AMD Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: The Kotaku Australia Review

Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

When the first generation of Ryzen launched, there was two reactions. The first was a breath of fresh air, appreciation for the return of proper competition in the CPU market. And the second was: can AMD stay in it for the long haul, or will Intel pull out their usual tricks and see off the competition within a few years?

With the 3700X and 3900X, the answer's pretty clear. AMD sure as hell isn't going anywhere.

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: Specs And Australian Price

Before we get into the specifics of the test rigs, here's what we're looking at between the 3700X and the 3900X. The main differences are the core count, with a marginal difference between the maximum frequencies. That's key if you're predominately looking at these chips for gaming, but we'll get into that in a second.

Ryzen 3700X Ryzen 3900X
Cores/Threads 8/16 12/24
Base/Boost Clock 3.6GHz/4.4Ghz 3.8GHz/4.6GHz
L1/L2/L3 Cache 512kb / 4MB / 64MB 768kb / 6MB / 64MB
PCI-e Version PCIe 4.0 x 16
PCIe 4.0x 16
Default TDP
65W 105W
Process Node 7nm FINFET
7nm FINFET
Price $485 $785

Prices are current retail figures at the time of writing.

The massive advantage to note here is that the 3700X and 3900X both run on the same AM4 platform, so you theoretically could save a bit of money on the motherboard and reinvest that into the CPU. For gaming, you'll ordinarily want to invest as much as possible into the GPU, a situation that's going to get real interesting later this year.

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X Test Bench

Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

Here's the rig used to test the Ryzen CPUs.

  • CPUs: Ryzen 3700X & Ryzen 3900X (stock speeds, AMD stock cooler)
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4 3200MHz CORSAIR Vengeance LPX (15-15-15-36)
  • GPU: RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition (stock speeds)
  • Motherboard: ASUS ROG CROSSHAIR VIII HERO (WI-FI)
  • Monitors: LG G-Sync IPS 27-inch 144Hz / Acer X27 4K HDR 144Hz monitors
  • PSU: Corsair CX750M 750W 80 Plus Bronze
  • GPU Drivers: Nvidia 441.87 (January 6, 2020)

Also thanks to Sydney tech retailer Mwave for providing a customised Corsair case which we used for this testing. (I'll update this story with a shot of the case shortly!)

As with our previous tests for the new RTX cards and the recently released AMD GPUs, the stock comparison system is an Intel-based 7900X 10-core, 20 thread rig.

  • CPU: Intel i7-7900X (stock speeds)
  • Cooler: Corsair Hydro H100i
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4 3200MHz CORSAIR Vengeance LPX (15-15-15-36)
  • GPU: RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition (stock speeds)
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte AORUS Gaming 7
  • Monitors: LG G-Sync IPS 27-inch 144Hz / Acer X27 4K HDR 144Hz monitors
  • PSU: EVGA Supernova G2 850W
  • GPU Drivers: Nvidia 441.87 (January 6, 2020)

The 7900X rig had traditionally used G-Skill 3200MHz RAM, but for the purposes of this it made sense to use the same RAM across both systems. The XMP profile was enabled across both boards; RAM timings were not manually adjusted. As for the coolers, air cooling isn't an option with the 7900X because of how hot it runs on a regular basis. The 3700X and 3900X both come with an AMD air cooler out of the box, although there's certainly potential for less throttling and higher clocks - particularly when overclocking - with more money invested into cooling.

Part of the appeal of the 3700X and the 3900X is the value they offer, especially without the extra cost that goes into a cooler and the cheaper motherboards. Many entry level users, gamers who dabble in content creation on the side and younger gamers are more likely to use a system as-is rather than getting deep into overclocking, and there's also the problem of the silicon lottery (our review CPUs could be an extraordinarily good overclocker, terrible, or somewhere in the middle). So for those reasons, all these tests are run at stock speeds with as many out-of-the-box options as possible (including XMP profiles for the RAM).

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: Productivity and Synthetic Benchmarks

The appeal of a 3700X and particularly the 3900X is directed towards people who don't just game. Traditionally that meant people who dabble in some graphic design, programming or video editing on the side, but these days a lot of gamers automatically fall into that bracket thanks to YouTube, Twitch, or even just casually making GIFs of their own gameplay on the side.

Programs like those will always benefit from more cores, although as the new generation of consoles arrives, games will be developed around CPUs with 8 cores at a minimum. It means you're better off buying chips like the Ryzen 3700X or the Intel i9-9900K, 8 core/16 thread CPUs, ones with better future proofing than the cheaper 4 or 6 core chips on the market today.

Our main focus here is primarily games, but to show off the benefit of those extra cores - or the disadvantage in having less, since the 7900X is a 10 core/20 thread CPU - there's also a couple of productivity benchmarks. There's a round-up of Cinebench R20 multi-core scores, a 3D modelling test that pushes your CPU as far as it can go. I've also put together a short test with Premiere Pro, exporting a 5 minute H.265 video at 1080p / 60fps (since 4K video, while nice, is also a right pain in the arse for a lot of Australian internet connections).

The results here aren't hugely surprising. The Intel i7-7900X doesn't hit the same high frequencies as the Ryzen chips - it's one of those Skylake-X chips that needs water cooling at a minimum because of how thermally limited it is out of the box - but the extra threads and cores make a difference in rendering. Premiere Pro tends to favour Intel chips - although not the 7900X since it can't leverage the integrated graphics.

It's also worth noting the cost, too. The 7900X is hard to get today, but the more modern Cascade Lake-X versions aren't cheap. The 10-core 9820X will set you back around $899. There's the 10th gen i9-10900X for a flat grand, and that's not factoring in how expensive even the entry-level X299 motherboards are.

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: Gaming Benchmarks

Some basic things to note: G-SYNC was disabled for all tests, and the GPU was set to optimal power in both the Nvidia Control Panel and the Radeon Settings. (Tests were run with "Maximum Performance" enabled instead, but there was no difference in the results, so it made sense to use the default option that most users will have at home.) No image sharpening or low latency options were enabled, and all tests were run with Nvidia's most recent Game Ready drivers.

A slight update to some of the games for testing. I phased out Total War: Warhammer 2 because it was getting a bit long in the tooth, and Total War: Three Kingdoms was shaping up to be a more modern, more efficient title for testing. That's proved to be the case, and so Total War is back in regular rotation along with the AMD-favourable Forza Horizon 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: 3D Mark Fire Strike Benchmarks

The differences between the 3700X and 3900X are basically negligible and within the Fire Strike margin for error (which can be as much as 3 percent).

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: Shadow of the Tomb Raider Benchmarks

Really not much difference between any of the chips here. That's important to note if gaming is the main, or sole thing you'll be doing: you can spend a few hundred extra, but you're better off putting it into a GPU, better cooling (either for overclocking or just better thermals generally), or saving the money outright until new GPUs launch either this year. (A good storage system is a good quality of life alternative, although the benefits of that don't come out too much in tests like these.)

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: Total War Three Kingdoms Benchmarks

We might have moved on from Total Warhammer, but Total War is still a beast for any rig. We're gonna need a new generation of gear before anything runs this smoothly at 4K/60 on the highest settings.

Ryzen 3700X & 3900X: Forza Horizon 4 Benchmarks

One of my favourite games for how well optimised it is. Forza 4 is one of those games that's great to load up after you get a new rig: it looks a treat and runs like pure butter on a mammoth range of systems.

Dynamic resolution, as always, was disabled for all tests.

The difference between all of these parts here - and the way I read this chart - is that you won't really get any extra benefit without a better GPU. Forza Horizon makes out the GPU at 1440p and 4K (usage is around the 65-75 percent mark at 1080p). It'll be fun to revisit this later this year when Nvidia and AMD have new cards, especially since the game is already supremely well optimised for AMD.


Image: Twitter (@amd)

If you're building a mid or high-end range rig today, it's really, really hard not to justify buying AMD. There's still some use case for building an Intel rig, but that use case scenario is becoming exceedingly slim: you'd have to be gaming almost exclusively with a 2080 Ti on a super high refresh rate monitor, and you'd have to accept the increased price and lower performance in workloads that use more cores.

Plus, there's the next few years to consider. Games are going to be built around more cores by default, thanks to the upcoming console refresh, although how much benefit you see from that is really going to be down to the developer. Different developers are better at optimisations than others, as fans are well aware. (I'm intensely curious to see what happens when Sony games start hitting PC, like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Death Stranding later this year, though.)

But the recommendation still stands. If I was re-building my video editing and gaming rig today - something I put together several years ago as a freelancer with a view to gaming, recording and streaming all at once - then I'd build it around the 3900X. If you're after something more budget conscious, and you're upgrading from a rig a few generations old - maybe Intel's excellent i7-4700K or 4790K era - then the 3700X is an absolute no-brainer. Upgrading is a harder sell if you've already got a rig built around Intel's quad core i7-7700K or the hexacore i5-8600K or i7-8700K chips.

That's all testing the edges, however, and finding cases where the 3700X or 3900X isn't an excellent buy. And the reality is: if you bought either of these chips today, you wouldn't be disappointed. AMD made a massive comeback when it introduced the first generation Ryzen chips. Two generations on, they've solidified their presence. Intel's parts are still supreme from a pure gaming perspective, but in the Australian market with the cost of chips and motherboards today, AMD should surely be your first choice.


Thanks again to Mwave for providing a case which we used for part of this review.


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