AMD is currently one of the more popular CPU manufacturers thanks to its excellent Ryzen series. If you’re building or upgrading your computer, an AMD processor is an excellent choice.
One of AMD’s strengths is its diverse product line, but you might be unsure of which CPU is a good match for your needs. We reviewed and compared different AMD processors to determine the best entry-level, best midrange, and most powerful AMD processor you can get.
- The best entry-level AMD processor: Ryzen 3 3200G
- The best midrange AMD processor: Ryzen 5 3600
- The best high-end AMD processor: Ryzen 7 3700X
- The most powerful AMD processor: Ryzen 9 3950X
The best entry-level CPU: Ryzen 3 3200G
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AMD’s accelerated processing units (APU) have never offered much competition to midrange gaming hardware, but the latest Ryzen APU generation with Vega graphics are much more impressive. Our testing didn’t suggest they were going to overtake traditional processors with dedicated graphics anytime soon, especially if you’re trying to do anything more than entry-level gaming.
That said, if your budget or system chassis doesn’t have room for a discrete graphics card, the Ryzen 3 3200G is a great little chip.
Although the four Zen+ CPU cores are plenty powerful for 1080p, entry-level gaming, its onboard Vega 8 graphics cores are far more capable than Intel’s HD graphics.
At just under $95, there isn’t much in the way of stiff competition. The last-generation 2200G isn’t as capable, but it is currently more expensive, making AMD’s 3200G the more obvious choice. The Athlon 3000G is around $55, but that’s delving into extreme budget territory.
If you don’t need the onboard graphics and you can stretch your budget a bit further, the last-generation Ryzen 5 2600 is an amazing six-core CPU for around $153. It will far outstrip the 3200G in multithreaded workloads thanks to its additional cores and threads. It can overclock up to near 2600X speeds too.
The best midrange CPU: Ryzen 5 3600
As arguably the most competitive price for processors, the midrange is where you’re spoiled for choice. Of all of the chips available, we recommend the ultra-affordable, impressively powerful Ryzen 5 3600.
Building off the success of its predecessor, the Ryzen 5 2600, the 3600 has the same six cores and 12 threads, but at its heart is an entirely overhauled Zen 2 architecture. It can boost up to 4.2GHz on a single core, and with big improvements to instructions per clock and the added efficiency of the 7nm process node, this CPU is far more impressive than its last-gen counterpart.
It goes blow for blow with the Intel 9600K in gaming and demolishes it in productivity tasks, making this a fair comparison for much more costly chips like the 9700K in many scenarios. The 3600X is a possible alternative at $25 more, but ultimately both chips perform pretty comparably. The 3600 also enjoys the same automated overclocking tools, often making it within a hand’s reach of the 3600X anyhow.
If you are more interested in multithreaded performance, a fair alternative is the last-gen 2700, which has two more cores and supports four more threads. The 3600 is far faster in games, however, so keep that in mind when considering your options.
The best high-end CPU: Ryzen 7 3700X
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
If you plan to do more than gaming or just want to future-proof your system with eight powerful cores instead of six, the Ryzen 7 3700X is your best bet. It supports 16 threads thanks to simultaneous multithreading for some amazingly fast productivity workloads, and it tends to clock a little higher than the 3600 in games too.
In our testing we found it capable of going blow for blow with the Intel 9700K, nipping on the heels of the 9900K in some games. It trashes both in multithreaded workloads, so if you want a great all-around CPU without buying the much more expensive 3900X, this is the chip for you.
You could opt for the 3800X if you want a very small increase in boost clock — it’s just a selectively binned 3700X — but the extra $44 isn’t worth it in most cases. The 3700X could be our favorite chip of this generation, as it’s such a solid all-around performer. The 3600 offers better value for gamers, but if you want a super-powered eight-core CPU, this one is your best bet.
If you’re also considering Intel chips, the 9700K and the 9900K are the only real alternatives, both offering slightly better gaming performance, but there’s not a lot in it.
The last-gen Ryzen 2700X is a cheaper alternative with great clock speed and eight cores of its own, but it falls noticeably behind the 3700X in all but the most demanding of multithreaded tests.
The most powerful CPU: Ryzen 9 3950X
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
AMD improved the core counts of mainstream CPUs with its first-generation Ryzen CPUs, and it is doing so again with the third. The 3950X is the first 16-core mainstream CPU ever, leaving Intel to chase its own tail to catch up.
The 3950X offers the highest-rated boost clock of any Ryzen CPU at up to 4.7GHz. There’s nothing outside of AMD’s Threadripper 3000 CPUs (each of which cost upwards of $1,000) that can match it in productivity tasks. It even beats most of Intel’s top HEDT chips — all for just $738.
Like the 3900X before it, the 3950X is a major milestone for AMD because, for the first time in more than 15 years, AMD can offer a top-tier mainstream CPU that can match Intel’s best for gaming. While the 9900K and 9900KS will usually take a slight lead, the difference isn’t much in most titles and tests. But where the 3950X really shines is in multithreaded workloads thanks to its massive core and thread count.
This is the best mainstream CPU AMD has ever released, and though it’s not cheap, it represents the pinnacle of high-speed AMD gaming and productivity that you can have in 2020.
If $738 is too much for you to spend on a CPU, the 3900X is a solid alternative, offering ever-so-slightly lower gaming performance, and noticeably weaker multithreaded performance thanks to its lesser core count (12). Both are fantastic chips, but if you can take advantage of the 3900X’s 12 cores, you can probably take advantage of the 16 cores in the 3950X, so buy what you can afford.
The only competition at this price from Intel is the 9900K, which is just as good for gaming, but falls behind everywhere else.
If you want a super extreme option, AMD’s Threadripper 3990X sets you back a massive $3,750. Its core count is equally as massive at 64, however, with a base clock at 2.9GHz and a maximum boost clock at 4.3GHz. You’ll need a completely new motherboard to host this chip, as it requires the TR4 socket versus the AM4 socket used with typical Ryzen chips.