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Are AMD Ryzen CPUs fast enough for gaming?

by Ben Miles
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As much as Intel might claim its CPUs are best for gaming (and it certainly has a valid argument to make there) that’s not the whole story. AMD’s CPUs are some of the best gaming processors available today, and even its earlier generations of Ryzen CPUs are no slouch in all sorts of great PC games.

So, are AMD Ryzen CPUs fast enough for gaming? Absolutely, and in many ways, they could be a better choice than even Intel’s best for your next gaming upgrade.

Which Ryzen CPUs are good enough for gaming?

If you want the ultimate AMD Ryzen gaming experience, then the 3000-series, the latest generation, are by far the most capable. They have a big increase in instructions per clock over previous generations, the highest clock speeds, and, at the higher end, higher core counts than anything that came before. But they’re not the only ones that are great for gaming.

In fact, as prices have come down, first and second-generation Ryzen processors can be some of the most affordable gaming CPUs out there.

1st Gen

Ryzen 1000 CPUs were originally released in 2017 and shook the world with what an improvement they were over everything AMD had released at that point in time. They don’t quite measure up to Intel’s CPUs in gaming, but they have excellent multi-threaded performance. And, if you’re lucky, some of the Ryzen 1000 CPUs still for sale have actually been built using newer Zen+ core technologies.

It’s not really worth going for the low-end CPUs from that generation, as the new-gen alternatives are comparably priced and offer much better performance. But if you can find a Ryzen 7 1700X or 1800X for under £200, they’re still excellent CPUs with eight cores, 16 threads, and up to 4.0GHz frequencies. Even the Ryzen 5 1600 is still a great example of a gaming CPU that has withstood the test of time, with many a bargain to be had when purchasing one. Check out this blog for an in-depth look at what has kept it a popular CPU choice when it comes to PC gaming.

2nd Gen

Second-generation Ryzen CPUs are much more readily available, however, and the Ryzen 5 2600 is arguably the best budget gaming CPU in the world right now. Regularly found for around £130, it has six cores, 12 threads, and can be overclocked easily to above 4.0GHz without a hefty cooler. The 2700X is also a very affordable eight core CPU that’s more than capable of handling modern games.

3rd Gen

Want the best Ryzen gaming experience possible though? Then you’ll want the newest 3000 series CPUs. The Ryzen 3600 is one of the best gaming processors ever made, delivering comparable gaming performance to much more expensive AMD and Intel CPUs. You can get slightly higher frame rates with the 3700X and 3800X, though the former of those is easily the better value.

Higher core count chips like the 3900X and 3950X do have slightly higher frames per second in most games thanks to their higher silicon quality and slightly higher clock speed, but the real reason for buying them is for their multi-threaded performance. Don’t buy them if you’re just looking to game or have anything resembling a normal budget.

Close-up photo of an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 CPU sitting in a CPU socket on a motherboard

Which Ryzen CPUs are better than Intel?

This is a much harder question to answer, as even though AMD Ryzen CPUs are fantastic for gaming and even better at productivity workloads, Intel still holds the performance crown when it comes to raw gaming performance. But, in truth, there isn’t a lot in it.

If you only use your PC for gaming and you want the highest possible frame rates, the Core i9-9900K is still the fastest gaming CPU in the world; especially if you overclock it to 5.0GHz+ all core, although you’ll need a hefty cooler to do that. If overclocking your CPU is something you are interested in, check out this blog for a more in-depth look at the best bang-for-buck Intel chip for overclocking!

However, if you don’t mind sacrificing a few frames per second, the top AMD Ryzen CPUs are only a few steps behind. At the top end of the performance scale, the 3900X and 3950X rule the roost, being able to hit the highest single core frequencies. They also offer enormous multi-threaded performance, far in excess off anything Intel has to offer outside of its HEDT space. And even then, they’re hotly competitive or even faster.

Let’s talk money

Big price cuts for both in recent months make them much more cost competitive too, with the 3900X an arguable steal at just over £400 – almost £100 cheaper than the 9900K. Considering it’s within reaching distance of the Intel CPUs’ gaming performance and demolishes it in productivity tasks, it’s arguably the best top-tier CPU in the world right now. Even if it just misses out on the gaming crown.

Further down the scale, the next-best is arguably the 3700X. The 3800X is slightly faster, enjoying easier infinity fabric overclocking and a slightly higher boost clock, but at around £30 more, it’s hard to justify. Both chips have eight cores and 16 threads though, offering comparable multithreaded performance to the 9900K, which is almost twice the price of the 3700X at this point. Gaming performance is more on par with the 9700K, but considering that chip is £330 at best, the Ryzen CPU is a much easier chip to recommend.

Further down the pricing structure it gets a little more competitive. The 9600KF is a great six-core gaming CPU, but without hyperthreading its multi-threaded performance falls far behind the comparably priced 3600X, or last-generation 2700X. The 3600 is a better option than the 9400F, but then the Intel CPU is cheaper by around 10 percent, so it’s a bit of a toss-up there.

Promotional image of the AMD Ryzen 3000 series CPUs that shows a CPU hovering above a motherboard with an orange glow around its edges

What about Intel 10th-generation Comet Lake CPUs?

If you’re willing to wait just a little while, things might get a little more interesting. Intel is set to debut its 10th-generation Comet Lake S desktop processors by the end of April and may launch them as soon as May or June 2020. They aren’t expected to be particularly revolutionary, but they will have some exciting changes.

As well as mild bumps to clock speeds throughout the product stack, there will be additional cores in the flagship 10900K, potentially closing the multi-threaded gap with AMD’s most powerful mainstream processors. Arguably the most exciting addition though, is the return of hyperthreading to not only the Core i7 CPUs, but the Core i5 and Core i3 chips too.

That will improve multi-threading performance over ninth-generation CPUs dramatically, but will also raise gaming performance for mid-tier CPUs in modern games, where support for six, eight, and even 10 cores is becoming far more common.

As soon as we have more information on what we can expect from this new generation of CPUs we’ll update you and our PC configuration options accordingly. Whether you want a mid-range 10th-gen Intel CPU or something more high-end, we plan to stock it and use it in our builds.

Photo of a motherboard with a CPU and RAM sticks locked in

Should your next gaming PC be Ryzen powered?

Deciding which CPU to power your new gaming PC is a major consideration. It can affect temperatures, performance, and the power efficiency of your machine. Whether you buy Intel or AMD, you should end up with a fantastic gaming experience if you choose wisely, and that’s where Chillblast can help.

Our in-house experts are ready and willing to walk you through component choice and will put together an amazing gaming PC exactly to your specifications and needs.

We have experience building high-end PCs, budget machines, and everything in between. Whether you want an AMD gaming PC or a high-powered Intel system, we’re here to help. Just give us a call and you’ll end up with the PC of your dreams in no time.

More resources:

If you are still unsure about whether to head down the AMD or Intel route, check out this blog that details which CPU would be best for future gaming needs.

Check out this blog if you are more budget-focused and want to know which CPU to choose for your £1000 build!

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