For nearly a decade, AMD and Intel have been engaged in a furious gaming hardware arms race that has brought some of the best technological innovations in graphics processing that the world has ever seen. While the battle has been fought to an almost stalemate, 2021 has shown AMD commanding a steady lead thanks to a wider array of processors that fit various types of budgets.
And that’s the key to AMD’s lead: in a world where triple-A games now require gaming that could equal the cost of a mid-range secondhand car, providing customers with budget options is crucial to maintaining profitability, something that AMD’s Ryzen line has taken to an art form.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Ryzen processors for every budget, from entry-level graphics cards that are just under $100, to luxury purchases that can cost you up to $500.
Best Budget Ryzen Processor: Ryzen 3 3200G
Although AMD’s accelerated processing units are impressive technological feats, they don’t offer much to professional gamers, especially for triple-A titles that require seamless gameplay. This all changed, however, with the Ryzen line of graphics cards that offer Vega graphics.
Take note, however, that Vega graphics aren’t going to provide you high-quality ray tracing or ultra-high texture quality, but for the price you’re paying, you’re getting so much more, especially for entry-level gamers looking to play non-competitive triple-A titles.
Ryzen 3 3200G is the clear choice for people on a budget but still want to experience what it’s like to see realistic water textures in videogames (kind of), thanks to the four Zen+ CPU cores that allow for 1080p entry-level gaming, augmented by the Vega 8 graphics core that outperform Intel cards of the same price.
Are there cheaper options? Sure: the Athlon 3300G is in the $50 range, but it’s not as capable. The previous generation of Ryzen, the 2200G, is more expensive but less capable, which is a pretty strange dynamic. So, at around $150-200, the 3200G stands as the most budget-friendly Ryzen processor out there.
Alternatively, you could go for the Ryzen 5 2600: at roughly the same price, you get so much more multithreading than the 3200G. It doesn’t have the onboard graphics, but it does offer six-core CPU power.
Here’s the unfortunate paradox, though: because the 3200G is such a budget-friendly video card, most online retailers and shops aren’t able to keep up with the demand, which means that any 3200G they do have in stock sells at higher prices. That’s capitalism, I guess!
Our advice: wait a few more months for shops to restock their 3200G’s, or y’know, just go for the 2600X.
AMD Ryzen 3 3200G* (while supplies last)
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X* (while supplies last)
Best Mid-Range Ryzen Processor: Ryzen 5 5600X
Retailing at around $300, the Ryzen 5 5600X is the perfect mid-range processor, thanks to its six-core, 12 thread processing power with a base clock of 3.76GHz (with an option to boost it up to over 4GHz). In non-techie terms: it’s a lot of fangooli for not a lot of gabagool. The base 5600X comes with a combined L2 and L3 cache of 35MB, which is impressive considering that its big brother, the 5800X, costs around $450 but only has about 1MB more than the 5600X. Again, the fangooli to gabagool ratio of the 5600X is so far impressive.
The 5600X provides impressive graphics power for a fraction of the price thanks to AMD’s Zen 3 architecture. Without getting too complicated, this means that the 5600X has the capability of being overclocked to perform at the levels of the 5800X and the 5900X. Sure, the latter two don’t need to be overclocked, but this just goes to show you that with the right computer know-how, your mid-range graphics card can outperform higher end models. In fact, the 5600X is so good that the more expensive and more ‘powerful’ Intel i9-10900K doesn’t seem so impressive in terms of cost-efficiency.
But, again, to really get your money’s worth out of the 5600X requires overclocking. Sure, a lot of gamers out there are familiar with how to do this safely and properly, but any attempt to push your processors to the limit will always carry a risk of CPU damage, BSOD, and eventual wear-and-tear. But hey, just stick a good cooling system and you should be fine (maybe?).
Best “Luxury” Ryzen Processor: Ryzen 9 5900X
Before we dive into the 5900X, let’s get one thing out of the way: no, we didn’t include the Ryzen 7 5800X here specifically because the 5600X can pretty much do the 5800’s job at a fraction of the price, which makes the latter, well, not the best of that particular category. In fact, the 5600X is so good at its job, we have to skip a whole generation of Ryzen processors just to get to the best high-end ‘luxury’ offer they have: the Ryzen 9 5900X.
The 5900X is pretty much one of the best processors you can get: 12-core, 16-thread with a boost clock of up to 4.8GHz and a L2/L3 cache of 70MB. It can play pretty much any triple-A title with zero issues and is used for professional-level gaming. It’s got a lot of power that, honestly, can actually be a bit overkill if you’re not going to be playing triple-A games (but really, why wouldn’t you).
But let’s pretend you’re not using your PC for gaming: the 5900X has consistently beaten its competitor, the Intel i9-10980X, by a huge margin when it came to video transcoding, Blender, 3D modeling, data science, and graphics rendering. To say that the 5900X does it all is not even hyperbole at this point.
Honorable Mention: Ryzen 9 5950X
If the 5900X is overkill, then the 5950X is practically unnecessary: with a 16-core and 32-thread processor that can be boosted to 4.9GHz and a massive 72MB L2/L3 cache, there’s pretty much nothing else that can come close.
In fact, it’s actually so powerful that we here at Gearhint were pretty much at a loss to see how far we could take it. We tried transcoding a video in the background while playing Cyberpunk 2077 and the FPS drops were virtually non-existent. I mean, sure, the game itself was pretty bad, but that’s not Ryzen’s fault!
Listen, I’m sure 3D artists and programmers can probably find some purpose for all of the 5950X’ power; maybe use it for bit mining? Whatever it is, that’s why we didn’t exactly include the 5950X in the list: it’s simply too much for the average, everyday gamer.