AMD has always promised that Zen is a core suitable for entry level x86 computers all the way up to high-performance server parts. Within that scale so far, AMD has launched EPYC for servers, Ryzen 7 for high-end desktop and Ryzen 5 for mainstream consumers. All that is left is Threadripper for super-high-end desktops, coming in August, Zen paired with graphics, coming in Q3/Q4, and Ryzen 3 for entry level desktops, being launched today. The two entry level parts are quad core Zen CPUs, targeting the $109 to $129 boundary and offering four full x86 cores for the same price Intel offers two cores with hyperthreading.

Putting Zen on a Scale

Designing a core that scales from entry level to graphics to laptops to desktop and up to server is very difficult. You need a design that is very power efficient at the low end of the spectrum, but can push with enough grunt at the very top. When you design a core for each of those specific markets, there are tradeoffs you can make – features for one might not be needed on the other and vice versa. Then add in to the mix thinks like die-size, which will directly affect the cost of the products, and the need to remain price competitive is also an issue. Beyond the core design, there has to be sufficient memory bandwidth and IO for all the processors being made. Having a one-core-fits-all approach is tough.

However AMD seems to have pulled it off, going so far as using one silicon die design for everything aside from graphics. The Zen core has shown itself to be a big upswing in performance compared to AMD’s previous generation microarchitecture, and positioned at a price and performance competitive level at almost every stage of its so far. EPYC competes against Skylake-SP Xeons in important benchmarks, Ryzen 7 takes on Intel’s HEDT at half the cost, and Ryzen 5 offers a 3:1 ratio on thread count against the Core i5s at a similar price.

We’ve tested all three, in our reviews listed below:

We also interviewed AMD’s CEO, Lisa Su, as the first Zen products launched:

So far all the products launched with Zen have aimed at the upper echelons of the PC market, covering mainstream, enthusiasts and enterprise customers – areas with high average selling prices to which a significant number of column inches are written. But the volume segment, key for metrics such as market share, are in the entry level products. So far the AMD Zen core, and the octo-core Zeppelin silicon design, has been battling on the high-end. With Ryzen 3, it comes to play in the budget market.

Zen Zen Zen-Gören Eriksson

The two Ryzen 3 CPUs being launched today, worldwide, are the Ryzen 3 1300X and the Ryzen 3 1200. The base specifications for the Ryzen stack now look as follows:

AMD Ryzen SKUs
  Cores/
Threads
Base/
Turbo
XFR L3 TDP Retail
7/27
Cooler
Ryzen 7 1800X 8/16 3.6/4.0 +100 16 MB 95 W $419 -
Ryzen 7 1700X 8/16 3.4/3.8 +100 16 MB 95 W $299 -
Ryzen 7 1700 8/16 3.0/3.7 +50 16 MB 65 W $279 Spire
RGB
Ryzen 5 1600X 6/12 3.6/4.0 +100 16 MB 95 W $229 -
Ryzen 5 1600 6/12 3.2/3.6 +100 16 MB 65 W $209 Spire
Ryzen 5 1500X 4/8 3.5/3.7 +200 16 MB 65 W $189 Spire
Ryzen 5 1400 4/8 3.2/3.4 +50 8 MB 65 W $159 Stealth
Ryzen 3 1300X 4/4 3.5/3.7 +200 8 MB 65 W $129 Stealth
Ryzen 3 1200 4/4 3.1/3.4 +50 8 MB 65 W $109 Stealth

The Ryzen 3 1300X is a cut version of the Ryzen 5 1500X, featuring the same frequencies and the same +200 MHz of XFR, but no simultaneous multithreading and half of the L3 with 8MB of L3 cache. That difference is still worth a third of the price, with the 1500X at $189 MSRP and the 1300X at $129 MSRP.

The Ryzen 3 1200 brings up the rear of the stack, being the lowest CPU in the stack, having the lowest frequency at 3.1G base, 3.4G turbo, 3.1G all-core turbo, no hyperthreading and the lowest amount of L3 cache. For the troubles comes the lowest price as well at $109, and should be bundled with the Wraith Stealth cooler (as is the 1300X).

Both processors are unlocked, allowing for full overclocking on B350 and X370 motherboards. Given some preliminary numbers for a future review, both CPUs seem to be capable of marching on towards 3.9-4.0 GHz fairly easily. AMD promotes both of the Ryzen 3 CPUs as being part of their 'VR Ready' line, compared with the premium line consisting of the Ryzen 7 parts and all but one of the Ryzen 5s.

As mentioned above, AMD is using the same 8-core Zeppelin silicon design as the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors, as well as the EPYC server processors and the upcoming Threadripper CPUs. This is done for a few reasons, but namely cost and binning: to design a new set of masks on GlobalFoundries 14nm process is many tens of millions of dollars – if the performance of a unified design is sufficient to meet the targets, then it’s a go. On the binning side, one could argue that these were the processors on the stack that didn’t make the cut for the Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 parts, and by selling them cheap (but still reliable), AMD’s effective yield for the process increases and less money is thrown away.

In order to facilitate a quad core design from the eight core chip, four cores are disabled. As discussed in previous articles, AMD’s Zeppelin design consists of two core clusters (two CCXs) of four cores each, connected internally via AMD’s Infinity Fabric.

In order to get down to four cores from eight, AMD has two possible solutions each with their pros and cons:

  1. Cut off one CCX, and leave one CCX available (4+0)
  2. Disable two cores per CCX, leaving two cores per CCX (2+2)
  3. Disable one core in one CCX, and three cores in the other CCX (1+3)

Number 3 leads to a lop-sided silicon die, and obviously wasn’t chosen.

With Number 1, leaving one CCX, this has positives in making sure that communication between each of the cores was the same, making performance consistency more predictable and less discussion about a non-uniform memory access design within the silicon. The downside is that if the silicon is binned lower because of a potential defect, there only has to be one defect in a CCX to make the whole thing unusable – get one in each CCX and it becomes useless reformed sand. Another downside is thermal performance: having four high performing cores next to each other will put strains on power consumption and heat, and ideally any silicon not in use electrically should be taken advantage of thermally to dissipate heat. There could also be another disadvantage, depending on how much IO is tied to a CCX for communication bandwidth – with only one path through to the DRAM controller, this could limit data flow per core.

With Number 2, the main advantage is going to be with thermals – with two CCXes in play with some silicon between them, the chip can run cores on opposite ends at a much higher power each without affecting each other as much, leading to potentially higher performance. The downside is core-to-core latency, as the CPU would have extended latency between neighboring cores and those in the different CCX, and it goes back to the non-uniform memory access argument with the Ryzen 7 CPUs.

AMD decided to go with the 2+2 arrangement for the quad core Ryzen parts, following on from the 3+3 arrangement on the hex-core Ryzen 5 CPUs.

Competition and Market

Both Intel and AMD are comparable on platform price, where B250 and B350 motherboards respectively cost around the same. The big upswing for AMD here is going to be overclocking, and potentially push the Ryzen 3 CPUs through to compete with the next one up the stack depending on stock performance. By contrast Intel’s performance is going to be static, and Intel might argue that for entry level products, overclocking is rarely a consideration for the bulk and volume purchasing agreements at this level. Intel also has a slight advantage in having some integrated graphics, negating the need for a discrete GPU.

There are two ways to approach analyzing the competition: configuration and price. For configuration, Ryzen 3 are quad-core CPUs without simultaneous multithreading, which would put them up against the Core i5 CPUs, which range from $182 to $239. Comparing on price, the Ryzen 3 1300X at $129 fits between the Core i3-7100 ($109) and Core i3-7300 ($149).

Comparison: AMD Ryzen 3 1300X
Features Intel
Core i3-7100
AMD
Ryzen 3 1300X
Intel
Core i3-7300
Platform Z270, B250 X370, B350, A320 Z270, B250
Socket LGA1151 AM4 LGA1151
Cores/Threads 2 / 4 4 / 4 2 / 4
Base/Turbo/XFR 3.9 GHz 3.4 / 3.7 / 3.9 GHz 4.0 GHz
GPU PCIe 3.0 x16 x16 x16
L2 Cache 256 KB/core 512 KB/core 256 KB/core
L3 Cache 3 MB 8 MB 4 MB
TDP 51W 65W 51W
Retail Price (7/28) $115 $129 $149

The Ryzen 3 1200 at $109 has the Core i3-7100 ($109) at the top end and the G4620 ($99) underneath. Intel would point out that the G4560 at $64 is also in play, and almost half the price.

Comparison: AMD Ryzen 3 1200
Features Intel
Pentium G4560
Intel
Pentium G4620
AMD
Ryzen 3 1200
Intel
Core i3-7100
Platform 200-series 200-series 300-series 200-series
Socket LGA 1151 LGA1151 AM4 LGA1151
Cores/Threads 2 / 4 2 / 4 4 / 4 2 / 4
Base/Turbo 3.5 GHz 3.7 GHz 3.1 / 3.4 GHz 3.9 GHz
GPU PCIe 3.0 x16 x16 x16 x16
L2 Cache 256 KB/core 256 KB/core 512 KB/core 256 KB/core
L3 Cache 3 MB 3 MB 8 MB 3 MB
TDP 54 W 51W 65W 51W
Retail (7/28) $80 $105 $109 $115

 

Additional Notes On This Review

We are in the process of updating our AMD Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 results with the new AGESA 1006, and aim to have an article out soon comparing the two. At the time of this review, only the Ryzen 3 1200, Ryzen 3 1300X and Ryzen 5 1500X have been retested, due to time restraints of travel and other projects. In due course, all will be retested and examined.

Also due to time, as this review is being published, more benchmark results are coming in. Graphs will be added as this happens.

Pages In This Review

Test Bed and Setup
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  • Gavin Bonshor - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    One of the hardest working men in the industry! :D Reply
  • edlee - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    I dont understand the point of making a $100 cpu without an integrated gpu if you wanted to attract the lower end market, this is really silly mistake. Sort of like intel including an integrated gpu with i7-7700k, it doesnt make sense, 95% of those with a 7700k will buy a gpu, but someone who is looking for a lowend cpu is not going to buy a discrete graphics cards, its just silly Reply
  • phoenix_rizzen - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    It really depends on the use case.

    For example, are there any integrated GPUs that support 3 monitors? I know a lot of them support dual monitors, but haven't come across any that support 3 (although I haven't looked that hard). My work PC is a low-profile desktop running an AMD Athlon-II x4 CPU and an Nvidia 730 GT GPU for tri-monitor setup. Upgrading the CPU/motherboard/RAM to a Ryzen 3 1300X would be a huge upgrade for this system.

    90-odd % of the desktops in the schools here use AMD Athlon-II CPUs (graphics integrated into the chipset), with the rest using Intel Pentium CPUs (graphics integrated into the CPU). And we add Nvidia 210 or 730 GPUs to those that need better multi-monitor support or better 3D performance. Why do we do it that way? Cost. We try to keep the complete desktop system (case, motherboard,
    CPU, at least 2 GB RAM, no storage of any kind) to under $200 CDN (they're diskless Linux stations). We have just shy of 5000 of those in the district right now.

    We've avoided the Bulldozer-based APUs so far as the price/performance just wasn't there compared to the Pentium line (from our suppliers). But the Ryzen 3 looks like a decent upgrade. Will be interesting to see what the prices are like for it from our suppliers this winter/spring. Will also be interesting to see what the GPU side of the Zen-based APUs will be like next year.

    The other important bit is driver support. We are a mostly Linux-using school district, so we tend to use hardware that's at least 2 steps back from the bleeding edge. That way, we get better prices, and better driver support.
    Reply
  • edlee - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    i understand when upgrading from integrated to gpu like you stated in your use case, but from the low end price standpoint, a i3-7100 is cheaper because they dont need to add a gpu like the ryzen 3 needs, so its not competing on a performance standpoint or a price standpoint when you add the price of the cheapest gpu Reply
  • Outlander_04 - Friday, July 28, 2017 - link

    Using an integrated gpu is usually a poor choice. Intels drivers are so dumbed down they are worse than hopeless.
    Factor in that using integrated means less system RAM available as well so performance can be reduced
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, August 01, 2017 - link

    Many people may be starting out from the position of knowing that the integrated graphics on any of the Intel CPU's in the test are not good enough for them. If you know that from the start then the argument that AMD doesn't have an IGPU is meaningless. I'm also somewhat interested in seeing overclocking tests with the R3 as that is one thing you just don't get with Intel at this level short of the 7350K. I sort of suspect that an OC'd 1200 could but just as fast or faster than a 1300X (though at only a $20 difference I'm not sure how much it matters).
    Also, in more computationally intense tasks, the 1300x really doesn't do badly against the i5 that costs $53 more so once again, if you don't care about integrated graphics it could be a good choice for some people.

    On the other hand, for someone for whom MS Office, email, and web browsing are their main uses, then something like the i3-7100 suddenly looks very attractive - or even the Pentium G.
    In this segment, AMD really needs to get a Ryzen Based APU on the market. If they did a single CCX, 4 core and used the empty space vacated by the second CCX for a decent IGPU they could definitely have an i3 killer.
    Reply
  • renw0rp - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    I had HP Folio 9470m with core i5-3437U and it was driving 3 * 1920x1200 screens without an issue. And it's ~2013 processor...

    3rd gen of Core processors was the first to support 3 displays. The 2nd gen supported just 2.
    Reply
  • stuartlew - Thursday, July 27, 2017 - link

    AMD Kaveri does three monitors Reply
  • serendip - Friday, July 28, 2017 - link

    Are there motherboards with integrated chipset graphics for Ryzen?

    I understand the good thing about adding a discrete GPU only to PCs that need one but not having an integrated GPU is nuts, for the mass market at least.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Friday, July 28, 2017 - link

    No, but Bristol Ridge launched yesterday, so there are now APUs that use AM4. Reply

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