So here’s something I haven’t been able to write about AMD for the last four or five years. Finally, after the launch of the first-gen Ryzen CPUs, AMD has released a CPU that you can ignore.
The Ryzen 3600XT is one of three refreshed chips that have just hit the Australian market. They’re meant to replace the Ryzen 3600X, 3800X and 3900X, with the XT models offering slightly higher quality silicon that can run at about 100Mhz higher than their original versions. (The 3800XT runs at the same boost clock as the 3900XT, so the real difference there is a few extra cores.)
At the time when the chips launched, readers wondered what the point was. The logical answer was price positioning. By adding three more CPUs to the stack, two without stock coolers (3800XT, 3900XT), AMD is able to technically offer more options at more price points, even if the actual value offered doesn’t really change a whole lot.
So that’s the 3600XT in a nutshell. It’s about $100 more than the existing Ryzen 5 3600, and about $40 less than the Intel i5-10600K. The 10600K gets a little pricer when you add the cost of a fan on top. But the pecking order at that time was: Intel if you were exclusively playing at 1080p or just wanted the highest frame rates for a gaming-only CPU, Ryzen if your budget was tighter or the difference between the CPU, cooler cost and motherboard platform meant you could invest in a better GPU or all-around system.
The 3600XT, then, doesn’t change that order one bit. Let’s get into it.
Ryzen 3600XT: Specs and Price
The Ryzen 3600XT in Australia, at the time of writing, will set you back around $409. It comes equipped with the Wraith Spire cooler. The Wraith Spire isn’t quite as effective as the Wraith Prism that shipped with the more expensive Ryzen CPUs, but there’s nothing wrong with it for $0. (You can see what the Prism looks like above.)
For the rest of it, you’re getting a hexacore CPU that tops out at about 4.5GHz. There’s a lot more L1 cache than the original Ryzen 5 3600 (384KB compared to 3MB), while the 3600 and 3600X only hit boost clocks of 4.2GHz and 4.4GHz respectively, just below the 3600XT’s 4.5GHz.
Ryzen 3600XT Specs
- CPU Cores/Threads: 6/12
- Base/Boost Clock: 3.8GHz/4.5GHz
- L2/L3 Cache: 3MB/32MB
- Process node: TSMC 7nm FinFET
- Platform: AM4
- PCI-e Support: PCI-e 4.0
- TDP: 95W
So on the surface of it, the 3600XT should be objectively better and potentially worth the money. It is, after all, a binned versions of the 3600-series that came before it.
But what does that amount to in practice? As it turns out, not much.
Ryzen 3600XT Benchmarks
For regular PC builders and anyone who’s been paying attention to the latest reviews, I have some bad news. There’s absolutely nothing exciting or new to add here to the narrative that’s currently floating around the internet. If you’re using the 3600XT for productivity workloads, then surprise: A six-core CPU is not going to beat an eight-core CPU, and certainly not the 10 or 12-core Intel/AMD offerings.
Similarly, the minimal change in frequency means that the 3600XT does … basically the same as the 3700X and 3900X in most games. The 10900K is still the chip to beat, unsurprisingly.
So really, not much has changed. Your $410 or so gets you the same gaming performance that you’d get from the 3700X, which costs about $50-100 more depending on where you buy it from. And in isolation, it seems great — you could get the same gaming performance, or nearabouts, to the 3900X!
Of course, the 3900X is about a billion times better in every productivity benchmark. And for people who play games while leaving 47 Chrome tabs open.
The problem is that the 3600XT isn’t meaningfully better than the value offered by the Ryzen 5 3600. The 3600 was slightly behind the 3700X and 3900X in games, but by margins so slim that the majority of gamers would never, ever care. That’s especially true if you’re limited by an entry-level GPU, and even more so if you’re trying to build an affordable 1440p gaming machine (where, again, the GPU is the kicker).
That’s why I recommended the Ryzen 3600 last year for a mid-range gaming PC. It provided a good balance between gaming performance and productivity, and the cost of the AM4 platform was also relatively cheap with a good upgrade path for the future.
And, as it turns out, there’s bugger all difference between the 3600 and the 3600XT. The 3600XT’s higher boost frequency will get you a slight improvement in single-core workloads. That said, even games that really care about speeds don’t get that much benefit when the frequency difference is so small.
The important note is that the 3600XT is a better binned chip than what the Ryzen 3600 or 3600X is, which matters if you’re into competitive overclocking. There’s no reason to consider the 3600XT if you’re running the CPU at stock clocks, with the stock cooler — or even at stock clocks with a better third-party air or liquid cooler.
And then there’s the future-proofing problem. Cores haven’t mattered that much for games in the past, primarily because so much development is built around a world where four cores is the standard. That’s about to change to eight cores when the next-gen consoles launch, and worth keeping in mind if you don’t think you’ll be upgrading your PC for the next few years.
One reason you might consider the 3600XT over all of this, however, is for overclocking. Because it’s higher quality binned silicon, there’s more headroom and potential for pushing the chip to its limits. But in that scenario, I don’t know why you wouldn’t grab the i5-10600K instead. It’s already been proven to come close, if not match, the i9-10900K’s performance, and the higher frequency will come in handy for productivity workloads that really favour speed (or Intel CPUs).
So with that in mind, here’s what I’d recommend:
If you’re on a super tight budget and won’t be overclocking: Buy the Ryzen 3300X, although I’d strongly recommend the Ryzen 5 3600 if you can stretch your budget by another $100. It’ll work with the current B450/B550 motherboards, and if you go the latter route, you’ll have some good upgradability when the Ryzen 4000 desktop CPUs arrive (whenever that is). The 3300X and 3600 aren’t that far apart in games anyway, especially since almost everything you play is going to be limited by your GPU.
If gaming is absolutely the only thing you’ll be doing with your PC and your budget is a bit better: The Intel i5-10600K is running on an older platform than the Ryzen 3000 series — no PCI-e 4 support — but that doesn’t matter for games. If you invest in some good cooling and put in a bit of time, the 10600K can get almost the same gaming performance as the i9-10900K. (And in some games, there’s honestly there’s not that much difference between in 10600K and 10900K at stock temperatures, especially if you’re using a lower end GPU.)
There is an argument to be made that you’ll get a better all-around system by grabbing a Ryzen 3600 system with better all-around parts — more storage, slightly better memory and so on — but generally, the 10600K will get you more frames.
If money is no object: Buy the parts you need right now (like 3900X, motherboard, RAM etc) until the new GPUs from AMD and Nvidia arrive. They’ll make the biggest difference in games, especially if you’re playing games at higher resolutions or higher quality settings — as opposed to titles like Fortnite, CS:GO, Valorant etc. where it’s common to play everything on the lowest settings possible for better fps. AMD insists they’ll launching their 4000 desktop CPUs by the end of the year, but again, it’s going to be the GPUs that make the biggest difference.
(Plus, with the second and third waves cycling around the world, anything launching in late 2020 might still get a last-minute delay.)
You have two general paths to consider: Go all-out with the absurdly expensive Intel i9-10900K, or enjoy the 12-core all-around benefits of the 3900X. There’s a case to be made for investing in either platform, but for my workloads the 3900X makes a lot more sense. Weigh up the pros and cons of what you use on a daily basis, and make a decision based on that.
So if you bought an Intel or AMD system over the last few months, relax. Your purchase was just as good then as it is now. The 3600XT — and I’d be willing to bet the 3800XT and 3900XT — really doesn’t change the market a whole lot. It does broaden AMD’s product stack, which has certain value from a marketing and supply perspective but it doesn’t change the equation for consumers a whole lot.
We’re not liable to see any meaningful change in desktop CPUs until the next Ryzen or Intel generation launches. Intel’s won’t arrive until 2021, although AMD CEO Dr Lisa Su keeps insisting that AMD will hit their 2020 target. Either way, it’ll be the new GPUs that make the most difference for gamers. So if you’re building a system now, save some money by using whatever existing GPU you have — or, alternatively, just wait until the AMD/Nvidia war starts up in a few months and then just buy everything then.