AMD Ryzen 5 1600X CPU Review

The Ryzen 5 family shifts focus to enthusiasts and gaming with a quartet of six- and four-core models that line up against Intel's LGA 1151-based incumbents.

AMD began its assault on the high-end desktop with Ryzen 7. And while the 7-series introduced disruptive pricing and impressive performance to heavily threaded workstation apps (especially compared to Intel's Broadwell-E-based Core i7s), its 8C/16T configuration isn't fully utilized by most mainstream software, including games. Lower than expected frame rates, especially at lower resolutions, had many in the technology press wondering where the architecture was coming up short. But even if Ryzen 5 has the same issue, lower prices and a persistent core count advantage should set AMD up to battle fiercely on more mainstream platforms.

Similar to Ryzen 7, the Ryzen 5 processors lack on-die GPUs. This means they're destined to drop into PCs with discrete graphics cards, making them well-suited for the gaming market. AMD devotes all of the die's transistors to cores, cache, connectivity, and communications, allowing Ryzen 5 to tackle Core i5 and Core i7 with more host processing resources.

The $249 Ryzen 5 1600X is ambitiously aligned with Intel's Core i5-7600K. It comes with six SMT-enabled cores able to operate on as many as 12 threads in parallel. Like the flagship Ryzen 7 1800X, AMD's 95W 1600X features 16MB of L3 cache, a 3.6 GHz base clock rate, and a 4 GHz boost frequency. It includes the same dual-core 4.1 GHz eXtended Frequency Range setting that automatically activates if your thermal solution is beefy enough. And XFR also contributes to an all-core 3.7 GHz boost level for heavily-threaded workloads.

Intel's 91W Core i5-7600K, which only has four physical cores and 6MB of last-level cache, appears anemic by comparison. However, much of the Kaby Lake architecture's strength comes from excellent per-core performance. This is incredibly important in software that can't fully utilize multi-core configurations. Ryzen’s IPC throughput lags Intel’s by ~10%, even after the massive gains attributable to the Zen design. As a result, Kaby Lake maintains a per-core, per-clock advantage.

Specifications

AMD is also rolling out a $219 six-core Ryzen 5 1600, which drops to a 65W TDP, features a 3.4 GHz base clock rate, and 3.8 GHz boost ceiling. All of its other attributes, including the 100 MHz all-core and dual-core XFR boosts, remain the same as Ryzen 5 1600X.

The company has quad-core Ryzen 5s too. Its 1500X ($189) and 1400 ($169) both sport 65W TDPs. The former operates at a base clock rate of 3.5 GHz and can boost up to 3.7 GHz. The latter starts at 3.2 GHz, but has a maximum boost frequency of 3.4 GHz. Moreover, the 1500X benefits from a 200 MHz XFR boost setting and 16MB of L3 cache, while the 1400 model tops out with a 50 MHz boost frequency and 8MB of L3 cache. AMD aims its Ryzen 5 1500X at the $200 Core i5-7500, which should make for an interesting battle.

All of the Ryzen 5 CPUs boast a familiar suite of features introduced with the flagship Ryzen 7s: unlocked ratio multipliers across the model range, the SenseMI suite, a dual-channel memory controller, and Socket AM4 compatibility. You can overclock any Ryzen 5 on X370- and B350-based motherboards, though we believe most of these cheaper chips will be paired to the less expensive B350 platform.

Keeping the value theme going, Ryzen 5 1400 comes bundled with AMD's Wraith Stealth cooler, while the 1600 and 1500X include the beefier Wraith Spire. AMD doesn't give you a heat sink/fan with its 1600X, assuming most enthusiasts will use third-party solutions.

We covered this design in Everything Zen: AMD Presents New Microarchitecture At HotChips. The Ryzen 5 family employs the same die as Ryzen 7, so it's similarly based on the four-core CCX (Core Complex) building block. AMD connects two CCXes using its Infinity Fabric interconnect, which also handles inter-processor communication like PCIe and northbridge traffic.

At birth, the Ryzen 5 models have eight physical cores. AMD then disables individual cores, either due to manufacturing defects or a need to segment its product stack, resulting in six- and four-core variants. The company indicates that Ryzen 5 processors have a symmetrical core alignment to avoid any odd performance trends that might stem from lopsided allocations. The six-core models have three active cores per CCX (3+3), and the four-core variants feature two cores per CCX (2+2). Each CCX includes 8MB of L3 cache, and AMD surprisingly leaves all of the cache enabled on most models. Only the quad-core Ryzen 5 1400's L3 is trimmed down to 8MB total. 

As a result of their physical similarities, a lot of Ryzen 5's characteristics mirror what we saw from Ryzen 7. For instance, overclocking on Ryzen 5 appears to top out somewhere between 3.9 and 4.1 GHz. That's a notable weakness compared to Intel's K-series Kaby Lake SKUs.

Ryzen Memory SupportMT/s
Dual-Channel/Dual-Rank/Four-DIMM1866
Dual-Channel/Single-Rank/Four-DIMM2133
Dual-Channel/Dual-Rank/Two-DIMM2400
Dual-Channel/Single-Rank/Two-DIMM2677

Ryzen 5 processors feature the same stock memory guidelines as Ryzen 7, which vary based on the type of memory and number of modules you plan to install. AMD’s gaming performance is known to scale better with memory bandwidth than Intel's processors, so good memory is critical to Ryzen 5. We’ve seen motherboard manufacturers send out rapid-fire firmware updates to address issues like overclocked memory support, but the ecosystem continues to evolve. We're also waiting for certain user experience problems to be solved. As an example, we recorded an average of ~65 seconds from power-up to the Windows desktop on our Ryzen samples, while Intel CPUs only take ~20 seconds.

Nevertheless, things can only get better for AMD from here, particularly with a new line of CPUs to address an even larger slice of the enthusiast market. Can Ryzen 5 improve upon Ryzen 7's value proposition, or does the culling of on-die resources step the architecture backwards? Today's review zeros in on Ryzen 5 1600X. However, the 1500X is right behind (we even have some enlightening thermal results from the 1500X on page eight). Ryzen 5 1600 and 1400 will follow in short order, too.

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    Top Comments
  • RCaron
    Great review, but I agree there's an incorporated bias against AMD.

    I think it does well for the review that it is, a technical review. As such a technical review can't really postulate on where the programming world is going with respect to mutlicore processing.

    There has been a speed bottleneck in processors that is holding up research on 3D modelling, virtual reality, and see-and-avoid systems (object detection and avoidance) for drones. None of these technologies can be solved using Intel's single core strategy (researchers have tried around the world and gave up), multicore processing is required. (Supercomputers are too expensive of a solution)

    Games will also be going this direction. You can do more faster with more cores, even if those cores aren't amazing (like Intel's cores). There is no beating this. This means for the next year or more Intel will be behind AMD in multicore applications.. but I'd expect Intel's response to be impressive.

    What these reviews do show, and this is where the author ultimately fails, is that Ryzen is fast enough to play games at high resolution, without noticing any real difference in performance. Future games that are programmed for mutlicores will run faster on a Ryzen CPU with more cores than on the comparable Intel offering with fewer cores. This article shows this.

    So the final comment should be, would you rather spend $240 on a chip (not to mention motherboard and ram) that is going to be slow as molasses running games optimized for multiple cores next year, or do you want to pay $249 for a chip that will only get faster from year to year as more and more software is designed for multicore processing.

    At this point the decision is simple. Intel as it is right now, is selling yesterday's technology.

    If you buy a computer to last 1 year, then buy Intel. But if you want something that will last 5 years and still be able to play games at high resolution then your ONLY option is buy a Ryzen. There is no escaping this fact, it's the single common comment by most technical reviewers, including this one. He clearly states that Intel is benefiting from software designed to run single-core processors.

    Add to that that Ryzen boards are compatible with future Ryzen chips, while Intel will have to come out with a completely new motherboard and ram specifications when it answers AMD next year. If you buy Intel you're literally throwing your money in the toilet. with respect to the future performance of your new computer.

    This isn't a just a choice between chips, it's a choice between a retiring platform (single-thread) versus the adoption of a new platform (multicore, parallel processing).

    A great many people will be buying AMD for this reason.
    34
  • irish_adam
    you say that the i5 7600k comes out on top at stock but just on the gaming benchmarks i make it 4-4 with 2 draws. I wouldnt say that it came out on top at all. I would say they are pretty evenly matched at the moment. Also apart from the odd couple from both sides their frame difference was less than 10, at over 100FPS i'd pay good money that no one would be able to distinguish a difference between either system.
    26
  • ninja_warrior
    If you can reliably overclock any of the ryzen 5/7 to 4.0, why would you get the 1600x over the 1700? Comparing a 1600x at 4.0 to a 1700 at 3.0 and then concluding that it's a better CPU when the 1700 can overclock exactly the same seems pretty stupid
    19
  • Other Comments
  • ninja_warrior
    If you can reliably overclock any of the ryzen 5/7 to 4.0, why would you get the 1600x over the 1700? Comparing a 1600x at 4.0 to a 1700 at 3.0 and then concluding that it's a better CPU when the 1700 can overclock exactly the same seems pretty stupid
    19
  • dstarr3
    Well, good effort from AMD, at least.
    3
  • bloodroses
    A little disappointing for the Ryzen 5's imo. You'd think with the reduced core count you'd get better frequencies (and OC'ing) than what you get with the Ryzen 7.

    I honestly don't see a reason why to get a Ryzen 5 at this point since the i5 is definitely better for gaming and the Ryzen 7 is better for workstation use. The price alone takes it out of its own market.
    -15
  • tamban
    A CPU review with only gaming benchmarks? Tom's hardware really likes Intel's hardware.
    -7
  • FormatC
    Anonymous said:
    A CPU review with only gaming benchmarks? Tom's hardware really likes Intel's hardware.

    Try page 10 :P

    31(!) Workstation benchmarks. Too less?
    13
  • Oranthal
    How about a real world test where you play a game and run a 1080p stream then compare performance? How about 1440p? How about broadening the scope of testing? Nah just ignore the strength of more cores and focus on single thread work and a few games.
    12
  • tamban
    Haha, my bad.
    2
  • irish_adam
    you say that the i5 7600k comes out on top at stock but just on the gaming benchmarks i make it 4-4 with 2 draws. I wouldnt say that it came out on top at all. I would say they are pretty evenly matched at the moment. Also apart from the odd couple from both sides their frame difference was less than 10, at over 100FPS i'd pay good money that no one would be able to distinguish a difference between either system.
    26
  • elbert
    Great review Paul and Igor. Best review I have seen given its the only review with 2 intel cpu's in the price range of Ryzen 5. The RAM info is great which shows that Ryzen gains a real 9ns latency advantage using higher clocked RAM on the Ryzen 5. Given the Ryzen 7 has less cache per core I would expect that gain to be higher.

    An issue that does stick out here is high price of the overclocking solution. How does the 7600k fair with a stock intel heatsink compared to the 1600x wraith spiral best overclocks? I think Ryzen has a real price advantage given the cooler required for a reasonable overclock.

    Also how does the 7600K compare in games while twitch streaming against the 1600X?
    5
  • dstarr3
    Anonymous said:
    How about a real world test where you play a game and run a 1080p stream then compare performance? How about 1440p? How about broadening the scope of testing? Nah just ignore the strength of more cores and focus on single thread work and a few games.


    Maybe that's your real-world test, but that isn't mine. And am I the only one that can see the workstation benchmarks on page 10? Everyone seems to be ignoring them and then complaining that they aren't there.
    5
  • RCaron
    Great review, but I agree there's an incorporated bias against AMD.

    I think it does well for the review that it is, a technical review. As such a technical review can't really postulate on where the programming world is going with respect to mutlicore processing.

    There has been a speed bottleneck in processors that is holding up research on 3D modelling, virtual reality, and see-and-avoid systems (object detection and avoidance) for drones. None of these technologies can be solved using Intel's single core strategy (researchers have tried around the world and gave up), multicore processing is required. (Supercomputers are too expensive of a solution)

    Games will also be going this direction. You can do more faster with more cores, even if those cores aren't amazing (like Intel's cores). There is no beating this. This means for the next year or more Intel will be behind AMD in multicore applications.. but I'd expect Intel's response to be impressive.

    What these reviews do show, and this is where the author ultimately fails, is that Ryzen is fast enough to play games at high resolution, without noticing any real difference in performance. Future games that are programmed for mutlicores will run faster on a Ryzen CPU with more cores than on the comparable Intel offering with fewer cores. This article shows this.

    So the final comment should be, would you rather spend $240 on a chip (not to mention motherboard and ram) that is going to be slow as molasses running games optimized for multiple cores next year, or do you want to pay $249 for a chip that will only get faster from year to year as more and more software is designed for multicore processing.

    At this point the decision is simple. Intel as it is right now, is selling yesterday's technology.

    If you buy a computer to last 1 year, then buy Intel. But if you want something that will last 5 years and still be able to play games at high resolution then your ONLY option is buy a Ryzen. There is no escaping this fact, it's the single common comment by most technical reviewers, including this one. He clearly states that Intel is benefiting from software designed to run single-core processors.

    Add to that that Ryzen boards are compatible with future Ryzen chips, while Intel will have to come out with a completely new motherboard and ram specifications when it answers AMD next year. If you buy Intel you're literally throwing your money in the toilet. with respect to the future performance of your new computer.

    This isn't a just a choice between chips, it's a choice between a retiring platform (single-thread) versus the adoption of a new platform (multicore, parallel processing).

    A great many people will be buying AMD for this reason.
    34
  • rgd1101
    Would like to see the charts add i7 7700k/7700 for comparison
    0
  • bigedmustafa
    It was a little weird seeing the i7-7700k disappear from all of the workstation benchmarks; such a comparison might have actually highlighted the value of Ryzen 5. It was also weird seeing the FX9590 appear only on the power consumption tests when the FX8370 was used for software testing. Whichever chips are chosen for comparison, it would be nice to see those same chips shown consistently throughout the review and not dropped or replaced from section to section.
    13
  • FormatC
    I removed the 7700K from workstation, because my colleague does the same in gaming section. It is a totally other price target.

    And:
    We used the Creators Update to be fair to AMD, but only I need one day per CPU for one workstation run. This all was a decision, how to use the time optimal. Someone asked about 1440p benchmarks... What is better? Creators Update and fresh content or all CPUs and outdated crap?


    The power consumption thing is right, but my mainboard for the FX-8370 with the soldered shunts for measuring was damaged (the 5th in the last two years). So I was not able to measure the power draw on the same way and I had no time to build me the same setup again in this few hours for testing.
    0
  • ykki
    What gpu was used? Can't find it in the test setup table.
    3
  • FormatC
    As every time: GTX 1080 FE...
    (take a look at "US all")
    2
  • captaincharisma
    Anonymous said:
    How about a real world test where you play a game and run a 1080p stream then compare performance? How about 1440p? How about broadening the scope of testing? Nah just ignore the strength of more cores and focus on single thread work and a few games.


    riiiiiight, cause 6 lackluster cores can beat out 4 quality cores all day . you should know AMD's motto is always going to be quantity over quality. but hey, if a few hits in performance are good enough for people then buy it.
    -10
  • tripleX
    Anonymous said:
    Great review, but I agree there's an incorporated bias against AMD.

    I think it does well for the review that it is, a technical review. As such a technical review can't really postulate on where the programming world is going with respect to mutlicore processing.

    There has been a speed bottleneck in processors that is holding up research on 3D modelling, virtual reality, and see-and-avoid systems (object detection and avoidance) for drones. None of these technologies can be solved using Intel's single core strategy (researchers have tried around the world and gave up), multicore processing is required. (Supercomputers are too expensive of a solution)

    Games will also be going this direction. You can do more faster with more cores, even if those cores aren't amazing (like Intel's cores). There is no beating this. This means for the next year or more Intel will be behind AMD in multicore applications.. but I'd expect Intel's response to be impressive.

    What these reviews do show, and this is where the author ultimately fails, is that Ryzen is fast enough to play games at high resolution, without noticing any real difference in performance. Future games that are programmed for mutlicores will run faster on a Ryzen CPU with more cores than on the comparable Intel offering with fewer cores. This article shows this.

    So the final comment should be, would you rather spend $240 on a chip (not to mention motherboard and ram) that is going to be slow as molasses running games optimized for multiple cores next year, or do you want to pay $249 for a chip that will only get faster from year to year as more and more software is designed for multicore processing.

    At this point the decision is simple. Intel as it is right now, is selling yesterday's technology.

    If you buy a computer to last 1 year, then buy Intel. But if you want something that will last 5 years and still be able to play games at high resolution then your ONLY option is buy a Ryzen. There is no escaping this fact, it's the single common comment by most technical reviewers, including this one. He clearly states that Intel is benefiting from software designed to run single-core processors.

    Add to that that Ryzen boards are compatible with future Ryzen chips, while Intel will have to come out with a completely new motherboard and ram specifications when it answers AMD next year. If you buy Intel you're literally throwing your money in the toilet. with respect to the future performance of your new computer.

    This isn't a just a choice between chips, it's a choice between a retiring platform (single-thread) versus the adoption of a new platform (multicore, parallel processing).

    A great many people will be buying AMD for this reason.


    First time poster, almost scripted response. Thanks, AMD Spokesperson!
    -7
  • tripleX
    Anonymous said:
    How about a real world test where you play a game and run a 1080p stream then compare performance? How about 1440p? How about broadening the scope of testing? Nah just ignore the strength of more cores and focus on single thread work and a few games.


    1080p streaming argument is no bueno. No one does that on the CPU, and if they do, they use Intel's dedicated hardware (quick sync) to do it. AMD doesn't have integrated graphics, so how do you do a like comparison of that?

    So again, its not a real world scenario. That's why you see absolutely no sites testing it. Marketing fluff.
    -2
  • ykki
    Anonymous said:
    Would like to see the charts add i7 7700k/7700 for comparison

    For productivity charts, yes. For gaming, ehhhh.....
    0