Today we have AMD's Ryzen 5 3500X, a processor that AMD designed specifically for the Chinese OEM and system integrator (SI) market, in for testing to determine if it can compete with the best CPUs for gaming or best CPUs for desktop applications. With six cores and threads, the Ryzen 5 3500X stands out among AMD's third-gen Ryzen stack as the only model without simultaneous multi-threading (SMT).
Like the Ryzen 9 3900 we took for a spin, this processor isn't intended for retail. Most customers will encounter this chip in pre-built systems, but you won't find these desktops competing against the best gaming PCs, because they are only available in China. However, various resellers offer the chip for stand-alone sales in Asia and India even though AMD lists it as China-only.
It isn't easy to keep unique chips out of enthusiast's hands, and you can score one if you're determined and patient enough through eBay for ~$190, though several sellers also carry the processor for ~$240. We even found these grey-market chips bundled with the Wraith Stealth cooler.
AMD's third-gen Ryzen series has proven to be a potent force in the retail market with its healthy serving of cores and threads, and the modular design affords opportunities for specialized designs to tackle various market segments. That makes lopping off SMT an easy option to tackle Intel's advantage in OEM markets, but pricing and access to integrated graphics are typically key to securing lucrative high-volume orders.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X comes without an integrated graphics engine, meaning its market is limited to systems with a discrete graphics card. That makes Intel's new graphics-less F-series processors its natural competitor. Even with a similar number of cores and threads, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X offers better overall performance in both gaming and productivity apps than Intel's Core i5-9400F. However, we could say the same about AMD's other Ryzen 3000 series models that come with threading and offer a higher amount of performance. Unless you're looking for a neat collector's item, AMD's existing retail chips, or the looming Ryzen 3 series processors, are almost certainly the better option.
|MSRP||Cores / Threads||Base / Boost GHz||TDP||L3 Cache||PCIe|
|Ryzen 9 3950X||$749||16 / 32||3.5 / 4.7||105W||64MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 9 3900X||$499||12 / 24||3.8 / 4.6||105W||64MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 9 3900||N/A||12 / 24||3.1 / 4.3||65W||64MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 7 3800X||$339||8 / 16||3.9 / 4.5||105W||32MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 7 3700X||$329||8 / 16||3.6 / 4.4||65W||32MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 5 3600X||$249||6 / 12||3.8 / 4.4||95W||32MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 5 3600||$199||6 / 12||3.6 / 4.2||65W||32MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 5 3500X||~$190||6 / 6||3.6 / 4.1||65W||35MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 3 3300X||$120||4 / 8||3.8 / 4.3||65W||16MB||16+4 Gen4|
|Ryzen 3 3100||$99||4 / 8||3.8 / 3.9||65W||16MB||16+4 Gen4|
AMD Ryzen 5 3500X Specifications
|Model||Cores / Threads||Base Clock||Boost Clock||L3 Cache||TDP||PCIe||Memory Support||MSRP|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3600||6 / 12||3.6 GHz||4.2 GHz||32MB||65W||16+4 Gen4||Dual DDR4-3200||$199|
|AMD Ryzen 5 3500X||6 / 6||3.6 GHz||4.1 GHz||32MB||65W||16+4 Gen4||Dual DDR4-3200||~$190|
|Intel Core i5-9400F||6 / 6||2.9 GHz||4.1 GHz||9MB||65W||16 Gen3||Dual DDR4-2666||$157|
The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X slots in against the Intel Core i5-9400F, matching it core-for-core and thread-for-thread with its six-core design. However, as we noted in our Intel Core i5-9400F review, that CPU ticks at a 2.9 GHz base clock and . But the Ryzen 5 3500X comes with a higher 3.6 GHz base frequency. That should help offset Intel's per-core advantage in threaded workloads, and both chips come with a 4.1 GHz boost clock. That's the lowest boost speed of the Ryzen 3000 series lineup, and, as we'll cover below, that means you should treat overclocking a bit differently.
Like the other Ryzen 3000 chips, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X comes with a 7nm compute die (with two disabled physical cores) paired with a 12nm I/O die. These two components come together into a single package that fits inside a 65W TDP envelope, making the chip physically identical to the 95W Ryzen 5 3600X. As such, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X also looks nearly identical to the upstream Ryzen 5 3600, except it only comes with six threads operating across the six-core design. As we've often seen, processors without hyper-threading tend to perform better in some lightly-threaded workloads, so the lack of threading could help the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X in some tasks, like gaming.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X comes with all of the trimmings we expect from the Ryzen 3000 series of processors, like support for the PCIe 4.0 interface that provides twice the I/O bandwidth of the PCIe 3.0 interface supported on Intel's chips. The chip also carries the same 65W TDP as the Core i5-9400F, but these values aren't directly comparable due to how the companies measure the value.
Like its Ryzen counterparts, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X shares the same Zen 2 design that's etched into the 7nm process, so the feature set is largely the same. The chip comes with a fully unlocked ratio multiplier, meaning overclocking the CPU and memory is on the menu, support for dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory (varies based on DIMM population), and it drops into socket AM4 motherboards (support may vary by vendor). For now, you'll have to pair the chip with either an X570 motherboard that carries a higher price than we'd recommend for this class of chip, or discard PCIe 4.0 support in favor of a cheaper B450 or X470 motherboard. AMD has its B460 lineup coming soon that will slot in as a PCIe 4.0-capable value alternative. That class of board would make a better home for the 3500X.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X doesn't come with an official recommended selling price, but we ordered our chip for $180, though prices appear to have risen in the interim. Now you'll often see the processor listed for as high as $240, which isn't the best deal given that the Ryzen 5 3600, which comes with threading that enables better performance in heavier workloads like productivity applications, weighs in at $199.
Our Ryzen 5 3500X came in a spartan package compared to the typical Ryzen processors, though it does have an official AMD sticker sealing the package. Inside we see fairly standard fare, with the notable exception that the processor doesn't come inside the normal clear plastic carrier. Instead, the processor is nestled into the foam liner with a foam cover on top. We found a bundled 65W Wraith Spire cooler underneath the foam cover. This all-aluminum model is sufficient for stock cooling, but you might consider a beefier model for serious overclocking.
Test Systems and Overclocking Ryzen 5 3500X
AMD allows overclocking on all Ryzen 3000 SKUs, and the Ryzen 5 3500X is no exception. With the arrival of the Ryzen 3000 series chips, we switched over to AMD's auto-overclocking Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) for the majority of our overclocking tests. That's because we typically can't manually dial in an all-core overclock that surpasses the single-core boost speed. In fact, we often end up 200 to 300 MHz below the single-core boost, which results in some performance losses in lightly-threaded apps. Overclocking isn't about taking losses on the performance front, and the automated PBO gives us the best of single- and all-core performance.
Here's where the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X is different, though. With a single-core boost frequency of only 4.1 GHz, the lowest of the Ryzen 3000 stack, our manual overclock should exceed the chip's out of the box specifications on all fronts.
And it did just that. We didn't encounter any surprises; the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X handles just like any other Ryzen 300 chip. We dialed in an all-core 4.2 GHz overclock with 1.41V and ticked over our XMP profile to DDR4-3600, all with a minimum of fuss.
The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X does come sans threading, which reduces power consumption compared to the 3600X that comes with the same number of cores but twice the threads. Even with the Ryzen 5 3500X's pared-back power consumption, Intel's Core i5-9400F still draws less power.
Relative to the 3600X, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X's reduced power consumption equates to less heat generation, but we couldn't find any significant extra overclocking headroom as a result. As per usual, we're confined to the limits of the 7nm process.
In either case, now that we're ticking along at 100 MHz above the turbo frequency on all cores, let's get to testing.
|AMD Socket AM4 (X570/B450M/X370)|
|Ryzen 5 3500X, Ryzen 5 3600X, Ryzen 5 3600X, Ryzen 5 2600X, Ryzen 5 3400G, Ryzen 3 3200G|
|MSI MEG X570 Godlike / MSI X370 Xpower Gaming Titanium|
|2x 8GB G.Skill Flare DDR4-3200|
|Ryzen 3000 - DDR4-3200, DDR4-3600|
|Second-gen Ryzen - DDR4-2933, DDR4-3466|
|Intel LGA 1151 (Z390)|
|Intel Core i5-9400F, Core i3-9350KF, Core i3-9100|
|MSI MEG Z390 Godlike / MSI MPG Z390 (iGPU)|
|2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667 & DDR4-3600|
|Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti|
|2TB Intel DC4510 SSD|
|EVGA Supernova 1600 T2, 1600W|
|Windows 10 Pro (1903 - All Updates)|
|Corsair H115i, Zhaoxin Stock Cooler|