AMD processor logo on circuit background
AMD

AMD has been the underdog in the semiconductor industry for years. Starting as a licensed chip manufacturer for giants like Intel, it wasn’t a big name in the Silicon space for a while. It started making its own chips a while after, but its first big break was when it introduced the first x86_64 chip in 2003, beating Intel to market. It has made some strides since then and started offering some competitive AMD processor options for buyers.

Intel and AMD share a cross-licensing agreement under which Intel lets AMD make x86 CPUs, and AMD lets Intel use its x86_64 instruction set. Smaller fabrication processes are crucial with regards to CPUs since they allow manufacturers to pack in more performance in the same space, as well as with better power consumption efficiency. Intel has failed to offer processors made with smaller fabrication processes in recent years. As a result, AMD has started gaining market share with its CPUs, especially with the Ryzen range. While AMD offers a much more streamlined processor lineup compared to Intel, you may still need help understanding its offerings and picking the best AMD CPU for you. Here’s our AMD CPU guide to help you with that.

AMD CPU vs APU, and processor naming conventions

AMD’s naming convention for its processors is not very complicated. AMD offers two types of processors — CPUs and APUs. An APU, or an Accelerated Processing Unit, is just a marketing name that AMD uses for its CPUs that have integrated Radeon graphics. For the Ryzen lineup, the naming system includes the brand name and tier followed by the SKU number, and optionally, a suffix. The SKU number is four-digit and depends on the series.

See also: Intel CPU guide: All Intel processors explained

While there have been four generations of Ryzen CPUs, there have been five series in total — 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000. That’s because AMD used the latest Zen 3 architecture for two series — 4000 and 5000. The 4000 series was entirely an APU lineup, and available only in laptops and OEM systems, unlike the 5000 series. The SKU number begins with the first number of the series, making it easy to identify the processor. The second digit is a performance identifier; the higher, the better.

AMD uses suffixes after the SKU number to help identify the other features of its processors. Here’s a legend to the AMD processor SKU suffixes.

SuffixMeaning
G
Has integrated AMD Radeon Vega Graphics
GE
Has integrated AMD Radeon Vega Graphics but lower TDP
X
Higher clocked desktop processor
XT
Higher clocked desktop processor with higher performance than X
S
Low TDP desktop processor with integrated AMD Radeon Vega Graphics
H
High-performance mobile processors with integrated AMD Radeon Vega Graphics
HS
High-performance laptop processors with integrated AMD Radeon Vega Graphics and lower TDP
U
Lower TDP and lower clocked mobile processors
AF
First-gen Zen SKUs with 12nm process upgrade

AMD Ryzen series processors

AMD Ryzen processor standing upright on a red background
AMD

AMD Ryzen is the company’s most popular processor lineup of all time. After a rather low-key run in the market for a few years, AMD debuted its brand new Zen architecture with the Ryzen series of CPUs. Released in 2017, it has quickly become a solid alternative to Intel’s Core lineup. The Ryzen lineup is now four generations down.

Just like Intel’s Core series, Ryzen also has four tiers, Ryzen 3, 5, 7, and 9. AMD Ryzen chips are now at 7nm, using TSMC’s manufacturing, compared to Intel’s 10nm and 14nm processes. It has also been making strides with its architectural improvements. This has strengthened AMD Ryzen CPUs as the preferred CPU choices you can make in several price brackets.

AMD Ryzen 3 CPUs

AMD Ryzen 3 is the most affordable of the Ryzen series. The company offers some solid performance with these chips, though, and they fit well into budget performance PCs. Ryzen 3 chips are a good fit for affordable gaming PC builds, home PCs that can handle the basics with ease, or something like a budget HTPC.

The current Ryzen 3 lineup has a few interesting options. Like mentioned before, the Zen 3-based 4000 series Ryzen lineup only had APU options. With the 5000 series, AMD has done the same for the Ryzen 3 series. Ryzen 3 series now has only two APU options with the latest generation architecture. Ryzen 3 CPU options are only available with the older Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 chips released in April 2020 — some of the last Zen 2 Ryzen CPU releases we saw. It makes sense that AMD would want to offer integrated graphics as a standard feature with Ryzen 3 chips since these are budget offerings.

If you want to buy the best AMD Ryzen 3 processor right now, the best option would be the latest Ryzen 3 5300G. However, it’s only going to be available in OEM systems for a while. A retail release is coming later this year.

AMD Ryzen 3 3300X — Our AMD Ryzen 3 CPU recommendation 

  • 4 cores, 8 threads
  • 3.8 GHz base clock
  • 4.3 GHz boost clock
  • L1/L2/L3 cache: 256KB/2MB/16MB
  • Supports up to 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 65W TDP
  • MSRP: $120

AMD Ryzen 5 CPUs

AMD Ryzen 5 is a solid middle-ground for those looking for a processor that can perform well without costing too much. It’s the best CPU series for most people. Ryzen 5 is perfect for mid-range systems like affordable workstations or gaming systems that don’t go all out. With the new Zen 3 5000 series, Ryzen 5 is now even more powerful. The single-core performance of these new chips is on par with the most powerful Ryzen processors.

AMD currently has only one series 5000 CPU for the Ryzen 5 and two new APUs that will be available later this year. The Ryzen 5 lineup offers six cores and 12 threads across the board. The APUs will fill out the lower end of the Ryzen 5 series. The CPU is geared towards those looking for the most performance from a Ryzen 5 processor.

See also: AMD vs Intel: Which one is better?

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X — Our AMD Ryzen 5 CPU recommendation 

  • 6 cores, 12 threads
  • 3.7 GHz base clock
  • 4.6 GHz boost clock
  • L2/L3 cache: 3MB/32MB
  • Supports up to 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 65W TDP
  • MSRP: $299

AMD Ryzen 7 CPUs

AMD Ryzen 7 is the former flagship CPU range from AMD. It offers high-performance processors for workstations, content creation rigs, and high-end gaming systems. If you’re looking for a high-end AMD Ryzen processor but don’t want to spend a ton on only the CPU, Ryzen 7 is the perfect choice for you.

AMD’s new streamlined lineup means you get the same amount of options here as you do with Ryzen 5. With the Ryzen 7 5000 series, AMD offers one CPU option and two APU options. The Ryzen 7 range is eight-core, 12-thread for all its offerings. It offers a higher maximum TDP at 105W to power all that extra silicon.

AMD Ryzen 7 5800X — Our AMD Ryzen 7 CPU recommendation 

  • 8 cores, 16 threads
  • 3.8 GHz base clock
  • 4.7 GHz boost clock
  • L2/L3 cache: 4MB/32MB
  • Supports up to 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 105W TDP
  • MSRP: $449

AMD Ryzen 9 CPUs

AMD Ryzen 9 offers the maximum performance in the Ryzen series. It’s the flagship lineup of the Ryzen brand, and it packs in just about all the features you could get from a consumer CPU at this point. For gaming systems and content creation rigs made to handle the most intense workloads, Ryzen 9 is the right choice.

High-performance CPUs are unlikely to be used without a dedicated GPU. Thus, AMD has no APU options in the Ryzen 9 lineup. Hence, AMD offers two CPU options, with different core configurations. You can either go for a 12-core, 24-thread CPU or max it out with the 16-core, 32-thread option.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X — Our AMD Ryzen 9 CPU recommendation 

  • 16 cores, 32 threads
  • 3.4 GHz base clock
  • 4.9 GHz boost clock
  • L2/L3 cache: 8MB/64MB
  • Supports up to 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 105W TDP
  • MSRP: $799

AMD Ryzen Threadripper series processors

AMD Ryzen Threadripper processor on a blue background
AMD

AMD’s high-performance lineup doesn’t stop at the Ryzen 9 series. AMD Ryzen Threadripper has some of the beefiest and most insanely overpowered processors you can buy. AMD calls it the most powerful desktop processor in the world. It certainly backs that claim with the level of performance it offers.

While AMD’s Ryzen chips max out at a 105W TDP, AMD doesn’t hold back with the Ryzen Threadripper lineup. You get a max TDP of up to 280W, and a whopping 32 cores and 64 threads. Ryzen Threadripper processors are also quite huge in size in comparison to the Ryzen chips. The extra room goes for all the additional silicon and core configurations.

Currently, you only get Zen 2-based 3000 series Threadripper processors. These are very powerful and use the 7nm TSMC process, but the Threadripper series is due for a Zen 3 refresh.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X — Our AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPU recommendation 

  • 32 cores, 64 threads
  • 3.7 GHz base clock
  • 4.5 GHz boost clock
  • L1/L2/L3 cache: 2MB/16MB/128MB
  • Supports up to 3200 MHz DDR4 RAM
  • 280W TDP
  • MSRP: $1,999

AMD Athlon series processors

AMD Athlon processor on a white background
AMD

AMD Athlon was the Intel Pentium-equivalent brand of yesteryear. The company now uses the brand to fill out the lower end of the budget PC market. Athlon is a great choice for super low-budget builds that need to do the bare basics, like web browsing. AMD now only offers APUs in the Athlon lineup. It has two tiers, Gold and Silver, but those are only meant for OEM systems. For the consumers, you get only one retail version.

AMD Athlon 3000G — Our AMD Althon processor recommendation 

  • 2 cores, 4 threads
  • 3.5 GHz base clock
  • L1/L2/L3 cache: 192KB/1MB/4MB
  • Supports up to 2933 MHz DDR4 RAM
  • Radeon Vega 3 graphics
  • 35W TDP
  • MSRP: $49.99

AMD Pro, Epyc, embedded, and FX-series processors

AMD embedded processor on a white background
AMD

AMD has few other processor lineups that target the enterprise end of the market. While AMD’s consumer strategy works well for it, it has also made some serious strides in the enterprise space. 

AMD Pro processors

AMD Pro is actually an umbrella brand for several series of AMD processors meant for the enterprise market. Ryzen, Threadripper, and Athlon all have their own Pro series offerings. AMD promises a focus on security with these processors. Security features include AMD Memory Guard for real-time encryption of system memory and AMD Shadow Stack hardware-level protection against control-flow attacks. There are also more implementations from OEMs and some OS-level features in Windows 10. You also get enterprise-grade support.

AMD Epyc processors

AMD Epyc is the company’s lineup of server CPUs, available only in OEM server systems. The Epyc lineup takes the capabilities you can see in the Threadripper series and scales it up to meet the heavy requirements of the server market. AMD has two series in the EPYC lineup, the 7002 series, and the 7003 series. The AMD Epyc 7002 series is the Zen 2-based platform, and the 7003 is the latest Zen 3-based server CPU lineup. You get up to 64 cores and 128 threads, and TDPs go up to 280W.

See also: CES 2021: Here’s what’s new from Intel and AMD

AMD embedded processors

AMD also offers embedded solutions for a variety of low-power and space-constrained applications. AMD’s Epyc and Ryzen platforms both have embedded versions. Epyc has three embedded chip series — 3000 series for affordable server applications, the 7001 series based on Zen architecture, and the 7002 series based on Zen 2. There’s no Zen 3 embedded Epyc series yet. Ryzen gets multiple embedded CPU lineups, with the most prominent ones being the performance-focused R-series and the low-power G-series.

The future of AMD processors

AMD Vermeer processor graphic
AMD

AMD seems prepared on all fronts when it comes to its processor strategy. It has a more streamlined set of offerings than Intel, as seen in this AMD CPU guide. It is quickly becoming the preferred CPU brand for more and more folks. AMD has no plans of slowing down. Despite the global semiconductor supply chain disruption, TSMC has just announced it’s on track for its 4nm and 3nm processes to hit in 2022, with 2nm in development. AMD is likely to be on board for the ride. We can see it go to smaller and smaller manufacturing processes in the coming years as Intel tries to catch up.

There are already rumors about future AMD processor generations on these smaller processes. Even if you choose to ignore the possible future prospects, AMD is doing pretty well. The 5000 series Ryzen CPUs are some of the best value you can get right now, and AMD’s sales show that the consumer market is swaying towards team red’s offerings.

AMD has also recently completed its acquisition of Xilinx — a big name in the FPGA and networking business. That’s a potential goldmine for AMD in terms of diversification. AMD has had a flip-flop pattern in the past, where they do well for a few years but then lose steam. However, it has never bounced up this well, and if it keeps doing what it has been doing in recent years, there’s no stopping AMD. For consumers, that can only be a good thing as Intel is likely to compete harder, now that the stakes are higher than ever.