that's even higher than the Intel Core i9 10900K.
Before we dive down the performance rabbit hole, it's worth going over what the Ryzen 7 3800XT is, and where it sits in the market. Like the 3800X, the new 3800XT is a higher-clocked variant of the 3700X, but is otherwise identical. That means you get 8 cores and 16 threads, 32MB of L3 cache, support for PCIe 4.0, and it's unlocked as well (although Zen 2 chips don't lend themselves to overclocking too much, so this last point is a little moot).
The issue here is pricing. The Ryzen 7 3800XT launches at $399, which is a perfectly reasonable price for what you're getting. The thing is, the Ryzen 7 3800X has enjoyed some serious price drops in the year since it was first released at that same $399, and can now be picked up for as little as $320. That's $80 less for a slightly slower boost clock. The Ryzen 7 3700X meanwhile can regularly be bought for $290, and has a base clock of 3.6GHz and a boost of 4.4GHz (that's 300MHz slower on both clocks compared to the 3800XT, but otherwise identical).
There's something we haven't mentioned that affects the value proposition even more, and that's on the cooling front. You don't get a cooler with the 3800XT, but you do with the 3800X and the 3700X. AMD's logic here is that a lot of users don't use the cooler that comes with their CPUs anyway, instead preferring to use an aftermarket cooler. Why ship the CPU with a cooler that no one is using? It's a reasonable point, or would be if AMD reduced this chip by the price of the cooler in the first place.
As it is it feels like you're getting less for the same amount of cash. This wouldn't hit so hard if it wasn't for the fact that the Wraith that ships with the 3800X and 3700X is a thoroughly capable chiller in the first place. Yeah it's not one for overclockers, but it's fine for keeping the CPU happy at stock speeds (which is what the vast majority do anyway). The 3800XT has a bit of an uphill battle to justify itself, basically, but if it can deliver in the performance stakes, then it stands a chance.
Things look pretty good from a pure system performance perspective, with strong numbers in Cinebench R20 indicating that this is a decent option for anyone that wants to dabble in 3D rendering. The X265 video encoding benchmarks show that it can handle your video needs well enough too, although it's only just over a frame a second faster than the 3700X, which when you look at the price difference is a sobering thought.
The issue here is that if these activities are important to you, or you need to do them for work, then there are better options out there, such as the 3900X, or if your wallet will stretch to it, the 3950X. If you're merely dabbling with such things, then the 3700X is just much better value for money right now. The 3800XT isn't bad here, but like the 3800X that came before it, it's not obviously the best value or performance option.
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT
Cooler: Corsair H115 RGB Pro XT
Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master
Memory: 16GB Thermaltake DDR4 @3600MHz
GPU: Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
Storage: 2TB Sabrent Rocket PCIe
PSU: Ikonik Vulcan 1200W
AMD has made great strides with Zen 2 to improve it's gaming performance, and the slightly higher boost clock here can equate to higher frame rates. It really does depend on the game in question though, and how it uses the cores at its disposal. As it stands it isn't an outright win for AMD across all the games we use for testing, but the lead that Intel has typically enjoyed is getting smaller and smaller.
Metro Exodus is a case in point, which sees the Ryzen 7 3800XT just a single frame per second behind the 9700K. Admittedly the Core i9 10900K has a healthy lead here, but still, the point is the Ryzen 7 3800XT isn't going to hold your gaming rig back.
This is especially true if you're looking to game at 4K—the Far Cry New Dawn benchmarks prove that there's very little in it. Even compared to the 10900K, you're only looking at a 5fps difference between the two. That's a pretty good place for AMD to be.
Overall then, the Ryzen 7 3800XT is a decent processor that can produce good results. The only sticking point is the cost. And unfortunately for AMD it just doesn't make much sense at its launch price. The lack of cooler makes it unexciting when compared to the 3800X and 3700X from the start, and given those chips have enjoyed a year's worth of price drops, they ultimately come out as better options.
The Ryzen 7 3700X has been on our best CPU buying guide for pretty much the past year, and the 3800XT doesn't do enough to unseat it. In fact, if anything, it just highlights how good a deal it really is. If you want an 8-core, 16-thread CPU, it's that older processor you should be looking at, not this XT chip.
As we said in the review of the Ryzen 9 3900XT, if you're looking to drop this sort of cash on a processor, we'd suggest holding off, if you can, until the end of the year, when Zen 3 is launched. If you can't wait, then the older Zen 2 chips are simply a better option.