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AMD Ryzen 5 1600X CPU Review


Ryzen 5 1600X offers many of the same features and capabilities first introduced by Ryzen 7, except you get them at a more mainstream price point. That really isn't surprising since this CPU is based on the same die, albeit with a couple of disabled cores. Although Ryzen 5 1600X's idle power consumption is much higher than even the fastest Kaby Lake-based processors, it's more competitive under taxing workloads. Overall, the trimmed-down design boasts similar power consumption as the eight-core Ryzen 7s.

Due to its identical clock rates, AMD's Ryzen 5 1600X demonstrates similar performance as the Ryzen 7 1800X in lightly-threaded content creation and productivity tests. The 1600X also outpaces the Ryzen 7 1700 in a great many scenarios where its higher frequency weighs heavier than its core count deficit. This makes the 1700 a tougher sell.

Intel’s Kaby Lake-based processors beat Ryzen 5 1600X in lightly-threaded applications where they can leverage superior IPC throughput. But the 1600X’s extra cores/threads turn the tables in software well-optimized for multi-core CPUs. Surprisingly, the 1600X even rivals the 1700X in certain scenarios. That paints a pretty convincing picture for a budget workstation chip, especially in light of the incredible price-to-performance ratio compared to Intel’s Broadwell-E line-up.

The Ryzen 5 1600X also makes a compelling argument against purchasing the 1700 for your next gaming PC. Six nimble cores regularly match or beat AMD's budget-oriented eight-core model. It'd be easy to speculate that, due to the 1600X’s lower core count, less inter-CCX traffic unburdens the Infinity Fabric and provides more competitive performance. We'll explore this in more depth later. For now, we think it's safe to say there's little reason for enthusiasts to splurge on the higher-end Ryzens for gaming, especially when the dual-CCX die overclocks similarly, regardless of configuration.

But don't forget the Core i5-7600K. It's a capable gaming processor. And although the 1600X challenges it in much of our benchmark suite, the Core i5 still comes out on top at stock settings. Further, overclocking Kaby Lake opens up a sizeable advantage that AMD cannot overcome, given limited frequency headroom. We expect Ryzen's overclocking potential to improve as GlobalFoundries' 14nm process evolves, but Intel's isn't sitting by idly, either.

AMD is still working on improving the utilization of Ryzen 5's resource-rich architecture, and a few gaming titles make it apparent that this is still a work in progress. We’ve seen several developers come forward with Ryzen-specific patches, and if AMD's gets its wish, more will follow suit. In the meantime, AMD developed its own Windows power profile to combat the performance issues we observed back when Ryzen 7 launched. Unfortunately, some of the other workarounds we played with may not apply as universally to Ryzen 5. For instance, disabling SMT on the 1600X resulted in choppy frame delivery, apparent in our frame time charts.

At least overclocking is allowed on inexpensive B350-based motherboards. This makes Ryzen 5 a much better value than Broadwell-E, arguably superior to Ryzen 7 for mainstream gamers, and at least competitive with Kaby Lake. As shown in our Infinity Fabric-oriented tests, though, you'll want a fast memory kit to achieve the best gaming performance.

Ryzen 5 1600X provides a tremendous price-to-performance ratio for budget workstations, rivaling Core i7-6800K. It also facilitates playable performance in games (though it still lags Kaby Lake-based Core i5s more often than not). Considering what Intel charges for its Core i5-7600K, we'd certainly like Ryzen 5 1600X a lot more for gaming if it debuted at a lower price. Much of the Ryzen tapestry is woven using value as its thread. But it's hard to keep that story together when Ryzen 5 1600X sells for $249 and Core i5-7600K goes for $240. With that said, professionals on a budget are far more likely to jump on a potent six-core chip like the 1600X when it's able to beat the $450 Core i7-6800K.


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Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.