AMD Ryzen: What Gamers Need to Know

For PC gamers, AMD has long been the primary processor alternative to Intel, and until recently, it looked as though Intel had pulled too far ahead for AMD to catch up. With more Intel chips installed in high-performance PCs, AMD processors struggled to keep up with support for the latest advances in motherboard and RAM tech. Part of the problem was the company's continued reliance on the old “Bulldozer” microarchitecture from 2011.

AMD CEO Lisa Su debuting Ryzen at AMD's New Horizon event.

AMD CEO Lisa Su debuting Ryzen at AMD's New Horizon event.

But AMD is looking to start fresh with the “Zen” microarchitecture, beginning this year with the Ryzen line of CPUs that are designed to support the 4K and VR experiences of the future. Here’s what you need to know about AMD’s new approach to processors, and what it means for gamers.

What improvements come with Ryzen?

The Ryzen line is designed to boost clock-cycle performance by 40 percent. AMD says that those targets have been met, which is a considerable improvement over the previous-gen Excavator’s performance increase of only about 5 percent.

Ryzen processors will also use an AM4 socket, allowing AMD CPUs to tap into the same speedy DDR4 RAM that Intel chips have had since the release of Intel's Haswell processors in 2014.

Measuring in at a 14nm node size, the Ryzen line will see reduced power draw and heat output, which ties into some of AMD’s suite of features tied to Ryzen. Its “SenseMI” technology promises to “enable higher clock speeds as the system gets cooler,” according to AMD CEO Lisa Su at a news conference in Texas late last year.

MORE: Best Gaming PCs for 4K, VR and More

What's the price and release date of Ryzen?

The first batch of Ryzen CPUs are shipping now. Specifically, you can get the chips in the Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 CPU families, which are competing with Intel’s Core i7 and Core i5 lines (the Ryzen 3 chips will release on July 27, and the Threadripper series will launch in Agusut).

Here are the prices:

  • Ryzen 7 1800X: 8C/16T, 3.6 GHz base, 4.0 GHz turbo, 95W, $499
  • Ryzen 7 1700X: 8C/16T, 3.4 GHz base, 3.8 GHz turbo, 95W, $399
  • Ryzen 7 1700: 8C/16T, 3.0 GHz base, 3.7 GHz turbo, $329
  • Ryzen 5 1600X: 6C/12T, 3.6GHz base, 4.0GHz turbo, $249
  • Ryzen 5 1600: 6C/12T, 3.2GHz base, 3.6GHz turbo, $219
  • Ryzen 5 1500X, 4C,8T, 3.5GHz base, 3.7GHz turbo, $189
  • Ryzen 5 1400, 4C/8T, 3.2GHz base, 3.4GHz turbo, $169

AMD has announced the specs for Ryzen 3, but not pricing:

  • Ryzen 3 1300X: 4C/4T, 3.5GHz base, 3.7GHz turbo
  • Ryzen 3 1200: 4C/4T, 3.1GHz base, 3.4GHz turbo

Additionally, the ultra-powerful Ryzen Threadripper, which will compete with Intel's X-series of chips,  have two different specs:

  • Ryzen Threadripper 1950X: 16C/32T, 3.4GHz base, 4.0GHz turbo, $999
  • Ryzen Threadripper 1920X: 12C/24T, 3.5GHz base, 4.0GHz turbo, $799

You can find in-depth benchmarks from our sister sites Anandtech and Tom's Hardware.

What does Ryzen mean for gamers?

With a new microarchitecture finally in play for AMD, this could mean a much needed uptick in support for AMD chipsets, starting with Ryzen. As a high-performance chipset, Ryzen processors will help to widen the door to 4K and VR gaming as well as offer more consumer choice and competition.

Despite what you may think of AMD given its track record over the last few years, Ryzen is proof that the chipmaker is still very much in the race when it comes to PC processors.

Andrew Melcon is a freelance writer who specializes in covering games and gaming hardware. He's tackled everything from PC game controllers to Pokémon and PUBG and his work has appeared on sites including Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, Laptop Mag, and more.