After years of anticipating their release, it's hard for me to believe that AMD's Zen-based Ryzen CPUs only arrived a month ago. Frankly, I've never seen so much drama unfold so quickly in the tech community -- what an exciting time to be a PC enthusiast!
As we begin to recover from the roller coaster ride that was Ryzen 7, we now have Ryzen 5 to address. Getting the ball rolling, AMD has announced four models in its more affordable series, including a pair of six-core CPUs as well as two quad-core models.
The 1600X is configured similarly to the Core i7-6800K and stands as the flagship of AMD's Ryzen 5 family, boasting six cores and 12 threads with a base clock frequency of 3.6GHz and a boost speed of up to 4GHz. Like all Ryzen CPUs, the 1600X is unlocked, but we wouldn't necessarily expect to squeeze much more out of the stock settings given what we've seen from Ryzen 7.
AMD says the 1600X will be almost 70% faster than the Core i5-7600K when measuring multi-threaded performance in Cinebench, though that isn't a huge surprise considering the Ryzen part has two more cores plus eight threads.
Alongside the 1600X is a second six-core part known as the 1600, which comes downclocked by 400MHz but is nonetheless completely unlocked. As was the case when we reviewed the 1700X and 1700, it's likely that the 1600 will be a much better buy than the 1600X. However, we only have the 1600X on hand for today's testing.
The 1500X and 1400 represent AMD's new four-core/eight-thread Ryzen 5 parts and these come clocked even lower out of the box. The 1500X operates at a base clock of 3.5GHz with a boost of 3.7GHz and the 1400 runs at 3.2GHz but can boost to 3.4GHz (and again, both are unlocked).
For those wondering, the 1500X and 1600 will ship with the Wraith Spire cooler while the 1400 comes with the smaller Wraith Stealth cooler. Unfortunately, we only have one quad-core model on hand for review and that's the higher-clocked 1500X.
Price-wise, the 1600X is set at $250 alongside the Core i5-7600K, though we suspect you may be better off buying the standard 1600 for $30 less at $220. Folks seeking a sub-$200 Ryzen 5 chip have the 1500X and 1400 to pick from at $190 and $170, prices that compete with lower-end (locked) Core i5s and higher-end Core i3s such as the $170 unlocked 7350K, which we know to be terrible value.
By the way things look on paper, the Ryzen 5 1400 should have Intel's entire Kaby Lake-based Core i3 range begging for mercy while the locked Core i5 models should be equally if not more rattled.
In the first of what will likely be many write-ups about Ryzen 5, we'll be pitting the 1500X against the locked Core i5-7500 and the 1600X against the unlocked 7600K. The Core i7-7700K, 6900K and 1800X will be included purely for comparison's sake, and although we haven't had time to add results for the six-core 6800K, we think it's unnecessary anyway. Given Ryzen's pricing scheme, Broadwell-E can be considered a write-off at this point.
Test System Specs & Memory
Ryzen 7 System Specs
Ryzen 5 System Specs
Haswell-E & Broadwell-E System Specs
Kaby Lake-K System Specs
Kaby Lake System Specs
Memory bandwidth performance has improved for the Ryzen CPUs using the most up to date BIOS on the Asus B350 motherboard. AMD's chips are now good for 35GB/s whereas we were previously seeing around 32GB/s with DDR4-2933 memory. Even with lower rated memory, Ryzen CPUs are delivering at least 10% more bandwidth than the Kaby Lake CPUs.
This will hand the 1500X a massive advantage over the Core i5-7500 in memory-intensive workloads as it has over 40% more bandwidth at its disposal.
Synthetic & Application Performance
Using Cinebench R15 to measure single and multi-threaded performance we once again find extremely impressive figures from the Ryzen CPUs. The 1600X lays waste to the 7600K's multi-threaded score, essentially doubling it. That said, for single-threaded workloads, the higher memory clock speed of the Core i5 results in the 1600X being 11% slower here.
Moving to the 1500X, we find it's just 15% slower than the 7700K in the multi-threaded test and 21% slower when looking at single-thread performance. However, when compared to the similarly priced 7600, the 1600X offered 45% faster multi-threaded performance and 6% faster when looking at single-thread.
As we found when testing Ryzen 7, this points to Ryzen 5 offering vastly superior productivity performance compared to competing Intel CPUs.
The 7-Zip benchmark shows similar margins to what we just saw in Cinebench R15, though this is a real-world application and the gains here can actually be enjoyed by the average user. There are two tests here: one measures the performance when compressing files to an archive and another measures performance when extracting an archive.
It's interesting to note that Intel's compression and decompression performance is similar. The AMD CPUs are much faster at decompression than they are compression, though to be fair they are anything but slow at either.
In fact, the 1600X crushes the 7700K in both tests, being 15% faster when compressing and 44% faster when decompressing. When compared to the 7600K, the 1600X is more than twice as fast when decompressing.
Meanwhile, the 1500X is over 60% faster than the 7500 in our decompression test, which is a massive difference and the vast majority of users will open archives more commonly than they will compress them so this is a big win for Ryzen.
The Monte Carlo simulation is an old favorite and this heavy Excel workload crushes weak CPUs. It's also a great test for measuring multi-threaded performance as it uses all available threads. We've seen it do a good job of utilizing a dual-Xeon configuration with 40-threads.
I realize most of you are more interested in gaming performance than heavy spreadsheet work but this is a good indicator of real-world performance in applications that utilize multiple threads.
Here we see that the 1600X is 10% faster than the 7700K and 62% faster than the 7600K, while the 1500X was 20% slower than the 7700K but 18% faster than the 7600K and 61% faster than the 7500. So when compared to similarly priced Intel CPUs, Ryzen 5 delivers around 60% more performance in this application.
Before jumping to the game benches, let's check out the performance results from Premiere Pro CC. This is a different workload from our previous Premiere tests. It's still a 4K video export, but we reduced the video length to speed up the test.
The 1600X took 241 seconds to complete the workload, which was 31% faster than the Core i5-7600K, while the 1500X managed to match the 7600K and overtake the 7500 by 22% -- another excellent application result for AMD.
Testing games is where things tend to get tricky.
In Battlefield 1, the 1800X and 1600X fall short of the 7600K's 153fps average, but if we look at the minimum frame rates they're both faster than the 7600K. In fact, when comparing minimum results, the 1800X matched the 6900K while the 1500X was just 4% slower.
The 1500X on the other hand loses out to the Core i5-7500 in both the minimum and average frame rates, though it's still possible to overclock the 1500X for greater performance and we will explore this later in the review.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was tested using the DX11 API at 1080p with the high quality preset. Here the 1600X matches the performance of the 1800X though unfortunately both are slower than the 7600K by almost 10% when comparing the minimum frame rate.
That said, the 1500X makes out quite a bit better, beating the locked 7500 by a slim margin.
The DX11 Hitman results are quite competitive for the 1600X and 1500X which is great as the 1800X doesn't fare that well against the 7700K or 6900K, at least when looking at the average frame rate, though I should note the minimum result is good. Moving on, the 1600X roughly matched the 7600K while the 1500X was a good bit faster than the 7500 -- a great result for the 1500X here.
The plan was to include Mafia III to showcase how well Ryzen can perform in some games. Previously this was a title where the Ryzen 7 processors did well, even beating the 7700K under certain conditions. However, this retest shows the 1800X quite a long way behind the 7700K.
Something has changed with this title. The 1800X has taken a big hit, particularly to the minimum frame rate and the same is also true for the 6900K. Conversely, the 7700K has gained a few extra frames, so it seems some optimization might have been done to make this title less demanding on the CPU. This could also be down to improvements made by the Nvidia display driver.
I believe the game was patched last week but there was no mention of any performance changes. The Nvidia driver has also been heavily updated since they previous testing was conducted but the improvements mostly focused on DX12 performance.
I expected the 1600X to easily beat the 7600K here and the 1500X demolish the 7500. Instead, performance is competitive among these processors and again something has changed here.
Moving to Ashes of the Singularity we see that the 1800X is able to close in on the 7700K for the normal batch test, that said it does slip away in the heavy batch test.
The new Ryzen 5 models look rather competitive when comparing the 1600X to the 7600K and the 1500X against the 7500. The latter chips are separated by almost 10% in the normal batch test -- yet another strong result for AMD's affordable quad-core CPU.
When it came to overclocking, our 1600X sample was good for 4.1GHz while the 1500X sample hit 3.95GHz. Testing with Premiere Pro saw the 1600X boost its performance by 9% once overclocked, making it slightly faster than the stock Core i7-7700K and not much slower than the stock 1800X.
The 1500X performance was improved by just 4%, which was disappointing, mostly because overclocking the 7600K lead to an 18% improvement taking just 267 seconds. That said, the 7600K is a more expensive processor and requires a third party cooler as well. Compared to the similarly priced Core i5-7500, the overclocked 1500X was 28% faster, so that's great news for AMD.
The overclocked 1600X managed to draw a few more frames in Battlefield 1, though the result wasn't worth getting excited over. The overclocked 1500X was a little more impressive as it landed just ahead of Intel's Core i5-7500.
Here the 1600X gained 6% more performance in Ashes of the Singularity once overclocked, allowing it to beat the overclocked 7600K, at least when comparing the average frame rate. The overclocked 1500X was 14% faster than the 7500, hitting a solid average of 73fps.
Looking at the power consumption figures when running the Cinebench R15 multi-threaded test I have to say the Ryzen CPUs don't look particularly fuel efficient. The 1600X pushed our total system consumption to 64% higher than that of the Core i5-7600K.
However, we need a bit more context. Keep in mind that the 1600X was almost 100% faster in this test, so increasing total system consumption by just 64% to deliver twice the performance is actually impressive.
The 1500X wasn't quite as remarkable as its configuration consumed 66% more power while it was only 45% faster. That's still not a bad result but the 1500X does look quite inefficient in this test compared to the 7700K.
When looking at the power consumption figures for our Excel test, it's interesting to note that all of the system configurations had roughly the same idle usage at around 60 - 70 watts.
Again, the power consumption figures on their own are a bit misleading. For instance, the 1600X can be seen pushing system consumption 34% higher than that of the 7600K configuration and that looks bad, yet it did complete the test 62% faster, actually making it the more efficient processor here.
The same is true for the 1500X, it consumed 33% more power than the 7500 while delivering 61% more performance.
As is often the case, power efficiency goes right out the window once you start overclocking and increasing voltages. If you care about efficiency then overclocking the Ryzen 5 processors might not be a desirable option. The performance gains were quite slim and yet we see the 1600X increase total system consumption by a staggering 49% -- hard to believe but it's true. The 1500X increased consumption by a more reasonable 30% though at best we only saw about half that in performance gains.
By the way, the 7600K likewise burned 42% more power once overclocked despite only seeing performance gains of up to 20%.
Temperatures & Final Thoughts
Using AMD's stock coolers, the standard 1500X idled at 35 degrees and peaked at 68 degrees using the Wraith Spire. When overclocked to 3.95GHz, however, its temperatures increased to 42 degrees at idle and 88 degrees under load. That said, the heatsink wasn't uncomfortable to touch and while audible it wasn't screaming loud.
I should note that all Ryzen 5 overclocking was done using the Wraith Spire for the 1500X and the Wraith Max for the 1600X, but I will talk more about CPU coolers more toward the end of the article. It's also worth keeping in mind that I'm using a power bug program to over-stress the CPU, so when gaming your temps shouldn't get this high.
When paired with the Warit Max, the 1600X idled at 36 degrees and maxed out at just 61 degrees at the stock frequencies. That said, it reached a toasty 90 degrees when overclocked.
Keep in mind while the 1600 does come with the Wraith Spire the 1600X that we are testing here, doesn’t come with a cooler at all. For this reason I strongly suggest buying the cheaper 1600 over the 1600X. Of course if you are going to seriously overclock either 6-core model you are probably better off investing in a large tower style cooler or an AIO liquid cooler, these are of course mandatory items for the Core i5-7600K.
A fantastic alternative to Intel's Core i5-7600K
Priced at $250, the six-core 1600X is an exceptional buy and a fantastic alternative to Intel's Core i5-7600K, which offers only four cores for the same price. Granted, they're exceptionally good cores that can be pushed quite far and may even look to be the better choice right now in most games.
That said, the 1600X offered more consistent performance in Battlefield 1 and of course still pushed well over 120fps. It also made out better in Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and provided similar performance in Hitman. Even in games such as Mafia III and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided where the 1600X trailed the 7600K, the margins weren't that great.
So, out of the box gaming performance is currently similar between AMD and Intel, but Ryzen holds a clear lead in productivity performance regardless of the application (hundreds will mimic what was seen in 7-Zip and Excel). The 1600X is a beast for content creation at this price point, roughly matching the 7700K for $100 less.
Even when overclocked, the 7600K can't hang with the 1600X when it comes to productivity and we expect this to be the case with games once they start better utilizing Ryzen.
Ryzen 5 feels more like an enthusiast-grade product than Intel's thanks to its quality heatsink and unlocked multiplier as well as overclocking support on not just the flagship chipset but also the affordable B350.
On the contrary, the 7600K requires a pricier Z-series chipset if you plan to overclock and don't forget there's no stock cooler at all. That's right, you pay more for the unlocked K-models and Intel does you a favor by keeping the metal, so you can immediately add $20-$30 to the total expense for a basic air-cooler plus the aforementioned ~$20 premium on motherboard.
After accounting for the cooler and comparing the price of these processors with an entry-level motherboard that supports overclocking, we find that the 1600X actually ends up costing 8% less, not the 4% more it seems for just the CPU. If you opt for the vanilla 1600 like I suggest, then you're saving over 15% on the core components. That's pretty insane for a 12-thread setup versus a quad-core.
If you thought the 1600X seemed liked a pretty obvious choice, then sit down, the 1500X is a no brainer. Quad-cores are somewhat unexciting in 2017 but the SMT-enabled, four-core, eight-thread 1500X does rather well for itself and represents an exceptional value at $190.
For around the same money, your alternatives are the Core i5-7400 and 7500, which were handily dispatched by the 1500X throughout our testing. They were evenly matched in gaming for the most part, though the 1500X can be overclocked at no extra cost while it's impossible to squeeze any more performance out of the locked Intel chip.
As with other Ryzen processors, the 1500X was in a different league when it came to productivity workloads. As I said when discussing the 1600X, the 1500X is a chip that enthusiasts will appreciate as it can be overclocked and take advantage of faster memory.
It should be noted that we benchmarked using a Titan X Pascal and gaming performance between the CPUs will level out further with a less extreme graphics card, something like the RX 480/GTX 1060 or even GTX 1070. However, with their additional resources, the Ryzen chips will shine in CPU-bound games regardless.
Overall I think I'm more impressed with Ryzen 5 series than I was with Ryzen 7 for the simple fact that there is less competition at these price points. Intel has done a poor job of looking after enthusiasts, particularly those on a budget and this is where these new Ryzen 5 chips really hit hard.
This makes me think how incredible the Ryzen 3 range is going to be in terms of value. You might scoff at a $130-$150 quad-core that lacks SMT support, but remember how rich the upgrade path is.The AM4 motherboard that you buy today should still be able to support new AMD processors all the way to 2020, so the option to move on from an affordable quad-core in a few years to something much more capable will be possible and this is another reason why I'm so keen on the 1500X.
That concludes our release day coverage of Ryzen 5, but we'll be back soon enough with results for the 1600 and 1400, which should deliver an even greater value than we've seen from Ryzen so far!
Pros: Exceptional value compared to their Intel Core i5 counterparts. Ryzen holds a clear lead in productivity performance, though gaming performance is more evenly matched between Intel and AMD.
Cons: Power efficiency goes right out the window once you start overclocking.