Ryzen 7 3700X vs i7 9700k – Which is Best in 2021?

With the $300 price point a popular point of contention for both AMD and Intel, both companies currently offer competitive CPUs in this price range. These two offerings are the Ryzen 7 3700X and the Intel Core i7 9700k. Both have great performance, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

So I’m sure you’re wondering which is the best choice out of the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X vs Intel Core i7 9700k matchup? The answer is: The best choice for you will depend on your intended use and application. Each CPU excels in different areas of performance. The Intel i7 9700k has higher single-core performance due to its clock speed advantage which will make it a little better for gaming. However the Ryzen 7 3700X offers better multi-threaded performance thanks to SMT, so it games well but also offers better editing, rendering, and multi-tasking experience.

Below, we’ll be going through Ryzen 7 3700X vs i7 9700k with the differences between both CPUs and directly comparing performance across multiple applications.

CPU Architecture Breakdown

Ryzen 7 3700X vs Intel Core i7 9700k; how do they differ? This section will break down the fundamental design of each core architecture, and will better explain the root of each CPU’s strengths and weaknesses.

Intel Core i7 Processor

AMD’s Ryzen 3000 series CPUs are built on TSMC’s 7nm manufacturing node and based on the Zen 2 micro-architecture. Zen 2 offers excellent performance-per-watt, and better efficiency than previous Zen+, as well as a 15% raw IPC improvement.

At the center of the Zen 2 micro-architecture is the Chiplet design pioneered with Zen/Zen+, with some changes. Each CPU can have a total of 2 CCDs (Core Chiplet Dies), and each CCD can have a total of 2 CCXs (Core Complex). Each CCX is composed of 4 cores.

Each of these 4 cores has 512k of L2 cache each, and all 4 of these cores can access the 16MB of L3 cache provided per CCX vs only 8MB per CCX in Zen/Zen+. The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is an 8 core CPU, with 16 threads thanks to AMD’s SMT (Simultaneous Multi-Threading). So it is a fully activated CCD with 4 active cores per CCX, and 32MB of total cache.

Each CCX, and CCD when applicable, is connected to each other by AMD’s scalable interconnect called the Infinity Fabric. The Infinity Fabric makes scaling to higher core counts easier and cheaper, but comes at a latency penalty vs Intel’s Ring Bus, especially when a core needs to communicate with other cores that are outside of its CCX.

This is the reason for the high amount of L3 cache, to mitigate this latency penalty as much as possible. The Infinity Fabric is also tied into the memory and memory controller as well, and when synced up 1:1 with memory speed and controller, the latency is reduced further.

It can greatly benefit from faster memory speeds and lower latencies to a point. The Ryzen 7 3700X’s memory controller can handle speeds up to 3600 MHz 1:1 in capacities up to 32GB of RAM (without manual tweaking), or all the way up to 128GB of RAM at a slower speed, all in dual-channel mode.

Intel’s 9th gen Core i-series CPUs are based on the Coffee Lake refresh micro-architecture, which is a refresh Coffee Lake. All are built on Intel’s 14nm node, with Coffee Lake Refresh technically being 14nm++.

While the core architecture remains mostly unchanged since Skylake, improvements to the 14nm process have allowed higher clock speeds and more cores to be nestled onto newer CPUs. Power efficiency is also improved, allowing for higher clock speeds at lower voltages, and thus better performance-per-watt compared to previous generations.

Intel 14nm Skylake image

The Intel Core i7 9700k is an 8 core CPU and only has 8 threads since it doesn’t have Hyperthreading, which is Intel’s equivalent of AMD’s SMT. Each core has 256k of L2 cache, and 2MB of dedicated L3 cache per core. Coffee Lake refresh is instead a monolithic die, vs the chiplet design like AMD’s Zen micro-architecture, meaning all cores are on the same die.

The cores are connected to each other, and the System Agent (which handles the memory controller and I/O) via a Ring Bus. This design lowers core-to-core and overall latency, but at the expense of higher costs when scaling to higher core counts vs Zen’s chiplet design.

Coffee Lake Refresh also comes with an improved memory controller with support for higher memory frequencies and up to 128GB of RAM; as well as hardware-level mitigations for Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities.

Temperatures and Cooling – Ryzen 7 3700X vs i7 9700k

Cooling your CPU effectively is crucial. Higher temps can lead to decreased performance and a shorter lifespan. In this section, we’ll go over normal operating temperatures, and compare cooling requirements for each processor.

Optimal Temps

Keeping temps in check is important. The Ryzen 7 3700X and Core i7 9700k have a maximum temperature of 95°c and 100°c respectively. But for the best longevity, stability, and performance, you ideally want to keep temps under 78°c. Ryzen processors especially benefit from cooler temps because of how AMD’s boosting algorithm works.

Cooling Requirements

While both CPUs have similar core counts, their power draw differs. The 9700k is rated for 95w TDP vs the 3700X which is rated for 65w TDP. This is because AMD is using a more efficient 7nm node compared to Intel’s 14nm node. This means the Intel CPU will need slightly more cooling vs it’s AMD counterpart to achieve the same effective temperatures.

While the AMD CPU does come with a cooler, we’d recommend ditching it for a better solution. The minimum we’d recommend for either CPU is a Cooler Master Hyper 212 or Deepcool GAMMAXX 400. Though an upper mid-range air cooler, or 240mm AIO liquid cooling solution would be more optimal.

Overclocking

Both the Intel Core i7 9700k and AMD Ryzen 7 3700X have their core multipliers unlocked, which means that you can overclock them manually providing you have a proper motherboard and cooling. In this i7 9700k vs Ryzen 7 3700X matchup, we’re going to be pushing the limits of each processor to find out where they stand.

Motherboard Requirements

With the 9700k, overclocking is only enabled on higher-end Z370 and Z390, with cheaper H and B-series chipset boards lacking this ability. Z-chipset boards are also needed to take advantage of faster memory speeds, so keep this in mind.

In contrast, the 3700X can be overclocked in cheaper B450, B550, and even B350 boards; along with the high-end X370, 470, and 570 motherboards. This approach means even those with a less expensive board can enjoy and benefit from overclocking.

Here are reviews of top 5 motherboards for the Ryzen 3700x currently. One of these is the best for overclocking this CPU. If you plan on overclocking the 3700x you should definitely check these reviews out.

Tweaking

The Ryzen 7 3700X is the most power-efficient vs the 9700k but also has the least overclocking headroom. Part of this is due to the heat density of the 7nm process leading to voltage sensitivity, and partly because AMD has nearly maxed these chips out of the box.

1.325v core voltage is the maximum safe voltage for 24/7 usage, and going over that for extended periods of time can cause silicon degradation. We tested our 3700X with the popular Cooler Master Hyper 212 and an MSI B550-A Pro.

It yielded 4.2 GHz at 1.282v with level 4 LLC with temperatures in the mid-70s under an all-core workload. We also tested with a Corsair H100i 240mm AIO liquid cooler but our sample only managed a 4.3 GHz all-core OC at 1.325v with Level 3 LLC. 4.4 GHz was possible at 1.37v but is unsafe for extended use. Power consumption at 4.4 GHz was only 120w.

For most users, leaving the CPU at stock and letting AMD’s boosting algorithms do their work will give you the best overall performance as our safe all-core OC was still 100 MHz lower than the 3700X’s boost clock of 4.4 GHz.

The i7 9700k on the other hand is more power-hungry vs the 3700X but has the most overclocking headroom thanks to the 14nm process being more mature and able to handle higher voltages safely. Coffee Lake refresh can safely handle 1.375v for daily use, or even up to 1.4v if you can keep it cool enough.

Our test setup for the 9700k included a Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro, Cooler Master Hyper 212 for air testing, and the Corsair H100i 240mm AIO for liquid cooling.

On air, we struggled a bit to go further than 4.8 GHz at 1.28v with level 4 LLC while maintaining reasonable temperatures with our sample. But once under liquid cooling, we were easily able to push 5.1 GHz at 1.35v with LLC level 3, while staying under 78c.

5.2 GHz would be possible with a more beefy AIO, but our 240mm AIO couldn’t handle the heat. 5.1 GHz is still a whole 500 MHz over stock all-core boost clocks and an 11% increase. Power consumption at 5.1 GHz was 175w.

Which is Better for Overclocking?

Now here is the Ryzen 7 3700X vs Intel i7 9700k from an overclocking standpoint. While the AMD 3700X is more consumer-friendly in its overclocking vs Intel’s 9700k, it only offers meager overclocking headroom over stock.

Despite using more power and needing more cooling vs the 3700X, the 9700k is better at overclocking seeing as it offers higher attainable clocks for a bigger performance bump.

Performance Comparisons

Single-Core Performance

Single-core performance is defined by 2 things. IPC (Instructions Per Clock), and processor frequency. Effective performance comes from a combination of the two since frequency is measured in clock cycles per second. So the higher the frequency, measured in GHz, the more clock cycles there are per second.

When comparing 2 processors of similar IPC, the one with the higher frequency will be faster. Likewise, a processor with a lower IPC can sometimes bridge the performance gap to one with a higher IPC when clocked higher.

Intel CPUs have, up until very recently, had the single-core performance advantage. While the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X does have slightly better IPC vs the Intel Core i7 9700k, it lacks the effective clock speed to make up the difference.

This is in part, thanks to a mature 14nm++ micro-architecture on Intel’s chip allowing for higher frequencies; but also due to the fact that the TSMC 7nm process that Zen 2 is manufactured on is still very new and unrefined.

Games, and some productivity applications today prefer strong single-core performance vs more threads, and strong single-core performance is the foundation of any good processor. While both CPUs are close, The 9700k edges out the 3700X slightly in this department.

Multicore Performance

Multicore performance is important as well, and is a measure of your processor’s overall ability to compute and handle heavy tasks, and can help you future proof your build.

While improvements to single-core performance will almost always translate into performance gains; multicore performance can be highly dependent on what software you are using, and how well that software is coded to take advantage of more cores and threads.

Some software isn’t coded to take advantage of higher core counts well. However, there are also software that can squeeze every bit of performance your CPU has to offer.

Most productivity software, including video editing, CAD, and 3D rendering software, scales with multicore performance, the more cores and threads you have, the better performance you can get.

The Ryzen 7 3700X offers 8 cores and 16 threads, while the Core i7 9700k only offers 8 cores and 8 threads. This gives the Ryzen 3700X a clear-cut advantage in multicore performance vs the Core i7 9700k.

Multicore performance is also important for gaming, up to a point. 6 cores and 12 threads appears to be the current sweet spot for most modern games.

Going for a lower core/thread count can offer a sub-optimal experience, though there are some games that scale all the way up to, and beyond 8 cores.

Which Is Better At Gaming?

Below, we have a 5-game suite of benchmarks. We tested each CPU with 16GB of 3600 MHz CL16 RAM and an Nvidia 2080 Ti. All games were run at 1080p Ultra settings to emphasize CPU performance.

First up, we have Battlefield V

Battlefield 5 Performance Tab

As you can see, the averages are in favor of the 9700k vs 3700X, however, the 3700X produces slightly better 0.1% low performance, which leads to a smoother gaming experience.

Next, we have Rainbow 6: Siege

Rainbow 6 Siege Performance Tab

The 9700k is the clear winner here, pulling ahead by 10% over the 3700X. Though both CPUs make the game perfectly playable.

Another demanding Title is Metro: Exodus

Metro Exodus Performance Tab

Performance is very close in this game, with the 9700k just barely edging out the 3700X.

For racing game fans, we included Project Cars.

Project Cars Performance Tab

Last, but not least, we have GTA V. An older game, but still very popular.

GTA 5 Performance Tab

While GTA V doesn’t really scale well with newer GPUs, it still shows the importance of a strong CPU with strong single-core performance. Once again, the 9700k takes the win.

Despite the 3700X and 9700k having similar IPC, the i7 9700k has better gaming performance across the majority of games thanks to having higher clock speeds and lower core latency.

This difference is most noticeable at 1080p, and when pushing higher FPS. At 1440p and above, however, the difference becomes less pronounced.

Which Is Better At Productivity and Editing?

While both the Intel Core i7 9700k and AMD Ryzen 7 3700X are 8-core CPUs, one has an important advantage. The 3700X has SMT (Or Hyperthreading, as Intel calls it), vs the 9700k which doesn’t.

Productivity, in general, is a very CPU-heavy workload, and more cores and threads are always beneficial. This is especially true for video editing, after-effects, 3D rendering, and CAD work.

Photo editing isn’t as intensive and prefers strong single-core performance, but both processors offer this so the difference is negligible. Is the Ryzen 7 3700X better than the i7 9700K? We’ll answer that below.

Stepping into our multicore benchmarks, we’ll start out with Cinebench R20 Single, and Multicore performance scores. Cinebench is a tile-renderer and will give you a good idea of each CPU’s maximum potential performance.

Cinebench R20 Scores Performance Tab

While single-core scores are very close, the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X takes a commanding 45% lead in multicore performance vs the Intel Core i7 9700k.

Next up is Adobe Premiere Pro, which we tested with a 4k resolution export.

Adobe Premiere Pro 4k Export Performance Tab

Again, the lead goes to the Ryzen 3700x vs i7 9700k, by a margin of 20% here.

Pitting the two against each other shows a clear and decisive victor. The 3700X, and its 8 cores and 16 threads, beats the 9700k, with only 8 cores and 8 threads.

This lead averages out at 35% in our small suite of testing, although when taking into consideration performance in other software, it’s closer to 25% in most editing workloads. This makes the 3700X the better choice for productivity vs the 9700k.

How Do These 2 CPUs Stack Up Against The Newer i7 10700k?

Intel’s most recent 14nm refresh is Comet Lake, a further refinement on Coffee Lake Refresh. This brings the maximum core count up to 10 and gives all CPUs in the Core i-series Hyperthreading.

The i7 10700k slots in at $350 and while the IPC is the same, it offers 8 more threads, a higher turbo clock, and a 100 MHz higher all-core boost clock vs the 9700k.

These changes bring the 10700k more in line with the 3700X’s multicore performance. Sporting a 4970 multicore score in Cinebench vs the 3700X’s 4916, and vs the 9700k’s 3448. Single-core scores for the 10700k also up to 514 vs the 3700X’s 501, and vs the 9700k’s 487.

Gaming performance remains more-or-less the same when comparing the 10700k vs the 9700k, with the 10700k offering about 5% more performance on average, with improved 1% and 0.1% lows as well.

However, with increased performance, also comes increased power consumption, pulling 50w more than the 9700k under multicore loads. This will mean increased cooling capacity will be needed to keep temps in check.

 Which is The Better Value For Money?

For those who want more multicore performance, or want to be able to overclock even on a cheaper motherboard, the 3700X offers exceptional value for money, even at MSRP. Thanks to its efficient architecture, it doesn’t need an expensive cooling solution either, and that saves further money.

However, for those looking for the best gaming performance, the 9700k can also offer good value. With 10th gen currently released, the 9700k can frequently be found on sale for as little as $220.

 Which is More Futureproof?

 As always, when buying a CPU, longevity, and usefulness is a concern for most prospective buyers. When looking at the i7 9700k vs the Ryzen 7 3700X, there are a few things that stick out.

Games nowadays are slowly trending towards being better able to use more cores and threads. While just 8-cores is currently more than enough, the 9700k might find itself lacking in gaming performance vs the 3700X in the future due to being down on threads.

6 core/6 thread CPUs like the 8600k and 9400F are already showing signs of struggling in modern AAA titles because of this trend. It likely won’t be long before 8 cores and 16 threads become the norm, especially with current-gen consoles both sporting 8C/16T CPUs at their hearts.

Another thing is the i7 9700k’s lack of PCI-e Gen 4 support vs the Ryzen 7 3700X. While not a huge deal yet, the 9700k misses out on compatibility with faster Gen 4 NVMe SSD drives.

Finally, the 3700X’s AM4 platform has a better upgrade path vs the 9700k. Zen 3-based Ryzen 5000 series CPUs are compatible with virtually any AM4 motherboard with a BIOS update and have up to 16 cores and 32 threads.

The 9700k’s LGA 1151 platform’s best CPU, and only upgrade path, is the i9 9900k with only 8 cores and 16 threads.

For those looking for a more futureproof CPU, we recommend the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X overall.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is the Ryzen 7 3700X good for gaming?

While not as fast as the 9700k in most scenarios, the 3700X is still a good gaming CPU

How long will a Ryzen 7 3700X last?

The Ryzen 7 3700X should last at least 3 years before needing an upgrade, possibly longer.

Is Ryzen or Intel better for gaming?

This highly depends on what CPUs you are comparing. In the case of our comparison today, the Intel Core i7 9700k is slightly better for gaming vs the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X.

Here are the 5 best motherboards for i7 9700k currently. If you have decided to go with an i7 9700k build then it would be a good idea to read these reviews.

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