The AMD Ryzen 3 3100 is an excellent entry-level CPU that absolutely changes the game when it comes to budget PC builds. With performance that comes within reaching distance of processors that cost twice as much, it makes PC gaming way more affordable.
Doesn't suck up much power
Not as fast as the 3300X
May bottleneck high-end GPUs
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When AMD unveiled Zen 2, we didn't see anything like the AMD Ryzen 3 3100. In fact, at Computex 2019, where Ryzen 3000 was unveiled, the cheapest processor there was the AMD Ryzen 5 3600. So, while it was definitely exciting for anyone with the cash to throw at a mid-range or higher processor, people who typically rely on the best cheap processors were left to buy older PC components.
And, with all the improvements baked into the new architecture, it was a shame that folks with less money were stuck without shiny new features like PCIe 4.0. In fact, PCIe 4.0 is one of the biggest game changers to hit the computing world in a long time, as the new SSDs made possible by this tech are going to be huge for the best gaming PCs as the PS5 and Xbox Series X bring fast storage to the forefront.
Luckily, with the arrival of the AMD Ryzen 3 3100 and Ryzen 3 3300X, we're getting a couple of processors that can deliver a forward-looking platform to those on a budget.
Price and availability
The AMD Ryzen 3 3100 will be coming out later in May 2020, though we don't have a specific date just yet. However, whenever it does make it to your local PC components store, you'll be able to pick it up for just $99 (about £79, AU$150).
That puts the Ryzen 3 3100 squarely in the budget category, running up against products like the $136 (£116, AU$239) Intel Core i3-9100. You may have noticed that the Core i3 is a whopping 36% more expensive, but what will make that difference even more staggering is the fact that the Ryzen 3 3100 manages to pack in the same amount of cores, but with Simultaneous Multi Threading (SMT) enabled, offering 4 cores and 8 threads in a budget processor for the first time.
Features and chipset
The AMD Ryzen 3 3100 is based on the same Zen 2 architecture as the rest of the AMD Ryzen 3000 lineup, making it the first Ryzen 3 processor to do so. Previously, users looking for a Ryzen 3 CPU were forced to either go with something like the AMD Ryzen 3 2300X or the AMD Ryzen 3200G – both based on the 12nm Zen+ architecture.
However, the shift to the new 7nm architecture allowed AMD to enable SMT and push clock speeds higher while maintaining the same 65W thermal design power (TDP) found on previous Ryzen 3 processors. That, coupled with the substantial increase in IPC (instructions per clock) performance, means that this is a substantially more powerful processor than the Ryzen 3 2300X.
Cache is also more than doubled, with 18MB total cache, 16MB of which is L3. That's compared to the 8MB of L3 cache found on the Ryzen 3 2300X and the 6MB of cache found on the Intel Core i3-9100. This should help boost gaming performance, and when you're at this tier of the CPU market, every little bit of CPU performance you can get, the better.
But the inclusion of PCIe 4.0 compatibility in such a cheap CPU should be applauded here. Sure, if you only have $99 (about £79, AU$150) for your CPU right now, you're probably not going to spring for an expensive PCIe 4.0 SSD – but at least the option is going to be open.
Just like the rest of the SSDs out there, we fully expect PCIe 4.0 SSDs to eventually come down to a more accessible price, and that's not to mention future graphics cards. Because of the added bandwidth of PCIe 4.0, GPUs could start using the interface to further boost gaming performance, which makes AMD Ryzen 3000 and future Ryzen platforms more future-proof than comparable Intel chips.
Just make sure you pick up an X570 or B550 motherboard. The B550 chipset will be available on June 16, and will be a more accessible way to access things like dual GPU support, PCIe 4.0 and even overclocking without having to break open the piggy bank for a fancy X570 board.
But, of course, we have to talk about the 3100's bigger sibling, the Ryzen 3 3300X. While both of these processors have the same amount of cores and threads, and only a very slight difference in clock speed, they're built in different ways. The four cores on the 3300X are on the same CCX, rather than on two different ones like the 3100.
This basically means that there's less latency when the four CPU cores are communicating with one another, and it means that the 16MB of cache is unified, rather than split into two 8MB blocks on each CCX.
Or, rather, everything is closer together so the 3300X is faster.
This is the system we used to test desktop CPU performance:
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Masterliquid 360P Silver Edition
Graphics card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
RAM: 32GB HyperX Predator RGB @ 3,000MHz
Motherboard: MSI MEG Z390 ACE
SSD: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro @ 1TB
Power Supply: Phanteks RevoltX 1200
Case: Praxis Wetbench
CPU Cooler: Cooler Master Masterliquid 360P Silver Edition Graphics card: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti
RAM: 32GB HyperX Predator RGB @ 3,000MHz Motherboard: X570 Aorus Master
SSD: ADATA XPG SX8200 Pro @ 1TB
Power Supply: Phanteks RevoltX 1200
Case: Praxis Wetbench
The AMD Ryzen 3 3100 is an incredible release, mainly because it delivers performance that could only be described as mid-range just a year ago, all while keeping the price down to just $99 (about £79, AU$150).
In fact, as a result of testing this processor, our expectations of the middle of either AMD or Intel's product stack have risen exponentially, after the 3100 came within striking distance of the $198 (£229, AU$439) Intel Core i5-9600K.
When it comes to raw multi-threaded performance, the Ryzen 3 3100 scores around 2,315 points in Cinebench R20, and 4,910 in GeekBench 5. That's only 8% and 16% slower, respectively, than the i5-9600K in either test. Then, in Handbrake, the Ryzen 3 3100 is only 15% slower.
However, gaming performance is a different story. The Intel Core i5-9600K provides excellent value when it comes to gaming, even though it costs nearly twice as much as the Ryzen 3 3100. So, while in our benchmarks, single core performance is only around 10% slower, that isn't reflected in actual games.
In Metro Exodus at 1080p, the Ryzen 3 3100 managed 82 fps, compared to the 102 that the 9600K offered – and that was with both systems using the same Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. That is still only a 20% difference on a CPU that costs half as much, but it's something to be aware of.
We already mentioned the 3300X and the differences between the two CPUs. And while that $120 (about £100, AU$190) gives you a faster CPU, the difference isn't quite as huge as you may expect. The 3100 is only 11% slower in Cinebench and 15% slower in Metro Exodus. So, while 20 bucks or quid probably doesn't sound like a huge deal, but when you're at this price point, again, that's a lot of money.
Power consumption is even more impressive. We don't know if you're aware, but desktop processors kind of consume a lot of electricity, and they can get pretty warm. Now, before we dive into our thermal results, we have to tell you that we didn't get a cooler with these processors, so we used a frankly overkill 360mm AIO liquid cooler – you do not need to do this, don't worry. Honestly, you can probably use the included Wraith Stealth cooler, especially if you don't plan to do any overclocking.
The Ryzen 3 3100 maxed out at 61.3C, significantly less than the 77.6C that the 3300X reached. So, while the 3300X is faster it's also a lot warmer. The 3300X also sucked up 77.65W of power at its peak, compared to the 63.88W of the 3100. If you're building a tiny little livingroom PC, the 3100's low heat and and power consumption make it an excellent choice.
The Ryzen 3 3100 provides competent gaming performance at a price that first-time builders and folks on a budget are going to be able to handle. It's not the fastest processor on the market to be sure, but the fact that it comes within 20% at the worst of a processor that costs literally twice as much is pretty impressive stuff.
If you're on a budget, and you just need to build something that can handle your favorite games at 1080p and maybe some light content creation on the side, the Ryzen 3 3100 is an excellent choice.
AMD still hasn't beated Intel when it comes to raw single-core performance, but at this price point it doesn't really matter. If you pair this with a reasonable graphics card – you're not going to want to build a PC with this and, say, a high-end RTX 2080 Ti – you're going to have an amazing experience at a budget price.
We imagine there are going to be a ton of people who run to pick this processor up for their first build, and we love that idea. With the Ryzen 3 3100, PC gaming just got a whole lot more affordable. And we love it.
Bill Thomas (Twitter) is TechRadar's computing editor. They are fat, queer and extremely online. Computers are the devil, but they just happen to be a satanist. If you need to know anything about computing components, PC gaming or the best laptop on the market, don't be afraid to drop them a line on Twitter or through email.