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Ryzen 3 3100/3300X: Budget shootout and memory bandwidth analysis

AMD and Intel tested.

In our final section, we examine some of the most promising budget CPUs for gaming. The stars of the show, the Ryzen 3 3100 and 3300X, are of course represented, as well as two last-gen Zen+ processors, the six-core Ryzen 5 2600 and the four-core Ryzen 5 3400G APU. To make things extra spicy, our final contender is the four-core, eight-thread Core i7 7700K, Intel's flagship of three years ago. It's been included in AMD's marketing for a reason - the 10th Gen Core i3 parts are based on the same core architecture and have the same quad-core/octo-thread set-up. In short, the 7700K offers us a glimpse of Intel's planned products for the same market space as these new Ryzen 3s.

To test these processors, we're looking at a smaller pool of games at 1080p only. Crysis 3 and Far Cry 5 return, joined by the real-time strategy title Ashes of the Singularity Escalation. For each CPU, we've tested with RAM at a variety of speeds - 3600MHz, our standard for CPU testing, plus 3000MHz, which represents the current price/performance sweet spot. For the Intel Core i7 7700K, we've also tested at 2666MHz, which is the highest frequency you'll be able to set without a premium 'Z' motherboard - a likely scenario if you're considering a relatively cheap processor.

In Ashes, you can clearly see the impact of differing RAM speeds. With more expensive 3600MHz RAM, the Ryzen 3 3300X ties up the Core i7 7770K, which is an excellent achievement. The 7700K regains the lead when both processors are paired with 3000MHz RAM, but this only holds if you're running that Core i7 on a Z170 or Z270 motherboard - otherwise, you'll be limited to 2666MHz even if your RAM is rated for a faster standard. In that particular situation, you're looking at another AMD win, even if it does come with an asterisk. The 3100 shows a similar trend to the 3300X, with an eight per cent increase in frame-rate when moving from 3000MHz to 3600MHz RAM in this test.

Ashes of the Singularity: CPU Test

Far Cry 5 is a lot more reliant on single-core grunt, and the results arrange themselves accordingly. The venerable 7700K remains our top fighter, even when hobbled with 2666MHz RAM against 3000MHz opposition, but the 3300X and 3100 are still competitive. Specifically, the 3100 more or less ties the Ryzen 5 2600, while the 3300X performs about sixteen per cent better. That's likely down to that significant increase in single-threaded performance in the Zen 2 architecture.

Far Cry 5: Ultra, TAA

Our last showcase is the legendary Crysis 3. Here, the 3300X narrowly beats the Core i7 7700K, with both processors showing no significant loss of performance at reduced RAM speeds. The 3100 versus the Ryzen 5 2600 is a closer comparison, with the 2600 taking the lead with full-speed RAM but both processors showing results within the margin of error at 3000MHz. Finally, the Crysis benchmark is a clear example of how the Zen 2 CPUs - the 3100 and 3300X - are much less reliant on fast memory than their Zen 1 predecessors, the 2600 and 3400G.

Crysis 3: Very High, SMAA T2X

With these results, we can confirm that the 3300X and 3100 still benefit from faster RAM speeds in some - but not all - games. When it does exist, that gap does tend to be substantial, so there's an argument to be made for opting for 3600MHz RAM over its slower counterparts. However, if 3600MHz RAM is much more expensive in your region, then anything around 3000MHz still provides acceptable performance - and the 3100 and 3300X aren't hamstrung as much by "slow" 3000MHz RAM compared to first-gen and second-gen Ryzen CPUs like the 2600 and 3400G we tested. On top of that, it's great that budget Ryzen can access higher bandwidth memory when non-overclockable Intel boards do not offer this function.

AMD Ryzen 3 3100/3300X analysis

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Will Judd avatar

Will Judd

Deputy Editor, 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. Will also tweets the latest tech deals at @DealsFoundry.


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