Ryzen 7 released nearly half a year ago in March, with Ryzen 5 coming out a little while later. AMD has finally unleashed their lowest tier Ryzen 3 processors: the Ryzen 3 1300X, coming in at $140, and Ryzen 3 1200 at $110. Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 are considered the better buy for the general user, unless their desire is gaming and only gaming, in which case an i7-7700K is the better choice. It is now Ryzen 3’s turn to face off against Intel’s similarly priced dual-core hyper-threaded Core i3 CPUs.
The more expensive Ryzen 3 1300X is a 4-core 4-thread processor running at a base frequency of 3.5 GHz and boost frequency of 3.7 GHz. The competing Intel CPU is the dual-core 4-thread Core i3-7300 (~$150), which runs at a base clockspeed of 4.0 GHz. AMD’s Ryzen 3 1200 is also a 4-core 4-thread CPU running at a base frequency of 3.1 and a boost frequency of 3.4 GHz. The competing Intel chip is the dual-core 4-thread Core i3-7100 (~$120), running at a base clock of 3.9 GHz.
The Ryzen 3 CPUs run on the AM4 platform, which AMD has touted to be relevant up until 2020, so the upgrade path here is apparent, whereas Intel is known to change its base platform every so often. The AMD processors are also unlocked, meaning they can be easily overclocked up to 3.8-4.0 GHz, even using the stock cooler. (We do typically recommend spending an extra $20 on an aftermarket cooler for overclocking).
This means that it is fairly easy to overclock an R3 1200 to 1300X speeds, as there are no other differences between the two CPUs. The Intel Core i3 CPUs are locked SKUs, meaning no overclocking.
All of these processors are meant for low-power workloads. People interested in heavy duty workloads, such as video encoding, content creation, or streaming, should consider the Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 processors as their primary choice. Neither the Core i3 nor the Ryzen 3 CPUs will offer any meaningful processing power in these cases. That is why we will only look at gaming benchmarks in this comparison.
Generally speaking, the Ryzen 3 and Core i3 processors are tied, mostly trading blows, depending on the game. Overclocking allows the AMD processors to stretch into the locked i5 territory though, which is a significant upside.
Ryzen has been taking the CPU market by storm, with the Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 processors being the better choice in some cases against most of Intel’s mainstream and HEDT lineup. (That is, apart from the Intel Core i7-7700K overclocked to 5 GHz and the Pentium G4560, which itself invalidated the Core i3 lineup when it released.)
That puts the Ryzen 3 CPUs in a difficult position. For the ultra-low budget gamer, the Pentium line is still the best buy, as no GPUs up to the GTX 1060/RX 570 will be bottlenecked by the processor (source: GamersNexus bottlenecking test). For a person willing to spend a bit more, we strongly recommend the Ryzen 5 1600, which is now considered the best-value CPU on the market. Only in a case where the person in no way can afford to add the extra $70-$100 for the R5 1600, but still wants more than what the Pentium G4560 offers, would we recommend the Ryzen 3 1200.
The Ryzen 3 1300X, though a great value, is basically the same R3 1200 die, only slightly pre-overclocked. Pairing the R3 1200 with a B350 motherboard and investing 5 minutes into a 200-300 MHz overclock will save you $20. That will bring the overclocked Ryzen 3 1200 ahead of the competing Core i3-7100, but with a more robust upgrade path. With a budget locked Intel processor upgrading to an unlocked CPU would require a Z-series motherboard, whereas the B350 board housing the Ryzen 3 CPU will be able to accommodate an overclocked Ryzen 7 1700. The value of the Ryzen 3 processors is in the forward-looking upgrade path, even in the case where the Intel processors are competitive.
We recommend the Intel Pentium G4560 for the ultra-low budget gamer and the Ryzen 5 1600 for the regular user. If you want something in-between, then the Ryzen 3 1200 is the better choice thanks to the easy overclocking and forward-looking upgrade path.