AMD Ryzen 3 1200 3.1 GHz Review 39

AMD Ryzen 3 1200 3.1 GHz Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The AMD Ryzen 3 1200 currently retails for $109.
  • Unlocked multiplier
  • Aggressive pricing
  • Beats competing Core i3 parts in multi-threaded apps
  • Single-thread performance improved over previous generation
  • Heatsink included
  • Platform updated to include latest features (PCIe 3.0, USB 3.1, NVMe)
  • Lacks integrated graphics
  • Significantly slower than the Ryzen 3 1300X
  • Low single-thread performance takes away the Ryzen "wow factor"
  • Gaming performance doesn't match up to competing Intel parts
  • Setup complicated (memory, HPET, CCX, and power profile)
  • Lack of 200 MHz XFR makes it effectively 450 MHz slower than the 1300X (3.45 GHz vs. 3.90 GHz) in single core performance
  • Requires optimized apps of which there are not many
AMD has certainly stirred up the sub-$150 processor market with the new Ryzen 3 series. These may not be the first sub-$150 quad-core processors by the company, but are certainly its first ones based on an architecture that is highly competitive with Intel. The "Zen" architecture has breathed life back into AMD's dwindling CPU market-share, and with the $109 Ryzen 3 1200, things can only look promising for the company.

The Ryzen 3 1200 has a formidable value proposition compared to Intel's cheapest Core i3-7100 part. You get four cores for the price of two from Intel, and an unlocked base-clock multiplier, which lets you squeeze out a little more performance than what you pay for. The cheapest Core i3 part with an unlocked multiplier is priced at $189, which is also the price of Intel's cheapest quad-core Core i5 part.

Thanks to its unlocked multiplier, we were able to run the Ryzen 3 1200 at 3.85 GHz, at which speed it catches up with its sibling, the 1300X. Although its boost clock is 3.70 GHz, the 1300X features 200 MHz XFR for single core performance, which can run it at 3.90 GHz. We had difficulties in getting our Ryzen 3 1200 sample past 3.85 GHz reliably. If you want to save $20 over the 1300X, a good way to do so is to buy the 1200 and overclock it. You also need to factor in the motherboard. You need either the mid-range B350 chipset or the performance-segment X370. The entry-level A320 chipset does not support CPU overclocking. The cheapest B350-based motherboard is about $15 pricier than the cheapest A320-based board. So, the combination of an overclocked 1200 and a B350 motherboard is priced at about the same as a 1300X with an A320-based motherboard. But is it worth the trouble to overclock? Performance figures show that it is.

The Ryzen 3 1200 is among the slowest processors we have at single-threaded tasks, where it trades blows with the $80-ish Pentium G4560. This low single-thread performance also profoundly affects the chip's credentials as a low-cost gaming PC chip since the G4560 is almost always ahead at the real-world 1080p and academic 720p resolutions. You should also pay attention to the sub-60 frame rates noticed in games such as "Fallout 4" and "Watch_Dogs 2" at 720p. If it's sub-60 fps in 720p, it won't be over 60 fps in higher resolutions, no matter the graphics card you use. Lower settings could drive down CPU load enough to lift frame rates above 60. The Core i3-7100, with which this chip is meant to directly compete, is ahead further still. When you overclock this chip to 1300X-level performance, you'll find that it is suddenly playing in the league of the faster Core i3-7300, which has it take the fight to lower-end Core i5 chips.

The multi-threaded performance of the Ryzen 3 1200 is its biggest strength against rivals. The four physical cores put its multi-threaded performance somewhere between the Core i3-7300 and quad-core i5-7400, in tests such as H.265 video encoding. There aren't too many practical applications of its multi-threaded talents in this price-range, but it certainly ends up giving the chip a more "wholesome" appeal compared to the dual-core Intel chips.

We didn't care all that much about Ryzen 5-series and 7-series chips lacking an integrated graphics solution, but for the Ryzen 3 1200, the lack of it borders on being inexcusable. Intel is able to sell Core i3 chips by the tons because of its turnkey nature; in that it not only powers entry-level gaming desktops, but also non-gaming desktops, mom-and-pop Dells. The lack of integrated graphics would mean only those who intend to build gaming desktops with sufficiently powerful graphics cards should opt for the 1200, which is a minority. It's pointless to pair this chip with an entry-level graphics card, such as the Radeon RX 550 or GeForce GT 1030, because you'd rather spend that money on a faster Intel chip with integrated graphics.

Something like the RX 570 or GTX 1060 should be the bare minimum you should be willing to pair this CPU with so as to beat something like a G4560 with a faster graphics card. Those wanting to build non-gaming desktops can only choose between Core i3 and AMD's new 7th generation "Bristol Ridge" socket AM4 APUs right now (which are based on much slower "Excavator" CPU cores). At $80-ish, the Pentium G4560 is the real winner in the low-cost CPU market, but Intel reportedly throttled its supply because it's too good for Core i3 sales. The Ryzen 3 1200 still ends up being a better overall option than the Core i3-7100 at its price for its ability to overclock up to performance levels of pricier chips, its four cores, and a lower price-per-core than the G4560. An integrated graphics solution is sorely missing. AMD had better hurry up with its next-generation APUs based on "Zen."
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