The arrival of AMD's Ryzen 5000 found the company with a clear performance lead over rival Intel chips, so the company prioritized high-priced high-margin chips and largely abandoned the budget market. The arrival of Alder Lake has changed the paradigm entirely, spurring AMD to finally bring Zen 3 to the budget arena.
AMD's non-X $199 Ryzen 5 5600 and $159 Ryzen 5 5500 lower the bar for entry to the Zen 3 architecture and provide access to the lowest-priced AM4 motherboards via retroactive support on older boards, but these chips don't retake the overall performance lead in their price brackets. Instead, they slot in as a solid upgrade for existing AMD system owners or as a value alternative to Intel's Alder Lake for new system builds.
Below, we have the geometric mean of our gaming test suite at 1080p and 1440p and a cumulative measure of performance in single- and multi-threaded applications. We conducted our gaming tests with an RTX 3090, so performance deltas will shrink with lesser cards and higher resolution and fidelity settings.
At stock settings, the Core i5-12400 is 2% faster than the Ryzen 5 5600 in our cumulative measurement of 1080p gaming performance and 3.9% faster after overclocking. In our multi-threaded application benchmarks, the Core i5-12400 is 2.8% faster than the Ryzen 5 5600 at stock settings and 5.5% faster after tuning. It's also 15.6% faster in single-threaded applications.
Both chips retail for around $199, leaving the Ryzen 5 5600 in a tricky position. If pricing stays in line with the MSRP, the 5600's primary advantage will be its access to cheaper motherboards that lower the total platform cost. However, the AM4 platform is long in the tooth, and you'll sacrifice the PCIe 4.0 interface if you go with older boards.
Additionally, while the 5600 lacks integrated graphics, the 12400 has the built-in UHD graphics 770 engine to provide at least a basic display out. You could also go with the graphics-less 12400F for ~$175, which helps reduce the impact of the extra costs associated with motherboards for Alder Lake. The Ryzen 5 5600 is also basically a 5600X-killer — it doesn't make sense to spend the extra cash for such slim gains.
The $129 Core i3-12100 is 6.2% faster in gaming at stock settings than the $159 Ryzen 5 5500, and it ties after overclocking. The Ryzen 5 5500 is 19% faster than the Core i3-12100 in threaded applications, which increases to 23% after overclocking. Meanwhile, the stock Core i3-12100 is 19% faster than the Ryzen 5 5500 in single-threaded apps.
The Core i3-12100 is better for gaming-only rigs, but the Ryzen 5 5500 is undoubtedly a better all-rounder. However, the 5500 only supports the PCIe 3.0 interface, so it's best suited for older, lower-end motherboards.
Critically, AMD has added support for the Ryzen 5000 chips to older 300-series motherboards. That makes perfect sense for the lower-end processors because it can keep the company's existing customers from jumping to Alder Lake instead of waiting for the Zen 4 Ryzen 7000 chips to arrive.
However, AM4's longevity is both a blessing and a curse — Intel's Alder Lake has a more sophisticated platform that supports the PCIe 5.0 interface and DDR5 memory. Yes, PCIe 5.0 devices aren't available yet, and DDR5 memory remains prohibitively expensive for this class of chip. However, it is nice to have those options in the years to come — PCIe 5.0 SSDs are in the works, and DDR5 pricing will eventually normalize. Additionally, AMD is moving on to the AM5 socket with Zen 4, making support for the 300-series boards feel like too little, too late.
AMD's new tactic of repurposing its monolithic Zen 3 and Zen 2 APU designs by disabling the graphics units doesn't seem like the best use of die area, but 7nm is mature and yields exceedingly well. This marks a new shift in the company's strategy to using a monolithic die for the low end, a necessity for these lower price points because chiplet-based designs are more costly to produce in terms of packaging and logistics.
AMD has probably built up enough chips with defective iGPUs over the years to meet the initial demand, but we doubt it would purposely defeature chips to maintain the supply. As such, the supply of the defeatured APUs could dwindle rather quickly, much as we've seen with the company's other low-end models (like the Ryzen 3 3300X and 3100).
The Ryzen 5 5500 is a great chip for upgraders with existing Ryzen systems, but it only makes sense for new builds if you need more threaded heft and don't mind using an older platform. The Core i3-12100 is a better choice for gaming-focused rigs due to its higher performance and friendlier price tag.
The Ryzen 5 5600 is a great drop-in chip for upgraders that already have systems built around older Zen processors, but it's hard to recommend for a new build unless you're willing to sacrifice modern amenities to maximize the bang for your buck. Overall, the Core i5-12400F is a better choice for both gaming and productivity-focused builds alike.
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