Conclusion: Shy Of The Very Best, Overall Absolute Winner

Overall, we’ve been eagerly awaiting today’s launch for months, and all the while AMD has certainly given us some high expectations for their 3rd generation Ryzen CPUs. At the end of the day I think that AMD was able to deliver on all of their promises, and hitting all of the performance targets that they needed to. Furthermore, where AMD kills it is in terms of value, as both the 3700X and the 3900X really deliver in terms of offering outstanding alternatives to the competition.

The New Zen 2 µarch & Chiplet Design

The basis for the new 3rd generation Ryzen processors is AMD’s new high-risk high-reward bet on moving away from a single monolithic die to a chiplet-based MCM (Multi-chip module) design. What this has allowed AMD to do is to maximise the performance characteristics of their 7nm design for the new Ryzen 3000 chipsets. Meanwhile, having the I/O components and the memory controllers on a 12nm process node not only allows AMD to minimise the cost of the platform, but also allows them to optimise the silicon for their specific use-cases.

The actual CPU chiplets (CPU-lets?) are manufactured on TSMC’s leading edge 7nm process node and AMD has seemingly been able to take full advantage of the process, not only lowering the power consumption of the cores, but also raising the clock frequency at the same time, bringing some impressive power efficiency benefits.

The new design did seemingly make some compromises, and we saw that the DRAM memory latency of this new system architecture is slower than the previous monolithic implementation. However, here is also where things get interesting. Even though this is a theoretical regression on paper, when it comes to actual performance in workloads the regression is essentially non-existent, and AMD is able to showcase improvements even in the most memory-sensitive workloads. This is thanks to the new Zen 2 CPU core’s improved microarchitecture, with new improved prefetchers and overall outstanding Memory Level Parallelism (MLP) designs. Further helping AMD's memory/cache situation is the doubling of the CCX’s L3 cache from 8MB to 16MB, which on average, ends up with better workload memory performance.

Not that Zen 2 is solely about memory performance, either. The CPU core's front-end improvements such as the new TAGE predictor – and in particular the much increased capacity of the operation cache – is very visible in some workloads. We’ve also seen the core’s new 256-bit (AVX2) vector datapaths work very well.

In the majority of controlled tests, AMD has done something they haven’t been able to achieve in almost 15 years, since the tail-end of the Athlon 64's reign in 2005: that is to have a CPU microarchitecture with higher performance per clock than Intel's leading architecture. Zen 2 finally achieves this symbolic mark by a hair’s margin, with the new core improving IPC by 15-17% when compared to Zen+.

Having said that, Intel still very much holds the single-threaded performance crown by a few percent. Intel’s higher achieved frequencies as well as continued larger lead in memory sensitive workloads are still goals that AMD has to work towards, and future Zen iterations will have to further improve in order to have a shot at the ST performance crown.

Beyond this, it’s remarkable that AMD has been able to achieve all of this while consuming significantly less power than Intel's best desktop chip, all thanks to the new process node.

The 3700X & 3900X Versus The Competition, Verdict

Office CPU Performance and Productivity

It’s in these categories where AMD’s strengths lie: In the majority of our system benchmarks, AMD more often than not is able to best Intel’s Core i7-9700K and i9-9900K in terms of performance. It was particularly interesting to see the new 3rd gen Ryzens post larger improvements in the web tests, all thanks to Zen 2’s improved and larger op cache.

In anything that is more than lightly multi-threaded, AMD is also able to take the performance crown among mainstream desktop processors, thanks to their inclusion of 12 cores in their top SKU Ryzen 3900X. For total MT throughput, Intel can still beat this with their massive X-series HEDT chips, but these server-derrived parts are in a completely different class in both features and price, and AMD has their own Threadripper parts to rival that. All of this means that for heavily threaded scenarios, the 3900X rules the roost among true desktop processors.

Meanwhile, even when AMD doesn't have a core count advantage – as is the case with the Ryzen 3700X – the chip is still extremely competitive. Overall the 3700X falls in-between the more expensive 9700K and 9900K when it comes to multi-threaded workloads – and sometimes it even beats the 9900K, a respectable result indeed.

Gaming Performance

When it comes to gaming performance, the 9700K and 9900K remain the best performing CPUs on the market. Even without an IPC advantage anymore, Intel's high clockspeeds and supporting elements such as the core ringbus still give them the best performance in the kind of lightly-threaded and tightly-threaded scenarios that games often follow.

That being said, the new 3700X and 3900X are posting enormous improvements over the 2700X. And we can confirm AMD’s claims of up to 30-35% better performance in some games over the 2700X. So AMD has not been standing still.

Ultimately, while AMD still lags behind Intel in gaming performance, the gap has narrowed immensely, to the point that Ryzen CPUs are no longer something to be dismissed if you want to have a high-end gaming machine. Intel's performance advantage is rather limited here – and for the power-conscientious, AMD is delivering better efficiency at this point – so while they may not always win out as the very best choice for absolute peak gaming performance, the 3rd gen Ryzens are still very much a very viable option worth considering.

Everything Tied Together: A Win For AMD

What really does make the Ryzen 3700X and 3900X winners in my eyes is their overall packages and performance. They’re outstanding all-rounders, and AMD has managed to vastly improve some of the aspects it was lagging behind the most. While AMD still needs to further push total single-threaded performance in the future and continue working on improving memory performance, they’re on Intel’s tail.

Perhaps the best arguments for the 3700X and 3900X is their value as well as their power efficiency. At $329 the 3700X particularly seems exciting, and gamers will want to take note that it posts the same gaming performance as the $499 3900X. Considering that AMD is also shipping the CPU with the perfectly reasonable Wraith coolers, this also adds on to the value that you get if you’re budget conscious.

The 3900X essentially has no real competition when it comes to the multi-threaded performance that it’s able to deliver. Here the chip not only bests Intel’s mainstream desktop designs, but it's able to go toe-to-toe with the lowest rung of Intel's more specialized HEDT platforms. Even AMD’s own Threadripper line-up is made irrelevant below 16 cores.

All in all, while AMD still has some way to go, they’ve never been this close to Intel in over a decade. This is no longer the story of the AMD that is trying to catch up to Intel; this is now the story of the AMD that is once more a formidable rival to Intel. And, if the company is able to continue to execute as well, we should be seeing even more exciting things in the future.

And, for these reasons, we are awarding AMD's 3rd generation Ryzen processors an AnandTech Editor's Choice Silver award for their value and energy efficiency. AMD has raised the bar indeed.

 
Power Consumption & Overclocking
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  • Daeros - Monday, July 15, 2019 - link

    The only mitigation for MDS is to disable Hyper-Threading. I feel like there would be a pretty significant performance penalty for this. Reply
  • Irata - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    Well, at least Ryzen 3000 CPU were tested with the latest Windows build that includes Ryzen optimizations, but tbh I find it a bit "lazy" at least to not test Intel CPU on the latest Windows release which forces security updates that *do* affect performance negatively.

    This may or may not have changed the final results but would be more proper.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    Lazy doesn't even begin to describe it. Reply
  • Irata - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    Thing is I find this so completely unnecessary.

    Not criticising thereview per se, but you see AT staff going wild on Twitter over people accusing them of bias when simple things like testing both Intel and AMD systems on the same Windows version would be an easy way to protect themselves against criticism.

    It the same as the budget CPU review where the Pentium Gold was recommended due to its price/ performance, but many posters pointed out that it simply was not available anywhere for even near the suggested price and AT failed to acknowledge that.

    Zombieload ? Never heard of it.

    This is what I mean by lazy - acknowledge these issues or at least give a logical reason why. This is much easier than being offended on Twitter. If you say why you did certain things, there is no reason to post "Because they crap over the comment sections with such vitriol; they're so incensed that we did XYZ, to the point where they're prepared to spend half an hour writing comments to that effect with the most condescending language. " which basically comes down to saying "A ton of our readers are a*holes.

    Sure, PC related comment sections can be extremely toxic, but doing things as proper as possible is a good way to safeguard against such comments or at least make those complaining look like ignorant fools rather than actually encouraging this.
    Reply
  • John_M - Sunday, July 7, 2019 - link

    A good point and you made it very well and in a very civil way. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Monday, July 8, 2019 - link

    Thanks. I appreciate the feedback, as I know first hand it can sometimes be hard to write something useful.

    When AMD told us that there were important scheduler changes in 1903, Ian and I both groaned a bit. We're glad AMD is getting some much-needed attention from Microsoft with regards to thread scheduling. But we generally would avoid using such a fresh OS, after the disasters that were the 1803 and 1809 launches.

    And more to the point, the timeframe for this review didn't leave us nearly enough time to redo everything on 1903. With the AMD processors arriving on Wednesday, and with all the prep work required up to that, the best we could do in the time available was run the Ryzen 3000 parts on 1903, ensuring that we tested AMD's processor with the scheduler it was meant for. I had been pushing hard to try to get at least some of the most important stuff redone on 1903, but unfortunately that just didn't work out.

    Ultimately laziness definitely was not part of the reason for anything we did. Andrei and Gavin went above and beyond, giving up their weekends and family time in order to get this review done for today. As it stands, we're all beat, and the work week hasn't even started yet...

    (I'll also add that AnandTech is not a centralized operation; Ian is in London, I'm on the US west coast, etc. It brings us some great benefits, but it also means that we can't easily hand off hardware to other people to ramp up testing in a crunch period.)
    Reply
  • RSAUser - Monday, July 8, 2019 - link

    But you already had the Intel processors beforehand so could have tested them on 1903 without having to wait for the Ryzen CPU? Your argument is weird. Reply
  • Daeros - Monday, July 15, 2019 - link

    Exactly. They knew that they needed to re-test the Intel and older Ryzen chips on 1903 to have a level, relevant playing field. Knowing that it would penalize Intel disproportionately to have all the mitigations 1903 bakes in, they simply chose not to. Reply
  • Targon - Monday, July 8, 2019 - link

    Sorry, Ryan, but test beds are not your "daily drivers". With 1903 out for more than one month, a fresh install of 1903(Windows 10 Media Creation tool comes in handy), with the latest chipset and device drivers, it should have been possible to fully re-test the Intel platform with all the latest security patches, BIOS updates, etc. The Intel platform should have been set and re-benchmarked before the samples from AMD even showed up.

    It would have been good to see proper RAM used, because anyone who buys DDR4-3200 RAM with the intention of gaming would go with DDR4-3200CL14 RAM, not the CL16 stuff that was used in the new Ryzen setup. The only reason I went CL16 with my Ryzen setup was because when pre-ordering Ryzen 7 in 2017, it wasn't known at the time how significant CL14 vs. CL16 RAM would be in terms of performance and stability(and even the ability to run at DDR4-3200 speeds).

    If I were doing reviews, I'd have DDR4-3200 in various flavors from the various systems being used. Taking the better stuff out of another system to do a proper test would be expected.
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Thursday, July 11, 2019 - link

    "ho buys DDR4-3200 RAM with the intention of gaming would go with DDR4-3200CL14 RAM"

    Well I can tell you who. First Ill address "the intention of gaming". there are a lot of us who could care less about games and I am one of them. Second, even for those who do play games, if you need 32 GB of RAM (like I do) the difference in price on New Egg between CAS 16 and CAS 14 for a 2x16 Kit is $115 (comparing RipJaws CAS 16 Vs Trident Z CAS 14 - both G-Skill obviously). That's approaching double the price. So I sort of appreciate reviews that use the RAM I would actually buy. I'm sure gamers on a budget who either can't or don't want to spend the extra $115 or would rather put it against a better video card, the cheaper RAM is a good trade off.

    Finally, there are going to be a zillion reviews of these processors over the next few days and weeks. We don't necessarily need to get every single possible configuration covered the first day :) Also, there are many other sites publishing reviews so its easy to find sites using different configurations. All in all, I don't know why people are being so harsh on this (and other) reviews. its not like I paid to read it :)
    Reply

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