With the Ryzen 3 3300X, AMD pushes its Zen 2 silicon into the mainstream and budget desktop market to devastating effect. This $120 CPU, with four cores and support for up to eight processing threads, continues in the tradition of its original-Zen predecessors and its brawnier Ryzen 5 siblings, setting a new standard in budget desktop CPUs that enables PC gamers and creators alike to spend less and get more. The Ryzen 3 3300X is one of two new chips launching today, the other being the equally intriguing Ryzen 3 3100, and both are representative of everything AMD is doing right in 2020. The company also took this launch to announce its upcoming AMD B550 chipset, which will make it even more affordable for amateur content creators and multiplayer gamers to get the power they need on a tight budget for a new build. The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X gives creators and mainstream gamers a new CPU price tier to think about, and upgraders with compatible AMD AM4 motherboards a new, cheap upgrade option. For all these folks, it earns our Editors’ Choice as the top true-budget, current-generation CPU you can get now.
The New Ryzen 3 Chips: The Positioning and the Platform
First, a look at the current state of the AMD third-gen Ryzen desktop processor line. The Ryzen 3 CPUs slot in at the bottom of the stack. All of these chips are based on AMD’s 7nm Zen 2 process technology, which is why the company’s recent Ryzen 3 “G” series processors, based on the last-gen Zen process, aren’t listed here…
With the launch of the Zen 2 line of chips last year came a fresh line of motherboards based on a new chipset, the AMD X570, and with it support for the much-discussed PCI Express 4.0 (PCIe 4.0) bus standard.
While opinions differ so far, almost a year after its release, on just how useful PCIe 4.0 is to the average user, the more speed the better we say, all else being equal. Even though PCIe 4.0 is only leveraged at the moment by a small subset of cutting-edge M.2 solid-state drives (SSDs), it is always good to have future-looking tech on tap. And these two new Ryzen 3 chips, like other third-gen Ryzen desktop chips, support PCIe 4.0, provided they are installed on a compatible late-model AMD AM4-socket motherboard.
That said, for speed demons who are trying to keep costs down, the investment in the AMD X570 platform, which is the only current one on AMD’s AM4 socket that’s wired for PCIe 4.0, might be too big of a jump. So who’s got the motherboards in our budget? Well, for starters, these new Ryzen 3 chips will work on existing AM4 motherboards, provided that the motherboard maker’s BIOS supports the new chips. (You’ll want to check.) Earlier AMD AM4-socket boards, like those based on the B450 and A320 chipsets, won’t do PCIe 4.0, but for most budget-minded shoppers, that doesn’t matter at all.
Coming down the pike, though, expect new boards based on the new AMD B550 chipset, which incorporates some of what made X570 great—PCIe 4.0 support, as well as USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface support and support for dual GPUs—while shedding some of the stuff that made it more expensive for enthusiasts, like a CPU chipset uplink that was also based on PCIe 4.0.
The new B550-based boards—due to drop on June 16th—are aimed at squeezing the most potential out of the platform for the money, while also giving PC gamers and creators the option to future-proof a budget desktop. The future-proofing is around technologies that might not have a ton of real-world applications in today’s software environment, but could become relevant in the near future.
And while AMD is pushing a new board with a new chipset as an option, at least the chip maker is not outright requiring you to buy a new motherboard to upgrade to this latest round of budget options like Intel is. For the launch of its 10th Generation Core chips (including the competing Core i3-10100), Intel is also moving to a new set of chipsets, all paired with a new LGA 1200 socket. This means that people looking to buy on a budget will also have to incorporate the cost of a new motherboard into their next build, while the AMD (and AM4) faithful can use almost any motherboard they’ve got on hand, assuming there’s BIOS compatibility with the new Ryzen 3 models.
Ryzen 3 3000 Series: Why the Last to Arrive?
In many ways, the launch of the Ryzen 3 3100 and Ryzen 3 3300X feel like a reverse echo of the AMD “Navi” graphics launch on July 7 of last year. With its GPU strategy (backed by AMD’s then-new Radeon DNA architecture), AMD favored an approach of “from the middle out,” with the initial launch of the Radeon RX 5700 and Radeon RX 5700 XT representing the new midrange direction for the company, followed later by budget options like the Radeon RX 5500 XT and the Radeon RX 5600 XT, in the fall. On the other hand, the Ryzen CPUs that launched on July 7 were almost all high-performance-segment releases right out of the gate.
At the time of launch, the lowest-end Zen 2-based Ryzen processor you could find was the Ryzen 5 3600, a $199 six-core/12-thread gaming engine clocked at 3.6GHz base. It made sense, really, since most PC games, aside from edge cases like the Civilization series, don’t know what to do with more than six cores at a time. Since then, the Ryzen stack has only gotten more imposing, with mega-core monsters like the Ryzen 9 3950X dominating both gaming and content-creation tasks like nothing that’s come before it on a mainstream platform. (And let’s not even talk about Ryzen’s gigantic, muscled-up cousin, the third-gen Ryzen Threadripper.)
Last year at the Ryzen launch, the only two new four-core chips the company debuted were the Ryzen 3 3200G and the Ryzen 5 3400G, chips with an integrated graphics processor (IGP) on the die, both of which were based on the previous 12nm production process.
Back then, the price of a four-core/eight-thread processor (the Ryzen 5 3400G), would start at $149. (Technically, a four-core/four-thread Ryzen 3 2300X existed, but as an OEM-only part used by PC makers, and AMD was still selling four-core first-gen Ryzens like the Ryzen 3 1300X.) Now, that price has bottomed out by a third, costing just $99 for the Ryzen 3 3100. A new retail Ryzen 3 without IGP had been three years in coming. So why did these two Ryzen 3 chips come so far behind the rest of the Zen 2-based pack?
It could have to do with AMD’s yields on Zen 2; conjecture on our part, but credible considering rumors of excellent yields on Zen 2. Normally, a chip maker expects a certain percentage yield of “passing” chips on a given CPU design, and of those, enough will be defective in a way that makes them perfect to slot in at lower places in the chip family. Let’s say for argument’s sake that a die that was originally designed to be a Ryzen 9 3900X only passes its quality-assurance tests by 66 percent, since four of the 12 cores aren’t firing the way they should. In this case, rather than scrapping the chip, AMD might disable four of the 12 intended cores and designate it as an eight-core Ryzen 9 3800X instead. And before you feel like you’re being deceived about the quality of your parts, this “binning” process is standard practice in the industry…no harm, no foul.
The underlying chiplet architecture that creates the base for all Zen 2 processors grants AMD an advantage when it comes to which chips make it into which sections of the stack through binning. So it’s possible (and again, reiterating: conjecture on our part!), the reason we didn’t see the Ryzen 3 3300X or 3100 in 2019 is because the chiplet design had such good yields that last July the company may not have even had enough down-binned silicon to launch four-core parts with!
Of course, if true, this is a good problem to have. But with third-generation Ryzen chips coming down the pipe for nearly a year now, the company has finally brought Zen 2 to the low end, and in doing so has opened up the floodgates for budget PC upgraders and builders to get the most possible bang for their buck.
Intel vs. AMD Comparison
Speaking of bucks, no chip launch would be complete without our value comparison to Intel. As of this launch, the closest comparable desktop CPUs from Intel to the Ryzen 3 3300X and Ryzen 3100 look to be the forthcoming Core i3-10100 and the existing Core i3-9100, respectively.
All four chips in this price tier are rated for a wattage of 65 watts TDP; the same as the Ryzen 5 3600, another possible hint at the down-binning we discussed above. However, while both Intels come with integrated graphics (the ubiquitous UHD Graphics 630, just enough to run Fortnite at the lowest possible settings), the two new Ryzen 3s at this tier have no IGP. This means you have to buy a video card to run them.
Now, AMD could face some really sound competition (or perhaps even get matched) by the upcoming release of Intel’s 10th Generation Core desktop (“Comet Lake-S”) processors, expected later this month. As you can see in the launch summary below, several of them are four-core CPUs designed to go head-to-head on both specs and pricing with this current batch of Ryzen 3 chips.
The fear is that while the gains in performance over Intel might be there today, at this writing (since all we can compare these Ryzen 3s to is 9th Generation Intel Core chips), that lead could be narrowed or wiped out in a few weeks once Intel’s new stack drops. We can’t say for sure what might happen, but our early assumption is that perhaps moreso than anywhere else, the budget segment of the market is going to see the most gains in value from AMD’s 7nm lithography advantage to Intel’s 14nm.
Then again, in this CPU segment, Intel is closing a different gap, if not on process technology: thread count. The low-end and midrange 9th Generation desktop chips did not support thread-doubling Hyper-Threading, so the Core i3s on the 9th Generation line were four-core/four-thread chips. With the Comet Lake-S 10th Gen chips, the Core i3 chips are now four-core and eight-thread, meaning that they will presumably perform much better than their previous-gen kin on sheer force of thread count in applications for which that matters.
Regardless of what happens with the ultimate benchmarks, though, AMD’s new CPUs also have the distinct advantage over Intel of being backward-compatible with any motherboards based on the AM4 socket whose makers offer a compatible BIOS, while 10th Gen will only work on the new LGA 1200 socket. This opens up a huge number of pre-existing motherboard options for buyers on a budget, both in the used and refurbished market as well as the new midrange B550 boards that are on the way in a little over a month. As mentioned, if you are willing to forgo PCIe 4.0, you can also find last-gen-chipset boards on the cheap, with some for under $60.
Performance Testing: CPU
For our test setup, we installed the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X into an MSI MEG X570 Godlike AM4 motherboard (our standard test platform for third-gen Ryzen), and populated two of the DIMM slots with 16GB of memory set at 3,000MHz. An Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Ti handled video output during the CPU tests. (As mentioned earlier, like other Ryzen desktop chips not ending in “G,” these Zen 2-based Ryzens do not have on-chip graphics, so a video card is necessary.) We used AMD’s stock Wraith CPU cooler and installed the components into an ADATA XPG Invader chassis.
We test CPUs using a variety of synthetic benchmarks that offer proprietary scores, as well as real-world tests using consumer apps like 7-Zip and 3D games like Far Cry 5. Included in the charts below is a variety of like-priced competing and sibling CPUs. One you may notice is out of place, though: the Intel Core i7-7700K. Where’d that one come from?
Well, AMD suggested that its Ryzen 3 3300X is competitive with this flagship quad-core mainstream CPU of Intel’s from three years ago on CPU testing. (The key thing: That chip debuted at around $400 at the time!) We had some 7700K numbers on hand from our own tests, so we decided to see if that’s borne out. Let’s look.
One of the most widely used predictors of a CPU’s relative performance is the Cinebench R15 benchmark, which offers a good overview of performance on many different types of demanding apps. It’s a CPU-centric test that gauges both the single-core performance and the multicore performance of a processor when it is stressed. The resulting scores are proprietary numbers that represent the CPU’s capabilities while rendering a complex 3D image.
It’s been no secret over the past year that if it’s a multi-threaded creator-centric task, that with like-priced desktop chips, AMD will generally beat Intel, on the pure brute force of more cores for the money. That trend continues at the low end here, with chips like the Ryzen 3 3100 clearing the Core i3-9100 by almost 30 percent in performance, and the Ryzen 3 3300X widening the lead even further. (We’ll have to see what happens with the Hyper-Threading-enabled 10th Generation Core i3s when we can get our hands on one.) The 3300X was also right in line with that 2017 Core i7.
For a real-world look at single-core performance, we use a, shall we say, well-aged version of Apple’s iTunes to encode a series of music tracks. It remains in our test lineup simply as a representative of legacy software we all use from time to time that has not been heavily optimized for multicore operation.
Just as good as AMD is at winning multi-threaded tasks, Intel’s chips are generally stronger in the single-threaded performance battle, as evidenced above. Still, it was a near-run race with the Core i3-9100.
The POV-Ray benchmark is a synthetic, highly threaded rendering test that offers a second opinion on the Cinebench results. This test uses ray tracing to render a three-dimensional image. (Note that it doesn’t use the ray tracing features of Nvidia’s RTX-class GPUs; this is purely CPU-focused.)
Back to multi-threaded work (the blue bars), and back to more wins for the Ryzen 3 3300X versus the Core i3-9100, and again: eerie parallelism with the Core i7-7700K.
Handbrake & Blender
As an all-core rendering benchmark, the Handbrake test is a great indicator of generally how well a processor will handle tasks like video editing, video rendering, and video conversion, as these kinds of apps tend to munch on all the cores and threads they can get in their teeth…
Handbrake shows that more threads equals more power for video rendering, and it’s yet another victory for the Ryzen 3300X versus the Core i3-9100.
Meanwhile, the shorter Blender test, as run with our test file, is mostly useful for highlighting the vast differences between low-end and high-end chips, and the similarities between chips within these two categories.
Here the chip is well within range of the Ryzen 5 3600 in terms of capability, with a small enough gap between the two to not be noticeable on anything except the largest of renders. The Core i3, meanwhile, was 6 seconds behind, not big in absolute terms but large in relative ones.
And here on the 7-Zip file-compression benchmark, another thread-happy, CPU-intensive task…
…the Ryzen 3 3300X shows that in comparison to Intel’s 9th Generation Core i3, AMD is well ahead of the curve in putting maximum cores in play when it comes to simpler but threaded tasks like compressing or unzipping files. Those 10th Generation Core i3 chips can’t come soon enough.
Overclock All the Cores…
…if you can. Normally, this would be the section of our review where we’d talk about all the different performance gains (or potential losses) we saw when we got to overclocking our sample. But with the Ryzen 3 3300X, we have a few caveats this time around.
First, in our testing of the overall Ryzen third-gen stack, we’ve found these chips are generally pushed pretty close to their limits right out of the box, leaving limited room for any stable overclocking in the first place. Next, the Ryzen 3 3300X, like most of the third-gen lineup, comes with a stock cooler (which is a must-have when you’re trying to save money). In itself, it is not ideal for the the cooling requirements of an overclocked 3300X.
Finally, during testing, we found that the Auto Overclock setting in Ryzen Master wouldn’t “take” due to the unique CCX layout of the 3300X. (Perhaps this may be patched in on a future release of the software, however.) We didn’t think it worthwhile to tediously, manually overclock the chip on the stock cooler; for serious tweaking, we’d recommend an aftermarket cooler that would get you close in price to a next-step-up, better-performing CPU anyway. Bottom line: If you’re buying a 3300X to overclock it, just spend the extra $50 and get a Ryzen 5 3600X instead, unless you already have a fancy AM4-compatible cooler hanging around.
How Does the Ryzen 3 3300X Game?
While the higher end of the third-generation Ryzen stack is more than a bit overkill for gamers, a four-core/eight-thread budget CPU is very well positioned to become the next big processor that powers Fortnite and CS:GO machines around the world in concert with a complementary video card.
We used a GeForce RTX 2080 Ti card at Founders Edition clocks to demonstrate the furthest extremes of performance, with the GPU getting out of the way. (Using the RTX 2080 Ti also serves as a clear illustration of how the CPU might constrain performance, chip to chip, in some cases.)
Much as expected, the Ryzen 3 3300X performs about as well (if not slightly better at times, according to the game) than the Ryzen 5 3600 in gaming, managing to outpace it (albeit by mostly imperceptible amounts) in games like CS:GO, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Far Cry 5.
The chip also breaks that critical 240fps barrier in Rainbow Six: Siege, tipping over the finish line with a result of 271fps in 1080p. If you’re trying to piece together a multiplayer-gaming machine that will save you as much money as possible so you can spend the rest on a beaucoup GPU and a very-high-refresh-rate monitor like the ViewSonic Elite XG270, the Ryzen 3 3300X will form a strong foundation to build on for years to come.
Remember again: Neither the Ryzen 3 3300X nor the Ryzen 3 3100 comes with an IGP. This means you’ll need to have a discrete GPU to pair it with (of course, a $1,000-plus GeForce RTX 2080 Ti like ours might be a bit overkill for a budget buyer) to get your system working, but that shouldn’t be a problem for any gamers or creators who are buying this chip specifically so they can put the rest of the savings into their graphics card. Core/thread hounds looking to save money who aren’t gaming might consider the IGP-equipped Ryzen 5 3400G instead.
Blowing Up, and Reassembling, the Budget Field
For years, versus both Intel and Nvidia, it’s possible AMD sat comfortably in its image as the “budget” pick of the CPU and GPU world. Not necessarily the one that would win every performance test, but the one that would still provide a good value in its respectively lower price tiers.
The third-generation Ryzen launch in 2019 changed all of that, with AMD (for most usage cases) quickly becoming the winner on mainstream desktops in both price and performance over Intel. Now, in the early half of 2020, releases like the Ryzen 3 3300X feel like more par for the course than a surprise. But that is not to undersell it: The chip is damn good for its price.
Now, we don’t know what exact firepower Intel’s 10th Generation CPUs will bring, but on paper the matchup should be interesting. The Ryzen 3 3300X is a $120 part against parts that start at $122 and go up from there, but now, at least with the same core and thread count. Really, until those Intel parts prove themselves, the problem AMD has is that it’s competing heavily against itself. Prior to this launch, the only way to build a “budget” AMD-based gaming desktop based on Zen 2 was to buy a Ryzen 5 3600 or Ryzen 5 3600X (preferably upgrading on an AM4 board you already own to save even more cash) and dump every extra penny into the GPU.
With the Ryzen 3 3300X and 3100 performing almost as well in many games as (if not marginally better than, in a few cases) both Ryzen 5 chips in gaming benchmarks, AMD has in essence pigeonholed the Ryzen 5 line into the role of “midrange creator’s” CPU. This is a thing, but not nearly as big a thing as “gamers looking to build a good gaming desktop on a tight budget.” The Ryzen 3 3300X takes that crown decisively from the Ryzen 5s.
It will be interesting to see what sort of performance upcoming chips like the Core i3-10100 will offer up in a few weeks on the Intel side to compete with AMD at this price point. But at least for now, AMD is, once again, king of its budget-priced castle.
AMD Ryzen 3 3300X Specs
|Base Clock Frequency||3.8 GHz|
|Maximum Boost Clock||4.3 GHz|
|Socket Compatibility||AMD AM4|
|L3 Cache Amount||16 MB|
|Thermal Design Power (TDP) Rating||65 watts|
|Bundled Cooler||AMD Wraith Stealth|