AMD Ryzen 5 review

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PROS

  • Excellent value
  • Best in class for multi-thread workloads
  • 1500X beats i5-7400 in single-thread and multi-thread
  • 1600X is the only six-core chip near this price

CONS

  • Clock speeds still can’t match Intel
  • Can’t overclock as far as Intel K-processors

KEY FEATURES

  • AMD Zen architecture
  • DDR4 memory support
  • AM4 platform
  • Quad-core and six-core processors
  • Simultaneous Multithreading
  • Manufacturer: AMD
  • Review Price: £250.00/$375.00

WHAT ARE THE AMD RYZEN 5 1600X AND 1500X?

AMD made quite a splash with the launch of its first Ryzen CPUs. The Ryzen 7 1800X was so good it became the first AMD CPU TrustedReviews has strongly recommended in the better part of ten years. But, the 1800X and the other two Ryzen 7 processors that launched a month or so ago are all high-end products with eight cores and price tags to match. That’s where the Ryzen 5 chips come in.

Launching today, the Ryzen 5 processors are available in six and quad-core configurations, and have a far lower upfront cost. This makes them ideal for more mainstream and enthusiast users who want a powerful processors but don’t really need, or can’t afford, the massive multi-core power of a Ryzen 7 CPU.

There are four processors that make up the Ryzen 5 lineup, two of which are quad-core and two six-core. I’ll be looking at the top tier versions of each, the quad-core 1500X and the six-core 1600X.

AMD RYZEN 5 – FEATURES AND SPECIFICATIONS

The Ryzen 5 processors are the second set of chips to arrive from AMD’s full Ryzen range. In the second half of the year we can expect to see Ryzen 3 chips. With the addition of these four new processors, the Ryzen range now extends from the £330-£500 of the Ryzen 7 chips, down to the £160-£250 of Ryzen 5. This pits them against Intel’s Core i5-7600K at the top end and a variety of dual- and quad-core processors at the lower end.

What’s striking about the entire Ryzen range so far, including these new Ryzen 5 chips, is that they all have essentially identical features, apart from the number of cores and their clock speeds. All are multiplier unlocked for easy overclocking, all include simultaneous multithreading (SMT), all include Precision Boost and all fit in the same motherboards.

Manufacturer Product Line Model Cores / Threads Base Clock (GHz) Boost Clock (GHz) TDP MSRP in USD
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X 6 / 12 3.6 4.0 65W $249
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 6 / 12 3.2 3.6 65W $219
AMD Ryzen 5 1500X 4 / 8 3.5 3.7 65W $189
AMD Ryzen 5 1500 4 / 8 3.2 3.4 65W $169

The only other differentiator is the X on the end of the model numbers which tells us whether the chip has extended frequency range (XFR). This allows the processor to boost the clock speed of one of its cores just a tiny bit further than non ‘X’ chips – up to 50MHz more, to be precise.

This is all in contrast to the way Intel has compartmentalised its CPU range where different chips will or won’t have Hyperthreading (Intel’s equivalent of SMT), only a few processors are multiplier unlocked for easy overclocking, some don’t include Turbo Boost (Intel’s euivalent of Precision Boost) and you need to invest in completely different platforms if you want to move from a quad-core CPU to a six- or eight-core CPU.

AMD Ryzen 5

Intel doesn’t have any six-core processors at this price (regardless of platform) and the only quad-core chips it offers don’t include Hyperthreading. This means the Ryzen 5 1600X should be a shoe-in for that middle ground between the eight-core Ryzens and cheaper quad-core processors.

It’s priced to compete with the Intel Core i5-7600K and while Intel’s chip has a clock speed advantage that will make it faster in single-thread applications, it’s only quad-core without hyperthreading. This means the 1600X should have a handy advantage when it comes to multi-threaded workloads, such a rendering video footage.

Meanwhile, the 1500X comes up against two Intel processors: the Intel Core i5-7400 and the Core i3-7350K. The former is quad-core but again it lacks hyperthreading and is actually clocked slower than the 1500X, so AMD’s chip should compete on single-thread then run away with the victory in multi-thread.

Manufacturer Product Line Model Cores / Threads Base Clock (GHz) Boost Clock (GHz) TDP MSRP in USD
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X 6 / 12 3.6 4.0 65W $249
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 6 / 12 3.2 3.6 65W $219
AMD Ryzen 5 1500X 4 / 8 3.5 3.7 65W $189
AMD Ryzen 5 1500 4 / 8 3.2 3.4 65W $169
Intel Core i5 7600K 4 / 4 3.8 4.2 91W $242
Intel Core i5 7400 4 / 4 3.0 3.5 65W $182
Intel Core i3 7350K 2 / 4 4.2 4.2 60W $168

The i3-7350K is a different story. It’s clocked at the same base clock speed as the i7-7700K and can be overclocked to 5GHz, giving it a massive clock speed advantage that will make it quicker in many day to day single-threaded applications and games. However, it’s only dual-core (though with hyperthreading) and doesn’t have Turbo Boost Technology so its single-thread advantage isn’t as high as it could be and heavy multi-taskers and those that need multi-thread processing power will find it lacking.

Competition aside, it is a little disappointing AMD couldn’t squeeze a little more clock speed out of the 1500X. As the flagship quad-core part it would be nice to see it reaching the same speeds as the 1800X and 1600X, in the same way that the Intel Core i3-7350K matches the i7-7700K.

That leaves the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1500, which we’re not reviewing here. As non-X processors they generally have slower clock speeds and miss out on XFR. However, as they have SMT and are overclockable they still have the potential to be speed demons, and the £30 saving for the 1600 could make it a particularly tempting option for those after as much mutli-core performance as possible for the least money.

AMD RYZEN 5 – WHAT’S INSIDE?

All the Ryzen 5 processors are built on the same foundation, which also powers the Ryzen 7 chips. The Zen micro-architecture was built from the ground up to address the power consumption and performance-per-clock issues of previous AMD processors.

AMD employed a host of techniques to achieve this, which we won’t cover in depth here – you can read more about Zen in our 1800X review – but we’ll highlight a few of the key points.

AMD Ryzen

The new design has boosted instructions per clock by 52%. A move that has brought AMD near enough to parity with Intel after years of trailing far behind. As a result, if the two companies released a processor each with an identical number of cores and clock speed they should produce near-identical performance. However, as it is right now Intel still has a maximum clock speed advantage so AMD is throwing cores at the problem.

Another key addition with Ryzen is simultaneous multithreading. This is AMD’s answer to Intel’s Hyperthreading technology that allows each core of the processor to juggle two threads at a time, so it can deal more efficiently with its workload. This makes the processor appear to software like it has double the number of cores and results in a performance increase of between 10% and 30%.

AMD Ryzen

The third key aspect to Zen is that power consumption has greatly improved. AMD’s previous performance champ, the eight-core FX-8 9590, had a thermal design power (TDP) of 219W. The 1800X has a TDP of just 95W, while the Ryzen 5 range are all just 65W. Again, this essentially puts AMD’s processors on a level with Intel.

Another feature of Ryzen is Precision Boost. This is internal overclocking akin to Intel’s Turbo Boost technology where you have a base clock frequency and then all the cores of the processor can overclock to a second higher frequency when needed, CPU temperature depending. Meanwhile XFR is a final little push that can be given to one core of the chip when it’s under heavy load.

AMD RYZEN 5 – THE PLATFORM

The whole AMD Ryzen range can be installed in the new AMD AM4 socket, which is support by five AMD chipsets: X370, B350, A320, X300 and A300. All will support the range of Ryzen processors but only the X370, X300 and B350 will support overclocking; and only the X370 and X300 will support SLI/Crossfire. There are currently only X370 and B350 boards available and they range in price from £80-100 for a B350 board to £150-£300 for X370 boards.

You’ll most likely have to buy a new CPU cooler to fit the AM4 socket, though unlike Ryzen 7, some of the Ryzen 5 range can be purchased with included coolers.

AMD RYZEN 5 – TEST SETUP

AMD was insistent I test the Ryzen 5 processors with B350 motherboards both because the firm has worked closely with motherboard BIOS designers to optimise performance – particularly with regards making RAM run quicker – and because it sees B350 boards as being the natural partners to these more mid-tier processors.

I tested the chips on an X370 board too and found they perform more or less the same, but did stick with using the supplied ASRock Fatality AB350 Gaming K4 motherboard for final test results.

AMD Ryzen 5

AMD also supplied some 3200MHz Geil DDR4 RAM for testing as it was keen to show the benefit of faster RAM and that RAM support was improving – many users had problems with poor RAM performance when the Ryzen 7 processors launched.

Sadly, I couldn’t get the Geil memory to work at anything faster than 2133MHz. So I used some Corsair 3000MHz memory instead, which worked at its full speed for the 1500X but refused to boot at full speed with the 1600X. As such I was forced to run the RAM and 2666MHz.

Hopefully this whole situation will improve as motherboard BIOS updates are rolled out.

AMD RYZEN 5 – PERFORMANCE

As hinted at earlier, the fact that AMD and Intel now have such close performance for any given number of cores and any given clock speed means it should be fairly easy to predict how overall performance should pan out, and sure enough tests met my expectations.

Starting with arguably the single most reliable indicator of raw CPU speed, Cinebench R15 showed the Intel Core i5-7600K coming in some 25% faster than the AMD 1600X in the single thread test, but then AMD leapt to a massive 90% advantage in the multi-threaded test. The i5-7600K simply doesn’t have an answer for those two extra cores and SMT.

AMD Ryzen 5
AMD Ryzen 5

For the 1500X, AMD’s chip only managed to eek out a 1% victory in the single-threaded test despite a 200MHz clock speed advantage, but then pulled out a comfortable 44% advantage in the multi-thread test.

Moving onto the inbuilt benchmark in POVRay 3.7, I again saw that clock speed is all important for single thread performance but when it comes to multi-thread the 1600X and 1500X both impress: they beat their price competitors by 47% and 23% respectively. Also, note that the 1600X is not just comfortably beating the i5-7600K for multi-threaded workloads but the i7-7700K, too.

AMD Ryzen 5

This can also be seen in the real-world test of converting a 1080p video file to a 720p mp4 file. The 1600X took just 86 seconds while the 7700K took 95. I don’t have figures for the 7600K, though it’s clear it would be some way further behind. The 1500X is quite a bit slower, taking 119 seconds, showing that although it can match the 7700K for cores and threads, its clock speed deficit holds it back – but that’s why it’s half the price.

AMD Ryzen 5

Moving onto gaming and there are no surprises. CPU-busting strategy game Ashes of the Singularity still doesn’t like AMD CPUs, despite it being a game that loves having loads of CPU cores. AMD consistently comes out slower when the graphics detail is turned down and the framerate cranks up. When the resolution and detail settings are turned up, though, then all the CPUs on test, other than the Ryzen 1700 (that has a particularly low clock speed) perform identically.

AMD Ryzen 5
AMD Ryzen 5

This trend continues with Battlefield 1 where at 2560p with details set to their maximum, all CPUs other than the Ryzen 1700 deliver essentially the same frame rate. But, drop the resolution and detail down and the faster-clocked processors pull ahead. Whether you need 178fps rather than 162 is up to you but it gives an indication of the sort of framerates needed to really see a difference in gaming performance with these CPUs.

AMD Ryzen 5
AMD Ryzen 5

This is highlighted even more in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt where even in the lower resolution, low detail test there’s very little between all the CPUs on test. This point was compounded when I bumped the resolution and detail settings up.

AMD Ryzen 5
AMD Ryzen 5

AMD RYZEN 5 – POWER CONSUMPTION

Improving power consumption was a key part of the design process for Ryzen and AMD’s efforts have proven fruitful. Both the 1600X and 1500X are rated for a 65W TDP and in my tests they were impressively frugal.

AMD Ryzen 5
AMD Ryzen 5

AMD RYZEN 5 – OVERCLOCKING

All AMD Ryzen processors are unlocked for easy overclocking, which potentially gives AMD a massive advantage over Intel. In fact, it opens up the possibility of AMD cannibalising its own market as users buy something like the slow-clocked Ryzen 1700 and overclock it to get 1800X levels of performance. However, overclocking is not guaranteed and, sure enough, I had mixed results with the 1500X and 1600X.

I managed to get the 1500X running at a consistent 3.9GHz and even had it benchmarking at 4GHz for a time. After a reboot it then refused to run at 4GHz, so I dropped back down to 3.9GHz. That’s a nice little 200MHz jump over the default boost clock speed and 400MHz faster than the base clock. Power consumption did jump up, but only from 100W to 123W.

As for the 1600X, not only did I have issues getting the RAM to run at the speed it should, but overclocking was less fruitful, at least in terms of the proportional gain. It ran fine at 4GHz, which is faster than the 1500X achieved, and a nice boost over its base clock of 3.6GHz, but it only matches its default boost clock.

Nonetheless, it still resulted in a bump in performance, with Cinebench showing a 1% improvement in single-thread and a 7% improvement in multi-thread. The 1500X did a little better with 3% boost in single-thread and an 11% boost in multi-thread.

As for Intel, while it can’t offer the same range of (easily) overclockable processors, those that do overclock go further. The 7600K can run at up to 4.8GHz with ease, (while 5GHz is also achievable), making for a far jump of 1GHz over the base clock and 600Mhz over the boost clock, with a resultant 18% boost in Cinebench scores.

AMD Ryzen 5

SHOULD I BUY THE AMD RYZEN 5 1600X OR 1500X?

The quick answer is yes, you should consider buying either one of these CPUs. Both offer fantastic overall value (price changes by Intel post-launch notwithstanding) and make for a great start to a powerful gaming and a work PC that can easily be upgraded all the way to an eight-core CPU without the need to change your motherboard.

In this regard, the 1500X is the sweet spot of the Ryzen range so far. It’s cheaper than all but the Ryzen 1500, has the greater overclocking potential compared to the 1600X, would benefit more if you ever did upgrade to an eight-core and yet still has all the power the majority of users will ever need. Moreover, its most direct competitor from Intel is beaten both for multi- and single-thread performance.

For those that really are sure they don’t need hefty multi-core performance then the Intel Core i3-7350K would actually be my pick of Intel CPUs at this price. It’s only dual-core (with hyperthreading) but it runs at the same blistering clock speeds as the 7700K and is overclockable to 5GHz as well.

As for the 1600X, while it doesn’t beat its direct Intel competitor in single-thread tasks, it holds a big lead in multi-thread workloads, making it an ideal buy for some users. It provides a great balance between the faster clocked quad-cores that Intel offers and the slower clocked eight-cores that Ryzen 7 chips offer.

VERDICT

AMD’s Ryzen processors continue to impress. Both the AMD Ryzen 5 1600X and Ryzen 5 1500X have jumped straight in as the best CPUs you can buy at their respective prices.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/N3fik2)

 

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