AMD has officially announced that the Zen 3 architecture will land this year and outlined the new Ryzen 5000 series, setting the stage for a new wave of powerful CPUs based upon a newer version of AMD's most successful architecture to date. The new Zen 3 microarchitecture will power AMD's full lineup of next-gen processors, including the Ryzen 5000 "Vermeer" desktop processors that will soon vie for a spot on our list of Best CPUs, the Ryzen 5000 laptop CPUs, and the EPYC Milan data center processors.
The first four new Ryzen 5000 series models come as processors for the desktop PC, and they stretch from the $299 Ryzen 5 5600X up to the $799 Ryzen 9 5950X. We've also learned that AMD will throw in a copy of Far Cry 6, at least on a promotional basis, with the shipping processors. The CPUs will be on shelves on November 5th and could represent a big shift in the AMD vs Intel CPU wars. Early pricing listings, which are not placeholders, indicate that the Ryzen 5000 processors will initially sell at retail for slightly higher pricing than AMD's recommended price points.
AMD says Zen 3 features a grounds-up rethinking of the architecture that finally allows it to take the 1080p gaming performance lead from Intel. Paired with a 19% boost to instructions per cycle (IPC) throughput and peak boost speeds of up to 4.9 GHz, AMD may just have the magic 7nm bullet that finally upsets Intel from its position at the top of our gaming performance benchmarks. In fact, given what we've seen so far, it looks like AMD could soon enjoy a dominating position in the desktop PC market unlike anything we've seen since the Athlon 64 days.
Here's the Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 series processors that AMD has announced thus far, but we expect more to come to market soon:
|Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series Processors||RCP (MSRP)||Cores/Threads||Base/Boost Freq.||TDP||L3 Cache|
|Ryzen 9 5950X||$799||16 / 32||3.4 / 4.9 GHz||105W||64MB (2x32)|
|Ryzen 9 5900X||$549||12 / 24||3.7 / 4.8 GHz||105W||64MB (2x32)|
|Ryzen 7 5800X||$449||8 / 16||3.8 / 4.7 GHz||105W||32MB (2x16)|
|Ryzen 5 5600X||$299||6 / 12||3.7 / 4.6 GHz||65W||32MB (2x16)|
AMD's Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 series begins with the impressive 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X that will retail for $799. This chip boosts up to 4.9 GHz, has 64MB of unified L3 cache, and a 105W TDP rating. AMD says this chip is faster than Intel's 10-core Core i9-10900K in pretty much everything, which isn't surprising — Intel has no equivalent for the mainstream desktop.
The $549 Ryzen 9 5900X slots in as the more mainstream contender, at least by AMD's definition of 'mainstream,' with 12 cores and 24 threads that boost up to 4.8 GHz. AMD says this chip beats the Core i9-10900K by even more impressive margins in gaming. Further down the stack, we find the 8C/16T Ryzen 7 5800X for $449 and the 6C/12T Ryzen 5 5600X for $299.
Intel is stuck with its Comet Lake CPUs for five long months to try to fend off the Ryzen 5000 series until Rocket Lake arrives in Q1 2021, which doesn't bode well.
As odd as it sounds, Intel may have one hidden advantage — pricing. AMD now positions the Ryzen 5000 series as the premium brand and says it has the benchmarks to prove it. As a result, AMD has pushed pricing up by $50 across the stack compared to its Ryzen XT models. However, the XT family doesn't really represent AMD's best value; its own Ryzen 3000 series, which comes at much lower price points, holds that crown.
As a result, Intel's Comet Lake CPUs now have comparatively lower price points than AMD's Ryzen 5000 series. However, AMD says it still maintains the performance-per-dollar lead. We won't know the full story until the processors land in our labs, but that obviously won't be long — AMD says the full roster of Ryzen 5000 CPUs will be available at retail on November 5.
If one thing is for certain, the Zen microarchitecture has completely redefined our expectations for mainstream desktop processors, and it's rational to expect more of the same with Zen 3. Let's cover what we know about Zen 3 so far.
AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series At A Glance
- 1080p gaming performance leadership
- Ryzen 9, 7, and 5 models
- CPUs from 6C/12T up to 16C/32T
- Same optimized 7nm process as Ryzen XT models
- Zen 3 microarchitecture delivers 19% IPC improvement
- 24% gen-on-gen power efficiency improvement — 2.8X better than 10900K
- Higher peak frequencies for most models — 4.9 GHz on Ryzen 9 5950X
- Lower base frequency for all models, offset by increased IPC
- L3 cache now unified in a single 32MB cluster per eight-core chiplet (CCD)
- Higher pricing across the stack (~$50)
- No bundled cooler with Ryzen 9 and Ryzen 7 models
- Drop-in compatible with the AM4 socket
- No new chipset/motherboards launched
- Current-gen 500-series motherboards work now (caveats below)
- Beta support for 400-series motherboards begins in January 2021
- All Zen 3 desktop, mobile, and APU CPUs will carry Ryzen 5000 branding
- Same 142W maximum power for AM4 socket as previous-gen
- Same 12nm GlobalFoundries I/O Die (IOD)
AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series Specifications
|Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series Processors||RCP (MSRP)||Cores/Threads||Base/Boost Freq.||TDP||L3 Cache|
|Ryzen 9 5950X||$799||16 / 32||3.4 / 4.9||105W||64MB (2x32)|
|Core i9-10980XE||$815 (retail)||18 / 36||3.0 / 4.8||165W||24.75MB|
|Ryzen 9 3950X||$749||16 / 32||3.5 / 4.7||105W||64MB (4x16)|
|Ryzen 9 5900X||$549||12 / 24||3.7 / 4.8||105W||64MB (2x32)|
|Core i9-10900K / F||$488 - $472||10 / 20||3.7 / 5.3||125W||20MB|
|Ryzen 9 3900XT||$499||12 / 24||3.9 / 4.7||105W||64MB (4x16)|
|Ryzen 7 5800X||$449||8 / 16||3.8 / 4.7||105W||32MB (2x16)|
|Core i9-10850K||$453||10 / 20||3.6 / 5.2||95W||20MB|
|Core i7-10700K / F||$374 - $349||8 / 16||3.8 / 5.1||125W||16MB|
|Ryzen 7 3800XT||$399||8 / 16||3.9 / 4.7||105W||32MB (2x16)|
|Ryzen 5 5600X||$299||6 / 12||3.7 / 4.6||65W||32MB (2x16)|
|Core i5-10600K / F||$262 - $237||6 / 12||4.1 / 4.8||125W||12MB|
|Ryzen 5 3600XT||$249||6 / 12||3.8 / 4.5||95W||32MB (2x16)|
Here we can see the full Ryzen 5000 series product stack, and how the new CPUs stack up against Intel's Comet Lake. The first big thing you'll notice are the increased Precision Boost clock rates, which now stretch up to 4.9 GHz. However, we also see a broad trend of lower base frequencies for the Ryzen 5000 series compared to the previous-gen processors, but that isn't too surprising considering the much higher performance-per-watt that we'll outline below.
AMD obviously leans on its improved IPC rather than raw clock speeds, thus boosting its power efficiency and reducing heat generation. The Ryzen 5 5600X is the best example of that — despite only a slight reduction to the base frequency, the chip drops to a 65W TDP compared to its predecessor's 95W.
What's not as impressive? AMD has continued with the precedent it set with its Ryzen XT series: Bundled coolers no longer come with processors with a TDP higher than 65W. That means the Ryzen 5 5600X will be the only Ryzen 5000 chip that comes with a cooler in the box. AMD said it decided to skip bundled coolers in higher-TDP models largely because it believes most enthusiasts looking for high-performance CPUs use custom cooling anyway. AMD also still specs a 280mm (or greater) AIO liquid cooler for the Ryzen 9 and 7 CPUs, which significantly adds to the overall platform costs.
AMD continues to only guarantee its boost frequencies on a single core, and all-core boosts will vary based on the cooling solution, power delivery, and motherboard BIOS. The Ryzen 5000 series CPUs still expose the same 20 lanes of PCIe 4.0 to the user (another four are dedicated to the chipset), and stick with DDR4-3200 memory. We're told that memory overclocking capabilities remain the same as we see with the Ryzen XT models, so AMD hasn't changed its guidance on that front.
AMD Ryzen 5000 Zen 3 Performance Benchmarks and Comparisons
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X Gaming and Application Performance Benchmarks
Before we get into the benchmarks, be aware that AMD provided them. Like all benchmarks provided by any company, they could be (and probably are) heavily skewed toward games and applications that favor the company's products.
Also, AMD tested all processors (both the Ryzen 5000 series and Intel models) with DDR4-3600 memory. For reference, DDR4-3200 is the stock configuration for the AMD processors, and DDR4-2933 is stock for the Core i9-10900K. AMD also used a Noctua NH-D15s, a high-end air cooler, for all tested platforms (which is fine), and an Nvidia GeForce 2080 Ti. (It probably couldn't buy a GeForce RTX 3080 or GeForce RTX 3090 either.)
What does the 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X and its eye watering $799 price tag get you? The first slide pits AMD's 5950X against the previous-gen Ryzen 9 3950X and shows 20%+ performance gains in the tested games, though the deltas do vary.
AMD also says the Ryzen 9 5950X scores 640 points in the single-threaded Cinebench R20 benchmark, which is much higher than the Core i9-1900K's 544 points. The content creation benchmarks show the 5950X with solid gains in lightly-threaded apps, like CAD, Adobe Premier, and compilation.
However, performance gains in the heavily-threaded V-Ray application are a bit less pronounced. AMD says the Ryzen 5000 series processors still have to adhere to the 142W power limit of the AM4 socket, which reduces performance gains in heavily-threaded applications.
On the brighter side, AMD says those performance gains come at the same level of power consumption, which means the CPUs are more power-efficient. It will also be interesting to see how that looks when we lift the power limits in our own tests.
The second slide shows the 5950X against the Intel Core i9-10900K in several games and applications. The benchmarks show what is basically a dead heat with the 10900K, but the Ryzen 9 5900X is actually the faster gaming chip, so you'll see bigger deltas over the Core i9-10900K in the benchmarks below.
Of course, with the RTX 2080 Ti, it could be the main bottleneck even at 1080p ultra. We joked about AMD not having RTX 3080 or RTX 3090 testing results, but in all seriousness, anyone upgrading to Zen 3 for gaming purposes is likely eyeing Nvidia's Ampere or AMD's Big Navi as well. That's something we'll be testing once we have hardware in our labs.
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Gaming and Application Performance Benchmarks
Here's a quick look at the improvement in AMD's favorite single-threaded benchmark, Cinebench R20. AMD like this test because it is extremely favorable to its Zen CPU microarchitecture.
The Ryzen 9 5950X scored 631 points, while the Core i9-10900K weighed in at 544 points. That works out to an outstanding 16% advantage for the Ryzen 9 5900X, but bear in mind this occurs in a single benchmark, so take it with a grain of salt.
We scored 535 points with the 10900K in the same test, albeit obviously with a different test platform and conditions. AMD didn't show the Ryzen 9 5900X's multi-threaded CineBench score, but measured the Core i9-10900K at 6,354 points. That's close enough to call a tie with our own measurement of 6,356 points.
AMD bills the Ryzen 9 5900X as the fastest gaming CPU on the market, which it says it measured from the average fps from 40 PC games at 1920x1080 at maxed-out settings.
Here we see a spate of AMD’s 1080p performance benchmarks with the Ryzen 9 5900X up against the Ryzen 9 3900XT. Overall, the 5900X provides a 26% average fps performance improvement, which is pretty stellar for an in-socket upgrade. Notably, the processor notches higher gains in some titles — to the tune of 50% in League of Legends and 46% in CS:GO. Other titles, like Battlefield V and Total War, see low single-digit gains.
The second slide pits the Ryzen 9 5900X against the Core i9-10900K in a selection of games at 1080p with high fidelity settings. AMD recorded a slight loss in Total War, and some single-digit performance increases in a few titles. However, League of Legends and CS:GO, both of which are older titles, received significantly higher fps measurements.
We’ll obviously have to see these titles tested on our own test systems, and Intel could gain a bit more performance from overclocking. The jury is still out on Ryzen 5000’s overclockability, but the CPUs use the same process as the existing Ryzen XT models, so we don’t expect much headroom.
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X Gaming and Application Performance Benchmarks
AMD didn’t share dedicated benchmarks for the Ryzen 7 5800X and Ryzen 5 5600X — the higher-end models are obviously in the spotlight for today’s announcements. However, the company did share performance-per-dollar slides, which you can see above for the Ryzen 7 5800X. We'll add more benchmarks as we learn more.
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X Gaming and Application Performance Benchmarks
Here we can see AMD's performance-per-dollar projections for the Ryzen 5 5600X. Given that this and the Ryzen 7 5800X are single-chiplet designs, we expect them to be incredibly competitive in gaming at the lower price ranges.
AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series Motherboards
AMD didn't launch a new chipset with the Ryzen 5000 series; instead, the CPUs drop right into existing 500-series chipsets, like X570, B550 and A520 models. These boards require an AGESA 126.96.36.199 (or newer) BIOS to boot a Zen 3 processor, but AMD has been shipping silently shipping supporting BIOSes since summer. As a result, every 500-series motherboard on the market should have a downloadable BIOS available.
While the early BIOS revisions ensure the processors will work on the most basic level, you'll have to update to an AGESA 188.8.131.52 (or better) BIOS for the best performance. These revisions will be available for all 500-series motherboards by the November 5th Ryzen 5000 series launch date. However, many motherboard vendors are already distributing newer BIOS revisions with enhanced functionality.
AMD originally announced it wouldn't provide Zen 3 support for 400-series motherboards, but due to concerns from the enthusiast community, the company reversed course. Now AMD will also provide support for 400-series chipsets, but the BIOS updates are under development, and the first beta BIOSes will be available in January of 2021.
However, a series of important restrictions apply to 400-series upgraders, which you can read more about here, but here's the short version:
AMD will add support for select B450 and X470 motherboards, but that comes at the cost of backward compatibility with some older Ryzen processors. Additionally, the upgrade path is only one way: You won't be able to flash the BIOS back to earlier versions that support all chips, which could be a hindrance if you try to sell your motherboard later. AMD also says the updates will only be given to verified owners of Zen 3 processors, but we're currently unsure of the mechanics of the verification process. Finally, support for future Zen 4 processors will not be enabled for 400-series motherboards.
Note: You lose support for PCIe 4.0 on 400-series boards, but most gamers will not, and should not, care — PCIe 4.0 makes no meaningful performance difference in gaming.
AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series Pricing and Availability
The Ryzen 5000 series will come to market on November 5th, 2020. We expect to learn more information, like performance benchmarks, for the Ryzen 7 and 5 models in the interim. We also expect to eventually hear about Threadripper 5000 products with the Zen 3 architecture, but we aren't sure when AMD will bring the new design to its ultra-powerful high end desktop lineup.
The Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 processors do come with a recommended $50 markup across the product stack. AMD's suggested pricing often has little to do with what we see at retail; you can expect the CPUs to eventually retail for far lower than MSRP.
The change comes as AMD positions itself as a premium chip supplier as opposed to its long history as the value alternative. The continued absence of bundled coolers also serves to drive up the platform cost - in most cases, you'll need to invest at least $40 to find a cooler that's as capable as AMD's stock coolers. The company specs a 280mm AIO cooler (or equivalent air cooler) for the processors, so plan accordingly.
That's led to plenty of complaints, and Intel's Comet Lake lineup actually has lower pricing in critical price bands. We do have to take performance into account, though, and we have yet to do our own testing. That means the jury is out on the price-to-performance ratio for the Ryzen 5000 series.
AMD's Zen 3 pricing in the market will be largely predicated upon how it performs relative to Intel's CPUs. Given the big performance gains we expect with the Zen 3 generation, it's possible the numbers could work out in favor of Intel's competing processors.
If Zen 3 lives up to its billing, it looks like AMD’s only constraint will be production capacity at TSMC. AMD will likely sell every Ryzen 5000 series chip it punches out, at least until Rocket Lake arrives – and we still don't know if Intel’s new 14nm design can keep pace with AMD’s 7nm CPUs. AMD’s ecosystem of 500- and 400-series motherboard partners have plenty of relatively affordable options, so we don’t foresee any problems with motherboard supply.
On that front, AMD will undoubtedly meet with stiff demand for the Ryzen 5000 series CPUs at launch, and the company says it is working with retailers to avoid the plague of purchasing bots that exacerbated Nvidia’s now-infamous Ampere launch. And AMD hasn't been free of shortages at launch either, with the Ryzen 9 3950X being relatively difficult to purchase for the first couple of months after it launched.
Should I Buy a Ryzen 5000 Series Zen 3 CPU?
The jury is still out on just how AMD's Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 series CPUs will perform in the real world: We won't know until the silicon lands in our labs, but you can bet that will be soon given the November 5th 2020 launch date.
The performance does look promising; AMD has made plenty of alterations that should boost performance significantly. Here's what we know about the Zen 3 microarchitecture:
AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Serious Microarchitecture
AMD shared many new details about the Zen 3 microarchitecture, but the company says it will share even more information in a future briefing, so we'll have a lot more information for our forthcoming Ryzen 5000 reviews.
AMD embarked on what it describes as a ground-up redesign of the Zen 2 microarchitecture to deliver the gains we would normally see with an entirely new design. In fact, the company's ~19% increase in IPC represents its largest single-generation increase in the 'post-Zen' era (Zen+, Zen 2). We certainly haven't seen an increase of this magnitude for desktop CPUs from Team Blue in the recent past, either — the initial Skylake architecture achieved a similar boost, but everything since has been nearly static.
AMD calculates its 19% IPC number from the geometric mean of 25 workloads measured with two eight-core processors locked at 4.0 GHz. The impressive IPC gains required a 'front-to-back' series of modifications to the design, including (but not limited to) the cache subsystem, front end, branch predictor, execution engine, and load/store elements, all with a focus on boosting single-threaded performance while wringing out better instruction level parallelism (ILP). The result is improved performance across the board in both single- and multi-threaded integer and floating point workloads. However, the 142W power limit imposed by the AM4 socket does restrict the scope of performance gains in heavily-threaded workloads, though there are some advances there, too.
AMD says it uses the same enhanced version of TSMC's 7nm process node that it used for the Ryzen XT series, but still hasn't provided specifics. AMD's 'special recipe' for 7nm is largely kept confidential, but the firm specified that it doesn't use TSMC's 7nm+ (an EUV node). That means that AMD uses the standard N7 from Zen 2 with improved design rules, or that the CPUs use the N7P node.
AMD's end goal is to have undisputed best-in-class performance across the full spectrum of applications, and gaming performance was a particular focus, which brings us to the changed cache hierarchy.
As with the Zen 2 processors, Zen 3 uses the same 12nm I/O die (IOD) paired with either one or two chiplets in an MCM (Multi-Chip Module) arrangement. In the image above, we can see the large I/O die and the two smaller eight-core chiplets.
AMD chose to stick with this basic design for its Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 processors. And just like we see with the previous-gen Zen 2 CPUs, processors with six or eight cores come with one chiplet, while CPUs with 12 or 16 cores come with two chiplets.
While the overall package design is the same three-chiplet design, AMD made drastic changes to the internals of the two eight-core chiplets. In the Zen 2 architecture (left), each Zen compute chiplet (CCD) contained two four-core clusters (CCXes) with access to an isolated 16MB slice of L3 cache. So, while the entire chiplet contained 32MB of cache, not all cores had access to all of the cache in the chiplet.
To access an adjacent slice of L3 cache, a core had to communicate with the other quad-core cluster by issuing a request that traversed the Infinity Fabric to the I/O die. The I/O die then routed the request to the second quad-core cluster, even though it was contained within the same chiplet. To fulfill the request, the data had to travel back over the fabric to the I/O die, and then back into the quad-core cluster that issued the request.
On the right side of the slide, we can see that the chiplet now contains one large unified 32MB slice of L3 cache, and all eight cores within the chiplet have full access to the shared cache. This improves not only core-to-cache latency, but also core-to-core latency within the chiplet.
While all eight cores can access the L3 cache within a single compute chiplet, in a dual-chiplet Zen 3 chip, there will be times that the cores will have to communicate with the other chiplet and its L3 cache. In those cases, the compute chiplet's requests will still have to traverse the Infinity Fabric via signals routed through the I/O die, which incurs latency.
Still, because an entire layer of external communication between the two four-core clusters inside each chiplet has been removed, the Infinity Fabric will naturally have far less traffic. This results in less contention on the fabric, thus simplifying scheduling and routing, and it could also increase the amount of available bandwidth for this type of traffic. All of these factors will result in faster transfers (i.e., lower latency) communication between the two eight-core chiplets, and it possibly removes some of the overhead on the I/O die, too. We imagine there could also be other advantages, particularly for main memory latency, but we'll wait for more details. We do know that the default fabric speeds haven’t changed, though.
All of this is important because games rely heavily on the memory subsystem, both on-die cache and main memory (DDR4). A larger pool of cache resources keeps more data closer to the cores, thus requiring fewer high-latency accesses to the main memory. Additionally, lower cache latency can reduce the amount of time a core communicates with the L3 cache. This new design will tremendously benefit latency-sensitive applications, like games — particularly if they have a dominant thread that accesses cache heavily (which is common).
Naturally, power efficiency will improve as a function of reduced traffic on the Infinity Fabric, but that's probably a small fraction of the performance-per-watt gains AMD has extracted from the architecture. Increased IPC and other SoC-level optimizations obviously factor in here. Still, the net result is that AMD managed to stay within the same TDP thermal and electrical ranges as the Ryzen 3000 series CPUs while delivering more performance.
AMD Ryzen 5000 Zen 3 Power Consumption and Efficiency
AMD says it has not increased power consumption by a single watt — the maximum power draw for the AM4 socket still stands at 142W — which naturally will lead to impressive efficiency gains. AMD’s chart above uses the first-gen Ryzen 7 1800X as a comparison point, and here we see a 2X improvement by moving to the 7nm Zen 2 architecture. That isn’t too surprising considering the move from the older 14nm process to 7nm with that generation of processors.
The more important reduction comes from extracting more efficiency from the ‘same’ 7nm node, which is far more difficult and requires a combination of both better design methodologies and architectural improvements. As a result of these factors, AMD says it wrung out another 24% gen-on-gen efficiency improvement with the Ryzen 9 5900X over the Zen 2-powered Ryzen 9 3900XT. That’s impressive. Intel's most recent Comet Lake CPUs had to increase power draw quite a bit and still had far lower performance improvements.
What does that mean to you? Faster, cooler, and quieter performance for your PC compared to AMD's previous processors - and those models already posed a stiff challenge to Intel's Comet Lake.
The Ryzen 5000 series Zen 3 CPUs arrive at retail on November 5th, 2020. We'll update as we learn more.