How to pick the right AMD Ryzen CPU for your PC

AMD Ryzen CPU
(Image credit: Windows Central)

Intel and AMD share a similar model-naming scheme. The two main families of processors — Core and Ryzen, respectively — use 3, 5, 7, and 9 to differentiate the CPUs. The lower the number, the less capable the processor usually is. A Ryzen 3 processor won't be able to outpace a Ryzen 7, for example. And just like Intel, AMD keeps everything simple by only using a few model numbers, as well as a suffix or few.

All you need to know about AMD Ryzen

AMD Ryzen 7 7700X

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Future)

AMD's Zen architecture brought an array of new processors to consumers in 2017. Here's what you need to know about this line of Ryzen CPUs, as well as what this all meant for the PC market. Even though we're on Zen 3 and 5000 series CPUs from AMD, there's much to learn about the architecture and how the company managed to hit back at Intel.

Here's a quick breakdown of the different AMD Ryzen processor brackets:

Within each bracket, the processors are named by model number — the higher the model number, the more powerful the CPU. For example, a Ryzen 3 1200 is less powerful than a Ryzen 3 1300X and a Ryzen 5 5600X. An X suffix simply means it's a slightly faster version of that model from the factory. So, the Ryzen 7 1800X is stronger than the Ryzen 7 1800. The differences aren't huge and only represent a slight increase in factory-set clock speeds.

Ryzen CPUs that start with the number two are Zen+ processors (2000 series), released in 2018. Third-generation CPUs (3000 series) using Zen 2 were released in 2019. Zen 3 CPUs (5000 series) arrived in 2020 omitting the Ryzen 3 range of SKUs entirely. Finally, Zen 4 CPUs (7000 series) arrived in 2022.

Those with a G suffix for graphics include Vega video processing, much like most of the Intel CPUs. That means you can run a system without a dedicated video card. The Ryzen 5 2400G is one such CPU. AMD added basic discrete graphics processing to the latest 7000 series of processors without a G suffix, allowing for video output without a GPU.

AMD Ryzen CPUs use socket AM4 or AM5. Generation 1 and 2 Threadrippers use a unique TR4 socket, while gen 3 Threadrippers use TRX4.

Picking the right AMD CPU for your PC

AMD Ryzen 7 7700X

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Future)

AMD Ryzen 3

Ryzen 3 is designed for budget-friendly PC builds and consumers who don't use their PCs for intensive applications. That said, the processors can have up to four cores, and as such, they aren't slouching. This range of SKUs has been discontinued since the introduction of the AMD Ryzen 5000 series.

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Header Cell - Column 0 ReleasedCoresThreadsSpeedCacheGPUTDPPrice
AMD Ryzen 3 3200G201944Up to 4.0GHz6MBVega 865W$100
AMD Ryzen 3 3100201948Up to 3.9GHz18MB-65W$120
AMD Ryzen 3 2200GE201844Up to 3.6GHz6MBVega 865W$119
AMD Ryzen 3 2200G201844Up to 3.7GHz6MBVega 835W$85
AMD Ryzen 3 1300X201744Up to 3.7GHz10MB-65W$125
AMD Ryzen 3 1200201744Up to 3.4GHz10MB-65W$68

AMD Ryzen 5

Ryzen 5 is where things get interesting for AMD processors. These CPUs are priced aggressively to take on the popular Intel Core i5 family and are incredible for gaming. These processors are a mix of quadcore and hexacore processors, packing more than enough power for video editing and other intense workloads.

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Header Cell - Column 0 ReleasedCoresThreadsSpeedCacheGPUTDPPrice
AMD Ryzen 5 7600X2022612Up to 5.3GHz38MBRadeon (2 cores)105W$299
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X2020612Up to 4.6GHz34MB-65W$299
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X2019612Up to 4.4GHz35MB-95W$205
AMD Ryzen 5 36002019612Up to 4.2GHz35MB-65W$175
AMD Ryzen 5 3400G201948Up to 4.2GHz6MBVega 1165W$147
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X2018612Up to 4.2GHz19MB-95W$160
AMD Ryzen 5 26002018612Up to 3.6GHz19MB-65W$140
AMD Ryzen 5 2500X201848Up to 4.2GHz19MB-95WRow 7 - Cell 8
AMD Ryzen 5 2400G201848Up to 3.9GHz6MBVega 1165W$126
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X2017612Up to 3.9GHz19MB-95W$146
AMD Ryzen 5 1600201768Up to 3.7GHz18MB-65W$117
AMD Ryzen 5 1500X201748Up to 3.4GHz10MB-65W$138
AMD Ryzen 5 1400201748Up to 3.4GHz10MB-65W$126

AMD Ryzen 7

Much like the Core i7 Intel processors, the Ryzen 7 family may be overkill for most people, but it allows for advanced computing at a somewhat affordable price point. If you happen to have a capable GPU, you may find some benefit in picking up a Ryzen 7 CPU.

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Header Cell - Column 0 ReleasedCoresThreadsSpeedCacheGPUTDPPrice
AMD Ryzen 7 7700X2022816Up to 5.4GHz40MBRadeon (2 cores)105W$395
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X2020816Up to 4.7GHz36MB-65W$449
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X2019816Up to 4.5GHz36MB-105W$299
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X2019816Up to 4.4GHz36MB-65W$205
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X2018816Up to 4.3GHz20MB-105W$260
AMD Ryzen 7 27002018816Up to 4.1GHz20MB-65W$200
AMD Ryzen 7 1800X2017816Up to 4.0GHz20MB-95W$240
AMD Ryzen 7 1700X2017816Up to 3.8GHz20MB-95W$190
AMD Ryzen 7 17002017816Up to 3.7GHz20MB-65W$220

AMD Ryzen 9

The Ryzen 9 family is AMD's latest batch of computing magic, packing in up to 12 cores and 24 threads and are a great middle-ground between the Ryzen 7 and Threadripper.

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Header Cell - Column 0 ReleasedCoresThreadsSpeedCacheGPUTDPPrice
AMD Ryzen 7 7950X20221632Up to 5.7GHz81MBRadeon (2 cores)170W$799
AMD Ryzen 7 7900X20221224Up to 5.6GHz80MBRadeon (2 cores)170W$549
AMD Ryzen 7 5950X20201632Up to 4.9GHz72MB-105W$799
AMD Ryzen 7 5900X20201224Up to 4.7GHz70MB-105W$549
AMD Ryzen 7 3950X20191632Up to 4.7GHz72MB-105W$738
AMD Ryzen 7 3900X20191224Up to 4.6GHz70MB-105W$450

AMD Ryzen Threadripper

You probably won't need a Threadripper CPU, but it'll be awesome to have one. It's for advanced users only who need to push their systems beyond their limits. I'm talking up to 64 cores and 128 threads.

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Header Cell - Column 0 ReleasedCoresThreadsSpeedCacheGPUTDPPrice
AMD Ryzen threadripper 3990X201964128Up to 4.3GHz292MB-280W$3,900
AMD Ryzen threadripper 3970X20193264Up to 4.5GHz147MB-280W$1,960
AMD Ryzen threadripper 3960X20192448Up to 4.5GHz142MB-280W$1,450
AMD Ryzen threadripper 2990WX20183264Up to 4.2GHzRow 3 - Cell 5 -250W$1,540
AMD Ryzen threadripper 2970WX20182448Up to 4.2GHz40MB-250W$950
AMD Ryzen threadripper 2950X20181632Up to 4.4GHz40MB-180W$687
AMD Ryzen threadripper 2920X20181224Up to 4.3GHz38MB-180W$400
AMD Ryzen threadripper 1950X20171632Up to 4.0GHz40MB-180W$700
AMD Ryzen threadripper 1920X20171224Up to 4.0GHz38MB-180W$620
AMD Ryzen threadripper 1900X2017816Up to 4.0GHz36MB-180W$300

The best CPUs for your desktop PC

AMD Ryzen 5 2600

Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

When looking for the best CPU, it's easy to automatically go for the more expensive options expecting a return in performance, and you'd be correct in that assumption. However, the question is whether you need that kind of power and whether you really need to pay that much. See our collection of the best options based on several performance and price points.

Other than that, the rule of thumb is to spend as much as you can, within reason. It's better to purchase a Ryzen 7 instead of a Ryzen 3 and needing to upgrade sooner, which will cost more eventually.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.