To the world of enthusiasts that have long been pining for a huge gen-on-gen upgrade, AMD’s Ryzen 9 5950X and Ryzen 9 5900X deliver an almost unbelievable amount of performance improvement over not only AMD’s previous-gen Ryzen processors, but also over Intel’s Comet Lake flagships. The fact that the Ryzen 9 chips regularly break the 5GHz barrier, even at stock settings, is simply icing on the cake.
AMD’s clever re-use of the proven Ryzen SoC design and I/O Die, not to mention the now-mature 7nm TSMC process, allowed the company to focus its resources on delivering a massively redesigned core architecture that takes a big step forward on IPC throughput, which in turn yields higher performance and more power efficiency.
AMD’s decision to unify the L3 cache pays big dividends in applications that profit from low-latency memory access, with gaming being the perfect example. Meanwhile, more nuanced improvements to the branch predictor and front end expose faster performance across the board, yielding big gains in both single- and multi-threaded workloads.
As we can see in our cumulative gaming and application measurements above, AMD has finally scored a clean sweep in 1080p gaming along with performance in single- and multi-threaded applications. That single-threaded ranking above isn't 'just' Cinebench, either — it's a cumulative measure of several different types of workloads. Perhaps most telling, the stock Ryzen 9 processors beat Intel's highly-overclocked flagships not only in gaming, but also in single-threaded performance.
We certainly couldn't have imagined this possibility when AMD launched the Ryzen series a mere three years ago. We test the fastest chips on the planet, and these types of massive generational performance increases are amazing, even to us.
AMD's path from the bottom of the performance charts to the top was a hard-fought win, but while the company now holds the performance crown, it has left Intel a sliver of room to operate as the budget alternative.
The Ryzen 5000 series processors land at significantly higher recommended price points than the previous-gen models, and you'll have to bring your own cooler. The price for entry on the low end is also higher than we're accustomed to, not to mention that you'll have to drop an extra $150 to move up from the six-core Ryzen 5 5600X to the eight-core Ryzen 7 3800X. At least 500-series motherboards are plentiful, and we now have B550 motherboards for budget platforms.
Zen 3’s gaming performance is nothing short of spectacular. However, as we've noted with previous AMD CPU reviews, many of those gains won’t be noticeable to users with lesser graphics cards. The tables have turned, and now Intel CPUs are the ones that are "basically just as fast as AMD" with anything short of the RTX 3080. On the other hand, AMD's upcoming Radeon RX 6800 XT could offer additional gaming benefits over Intel, thanks to Smart Memory Access.
Unfortunately, AMD’s suggested retail pricing rarely has any relation to reality at the checkout lane, so it’s hard to project where pricing will land in a few months. This much is certain, though: AMD will have no problem selling its pricey new silicon to enthusiasts looking for every last bit of performance on a modern platform.
For now, there’s no reason to recommend an Intel Comet Lake processor on the high end unless you need integrated graphics, so we’ll have to wait until Intel slashes pricing to reflect the reality that it is now the budget alternative. Meanwhile, AMD's Ryzen 5 5600X is incredibly potent in the mid-range, beating even Intel's beastly Core i9-10900K in 1080p gaming, which you can read about in our Ryzen 5 5600X review. We have yet to test the Ryzen 7 5800X, so there could be at least some competition in the mid-range — but there is certainly no competition at the top.
Intel does have Rocket Lake waiting in the wings, but those chips won't land until next year and will top out at a mere eight cores. We don't foresee enough of a performance increase from Intel's new architecture etched onto the 14nm process to really tip the scales against AMD's core-heavy models, meaning AMD could reside at the top of the desktop PC game for at least a year, if not longer.
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