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

Editor's Choice

Our Verdict

Out of the box, the Ryzen 5 3600X is the best processor in its price range for gaming and productivity. AMD throws in support for PCIe 4.0, superior power efficiency, an auto-overclocking tool, and capable bundled cooler, making the Ryzen 5 3600X the best mid-range processor on the market.

For

  • Leading gaming and application performance
  • PCIe 4.0
  • Bundled cooler
  • Power consumption
  • Unlocked multiplier

Against

  • Requires expensive X570 motherboard for PCIe 4.0
  • Extremely limited manual and auto-overclocking headroom

Stealing The Crown

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 one of the best gaming CPUs you can buy, a 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 / ThreadsTDP (Watts)Base / Boost Frequency (GHz)L3 Cache (MB)PCIe 4.0 Lanes
Ryzen 9 3950X$74916 / 32105W3.5 / 4.76424
Ryzen 9 3900X$49912 / 24105W3.8 / 4.66424
Ryzen 7 3800X$3998 / 16105W3.9 / 4.53224
Ryzen 7 3700X$3298 / 1665W3.6 / 4.43224
Ryzen 5 3600X$2496 / 1295W3.8 / 4.43224
Ryzen 5 3600$1996 / 1265W3.6 / 4.23224

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 / ThreadsTDP (Watts)Base Frequency (GHz)Boost Frequency (GHz)Total Cache (MB)PCIe 4.0 LanesPrice Per Thread
Core i5-9600K$2626 / 695W3.74.6~1116$43.67
Ryzen 5 3600X$2496 / 1295W3.84.43524$20.75
Ryzen 5 2600X$2296 / 1295W3.64.2~19.520$19.08
Core i5-9500$1926 / 665W3.04.4~1116$32
Ryzen 5 3600$1996 / 1265W3.64.23524$16.58
Ryzen 5 2600$1996 / 1295W3.64.3~19.529$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 ConfigMemory RanksOfficial Supported Transfer Rate (MT/s)
2 of 2SingleDDR4-3200
2 of 4DDR4-3200
4 of 4DDR4-2933
2 of 2DualDDR4-3200
2 of 4DDR4-3200
4 of 4DDR4-2667

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.


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  • SgtScream
    The regular 3600 is going to be an absolute steal for black friday deals.
    Reply
  • DookieDraws
    SgtScream said:
    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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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 @Gurg 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.
    Reply
  • AlistairAB
    Gurg said:
    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.
    Reply
  • DavidDisciple
    Gurg said:
    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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Gurg
    AlistairAB said:
    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%.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • SgtScream
    djayjp said:
    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.
    Reply