Getting the best possible processor for your computer is vital — after all, it’s very much the showrunner among your components. And in the past couple of years, the Ryzen line of processors from AMD has remained one of the most popular choices in the market. The Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 3 processors have been the go-to AMD processors in general-purpose desktops and laptops for some time now, and the Ryzen 7 has continued that tradition.
But how do the three of them compare?
The short version: in a general sense, the Ryzen 3 series is the budget-level CPU for people that don’t need a lot of thrills from their processor. The Ryzen 5 series has held a lot of sway in the mid-range gaming market for a long time, while the Ryzen 7s tend to give extra threads and cores to people that mostly need them for productivity purposes. And while the Ryzen 9 has been out for some time, it’s still mostly reserved for enthusiast-class users due to its price.
Still, want more details to make the most informed choice possible? Read on below to find out more!
If you’re too young to be into computer hardware and/or gaming for the entirety of the past two decades, you may not know that AMD wasn’t always one of the two main head honchos in the CPU market that it is today.
In fact, it lagged behind Intel quite substantially until around 2016 — which is when they revealed their new Zen processor architecture that would put the company back on the map. Fast forward to 2022, and AMD processors reach the top of basically every chart, even when stacked up against their similar Intel counterparts.
Ryzen 3 vs Ryzen 5 vs Ryzen 7 — Cores
If we think of a computer’s CPU as a car engine, then the CPU cores would be the pistons of the engine. In other words, they’re the ones that do the actual “processing,” — so you want as many of them as you can get.
The number of cores in a processor is an important metric; it broadly shows how many things your CPU is capable of doing at the same time. And the more cores you have, the better performance you’ll enjoy when gaming or performing other CPU-intensive tasks.
Now that you’ve got the wider context in mind, know that Ryzen 5 CPUs and the majority of Ryzen 5 ones come with four cores — though the newer versions of the Ryzen 5 have as many as 6.
This puts the Ryzen 3 in a decent position for general-purpose computer work, like Internet browsing, Zoom calls, various Microsoft Office apps, etc. On the other hand, the 6-core versions of the Ryzen 5 aren’t just great at that stuff — they can also handle light gaming in 2022, as well as better multitasking with various software.
As you might expect, the Ryzen 7 goes even higher with its eight cores. This is your ticket to high-tier processors capable of handling a couple of demanding multi-core programs simultaneously — such as graphic design or video editing software from Adobe.
However, cores aren’t the only important thing with a CPU — they can have vastly different numbers of threads, which is what we’ll get into next.
Ryzen 3 vs. Ryzen 5 vs. Ryzen 7 — Threads
Threads essentially break down the processes that your cores are working on into smaller “pieces” — and manage them separately. They essentially represent how many tasks each individual core can handle simultaneously. And the more threads each core has, the more pieces it can break down every process into, and the faster it’ll get it done.
Again, just like with cores — the more threads you have, the better your performance will be, though more threads can also mean the processor is also getting a bit hotter with CPU-intense work.
The Ryzen three comes with 4 or 8 threads, depending on the specific model — which means every core has either 1 or 2 threads.
With the Ryzen 5, you’ve got more options — there are versions with 4, 6, 8, and 12 threads. The number of threads on each core is the same as with the Ryzen 3, meaning one or two — you just get more cores. The same is true for the Ryzen 7 series, resulting in 16 threads at most overall.
Again, a higher number of threads roughly translates to “more stuff going on at once.” Bear in mind that the majority of apps only function on a single thread at a time without even taking up its full capacity. Still, if you plan on doing a lot of multitasking with different software, it’s nice to know that your cores will be able to do more things at once.
Ryzen 3 vs. Ryzen 5 vs. Ryzen 7 — Clock Speed
If we return to the car engine analogy — the clock speed of your CPU is not unlike a car’s RPM. In other words, the clock speed measures the frequency of the processor’s work; the number of cycles it makes in a single second. And that’s why a CPU’s clock speed is shown in GHz — a gigahertz is a unit of frequency.
Once more, a higher GHz number means better performance, in general. Though we also conclude that the number of threads and cores also amplifies performance — the clock speed does it in a different way. These metrics don’t measure the same thing: while a thread or a core count measures the number of things a processor can do simultaneously, the clock speed shows how fast your processor can run.
The clock speed varies from model to model, but the base clock speed for the Ryzen 3 line is about 3.5 GHz — though it does have a maximum clock of 3.7 GHz. When it comes to the Ryzen 5, the base speed is slightly higher — 3,6 GHz — and the maximum speed goes up to 4.2 GHz on some models.
That makes the Ryzen 5 suitable for most tasks — from watching YouTube to video editing, gaming, and office work. However, the Ryzen 7 truly shines with a base clock of 3.9 GHz and a maximum speed of 4.5 GHz. When you consider the number of cores that are being run at those speeds, this makes for some truly exceptional performance — but it also means it’s more important for your processor to be properly cooled, or it’ll start overheating.
Ryzen 3 vs Ryzen 5 vs Ryzen 7 — Cache
At this point, much like the proverbial car — our car metaphor starts breaking down a bit. So, let’s ditch it completely and talk about the actual processes in your computer.
Generally, your processor pulls data from your computer’s “working memory” — the RAM. That’s why it’s important to have enough RAM for gaming and other tasks. However, there’s also a small amount of data that your processor uses more frequently, and it stores it in its “cache.”
Think of the cache as the processor’s mini-RAM. And the more cache memory it has, the better because your processor won’t have to spend as much time looking for the data it needs.
Ryzen 3 processors generally have a total of 16MB of cache, while Ryzen 5 ones go up to 32MB. That’s where the climb ends, as the Ryzen 7 has the same 32MB cache. That being said, 32MB is pretty much the most you’ll find at a decent price point for a regular home user.
Ryzen 3 vs Ryzen 5 vs Ryzen 7 — Sockets
Finally, we reach a metric that’s an absolute no-brainer — the socket types on these various Ryzen series. If you’ve already put together your PC, this is a pretty unimportant detail — but if you’re just about to pick all of your components, it decides which motherboard will be a good fit for your processor.
The Ryzen 3, 5, and 7 processors all have the same socket type: the AM4. This doesn’t mean that every AM4 motherboard will be perfect for every Ryzen processor — but it’s useful to know that the ones that work for Ryzen 3 will work for Ryzen 7 once you decide to upgrade.
Ryzen 3 vs. Ryzen 5 vs. Ryzen 7 — Integrated Graphics
Some Ryzen 3 CPUs come with AMD Vega 8 integrated graphics, and the appropriate Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 models have AMD Vega 11 integrated GPUs. This means that you don’t necessarily need a graphics card to run and boot a system powered by these processors.
That being said, most Ryzen processors don’t come with an integrated GPU inside — and the reason for that is simple. The assumption is that someone willing to invest in a Ryzen 5 or 7 will likely be able to afford a discrete GPU.
And if you can, you should — don’t expect anything remotely gaming-ready from the integrated GPU on a processor, even from a Ryzen 7. That’s why Ryzen 9s don’t even have one. The integrated graphics let you browse the Internet or play some 20-year-old games at a questionable frame rate at most — but any visual work or regular gaming will require a discrete GPU.
Ryzen 3 vs Ryzen 5 vs Ryzen 7 — TDP
We promise, this is the end of the overly technical stuff — but the “Thermal Design Power” of a CPU is a basic measurement of the amount of heat your processor can handle while still working properly. In a practical sense, it shows you how much cooling you’ll need and how much power your processor will consume as you use it.
The Ryzen 3 line doesn’t consume too much power by today’s standards, and the Ryzen 5 line falls around the average for its price range and performance — with about 65W as the default TDP. That means you won’t have to worry too much about excessive power consumption or cooling with these two processor series.
However, the story with the Ryzen 7 series is a bit different. Their lowest TDP goes from 65W, which is the same as the Ryzen 5, but the max is 105 at default.
With those models, you’ll have to make sure you’ve installed a power supply capable of providing enough juice to the CPU — and that you’ve got a cooling solution that won’t overheat. Consider a water cooling setup or an aftermarket fan cooler for these.
Ryzen 3 vs. Ryzen 5 vs. Ryzen 7 — Overclocking
Enthusiasts will be happy to learn that all Ryzen processors are already unlocked — so if you think you need some extra performance out of any of these processors, feel free to go crazy. Just make sure not to damage your processor by overclocking without proper cooling. Also, bear in mind that AMD’s product warranties won’t cover any overclocking damages, even when it’s enabled through AMD software or hardware.