AMD Ryzen 5 3600X Review: the New Mid-Range CPU Leader

AMD's new Ryzen 3000 series processors set a new pricing and performance bar for halo parts, but most enthusiasts and gamers buy processors in the $200 to $300 price range. Intel dominated this segment for years, but AMD's Ryzen processors have made inroads with the company's typical advantage of more cores and threads for less money. Pair that with less-expensive motherboards, bundled coolers, and unrestricted overclocking for all Ryzen 5 models, and AMD offers a compelling alternative with its previous-gen parts. 

But what if AMD wasn't the value alternative, instead being the performance leader? The third-gen Ryzen 5 processors certainly have the right mix of features to accomplish that goal. These processors come with the same six cores and twelve threads as their predecessors, but AMD boosts performance with a new 7nm process and the Zen 2 microarchitecture that brings big speedups to all types of applications that span from gaming to productivity work. Not to mention the new PCIe 4.0 interface that offers twice the I/O throughput of the PCIe 3.0 standard that Intel uses for its chips.

The new level of performance now comes with a more expensive overall price tag, though. The previous-gen Ryzen 5 2600X undercut the competing Core i5-8600K by ~$30, while the new 3600X lands $13 beneath its new competitor, the Core i5-9600K. New X570 motherboards, which you'll need for official support for the PCIe 4.0 interface, are also more expensive than previous-gen models, so AMD's overall platform costs have also risen. Luckily, you can opt for an older X470 motherboard as a value alternative, but you'll lose access to PCIe 4.0, which is one of the key selling points of the new processors.

But while AMD is coming closer to charging premium pricing for its parts, it's logical to expect to pay more for faster chips. AMD undoubtedly holds the crown for performance in multi-threaded workloads, like productivity applications, as a side benefit of supporting multi-threading in this price range while Intel disables the feature. But the Ryzen chips have historically lagged Intel in gaming. That changes with the Ryzen 5 3600X, which upset the Core i5-9600K in our testing. Pair that performance advantage with leading performance in threaded applications, and the 3600X is the new leading chip for the mainstream. 

Ryzen 5 3600X

Like the other Ryzen 3000 chips, the six-core 12-thread Ryzen 5 3600X 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 adheres to a 95W TDP ceiling, while the lesser Ryzen 5 3600, which has the same complement of features (but lower clocks), comes with a 65W rating. As we've seen with AMD's non-X models in the past, the X-branded models come with premiums that often aren't in line with the small performance difference between the two models. That means the Ryzen 5 3600 may be more attractive for value seekers, at $199.


SEP (USD)
Cores / Threads
TDP (Watts)
Base / Boost Frequency (GHz)
L3 Cache (MB)
PCIe 4.0 Lanes
Ryzen 9 3950X
$749
16 / 32
105W
3.5 / 4.7
64
24
Ryzen 9 3900X
$499
12 / 24
105W
3.8 / 4.6
64
24
Ryzen 7 3800X
$399
8 / 16
105W
3.9 / 4.5
32
24
Ryzen 7 3700X
$329
8 / 16
65W
3.6 / 4.4
32
24
Ryzen 5 3600X
$249
6 / 12
95W
3.8 / 4.4
32
24
Ryzen 5 3600
$199
6 / 12
65W
3.6 / 4.2
32
24

The Ryzen 5 3600X does have higher clock speeds with its 3.8 GHz base and 4.4 GHz Precision Boost 2 frequencies, an advantage of 200 MHz in both measurements over the previous-gen 2600X and the Ryzen 5 3600 model. Those frequencies lag Intel's Core i5-9600K, which weighs in with a 3.7 GHz base and 4.6 GHz boost. But AMD's drastic improvement to its instruction per cycle (IPC) throughput evens the score in many types of applications. Not to mention the six additional threads.


SEP / RCP (USD)
Cores / Threads
TDP (Watts)
Base Frequency (GHz)
Boost Frequency (GHz)
Total Cache (MB)
PCIe 4.0 Lanes
Price Per Thread
Core i5-9600K
$262
6 / 6
95W
3.7
4.6
~11
16
$43.67
Ryzen 5 3600X
$249
6 / 12
95W
3.8
4.4
35
24
$20.75
Ryzen 5 2600X
$229
6 / 12
95W
3.6
4.2
~19.5
20
$19.08
Core i5-9500
$192
6 / 6
65W
3.0
4.4
~11
16
$32
Ryzen 5 3600
$199
6 / 12
65W
3.6
4.2
35
24
$16.58
Ryzen 5 2600
$199
6 / 12
95W
3.6
4.3
~19.5
29
$16.58

Intel's Core i5-9500 weighs in at a lower price point, but it's drastically pared back clock frequencies and price make it a more natural competitor with AMD's Ryzen 5 3600.

The Ryzen 5 3600X comes with a healthy 32MB of total L3 cache, a neat doubling of capacity over its predecessor and more than three times the cache of the -9600K. That does come with a few caveats, however, as cache performance and efficiency has a big impact on how much cache capacity benefits the processor in typical applications. As usual, our benchmarks will tell the tale.

Ryzen 3000 chips officially support dual-channel DDR4-3200, a step up from the previous-gen's support for DDR4-2966. AMD has greatly improved its memory compatibility and overclocking capabilities, but you still have to abide by rules that dictate the maximum supported frequency based on DIMM type and slot population.

DIMM Config
Memory Ranks
Official Supported Transfer Rate (MT/s)
2 of 2
Single
DDR4-3200
2 of 4
DDR4-3200
4 of 4
DDR4-2933
2 of 2
Dual
DDR4-3200
2 of 4
DDR4-3200
4 of 4
DDR4-2667

You can overclock your memory, either by hand-tuning or one-click A-XMP profiles with pricier kits, to skirt those rules. The Zen microarchitecture responds well to improved memory performance, so higher-priced kits are a good investment that pays off.

AMD also has its Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) feature on offer, which is an automated overclocking tool that will tune your processor to its maximum achievable performance based on its cooling, motherboard, and power delivery accommodations. The quality of your cooling solution has a big impact on how well PBO can auto-tune your processor, and the Ryzen 5 3600X comes with a bundled the Wraith Spire cooler. While beefier coolers can help improve the amount of extra kick you get from tuning, the Wraith Spire should provide plenty of headroom, as we'll show throughout our entire test suite.

MORE: Best CPUs

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35 comments
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  • SgtScream
    The regular 3600 is going to be an absolute steal for black friday deals.
  • DookieDraws
    Quote:
    The regular 3600 is going to be an absolute steal for black friday deals.

    Shhhhhhhh. You're going to get everyone to buy one at that time and possibly screw us up from getting one. :p However, you can grab one through Google's store right now and save $20 off the price by applying their promo code. I'm just not ready right now.
  • Gurg
    You are really trying way too hard in your AMD sales pitch. Seriously how many gaming enthusiasts buy their CPUs at Walmart especially when its prices are $17 higher than Amazon? Amazon 3600x costs a McDonald's double quarter pounder more than the the 9600k. As for competitive pricing, my local Microcenter sells the 9600k for $219.99.

    The overclocked and similarly cooled 9600k shows a 10.5% advantage in average gaming FPS and an 11.5% FPS advantage in 99th percentile gaming FPS over the 3600z. Even more the OC 9600k also whips the 3900x, 3800x and 3700x by convincing margins. Note the AMD cpus also lack igpus. In the value charts you used the three double quarter pounder and diet cokes higher Walmart pricing for the 9600k rather than Amazon to make a value basis for 3600x.

    If your emphasis is not gaming or MS Office but rather workstation usage then the 3600x should be recommended. Why would anyone not planning on overclocking and at strictly value bother to buy pay extra for an X or K? If the 3600x is the new gaming king---the king has no clothing.
  • TCA_ChinChin
    You know it's good when people start accusing Tom's of being AMD shills when usually people call them Intel shills. I'll agree with [USER=1129738]@Gurg[/USER] in that the i5-9600k is still better in gaming against Ryzen 3000 in many cases though so calling 3600x the winner in gaming (against the i5-9600k) is a stretching it a little. The difference is now small enough that the extra cores are probably worth more to the average buyer than the increased FPS the 9600k offers, NOT because Ryzen 3600x is strictly better in gaming.
  • AlistairAB
    Quote:
    You are really trying way too hard in your AMD sales pitch. Seriously how many gaming enthusiasts buy their CPUs at Walmart especially when its prices are $17 higher than Amazon? Amazon 3600x costs a McDonald's double quarter pounder more than the the 9600k. As for competitive pricing, my local Microcenter sells the 9600k for $219.99. The overclocked and similarly cooled 9600k shows a 10.5% advantage in average gaming FPS and an 11.5% FPS advantage in 99th percentile gaming FPS over the 3600z. Even more the OC 9600k also whips the 3900x, 3800x and 3700x by convincing margins. Note the AMD cpus also lack igpus. In the value charts you used the three double quarter pounder and diet cokes higher Walmart pricing for the 9600k rather than Amazon to make a value basis for 3600x. If your emphasis is not gaming or MS Office but rather workstation usage then the 3600x should be recommended. Why would anyone not planning on overclocking and at strictly value bother to buy pay extra for an X or K? If the 3600x is the new gaming king---the king has no clothing.


    With a 2080 ti at 1080p and an OC for the 9600k you might get 4 percent better avg fps. With a 2080 at 1440p? Exactly the same FPS. For the same price you'll buy the 3600x and a 2060 and easily beat the 9600k and a 1660 ti by 25%. The Spire Cooler is included with the AMD CPU, and that's the good one, and you can use a cheap motherboard also. The whole computer industry is kind of ridiculous that you even need to explain to people why the 3600x is better when it is so obvious.
  • DavidDisciple
    Quote:
    Even more the OC 9600k also whips the 3900x, 3800x and 3700x by convincing margins. Notice you said OC 9600K. Isn't it something that a 3rd generation Ryzen is on par and sometimes defeating a 9th generation Intel chip insomuch that you have to overclock it to compete with a 3rd generation Ryzen at stock speed. That says a lot about how good Ryzen's architecture is compared to 9 generations of Intel. The Ryzen architecture is so well refined now that there isn't much overclocking room to begin with. I am not an overclocker to begin with and don't want to overclock contrary to your belief that everyone plans to do it. If I buy a high performance chip to begin with, why would I need to do it? If I need to overclock my chip to compete against others, obviously I didn't buy a competitive chip out-of-the-box to begin with or my chip is inferior in architecture.
  • SethNW
    Midrange CPU king? Only reason you can say that is because you haven't tested 3600, if you did you would learn that is is about 1-2% slower than 3600X and last time I checked, paying good 50USD extra isn't worth that small uplift. And reason for this is in Percision Boost, which will boost CPU based on temperature and power headroom. Keeping two CPUs really close. And better cooler just isn't worth it with 3600X. So I am not sure if this was done to bait clicks or if it was done to sell clicks of affiliate links of more expensive item. But what I can say for sure, it definitely wasn't done for good of the reader. Sorry, but you will see when you review 3600.
  • Gurg
    Quote:
    With a 2080 ti at 1080p and an OC for the 9600k you might get 4 percent better avg fps.


    TH tested with a 2080ti @ 1080p and the Conclusion chart showed an average gaming fps of 136.4 vs 123.4 a 10.53% difference between OC 9600k and PBO OC 3600x, both using the same h115i closed loop cooler. If the 3600x is using the spire cooler the difference goes to 11.26%.
  • djayjp
    Anybody buying less than 8c/16t for gaming is a fool--next gen consoles will have this (will basically be a 3700x at 65W) so this will become the new minimum requirement.
  • SgtScream
    Quote:
    Anybody buying less than 8c/16t for gaming is a fool--next gen consoles will have this (will basically be a 3700x at 65W) so this will become the new minimum requirement.

    Dude relax. Not everyone can afford an 8 core 16 thread chip and that doesn't make them a fool.
  • Gurg
    Quote:
    Dude relax. Not everyone can afford an 8 core 16 thread chip and that doesn't make them a fool.


    In June 2019 , 96.8% of Steam gamers play on 6 cores or less and 82.8% use 4 cores or less. Designing games for 8 core or higher computers would be a very limited market.

    https://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/
  • joeblowsmynose
    Quote:
    You are really trying way too hard in your AMD sales pitch. Seriously how many gaming enthusiasts buy their CPUs at Walmart especially when its prices are $17 higher than Amazon? Amazon 3600x costs a McDonald's double quarter pounder more than the the 9600k. As for competitive pricing, my local Microcenter sells the 9600k for $219.99. The overclocked and similarly cooled 9600k shows a 10.5% advantage in average gaming FPS and an 11.5% FPS advantage in 99th percentile gaming FPS over the 3600z. Even more the OC 9600k also whips the 3900x, 3800x and 3700x by convincing margins. Note the AMD cpus also lack igpus. In the value charts you used the three double quarter pounder and diet cokes higher Walmart pricing for the 9600k rather than Amazon to make a value basis for 3600x. If your emphasis is not gaming or MS Office but rather workstation usage then the 3600x should be recommended. Why would anyone not planning on overclocking and at strictly value bother to buy pay extra for an X or K? If the 3600x is the new gaming king---the king has no clothing.


    Do you bottleneck your CPU to game by chance? (you would need a pretty much 2080ti with specific settings to do so with most modern CPUs , BTW) ... I wonder how mach that difference would really be for the average user with a gtx1060, maybe a 1070, or 2070, or 2060 super, or navi5700 -- y'know the cards almost everyone owns ... what do you think the difference would be for the average gamer? Because I know for a fact it won't be anywhere near what anyone is claiming ... care to take a guess? :) I'd wager ~1-2% Maximum for a 5.0ghz OC on the Intel part - if one have the means to even get it there. But the way a GPU bottleneck works, the Ryzen might pull some leads there as well by the same margin - its a wash.

    It looks like Intel owners will need to buy a 2080ti, play at 1080p on medium settings with no AA, in order to feel like they're beating a Ryzen owner at something. ... heh.

    Like the other guy said, you know its gotta be a good AMD product when Tom's is offering it major praise and people complain about that. Strangely, the reader base and forum seems to have more AMD enthusiasts, but Tom's has traditionally been Intel and NVidia biased - not really a secret.
  • joeblowsmynose
    Quote:
    Midrange CPU king? Only reason you can say that is because you haven't tested 3600, if you did you would learn that is is about 1-2% slower than 3600X and last time I checked, paying good 50USD extra isn't worth that small uplift. And reason for this is in Percision Boost, which will boost CPU based on temperature and power headroom. Keeping two CPUs really close. And better cooler just isn't worth it with 3600X. So I am not sure if this was done to bait clicks or if it was done to sell clicks of affiliate links of more expensive item. But what I can say for sure, it definitely wasn't done for good of the reader. Sorry, but you will see when you review 3600.


    So you are saying the 3600 is even better yet than the 3600x? Wow how amazing is that? And Intel has no 10nm incoming for desktop and no 7nm for desktop until 2021, at which time Bob Swan figures Intel should be competitive again with AMD in the desktop space. His words, not mine.
  • djayjp
    Quote:
    In June 2019 , 96.8% of Steam gamers play on 6 cores or less and 82.8% use 4 cores or less. Designing games for 8 core or higher computers would be a very limited market. https://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/

    Just like all the people who went all in on dual core CPUs when quad cores were first being made available then realized that their games run like crap.
  • joeblowsmynose
    Quote:
    Just like all the people who went all in on dual core CPUs when quad cores were first being made available then realized that their games run like crap.


    Even Steve Burke from Gamers Nexus proclaimed that i5's (without HT, of which the 9600k is ...) are no longer that great at gaming - because the lack of threads causes the 1% lows to tank whenever the game engine needs to spin up some new threads to offload some tasks. He says that R5 > i5 for gaming, despite the i5's ability to reach higher clocks -- higher clocks don't let you know about stuttering and rough gameplay -- 1% lows tend give you a little more light in that area.

    But what would he know about gaming, right? :)

    12 threads is the new 4, sorry to say all you quad core fans out there.
  • AlistairAB
    Quote:
    TH tested with a 2080ti @ 1080p and the Conclusion chart showed an average gaming fps of 136.4 vs 123.4 a 10.53% difference between OC 9600k and PBO OC 3600x, both using the same h115i closed loop cooler. If the 3600x is using the spire cooler the difference goes to 11.26%.


    Tom's uses Farcry? Final Fantasy? World of Tanks? It really depends on your game selection. I have an 8086k and 3600, with SMT off with my 8086k my 3600 easily is within 5 percent in all the games that matter to me, the ones that really need the CPU. Not the old single core dependent games. And it cost half as much.
  • guskline
    If you are starting off with a new build after having had your computer a long time the 3600x looks like a strong contender.

    My question is why test a 3600x on an UBER expensive mb?

    Why not on a mainline x570 that most people would buy?
  • TJ Hooker
    Quote:
    Anybody buying less than 8c/16t for gaming is a fool--next gen consoles will have this (will basically be a 3700x at 65W) so this will become the new minimum requirement.

    Keep in mind that consoles have had 8 cores since the PS4 and Xbox one came out at the end of 2013...
  • SethNW
    Quote:
    Keep in mind that consoles have had 8 cores since the PS4 and Xbox one came out at the end of 2013...


    There are few things different this time. For one, Ryzen is popular, a lot more than FX and A-series APUs. And second, Intel stopped sticking to quad cores. Plus currently consoles are limiting what developers do, since most publishers want same experience on all platforms. So we will definitely see bump up in requirements, once transition period is over.

    That being said, consoles ever got topend chip equivalent. Meaning those will likely be more like Athlon equivalent with more cores. Maybe bit above. Meaning sure they will be 8c 16t, but due to lower frequency, I feel like they will be closer to around Ryzen 5 3600 performance. So unless you are doing high end build, I wouldn't feel bad about getting 3600. Though as controversial as it might sound, i5 9400/9600k users might get bit of that Intels plannedobsolessence taste, due to lack of Hyperthreading. At least for some games. But only time will tell for sure.
  • Soaptrail
    Quote:
    If you are starting off with a new build after having had your computer a long time the 3600x looks like a strong contender. My question is why test a 3600x on an UBER expensive mb? Why not on a mainline x570 that most people would buy?

    I would like to see more testing at 1440 and 4k and a GPU that most users would buy.
  • Soaptrail
    Quote:
    So you are saying the 3600 is even better yet than the 3600x? Wow how amazing is that? And Intel has no 10nm incoming for desktop and no 7nm for desktop until 2021, at which time Bob Swan figures Intel should be competitive again with AMD in the desktop space. His words, not mine.


    See the 3600 review compared to the 3600X at Techspot. https://www.techspot.com/article/1880-ryzen-3600x-vs-3600/

    Quote:
    Having tested both R5 3600 models (see all of that further down below), here's the tale of the tape:
    • The Ryzen 5 3600 is by far the better choice at $200.
    • At stock, we found the 3600X to offer a very mild performance increase (5% or less) compared to the vanilla 3600. This small difference does not justify the extra $50.
    • Both CPUs tend to overclock to similar levels, and the boost offers negligible performance advantages.
    • As shown in our full review, the Ryzen 5 3600 offers tremendous value and will work on even the most basic B350/B450 motherboards.
    • The 3600X gets you a better cooler out of the box, but rather than waste $50 on the 3600X, we recommend instead to buy the 3600 and if you want to reduce the operating volume and squeeze a tiny bit more performance, grab something like the Cooler Master 212 Black for $30.
    • Misleading TDP ratings: The only thing that makes the R5 3600 a 65 watt TDP part, is the 65 watt cooler, while the 3600X is a 95 watt TDP part because it comes with a 95 watt cooler. The CPUs themselves are otherwise identical.
  • SgtScream
    Quote:
    With a 2080 ti at 1080p and an OC for the 9600k you might get 4 percent better avg fps. With a 2080 at 1440p? Exactly the same FPS. For the same price you'll buy the 3600x and a 2060 and easily beat the 9600k and a 1660 ti by 25%. The Spire Cooler is included with the AMD CPU, and that's the good one, and you can use a cheap motherboard also. The whole computer industry is kind of ridiculous that you even need to explain to people why the 3600x is better when it is so obvious.

    Up front the 9600k may currently outperform Ryzen 3rd gen now, but those six threads are already at 100% load via the latest triple A titles. It won't be long where the 3600 will reel in the 9600k with its superior multicore performance and out lives the 9600k via gaming longevity. I wouldn't purchase anything less than 8 cores unless you want an entry level gaming pc or you play ESports titles. Buying that Intel chip is a waste of money IMO. But I consider myself the very small percentage that is the PC Master Race, where settings are cranked up on ultra via a 1440 ultra wide on high end gaming system hardware. Don't get me wrong, I still have mad respect for the i9 9900k.
  • SgtScream
    Quote:
    In June 2019 , 96.8% of Steam gamers play on 6 cores or less and 82.8% use 4 cores or less. Designing games for 8 core or higher computers would be a very limited market. https://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey/

    Latest triple A titles are optimizing for 8 cores 16 threads. I know because I play Black OPS IIII which isn't nearly as demanding as Battlefield V and MSI afterburner shows all 16 threads being utilized. However triple A games still allow for a vast spectrum of graphical settings to dial down for lower end entry level systems. It's not just one hardware config or nothing. Games can be configured to multiple systems with a plethora of different hardware component configurations. Therefore the whole "market" can play the game.
  • darth_adversor
    Quote:
    Just like all the people who went all in on dual core CPUs when quad cores were first being made available then realized that their games run like crap.


    My memory was a little fuzzy (mainly because I was flat broke back then and couldn’t afford $h*t), so I looked it up. The first quad-core CPUs came out in late 2006. From what I can recall, Far Cry 4 was one of the first games that wouldn’t run on a dual-core. There may have been earlier titles, I’m sure someone will correct me if so. Point is, it took years for quad-cores to become a requirement. Games ran fine on dual-cores through at least 2011-12.

    As someone else pointed out, consoles have had 8 cores since 2013, and yet somehow my overclocked 2500k (quad core) continues to perform adequately (though I admit it’s time for an upgrade).

    Aside from all that, though I’m a long-time AMD fan and really impressed with the third gen Ryzen chips, I find the headline of this article to be somewhat misleading. Though it would probably be a wash in most real-world scenarios (with most users being GPU bottlenecked), it looks like Intel is still technically the gaming king.