AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600X isn’t quite as impressive as the higher-end Ryzen 7 2700X, but it does offer a solid mixture of performance and value that's well-suited to many different workloads. Whereas professionals might be more interested in the 2700X's eight cores, gamers on a budget will want to check out the 2600X. After all, saving money on other system components is critical at a time when you're certain to pay a premium for discrete graphics.
In the chart below, we plot gaming performance with both average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times (a good indicator of smoothness), which we then convert into a frame-per-second measurement. We also have price-to-performance charts that get split up to include CPUs-only and extra platform costs. For the models that don't come with a bundled cooler, we add $25 for a basic heat sink. We also add $20 if overclocking requires a more expensive motherboard (as is the case for Z370). The Intel test results reflect our patched configurations.
Games show the Ryzen 5 2600X offering a universal improvement over AMD's previous-gen Ryzen 5 1600X. Unfortunately, we see limited gains from overclocking, though that's just as well given this family's meager headroom. More important is that Ryzen 5 2600X beats the Ryzen 7 1800X throughout our suite.
Intel's Core i5-8600K is also in the 2600X’s crosshairs; AMD takes aim with a significantly lower price, a bundled thermal solution, and compatibility with less expensive motherboards. If you're not worried about overclocking, though, the Core i5-8400 is an even better buy for gaming. It offers nearly the same performance as the 2600X at a ~$50 discount. The i5-8400 drops into value-oriented B-series motherboards and comes with a stock cooler/fan, too.
Although we're big fans of the Core i5-8400 for entertainment, Ryzen 5 2600X is a smarter all-around value when it has the change to stretch its six cores and 12 threads. The processor distances itself from the i5-8400 in our rendering, encoding, compression, and decompression apps. It even challenges the eight-core Ryzen 7 1700X in several tests, particularly after tuning. That highlights the improvements borne of the Ryzen 2000-series’ enhanced multi-core boost algorithms and lower memory/cache latency.
Like all of AMD’s processors, the Ryzen 5 2600X comes with an unlocked ratio multiplier. AMD is pushing the frequency/voltage curve to its limits, so we didn’t experience massive gains in some mundane workloads. However, we did see more of a benefit with the 2600X in heavily-threaded tasks compared to the Ryzen 7 2700X. That’s largely due to the 2600X’s lower multi-core boost frequencies.
We wish AMD was ready with its B450-series motherboards at launch time. But you can still pair the Ryzen 5 2600X with a capable 300-series model.
The Spectre patches did take some wind out of Intel’s sails in many of our application tests, but the impact varies by application. In most cases, the regressions aren’t severe enough to change our recommendations. Still, it's always disappointing to observe performance stepping backward. Luckily for Intel, gaming wasn't affected much.
Intel beefed up its Coffee Lake-based Core i5s by adding 50% more cores. Up against the Ryzen 5 1600X, we couldn't help but acknowledge Intel's great performance and generally better compatibility with existing games. This time, however, AMD brings the heat in our benchmarks, while most of its optimization-oriented issues are ancient history. If gaming is your only concern, save some cash and pick up a Core i5-8400. But we think you’ll be happier with the Ryzen 5 2600X, which has more resources to handle general desktop workloads with ease.
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