AMD has made some fantastic advancement with their processors in the past few years, gaining ground on the industry giant of Intel with their Ryzen and Threadripper series. It can be hard to know which processor series is good for what task, as there are more than a few to choose from.
We’re going to break them down for you so you know which processor you’re going to want to suit your needs.
We’re going to be looking at processors aimed at consumers, so we’ll be leaving out AMD’s EPYC Architecture as that is aimed at commercial server level solutions.
AMD Threadripper series
The Threadripper series of processors sits between the commercial and consumer space. They represent some of the most excessive processing power that you can fit into a desktop PC system.
The Threadripper sits upon the massive 4049 TR4 socket, so as you'd expect with a processor this specialised, you'll be needing a specific motherboard to house this chip. It's not going to be an easy upgrade job from a previous CPU.
First introduced in August 2017, the first generation featured the Threadripper 1900X and the Threadripper 1950X. These versions had 8 cores / 16 threads and 16 cores / 32 threads respectively and excelled at dealing with tasks that would make regular desktop processors want to curl up in a ball and weep.
The second generation of Threadripper was announced in April 2018, and takes a big performance step over the first. This was previewed at Computex this year, where AMD revealed a 32-core flagship product. That’s 32 cores in a single chip.
Most average users wouldn’t require the amount of power that these processors supply, as they’re ideally used for rendering video projects and other extreme, excessive workloads
The first generation Threadrippers retail for around £350 ($440) for the 1900X £670 ($749) for the 1950X models, but unless you’re producing medical imaging, doing large amounts of content creation or just want to have the fastest machine around, these are going to be an excessive purchase.
AMD Ryzen series
Moving into the more reasonable end of the market, but still very much at the top end, you’ll find the Ryzen series of processors. These processors also sit on the AM4 socket which will be relevant for years to come thanks to AMD's commitment to use the AM4 socket for several generations.
The Ryzen series can be divided up into the Ryzen 7, Rzyen 5 and Ryzen 3 categories specifically.
The Ryzen 7 selection is the most powerful selection, featuring up to 8 cores and 16 threads with a 20MB cache, these processors are recognises as the premium solution for enthusiasts. The Ryzen 2700X is the current favourite of the series, retailing at around £285 ($319).
The Ryzen 5 series is a step down in price and performance from the 7, but still more than holds its own when it comes to raw power. Ranging from 4 to 6 cores and up to 12 threads with 19mb of cache, this line in the series is more than capable for a gaming or content creation machine and enters the market at the more reasonable price of around £195 ($194).
The Ryzen 3 series is the little brother of the other two, and offers powerful computing performance for every day tasks. Capable of light gaming and everything else a casual PC user would be doing, the Ryzen 3 series offers very solid value at around the £85 ($95) mark.
The Ryzen series of processors all come with a very solid air cooler out of the box, and also have respectable inbuilt graphics if you're buying a Raven Ridge 2400G or 2200G. You will need a discrete graphics card if you're planning on buying a Ryzen processor without inbuilt graphics however.
If you're in the market for a GPU then have a look at our list of best GPUs for 2018.
There really is an option for everyone within the Ryzen series, and they compare very well against Intel’s i3, i5 and I7 lines in terms of price/performance.
AMD FX Series
Coming in just under the Ryzen series performance wise we have AMD’s FX processors. While these processors are not as powerful as the newer Ryzen series, they still provide excellent performance for their price.
These processers run on the previous generation of microarchitecture, and so make use of the AM3 socket which is, unsurprisingly, the generation that preceded the AM4.
The AMD FX line up is headed up by the FX-9590 which is an 8-core chip that runs at up to 4.7 Ghz. However, because it’s on the AM3 socket and will only support DDR3 ram, you won’t quite get the performance of a Ryzen despite the impressive clock speed. At £120 this is a fairly pricey chip, but certainly gives a lot of kick if you’re still running an AM3 based system.
The bottom of the range is the FX-4100 which features 4 cores at 3.8/4.0 GHz. This little processor is considered extremely good value, at just £47 it’s a very solid performer at this price bracket. Although it won’t be stacking up very well to it’s bigger brothers in the Ryzen series, if you just plan to use your machine for browsing and word processing, it’s a great choice.
AMD Athlon series
The AMD Athlon series has been around for a while now, and while it was solid in it’s day and can still be a good alternative now, we would have a hard time recommending it over the Ryzen series. The majority of Athlon chips work on the AM4 socket too, but as you can pick up a current generation Rzyen 3 processor for well under £100, if you’re putting together a new rig the value you’d receive out of a current generation processor would far surpass what you’d save on going for an older generation chip.