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AMD Ryzen 5 1600 CPU Review

Our Verdict

The Ryzen 5 1600 brings six cores and twelve threads at a great price point that places it in direct contention with Intel's four-core Kaby Lake lineup.

For

  • Low price
  • Bundled cooler
  • Unlocked multiplier

Against

  • Performance in lightly threaded applications
  • Memory overclocking

Introduction

AMD's Ryzen line-up shook up the CPU market with more cores and threads at lower price points than competing Intel processors. But the series' universally unlocked ratio multipliers are the real key to extracting maximum value from Ryzen.

The Ryzen 7 family redefined what an 8C/16T CPU cost, and the Ryzen 5s do the same in their segment with a powerful duo of affordable 6C/12T options. AMD's Ryzen 5 series also includes the 4C/8T 1500X and 1400, but we think AMD's $220 Ryzen 5 1600 is much more interesting.

Like its $250 1600X counterpart, the Ryzen 5 1600 features six cores and 12 threads. AMD bins the 1600X as a 95W part, while the 1600 falls into the 65W TDP range. As expected, the 1600's lower TDP boils down to reduced voltages, imposing lower stock frequencies and thermal output. The Ryzen 5 1600 features a 3.2 GHz base clock rate compared to the "X" model's 3.6 GHz, and it also incurs a similar 400 MHz deficit to the dual-core Precision Boost frequency.

Ryzen 5 1600 falls neatly into the $40 price gap between Intel's Core i5-7500 and -7600K. Both competitors are quad-core models lacking the benefit of Hyper-Threading. That should make for a lopsided battle favoring AMD in heavily-threaded workloads, such as content creation and rendering. Ryzen processors also provide acceptable performance in lightly-threaded workloads. The Intel CPUs do come with on-die graphics for those who need it, while AMD dedicates all of Ryzen's transistors to host processing. Discrete GPUs are a must-have for enthusiasts anyway, so it makes sense to go the route that AMD chose.


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AMD indicates that its non-X models do not feature XFR (eXtended Frequency Range) functionality, which allows the CPU to dynamically adjust its clock rate (for two cores) above the Precision Boost rating based on available thermal headroom. During a single-core Cinebench test, we recorded frequencies that regularly jumped to 3.7 GHz on two cores, so it appears the Ryzen 5 1600 also features XFR. Many of the architecture's other features remain unchanged, including its spacious 16MB of L3 cache, SenseMI suite, and unlocked multiplier.

Intel's carefully segmented stack, which relies on locked multipliers to force specific performance profiles, serves as a liability in the face of AMD's unlocked approach. As we've seen from other Ryzen models, the non-X SKUs tend to hit their overclocking ceilings at lower frequencies and offer less consistent memory overclocking. But your access to the platform's many knobs and dials is the same, no matter which Ryzen CPU you purchase. A bit of tuning often pulls the non-X models into range of their more expensive counterparts, also helping close the gap with Intel's mid-range Core CPUs in lightly-threaded apps.

Much like Intel's K-series CPUs, AMD's X models don't come bundled with thermal solutions. So, their additional frequency headroom is accompanied by a higher platform cost. AMD sweetens the Ryzen 5 1600's value proposition by giving you its 95W Wraith Spire cooler. The 1600, like all other Ryzen chips, drops into Socket AM4. Combining the budget-minded processor with an affordable B350-based motherboard results in a capable 6C/12T rig with plenty of horsepower in reserve for any number of enthusiast workloads.

A lot has been written about Ryzen's challenges in some games, but improved memory support and a trickle of software patches have addressed the most glaring issues. The Ryzen processors are good enough for gaming. But the question is whether they offer enough performance to unseat Intel's incumbents in the important price-to-performance ratio comparison. Let's see if the 1600 has what it takes to usurp Core i5.


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  • AgentLozen
    I've been reading the reviews for the various Ryzen models including this one. I just have to say that it's soooo refreshing seeing AMD go toe to toe with Intel once again. We haven't seen a close race in years.
    Reply
  • DavidDisciple
    10-4. I was soooooo sick of hearing Intel fanboys brag and belittle AMD and now the tide has turned. It's great to see AMD providing some serious competition and a brand new architecture. It's also great to see an AMD 1st generation processor beat a 7th generation Intel processor.
    Reply
  • barryv88
    Finally! Took you guys very long to bring out this article - in what is described by many, the little champ of the Ryzen launch so far. The 1600.
    Can't wait to get mine!
    Reply
  • elbert
    Great review but the big gun was a no show. The 1600's stock cooler and can it do 3.7~3.8Ghz. How does that effect the game price effenciency if we add in cooler costs? How does streaming or just recording the game play for later upload effect performance? How about an older game like CSGO while recording? Can we have a part 2 to this review with these and other tests?
    Reply
  • barryv88
    19749170 said:
    Great review but the big gun was a no show. The 1600's stock cooler and can it do 3.7~3.8Ghz. How does that effect the game price effenciency if we add in cooler costs? How does streaming or just recording the game play for later upload effect performance? How about an older game like CSGO while recording? Can we have a part 2 to this review with these and other tests?

    You can check out Bitwit's vid on streaming/recording performance where Ryzen wins rather dramatically. The 7700 is really humbled, given that its 4 extra theads over the i5's don't help either.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXeenX0FZAY
    Reply
  • ZRace
    @Elbert: When streaming, more use is usually being made of having more cores/threads available, so I'd guess the Ryzen CPUs yield better game streaming results compared to pure gaming results when comparing the to the current i5's.
    Reply
  • darth_adversor
    I'm not an Intel fanboy by any means (I think it's fantastic that AMD is going head-to-head with Intel again), but for gaming, minimum frame-rate data is so much more important than average. The article does make a mention of that toward the end, but I don't think it was emphasized nearly as much as it should have been. I really want AMD to succeed (I was AMD all the way throughout the socket 754, 939, AM2/3 days), but if you look past the author's positive spin, I think the Core i5's are really the way to go for gaming.

    Hopefully that will change as the platform matures and the software catches up. I'm still sitting on a 2500k, probably gonna hold out for one more generation before I upgrade. I'd love to go back to AMD.
    Reply
  • DavidDisciple
    Yeah, and things just keep getting better for Ryzen with all the game optimizations and updates for memory compatibility and manufacturers like ROG are adding them in their performance gaming systems. Things are looking pretty good for Ryzen.
    Reply
  • JocPro
    Hey, Paul: AMD has never said that non X processors lack XFR, they just have a more limited extra boost of 50-100 MHz instead of the 100-200 MHz in the X models...
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    19749289 said:
    Hey, Paul: AMD has never said that non X processors lack XFR, they just have a more limited extra boost of 50-100 MHz instead of the 100-200 MHz in the X models...


    I have marketing materials (reviewers guides, press releases, slides from briefings, etc.) that say, specifically and repetitively, that XFR is only on X SKUs.
    Reply