Computing

The best AMD processors for 2020

AMD's Ryzen CPUs are fantastic at gaming and working, here are the best ones

AMD’s CPU business made a massive resurgence in 2017 with the success of its Ryzen processors and it hasn’t stopped since. With the launch of the 3000-series, AMD has kicked things into high gear, and from the great budget gaming 3600 to the 12-core monster that is the 3900X and beyond, the best AMD chips are all third-gen Ryzen processors.

In this guide, we’ll tell you which are the best AMD processors money can buy, whatever your budget. If you’re building a gaming PC, our guide to the best gaming CPUs is worth checking out too.

The best AMD processors at a glance

The best entry-level CPU: Ryzen 3 3200G

AMD Ryzen 5 2400G & Ryzen 3 2200G Review fingers
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

AMD’s accelerated processing units (APU) have never offered much competition to mid-range gaming hardware, but the latest generation of Ryzen with Vega APUs are much more impressive. Our testing didn’t suggest they were going to overtake dedicated processors with dedicated graphics anytime soon, especially if you’re trying to do anything more than entry-level gaming. But if your budget or system chassis doesn’t have room for a dedicated graphics card, the Ryzen 3 3200G is a great little chip.

Its onboard Vega graphics cores are far more capable than Intel’s HD graphics and the Zen+ CPU core is plenty powerful for 1080p, entry-level gaming.

At just under $100, there isn’t much in the way of stiff competition. The last-generation 2200G isn’t as capable, but it is $20 or so cheaper, so if you’re on an even tighter budget, it’s worth considering. As is the $50 Athlon 3000G, though that’s delving into extreme budget territory.

If you don’t need the onboard graphics and you can stretch your budget a bit further, the last-generation Ryzen 2600 is an amazing six-core CPU that can be had for around $120. It will far outstrip the 3200G in multithreaded workloads thanks to its additional cores and threads. It can overclock up to near 2600X speeds too.

The best midrange CPU: Ryzen 5 3600

As arguably the most competitive price for processors, the midrange is where you’re spoiled for choice. Of all of the chips available though, we have to recommend the ultra-affordable, impressively powerful, Ryzen 5 3600.

Building off of the success of its predecessor, the 2600, the Ryzen 5 3600 has the same six cores and 12 threads, but at its heart is an entirely overhauled Zen 2 architecture. It can boost up to 4.2GHz on a single core and with big improvements to instructions per clock and the added efficiency of the 7nm process node, this CPU is far more impressive than its last-gen counterpart.

It goes blow for blow with the Intel 9600K in gaming and demolishes it in productivity tasks, making this a fair comparison for much more costly chips like the 9700K in many scenarios. The 3600X is a possible alternative at $40 more, but when it comes down to it, both chips perform pretty comparably. The 3600 also enjoys the same automated overclocking tools, often making it within a hand’s reach of the 3600X anyhow.

If you are more interested in multithreaded performance, a fair alternative is the last-gen 2700 which has two more cores and supports four more threads. The 3600 is far faster in games though, so bear that in mind when it comes to making your purchase.

The best high-end CPU: Ryzen 7 3700X

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

If you plan to do more than gaming or just want to future-proof your system with eight powerful cores instead of six, the Ryzen 7 3700X is your best bet. It supports 16 threads thanks to simultaneous multithreading for some amazingly fast productivity workloads, and it tends to clock a little higher than the 3600 in games too.

In our testing we found it capable of going blow for blow with the Intel 9700K, nipping on the heels of the 9900K in some games. It trashes both in multithreaded workloads, so if you want a great all-around CPU without buying the much more expensive 3900X, this is the chip for you.

You could opt for the 3800X if you want a very small increase in boost clock — it’s just a selectively binned 3700X — but the extra $60 isn’t worth it in most cases. The 3700X could be our favorite chip of this generation, as it’s such a solid all-around performer. The 3600 offers better value for gamers, but if you want a super-powered eight-core CPU, this one is your best bet.

If you’re considering Intel chips too, the 9700K and the 9900K are the only real alternatives, both offering slightly better gaming performance, but there’s not a lot in it.

The last-gen Ryzen 2700X is a cheaper alternative with great clock speed and eight-cores of its own, but it falls noticeably behind the 3700X in all but the most demanding of multithreaded tests.

The most powerful CPU: Ryzen 9 3950X

AMD Ryzen 9 3900x
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

AMD improved the core counts of mainstream CPUs with its first-generation Ryzen CPUs, and it is doing so again with the third. The 3950X is the first 16-core mainstream CPU ever, leaving Intel to chase its own tail to catch up. The 3950X offers the highest-rated boost clock of any Ryzen CPU at up to 4.7GHz and with 16 cores and 32 threads. There’s nothing outside of AMD’s Threadripper 3000 CPUs (each of which cost upwards of $1,000) that can match it in productivity tasks. It even beats most of Intel’s top HEDT chips. All for just $750.

Like the 3900X before it, the 3950X is a major milestone for AMD because, for the first time in more than 15 years, AMD can offer a top-tier mainstream CPU that can match Intel’s best for gaming. While the 9900K and 9900KS will usually take a slight lead on it, the difference isn’t much in most titles and tests. But where the 3950X really shines is in multithreaded workloads thanks to its massive core and thread count.

This is the best mainstream CPU AMD has ever released, and though it’s not cheap, it represents the pinnacle of high-speed AMD gaming and productivity that you can have in 2020.

If $750 is too much for you to spend on a CPU, the 3900X is a solid alternative, offering ever-so-slightly worse gaming performance, and noticeably weaker multithreaded performance thanks to its lesser 12-cores. Both are fantastic chips, but if you can take advantage of the 12-cores in the 3900X, you can probably take advantage of the 16-cores in the 3950X, so buy what you can afford.

The only competition at this price from Intel is the 9900K, which is just as good for gaming, but falls behind everywhere else. AMD’s Threadripper 3000 chips are an option too, offering even more multithreaded performance and comparable gaming power, but they are much more expensive and the new motherboards for them aren’t cheap either.

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