The middle child in AMD’s new-for-2020 trio of Ryzen XT processors, the Ryzen 7 3800XT ($399) is a desktop CPU plagued by the same problem as its 2019 Ryzen 7 3800X predecessor. And that problem has a name: Ryzen 7 3700X. Even with AMD’s refinements to its 7-nanometer (7nm) manufacturing process in the XT line of chips, the 3800XT can’t quite find its way to a level of greatness that matches its price point. The chip adds up to a rare value misfire for AMD, in a year in which the company has seldom made a misstep.
Midrange content creators will see better returns on an investment in the Ryzen XT family with the Ryzen 5 3600XT, and the Editors’ Choice-winning Ryzen 7 3700X often scored so close to the Ryzen 7 3800XT in both content creation and gaming that, at times, it was hard to tell them apart. With AMD’s next-generation Zen 3 around the corner (coming by the end of 2020, the company insists at the moment), the Ryzen 7 3800XT is a not a bad chip by itself, but it’s outclassed by other Ryzen family members.
AMD’s Ryzen 7 3800XT vs. Intel’s Core i7: It’s Tricky in the Middle
If you’re looking for more context and a deeper exploration of the Ryzen XT line and how it differs from the previous generation, head on over to our Ryzen 9 3900XT review to get the full skinny.
In short, though? The Ryzen XT CPUs are slight “tune-ups” of three of AMD’s key 7-nanometer (7nm) Zen 2 CPUs from its hugely successful mid-2019 launch. The Ryzen 9 3900XT is a $499 chip that heads this field of three; then there’s the 3800XT reviewed here; and the last is the $249 Ryzen 5 3600XT. All are close siblings of the chips that they are refinements of: the Ryzen 9 3900X, the Ryzen 7 3800X, and the Ryzen 5 3600X. The new three don’t replace the older three; all six will stay on the market together.
That new crowding, thanks to the XTs, makes the CPU midrange from $250 to $400 a pretty busy place here in 2020. Even before the XT chips, midrange gamers and serious content creators weren’t wanting for choice; plus, with low-end options like the $120 Ryzen 3300X entering the market, budget gamers have better-than-ever options. Here are the key specs for the three XT chips…
None of the XT chips comes with integrated graphics (IGP) silicon, just like their forebears. Also, all of the XT chips work on AMD’s now-venerable Socket AM4 and thus shouldn’t require a new motherboard if you’re already in the Ryzen ecosystem, though you’ll want to check for individual board compatibility before making any assumptions.
Let’s take the specs a step further. Here’s a breakout of the Ryzen 7 3800XT alongside its 3800X predecessor, as well as Intel’s closest Core i7 equivalents from its current and previous generation…
As you can see, the Ryzen 7 3800XT is an eight-core/16-thread processor with a base clock speed of 3.9GHz, a max boost of 4.7GHz (up from 4.5GHz in the non-XT version), 4MB of L2 cache, and 32MB of L3 cache. The lack of IGP is less of a concern, perhaps, than on the Ryzen 5 3600XT, and anyone gaming on this chip should already be compensating for the missing IGP with something like an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, at a minimum. But it bears noting that the Intel Core i7s above have lightweight Intel UHD Graphics 630 IGPs built in. Gamers will want nothing to do with them, but they are there for productivity-minded use.
On price, the Ryzen 7 3800XT costing $70 more on MSRP than the Ryzen 7 3800X isn’t as much the story here as is the massive gap (as much as $110 at this writing) between the Ryzen 7 3800XT and the Ryzen 7 3700X, widely available at $289 to $300 at this writing, and in spots even lower. The Ryzen 7 3700X is an eight-core, 16-thread AMD third-gen processor that is close to identical to the original Ryzen 7 3800X, barring a lower TDP (65 watts, down from 105 watts) and a lower maximum boost clock (4.4GHz, down from 4.5GHz).
In reviews of both chips across the web (we haven’t had the opportunity to test the 3800X, though we did test the 3700X), most analysts agree that the minimal gains of the Ryzen 7 3800X over the 3700X, and even then gains only in a few particular games, isn’t enough to bridge the cost gap. Both also show up as close to neck-and-neck in heavily threaded content-creation tasks, and if not neck-and-neck, then at least neck-and-very-long-arm.
One big factor to consider that affects the value equation further: Like the AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT, the Ryzen 7 3800XT is a departure from AMD’s usual practice on bundled CPU coolers. It’s one of the few of late to not include a stock AMD Wraith cooler in the box since AMD started on its third-gen Ryzen journey. (Note: Unlike the other two XTs, the Ryzen 5 3600XT does include one.) The company recommends both processors be hooked up to something substantial to keep temperatures in line (more on that in a bit), and we’d agree with that assessment.
The 3800XT straddles the line right between where we’d be comfortable recommending a powerful air cooler (a high-end Noctua or Cooler Master model), and suggesting you take the plunge on a full liquid-cooled setup instead (preferably with a 240mm radiator or bigger).
Testing the Ryzen 7 3800XT: Into the Gray Zone
Speaking of 240mm radiators, we kept the AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT cool under pressure using an NZXT Kraken 240mm closed-loop liquid cooling system, installed onto an MSI MEG X570 Godlike AM4 motherboard with two of the DIMM slots populated with 16GB of G.Skill DDR4-3600 memory. A 1TB Addlink S70 NVMe M.2 SSD served as the boot drive, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition card handled video output during the CPU tests. For all tests, we ran the memory at its maximum 3,600MHz speed, using the Godlike board’s top supported XMP profile.
Everything worked right out of the box with the Ryzen 7 3800XT, with no need for critical BIOS updates or any midnight-hour benchmark crashes during our testing. But did it hold up to the current kings of the plot? Let’s see.
Cinebench R15 and R20
Among the most widely used predictors of a CPU’s relative performance are the Cinebench R15 and R20 benchmark tests, which offer a good muscle measure for demanding multi-threaded content-creation apps. These are thoroughly CPU-centric tests that gauge 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.
In Cinebench R15, the Ryzen 7 3800XT taking a lead over nearby Intel competition isn’t surprising (we haven’t had an opportunity to test the Core i7-10700K, alas), but it’s the closeness of its results to those of the Ryzen 7 3700X that tempers that victory a bit.
Cinebench R15 and R20 are good indicators of how a render of less than about two minutes (at this tier of chip) will perform, but when that render extends into the five-minute-plus range, the thermal limits of the chip may start to show, as we’ll see as we get into tasks like Handbrake.
For another kind of real-world look at single-core performance, we use an ancient 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 optimized for multicore operation.
The single-core results here are a win for the Ryzen 7 3800XT versus the Ryzen 7 3700X, but just barely, and not by enough to justify the much higher price tag.
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 (offscreen) 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.) We run the test’s all-cores and single-core variants.
While the POV-Ray multicore result isn’t a big improvement (just a second better than the 3700X’s result), the 36-second cut in the single-core time is a worthy effort. A good showing versus the Core i9-9900K, too.
Handbrake and Blender
As an all-core rendering benchmark, the Handbrake test is a great indicator of how well a processor will handle tasks like video editing, video rendering, and video conversion, as these kinds of apps tend to make good use of all the cores and threads they can deploy with a given CPU…
More of the same of what we saw in the Ryzen 5 3600XT test (there, versus the 3600X): Despite the improvements to the silicon in the 3800XT, something about this particular sustained all-core task has lead to an regression, here versus the Ryzen 7 3700X.
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.
The gains in Blender, while visible, are modest (a second shaved off versus the 3700X).
And here on the 7-Zip file-compression benchmark, another thread-happy, CPU-intensive task…
…finally, a rebound for the Ryzen 7 3800XT that, just barely, starts to put some distance between itself and the Ryzen 7 3700XT. Not enough to warrant a recommendation over that chip, but at least something to point at on the board.
Gaming Benchmarks: Ryzen 7 3800XT Frame Rates
In these tests, the Ryzen 7 3800XT suffers the same plight as the other processors in the new XT stack: They’re all competing against the AMD Ryzen 3 3300X on value, if gaming is the only consideration. Not only that, but at the very least the Ryzen 7 3800X needed to perform better than the Ryzen 7 3700X to make any part of its value proposition worth it. Here’s what we saw…
The Ryzen 7 3800XT gets points for the scores it achieved above in our test palette of games. Still, while the 3800XT wins here and there, it’s not enough to ignore the razor-thin distance between itself and the Ryzen 7 3700X on the non-gaming tests.
That said, the Ryzen 7 3800XT deserves something of a break in this department because its eight-core, 16-thread die makes it a content-creator CPU first and foremost, and anything else it needs to do behind that is secondary—including gaming.
Overclocking and Thermals
While this review was getting a bit humdrum in both the stock results and the overall lack of excitement in the Ryzen 7 3800XT versus the 3800X and 3700X, things heated up (both figuratively and literally) once overclocking time came around. (Our rig recorded peak temperatures of 84 degrees C during stock workloads, and 91 degrees C with overclocking on.)
Overall, the third-generation 7nm Ryzens have not been terribly strong overclockers to date; AMD seems to be squeezing most of the juice out of their silicon from the get-go. But we achieved a stable overclock of 4.3GHz on all cores, and in the CInebench R20 run that brought our score up from 4,894 up to 5,185, an increase of 6.8 percent. This is a substantial gain in the world of late-model Ryzens, especially for an all-cores content-creation task.
Alas, like the rest of the Ryzen stack, overclocking looked to do more harm than good when testing out some games. Even if you can manage a stable overclock that most games will accept, you might at times expect diminished results versus what you’d see on stock. AMD Ryzen processors at this part of the stack just don’t respond as well as their four- or-six-core cousins do to a gaming-centric overclock profile. If that’s what you’re trying to achieve, the Ryzen 3 3300X or Ryzen 5 3600XT might be the better choice.
In the End, Who Is the Ryzen 7 3800XT For?
If you want a spectacular-value gaming chip, nothing more, that can get big enough in the rear-view mirror of the Ryzen 7 3800XT to make you forget about its eight cores and 16 threads, go with the four-core Ryzen 3 3300X. If you’re starting to polish your content-creation skills and need a processor that can keep up with you on that journey, though? The Ryzen 7 3800XT is technically, on the level of benchmarks, a great partner in that pursuit.
But if you’re trying to save the most money while pursuing that, the Ryzen 7 3700X, with its included Wraith Prism cooler, is a far better value, considering the slim performance gains that the Ryzen 7 3800XT offers over that solid eight-core CPU.
This isn’t a new dynamic, though. For about a year, the sentiment among both buyers and reviewers has skewed strongly toward the Ryzen 7 3700X versus the original, non-XT Ryzen 7 3800X. And that narrative hasn’t shifted much with this 2020 challenger. The Ryzen 7 3700X is just too good, and too cheap, to justify the Ryzen 7 3800XT without a healthy cut to the latter’s MSRP, or at least a much lower street price, in practice.
Will that kind of price adjustment happen right out of the gate? We’ll have to see what the market says. We know what we’d say, to most folks: Just get the Ryzen 7 3700X.
AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT Specs
|Base Clock Frequency||3.9 GHz|
|Maximum Boost Clock||4.7 GHz|
|Socket Compatibility||AMD AM4|
|L3 Cache Amount||32 MB|
|Thermal Design Power (TDP) Rating||105 watts|