AMD Attacks Core i3
Fresh from a successful roll-out of mainstream Ryzen 7 and 5 CPUs, AMD's attack on Intel now extends down into the low-end with its Ryzen 3 1300X and 1200 processors, which the company is making available today.
Intel's Core i3s are a staple of the high-volume mainstream market. They make up the most popular brand for budget-oriented builds by far. AMD is looking to shake that up with true quad-core processors that sell for even less than two Hyper-Threaded cores. As if a resource advantage wasn't already compelling enough, Ryzen 3 also enables unlocked multipliers. Intel is ill-prepared to fend off such a combination.
Although there is an unlocked Core i3-7350K at the top of Intel's Core i3 family, it isn't particularly popular. The chip is relatively expensive, and it unfortunately requires a pricey Z270-based motherboard for overclocking support. In comparison, AMD lets you overclock Ryzen 3 on cheaper B350-based platforms.
Right out of the gate, Ryzen 3 should sell for $130, going up against Intel's almost-$150 Core i3-7300, while the $110 Ryzen 3 1200 undercuts the Core i3-7100 at just under $120. In threaded workloads, the quad-core Ryzens should enjoy an advantage against Intel's dual-core models. Of course, AMD doesn't give you integrated graphics like Intel does, but for enthusiasts building cheap gaming PCs, the HD Graphics engine isn't much of a draw anyway.
Ryzen 3 1300X & 1200
The quad-core 1300X is AMD's first Ryzen processor that doesn't feature simultaneous multi-threading, so it only schedules four threads at a time, like Core i5. Still, when it's up against Intel's two Hyper-Threaded cores, the 1300X boasts a notable resource advantage.
AMD arms Ryzen 3 1300X with a 3.4 GHz base frequency that jumps as high as 3.9 GHz under lightly-threaded tasks. The -1300X also offers a 3.6 GHz clock rate with all cores active. Meanwhile, Intel keeps its Core i3-7300 operating at a static 4.0 GHz clock rate.
The quad-core Ryzen 3 1200 has a 3.1 GHz base frequency that scales to 3.45 GHz via XFR. It does battle against the Core i3-7100's static 3.9 GHz.
Ryzen 3's unlocked multipliers play a key role in overcoming Core i3's higher clock rates. You'll need a capable cooler to push these chips hard, though. Both AMD and Intel bundle their lower-end CPUs with heat sink/fan combos. But in a nod to the overclockers out there, AMD includes Wraith Stealth coolers with both Ryzen 3 models.
Although the 65W-rated Stealth doesn't feature a copper base or the LEDs found on AMD's higher-end thermal solutions, it does handle Ryzen 3's heat output deftly enough to facilitate XFR-triggered frequencies. This gives you an extra 200 MHz. We were even able to overclock the 1300X to 3.9 GHz within a reasonable temperature range. The fan also blows down onto the motherboard, which provide additional cooling around the socket. If you need more bling, AMD recently announced that it now offers the LED-equipped Wraith Max separately.
Like all other Ryzen chips, the 3-series CPUs drop into any Socket AM4 motherboard. But most will find a home on boards equipped with the B350 chipset, which has provisions for overclocking and offers plenty of connectivity options. Unlike Intel, AMD plans to utilize its current socket until 2020, so upgrading to future Ryzen models shouldn't require a new motherboard.
If you'd like more detail on the architecture Ryzen 3 is built on, check out Everything Zen: AMD Presents New Microarchitecture At HotChips and our Ryzen 7 1800X launch coverage. In brief, AMD uses two quad-core building blocks in a single Zeppelin die to create all of existing Ryzen-branded products. That means that each processor actually has eight cores, but AMD disables some of them (and, in this case, 8MB of cache) to create a segmented product stack. For Ryzen 3, the company symmetrically disables half of the cores on each CCX, creating a 2x2 array.
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According to AMD, it plans to keep selling its older FX-series CPUs. We suspect they'll receive a deep price cut, though. FX-6300 should serve the sub-$100 market, while AMD's A-series APUs and Athlon surface today with Excavator and Polaris cores for AM4 motherboards.
We've updated our gaming suite along with new motherboard firmware (AGESA 184.108.40.206), graphics and chipset drivers. That necessitated an entire retest of our test pool. Due to time constraints, we'll circle back with more in-depth application testing in the upcoming Ryzen 3 1200 review. For now, let's take a look at Ryzen 3's gaming performance.
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