AMD's Ryzen 3000 CPUs made a huge impression when they launched last year, with many of them speeding straight in my best gaming CPU rankings, while the Ryzen 5 3600 continues to be my CPU of choice in the RPS Rig. The only things missing from their initial line-up last year were their entry-level Ryzen 3 CPUs. At long last, AMD are finally filling out their budget CPU ranks with two new processors today - the $99 Ryzen 3 3100 on test here and the slightly more expensive Ryzen 3 3300X at $120.
With four cores and eight threads apiece, these CPUs aren't intended for high-powered gaming rigs, but if you're looking to keep costs down for your next PC build, then they offer a surprisingly good foundation for 1080p gaming. Which one should you buy, though? Here's how the Ryzen 3 3100 stacks up to the rest of the competition.
Built using the same Zen 2 architecture and 7nm manufacturing process as the rest of AMD's Ryzen 3000 family, the Ryzen 3 3100 is the new baby of AMD's desktop CPU family. It might have four cores and eight threads at its disposal like its Ryzen 3 3300X sibling, but this is a decidedly more modest processor when it comes to overall gaming performance. As you'll soon see below, those looking for a cost-effective gaming CPU will be much better off opting for the marginally more expensive Ryzen 3 3300X right now, as it offers substantially higher frame rates for just another $20.
Of course, plumbing for any kind of AMD Ryzen CPU right now might seem a little pre-emptive given that Intel's new 10th Gen Comet Lake CPUs are just edging onto the horizon. These include a full suite of budget-oriented Core i3 processors, but I reckon that those looking to build a PC right this second will be fairly safe in going down the AMD route. After all, only Intel's higher-end K series of Core i5, Core i7 and Core i9 Comet Lake processors have been confirmed for launch later this month, and there's currently no telling how long we'll have to wait for their Comet Lake Core i3s to pitch up. As a result, we may be twiddling our thumbs for quite some time before we can see exactly how they compare.
Still, when even the cheapest Comet Lake Core i3 is set to cost $122 in the US, the $99 Ryzen 3 3100 and $120 Ryzen 3 3300X already have an advantage in terms of overall value. Indeed, the only real competition that the Ryzen 3 3100 has at the moment is Intel's older Core i3-9100F, which is a version of their Core i3-9100 CPU that doesn't come with any integrated graphics (and therefore must be paired with a graphics card in order to work). This can currently be had for just $75 at time of writing, which is quite the bargain compared to the regular Core i3-9100, which costs closer to $130.
Alas, I haven't been able to test either the Core i3-9100 or 9100F yet, but if their gaming performance is anything like Intel's Core i3-8100 (which I suspect it probably will be given how my other 8th Gen vs 9th Gen CPU benchmarks have played out so far), then it's likely that the Ryzen 3 3100 is still a better buy. Probably (although as I said above, you should probably save up for the Ryzen 3 3300X if you possibly can, as it just blows all of these CPUs clean out of the water).
Still, if you're adamant about keeping your CPU costs under $100, then there's still plenty to admire about the Ryzen 3 3100. Indeed, while Intel's i3-8100, i3-9100 and i3-9100F come with four cores each like the Ryzen 3 3100, they also only have four threads. The Ryzen 3 3100, on the other hand, has eight of them, giving it a greater capacity to multi-task than its Intel rivals.
Now, I'm more interested in a CPU's gaming performance than I am with how it copes with general desktop applications, but I'm going to start with the latter for a change because the Ryzen 3 3100's Cinebench R20 scores were just so darn impressive. Indeed, in Cinebench's single core test, the Ryzen 3 3100 finished with a score of 446, putting it streaks ahead of the Core i3-8100's score of 361. It was so quick, in fact, that it even surpassed my Intel Core i5-9600K's stock result of 429, which is quite the feat for such a cheap CPU.
Its multicore score of 2269 was also nipping at the heels of the i5-9600K, which was just a smidge faster at 2351. The Core i5-9600K's overclocked scores of 504 and 2632 put a bit more distance between them, but that's still a mighty good performance all things considered. What's more, when I overclocked my RAM to 3000MHz, both Cinebench scores remained exactly the same, so you'll still get excellent desktop performance no matter what kind of RAM you've got.
The Ryzen 3 3100's gaming performance wasn't quite as exciting, all told, but that's only because it was so overshadowed by the stonking results I got from the Ryzen 3 3300X. Of course, as I've mentioned in previous CPU reviews, testing a processor's gaming performance is still a bit of a tricky undertaking, as a lot of in-game benchmarks either don't test your CPU properly or just aren't very accurate in the first place. Fortunately, a handful of gaming benchmarks have got a lot better at this recently, with the likes of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Forza Horizon 4, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and the Total War games all providing an in-depth look at your CPU's performance as well as what your graphics card is doing.
However, there are other factors that can affect gaming performance as well such as your graphics card, the type of RAM you've got and what kind of storage you've got your games installed on. I've tried to mitigate these effects as much as I can by using an NVMe SSD for my games storage as well as today's best graphics card, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti. I've also tested it with my RAM's default speed of 2133MHz and at its overclocked speed of 3000MHz.
As you can see from the graphs below, the Ryzen 3 3100 puts in a good showing at 1080p, matching the Core i3-8100 in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and Forza Horizon 4 and offering substantially more performance in Assassin's Creed Odyssey. Its only real failing is its Total War: Warhammer II scores, where it fell quite a bit behind its Intel rival.
However, this was soon rectified when I overclocked my RAM to its top speed of 3000MHz. Here, the Ryzen 3 3100 surpassed the Core i3-8100 on all counts, hitting an average of 98fps in Tomb Raider, 93fps in Total War, 124fps in Forza and an identical 57fps in Assassin's Creed - although I should say that I never got the chance to test the i3-8100 at this particular RAM speed, so it's possible that you may not be gaining much at all.
Really, though, the Ryzen 3 3300X is just streets ahead of the lot of them at 1080p, and in my eyes is more than worth the extra cash - both over the Ryzen 3 3100 and the super cheap Core i3-9100F. With speeds like this, there's really no reason why you shouldn't be putting the Ryzen 3 3300X in your next gaming PC.