Much like AMD's attractive Ryzen 5 2600X, the Ryzen 5 2600 proves to be a well-rounded processor that sports many of the same selling points. It's a little bit slower right out of the box, but the 2600 also costs less and boasts a 30W-lower TDP. Similar to the Ryzen 7 2700X versus Ryzen 7 2700 story, you trade a bit of speed for a slightly lower price and a little less heat. They're different tools optimized for different applications. It just so happens that most enthusiasts favor higher benchmark results over a $20 savings or a bit less power consumption.
In that vein, the charts below plot performance using average frame rates and a geometric mean of the 99th percentile frame times, which we then convert into a FPS measurement. We also include price-to-performance charts that get split up to include CPUs-only and extra platform costs. For the models that don't come with a bundled cooler, we add an extra $25 for a basic heat sink. We also add $20 if overclocking requires a more expensive motherboard (as is the case for Z370).
As our benchmark results suggested, Ryzen 5 2600's overclocked gaming performance is very competitive with a tuned Ryzen 5 2600X, both complemented by GeForce GTX 1080. The 2600 also fares well against Intel's Core i5-8600K, which doesn't come with a thermal solution, requires a Z-series motherboard for overclocking, and still sells for almost $70 more than the AMD chip. If you plan on overclocking, the Core i5-8600K does provide higher frame rates than any other Ryzen 5/Core i5 CPUs. But as you push higher resolutions and more demanding detail settings, the differences between processors shrink.
Intel's Core i5-8400, the least-expensive model we tested, is an impressive alternative for gaming. Like the Ryzen 5 2600, it comes with a bundled cooler and drops into value-oriented motherboards. As a result, it's priced somewhat similarly. The Core i5-8400 is our favorite choice for gamers on a budget. Although AMD's Ryzen 5 2600 can be faster after overclocking, you'll have to buy a bigger thermal solution to get there.
While we favor the Core i5-8400 for entertainment, AMD's Ryzen 5 2600 earns its praise in our application suite. Intel does maintain a performance advantage in lightly-threaded tasks. But the Ryzen chip is still competitive across those workloads. Moreover, Ryzen 5 2600's ability to execute 12 threads concurrently helps propel it to victory in more heavily-threaded benchmarks. If you do a lot of video and image processing, rendering, or game streaming, Ryzen 5 2600 should be at the top of your list in this price range.
With its Ryzen 2000-series, AMD eliminated much of our justification for stepping down to non-X models. The Ryzen 5 2600 we tested today isn't much cheaper, and it doesn't have a monopoly on bundled heat sink/fan combos. Some enthusiasts will favor the lower-end chip's 65W TDP. However, we'd rather spend an extra $20 on a Ryzen 5 2600X, deal with the 95W TDP, and enjoy its additional performance. After all, overclocking the 2600 to compensate for its lower base and boost frequencies requires splurging on a bigger thermal solution. Otherwise, you'll find yourself stuck around 4 GHz.
On the bright side, Ryzen 5 2600 is a big step up compared to the previous-generation Ryzen 5 1600. Its 6C/12T configuration at 65W is crazy-impressive for compact/low-power workstations, and we have to love all of the avaialable compute performance at a $200 price point.
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