AMD Ryzen 7 3800X Review: Core i7 Has a New Challenger

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We came away impressed with the Ryzen 7 3800X, but motherboard firmwares are still raw, leaving us wondering if there is more performance lurking underneath the heat spreader. Particularly with the Precision Boost Overdrive and Auto Overclock features. If history is any indication, we could see that situation improve as AMD and motherboard vendors work out the kinks. For now, these results reflect our experiences with a chip purchased at retail and with publicly-available firmwares, but your mileage might vary. 

In the chart below, we plot gaming performance with both average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times (a good indicator of smoothness). It's worth noting that AMD's previous-gen line-up is heavily discounted, so we’re departing from our standard practice of using official price lists. Instead, we’re using average pricing found online (temporary sales excluded). Volatility applies.

For gaming specifically, we did see slightly larger gains with the Ryzen 7 3700X via its PBO feature than we did with the Ryzen 7 3800X, allowing that processor to nearly match the more-expensive Ryzen 7 3800X in average framerates in all configurations. That isn't entirely unheard of – After overclocking, we saw the same trend of less expensive previous-gen models (non-X) offering similar performance to AMD's pricier X-series processors.

As we've seen, gaming remains an advantage for Intel, so if squeezing out every last frame is all you care about, Intel's processors are a good choice. Much of that performance advantage will be less noticeable when gaming at higher resolutions, or if you pair the processors with a lesser graphics card.

But, like most humans, if you do things other than gaming, the Ryzen 7 3800X offers a better mixture of performance in single- and multi-threaded applications. The 3800X offers twice the threads of the price-comparable Core i7-9700K, and it wields them to great effect in threaded workloads. As such, rendering and encoding remain a strong suit of the Ryzen chips, and AMD's improvements to AVX throughput have yielded impressive results.

AMD's platform also supports the PCIe 4.0 interface that provides twice the throughput of the previous-gen standard. The extra throughput doesn't equate to improved performance in gaming, but it does speed up everyday tasks like file transfers and will unlock more performance in storage-bound applications. That's an advantage that Intel can't match.

Unfortunately, the faster interface does result in higher-priced X570 motherboards, but AMD's continued support for the X470 motherboard ecosystem could help blunt the blow. Motherboard partners continue to offer X470 motherboards, and they are cheap and plentiful. You'll lose access to the PCIe 4.0 interface in exchange for lower pricing, but you'll also have a compelling upgrade path in the future.

AMD's Ryzen 7 3800X comes with a bundled cooler while competing Intel processors come with a cardboard box. That's an added value that you should take into consideration, but you might need a beefier cooling solution if you plan on pushing the limits with overclocking.

For now, we don't see massive gains in performance for the 3800X from the automated overclocking features, and AMD says we shouldn't expect too much manual overclocking headroom. Instead, you should look to tuning the Infinity Fabric and memory, which both raise in lockstep to a sweet spot of DDR4-3600. AMD also cites using PBO to boost performance, but in our test environment, that doesn't have a dramatic impact on performance. Given that we overclocked our memory in tandem with activating PBO, it's possible some of those slim gains actually stem from increased memory performance.

That means running the processor cores at stock settings paired with overclocked memory could offer roughly equivalent performance gains in some workloads. We're impatiently awaiting new firmware revisions to gauge how they react, but we have tested a multitude of PBO configurations with the Ryzen 7 3800X, of which there are many potential options, with varying levels of success. None seem to confer large speedups for gaming, though we did see some better uplift in traditional applications.

In either case, AMD is wringing a surprising amount of performance from its comparably lower clock speeds, largely due to the big generational uplift in IPC. In our tests, the Ryzen 3000 series is also more power efficient in terms of the amount of energy required to complete a task, which also equates to lowered thermal output.

Value seekers who aren't afraid to press the Precision Boost Overdrive button and have sufficient cooling should look to the Ryzen 7 3700X for roughly equivalent performance to the 3800X, particularly if gaming factors heavily into the buying decision. That could save you $70, reinforcing our decision to give the Ryzen 7 3700X an Editor's Choice award.

Out of the box, the Ryzen 7 3800X is a better all-arounder than the Core i7-9700K and offers incrementally higher performance than its downstream counterpart. The bundled cooler reduces platform costs, and a wide array of motherboards with both X470 and X570 chipsets offers plenty of choices for builders.

Photo Credits: Tom's Hardware


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Paul Alcorn
Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech

Paul Alcorn is the Managing Editor: News and Emerging Tech for Tom's Hardware US. He also writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage, and enterprise hardware.

  • Math Geek
    pretty much what i expected from all the Ryzen 3000 series so far. i am not disappointed at all in what i am seeing.

    it does look like the 3700x is the better buy. use that $70 savings for better cooling and you got a winner on your hands it looks like. i personally don't care about a few fps at 1080p when both AMD and Intel hit some nice numbers. 140 fps vs 150 fps is pretty much the same thing to me.

    but those extra cores/threads from AMD will go a long way with VM's, production software and the other non-game stuff i do regularly. AMD FTW :geek:
  • TJ Hooker
    In light of the 3700X, the 3800X doesn't seem to have much reason to exist to be honest. Not unless boost/OC behavior somehow changes significantly in the future.
  • nitrium
    Given you can get just about the same performance by OCing a 3700X (and the 3800X doesn't OC really at all), I don't really see why AMD even released this chip - especially considering how much more they are asking for it. The value just isn't there.
  • mattkiss
    What command rate are you running your memory kits at? Also, is the memory write speed nerfed like it is on the 3700X?
  • JamesSneed
    Im curious why the 3700x with PBO is pulling considerably more wattage versus the 3800x with PBO. Is binning really making that large of a difference?
  • JamesSneed
    nitrium said:
    Given you can get just about the same performance by OCing a 3700X (and the 3800X doesn't OC really at all), I don't really see why AMD even released this chip - especially considering how much more they are asking for it. The value just isn't there.

    If you are going to OC then I mostly agree however the binning looks like it impacts power draw a lot. However you are not guaranteed 3800x performance out of a 3700x. If you do not intend to OC then there are many valid reasons for the 3800x. The 3800x makes a good case for non overclockers especially because it pulls less power than the stock 3700x. However for me I would much rather they had one more tier like a 3850x that was say 4-4.1Ghz base and 4.8 to 4.9 Ghz boost. A higher binned version I would step up for over the 3700x.
  • xcomp666
    I was waiting for a decent review.

    My conclusion:

    I am not planning to OC ( I am using an Asrock Fatal1ty B450 Gaming-ITX ) with 105W TDP, I don't think my motherboard's VRM can handle properly ;:coldsweat:
    Performance It is just about ~2% over 3700x that has TDP of 65W ;:mad:
    PBO is not hitting 4.4 GHz easily ( depends on silicon lottery);:ouimaitre:
    70 USD (92 CAD ) over 3700X;
    Single Core performance is not that great;So, I am going to buy a Rysen 7 3700X
  • Makaveli
    Does the 3800x have the same memory write limitation as the 3700x

    32b vs 16b ??
  • TJ Hooker
    Makaveli said:
    Does the 3800x have the same memory write limitation as the 3700x

    32b vs 16b ??
    From what I can find that applies to all Ryzen 3K chips with a single compute die, in which case yes it'd be the same for the 3800X.
  • jclaine
    I just did a 3700x Asrock x470 itx build. I imagine that I will need to use the wifi on it at some point in it's life, that's why I went with the x470 (Intel (1733) ) version over the b450 (Intel 3168 (433) ). I really didn't want a chipset fan because in 8 years I don't want to have to think about that failing in an old abused system, so I passed on x570.