Ryzen 9 3900X: the Digital Foundry verdict

A multimedia powerhouse, but the 3700X is still the gaming sweet spot for AMD.

There's no question - third-gen Ryzen is every bit as revolutionary as its initial release, a satisfying tock to the second-gen tick that shows the strength of 7nm chips and the wisdom of AMD's chiplet design. The 3700X and 3900X are competitively priced for the level of performance they deliver, with more cores and threads than Intel's equivalent consumer offerings and much-improved AVX performance. That makes these chips the obvious choice for anyone involved in rendering, programming or other parallelisable content creation and productivity tasks.

AMD has also done well to maintain compatibility, with the new chips working well even in mid-range and last-gen AM4 motherboards. Unsurprisingly, this consumer-friendly behaviour has produced a groundswell of support for Team Red amongst PC enthusiasts. There's also the option for next-generation X570 motherboards, which cost more but support faster RAM and unlock the ability to use PCI Express 4.0 add-in cards such as incredibly fast NVMe SSDs. Speaking of RAM, we recommend at least 3000MHz sticks for use with Ryzen, with 3600MHz RAM offering a noticeable boost in some games and workloads. Thankfully, memory overclocking is possible even on mid-range AMD boards, something that isn't true on Intel's platform.

The 3900X goes up against the 9900K in a recent Digital Foundry Direct.

Performance has gone up across the board for gaming too, with third-gen Ryzen boosting frame-rates and minimising stutter... but AMD hasn't yet done enough to dislodge Intel from the gaming throne. While the Ryzen 3700X and 3900X come very close to the Core i7 9700K and i9 9900K across our testing suite, Intel's processors hold onto a significant lead in many games. This is most obvious at 1080p and high frame-rates, but it remains true as resolutions increase and frame-rates recede. With Intel's 10nm chips coming to laptops this year and no doubt on the way for desktops too, AMD must do more here to shore up frame-rates while it holds the manufacturing advantage.

Let's conclude with a mention of prices. At the time of writing, the Ryzen 9 3900X costs $499/499, a little more than the Core i9 9900K at $485/490. Prices are dropping on both last-gen Ryzen and current-gen Intel offerings too, with a more volatile market in the US than the UK. Paying more for the high-end AMD chip means that you have less cash to spend on the high-frequency RAM that Ryzen likes, but you may make some of the difference back by going with a mid-range B450 motherboard rather than a latest-and-greatest X570 alternative. You also get a totally usable CPU cooler (with RGB lighting, natch) in the box with AMD, which is a nice bonus. Overall then, the 3900X remains the better value option if you're doing any kind of content creation work, but Intel's kit retains our recommendation if your computer is exclusively for high-end gaming. Of course, it's also well worth considering both the $329/319 AMD Ryzen 7 3700X and the 379/$409 Intel Core i7 9700K. These chips offer better value for money across the board, especially if you go with the 3700X thanks to its cheaper ecosystem, while still offering more than adequate in-game performance at 1440p and 4K resolutions.

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X analysis

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About the author

Will Judd

Will Judd

Senior Staff Writer, Digital Foundry

A bizarre British-American hybrid, Will turns caffeine into technology articles through a little-known process called 'writing'. His favourite games are Counter-Strike, StarCraft and Fallout 2.

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