Since the announcement of AMD’s mid-range offerings, it was clear that Ryzen 5 is going to have some major advantages over its direct price competition. For $250, the top Ryzen 5 1600X gives six cores and twelve threads of AMD’s latest microarchitecture. For the same price from Intel with a Core i5, you get four cores and no extra threads. Even though the Intel Core i5 based on Kaby Lake will have an instructions-per-clock advantage, it’s a hard hill to climb when the competition has 50% more cores and 200% more threads. In this review, we take the Ryzen 5 1600X and see if it smashes the market wide open.

Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7 (...Ryzen 9?)

Today marks the retail availability of AMD’s Ryzen 5 line of desktop processors. As the name suggests, Ryzen 5 sits between Ryzen 7, which was launched in March 2017, and Ryzen 3, to be launched in Q2 2017. The launch of Ryzen 7 last month was a return to the high-performance market for AMD, with its new x86 microarchitecture and core design built on GlobalFoundries 14nm process offering equivalent performance to Intel’s high-end desktop (HEDT) parts for under half-the-cost. Ryzen 5 is a step below that HEDT market, aiming more at mainstream users on more reasonable budgets.

One of the throwbacks to the Ryzen 7 launch for AMD was that the competition in that space was invariably overpriced to begin with – having had no competition for so many years, Intel was able to dictate the price and performance ratios without losing market share. While Ryzen 7 came out fighting in that market, ultimately it was up against a two-generation old CPU design from Intel, and not the latest, due to the way that Intel staggers its design cycle between mainstream and high-end processors. Ryzen 5, on the other hand, is coming out against processors that Intel has launched this year, on their leading design.

So while Ryzen 7 undercut the HEDT market by offering the same performance (in most cases) for half the price, Ryzen 5 can’t do the same. The midstream market is more price sensitive, and as a result AMD is launching Ryzen 5 at similar price points to Intel in this field. So while AMD can’t compete on price, it tackles the midstream market with more cores and more threads instead. Where Intel offers four cores, AMD offers six. Where Intel offers four threads, AMD offers twelve. This has implications for performance and power, which will be a part of this review. 

(I'm joking about Ryzen 9 in the title to this section. No Ryzen 9 has been announced.)

The Ryzen Series

Without further ado, here is where the Ryzen families stand:

AMD Ryzen 7 SKUs
  Cores/
Threads
Base/
Turbo
XFR L3 TDP Cost Cooler
Ryzen 7 1800X 8/16 3.6/4.0 +100 16 MB 95 W $499 -
Ryzen 7 1700X 8/16 3.4/3.8 +100 16 MB 95 W $399 -
Ryzen 7 1700 8/16 3.0/3.7 +50 16 MB 65 W $329 Spire
RGB
AMD Ryzen 5 SKUs
  Cores/
Threads
Base/
Turbo
XFR L3 TDP Cost Cooler
Ryzen 5 1600X 6/12 3.6/4.0 +100 16 MB 95 W $249 -
Ryzen 5 1600 6/12 3.2/3.6 +100 16 MB 65 W $219 Spire
Ryzen 5 1500X 4/8 3.5/3.7 +200 16 MB 65 W $189 Spire
Ryzen 5 1400 4/8 3.2/3.4 +50 8 MB 65 W $169 Stealth

Normally we see parts with with fewer cores having a higher clock frequency, however perhaps due to the voltage scaling of the design, we see a matched Ryzen 5 1600X in frequency to the Ryzen 7 1800X, but the rest of the Ryzen 5 family are offered at a lower TDP instead.

All the Ryzen 5 parts are unlocked, similar to the Ryzen 7 parts, and all four exhibit some movement in their ‘Extreme Frequency Range’ (XFR) mode, with the 1500X offering +200 MHz when there is sufficient cooling at hand.. AMD is going to offer some of these SKUs with their redesigned Wraith coolers, except the 1600X.

It is worth noting that the Wraith Spire for Ryzen 5 will not have RGB lighting, whereas the Wraith Spire for Ryzen 7 does use an RGB ring. OEMs will be able to use the higher-end Wraith Max stock cooler for their pre-built systems. AMD stated that at present, there are no plans to bring the Wraith coolers to retail as individual units, however they will keep track of how many users want them as individual items and regularly approach the issue internally.

To clarify some initial confusion, AMD has given me official TDP support numbers for the coolers. The entry level Wraith Stealth is 65W, the Wraith Spire is 65W for high-ambient conditions (AMD states this might be considered an '80W' design in low-ambient), and the Wraith Max is 95W for OEM builds using Ryzen 7 95W parts.

All the Ryzen 5 parts will support DDR4 ECC and non-ECC memory, and the memory support is the same as Ryzen 7, and will depend on how many modules and the types of modules being used. Recently companies like ADATA announced official support for AM4, as some users have found that there were memory growing pains when Ryzen 7 was launched.

Platform support for Ryzen 5, relating to PCIe lanes and chipset configurations, is identical to Ryzen 7. Each CPU offers sixteen PCIe 3.0 lanes for graphics, along with four lanes for a chipset and four lanes for storage. Chipsets can then offer up to eight PCIe 2.0 lanes which can bifurcated up to x4 (AMD GPUs can use chipset lanes for graphics as well, however at reduced bandwidth and additional latency).

Competition

The high-end Ryzen 5 1600X, at $249, is a shoe-in to compete against Intel’s i5-7600K at $242. Intel’s CPU is based on the Kaby Lake microarchitecture, and we’ve already shown in the Ryzen 7 review that by comparison Ryzen is more circa Broadwell, which is two generations behind. AMD won’t win much when it comes to single-threaded tests here, but the multi-threaded situation is where AMD shines.

Comparison: Ryzen 5 1600X vs Core i5-7600K
AMD
Ryzen 5 1600X
Features Intel
Core i5-7600K
6 / 12 Cores/Threads 4 / 4
3.6 / 4.0 GHz Base/Turbo 3.8 / 4.2 GHz
16 PCIe 3.0 Lanes 16
16 MB L3 Cache 6 MB
95 W TDP 91 W
$249 Price (MSRP) $242

Here we have twelve threads against four, at a 95W TDP compared to a 91W TDP (the 1600 is 65W, which looks better on paper). It is expected that for situations where a compute workload can scale across cores and threads that the AMD chip will wipe the floor with the competition. For more generic office workloads, it will interesting to see where the marks fall.

On the quad-core parts, there are several competitive points to choose from. The AMD Ryzen 5 1500X, at $189, sits near Intel’s Core i5-7500 at $192. This would be a shootout of a base quad-core in the Core i5 versus a quad-core with hyperthreading.

Comparison: Ryzen 5 1500X vs Core i5-7500
AMD
Ryzen 5 1500X
Features Intel
Core i5-7500
4 / 8 Cores/Threads 4 / 4
3.5 / 3.7 GHz Base/Turbo 3.4 / 3.8 GHz
16 PCIe 3.0 Lanes 16
16 MB L3 Cache 6 MB
65 W TDP 65 W
$189 Price (MSRP) $182

The reason why I didn’t pull out the Core i3-7350K there, at $168, is because the performance of the 7350K sits near the Pentium G4560, which is only $64 (and the subject of an upcoming review). That all being said, the $168 price of the i3-7350K matches up to the $169 price of the Ryzen 5 1400, although the 1400 has double the cores and double the threads of the 7350K.

Chipsets for Ryzen 5

The chipsets for AMD’s AM4 CPUs come in three main forms: the high-end X370 designed for premium Ryzen 7 systems and multi-GPU gaming (or multi-PCIe card workstations), mid-range B350 motherboards that still support overclocking but are more targeted at Ryzen 5 systems with a single graphics card, and the more budget range A320 which does not have overclocking and will be a fit in for Ryzen 3 later this year.

We are now at a point where the motherboard manufacturers are swimming in AMD motherboards, and distributors are building stock of various models. For Ryzen 5, AMD is pitching the B350 chipset based motherboards as a suitable solution, especially when compared to Intel’s B250 motherboards for Kaby Lake processors.

The B350 configuration matches that on the X370, save for a couple of PCIe lanes from the chipset and the focus on a single GPU.

Ryzen 5, Core Allocation, and Power
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  • Johan Steyn - Friday, April 14, 2017 - link

    Ryzen 9 is not that far fetched. Looking at the server part coming soon, an Ryzen extreme could be happening, especially for workstations. Maybe it might even fit AM4, although unlikely with quad channels. I do not think the current SOC has enough pins. So maybe we might get a Ryzen 9 with plenty of cores and quad channel memory. Reply
  • drajitshnew - Friday, April 14, 2017 - link

    Dear Ian,
    Please clarify a point. You have mentioned that both AMD & Intel have 16 CPU PCIe lanes, but AMD offers 4 pcie lanes for storage from the CPU. If the chipset is loaded this could have an impact on the following 3 situations,
    1. If the motherboard manufacturer routes those lanes from m2 to PCIe. Then those could be used, as storage, adding a GPU for GPGPU or a 10GbE NIC for use for a UHD media server, or AIC format storage.
    2. With a heavily loaded chipset, a NVMe drive like a 1 TB samsung 960 pro or comparable, may show improved performance, specially in sequential transfers.
    3. For a long lived system a large X-point or Z-nand or 3d SLC may show significant latency advantages.
    Reply
  • cvearl - Sunday, April 16, 2017 - link

    You have odd 480 results on GTA V. Are you using the final run (with the jet) from the built in test? My 480 scores in the mid 70's using your settings on that run with an i7 2600k. Reply
  • cvearl - Sunday, April 16, 2017 - link

    Looking back at my GTX 1060 SC results (before I replaced with my 480) It had similar results to what you show here (Assuming the final run of the built in test). Am I to understand that the 480 gets a better result on i7 than Ryzen? Reply
  • Polacott - Monday, April 17, 2017 - link

    my experience with AMD processors is that they have aged perfectly. I mean the AMD processors got more support and performance as apps and SO has been prepared to take advantage of more threads as years passed. I would get the Ryzen 1600X without any doubts over the i5. Reply
  • rmlarsen - Monday, April 17, 2017 - link

    Unfortunate typo: In the conclusion it says "Looking at the results, it’s hard to notice the effect that 12 threads has on multithreaded CPU tests. " I believe the author meant to write "it's hard NOT to notice". Reply
  • Kamgusta - Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - link

    Why in the Earth nobody ever considers the i7-7700?!?! And keep on putting the Ryzen CPUs only against the i5-7600K and/or the i7-7700K?

    i7-7700 has the same clocks as the i5-7600K, but double the threads and 2MB more L3. It consumes a lot less power than the i7-7700K and no more power than the i5-7600K. You can picture it as a more powerful i5-7600K or as a slight less powerful i7-7700K (but far more efficient).

    If anyone is torn between R6-1600 and i5-7600K then the i7-7700 is, quite ironically, the best choice.
    Reply
  • Ratman6161 - Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - link

    So over the weekend I upgraded my system from an i72600K to a Ryzen 5 1600. First off, I could care less about gaming so I'll put that out there up front. I can buy (in order of real world price)
    i7 7700K for $300
    ryzen 1600x would have been $249
    Ryzen 5 1600 was $219
    i5 7600K for $210.
    I went with the R5 1600. For highly multi threaded tasks (remembering I don't care anything about games about games) the six core R5's compare very favorably with the i7 7700K even though most of the comparisons you see match them up against the i5. And the big difference between the 1600 and the 1600X is clock speed...and they are unlocked. So for me the 1600 ended up being a no-brainer.
    So for us non-gamers anyway, i'd disagree with the i7 7700K being the best choice.
    Also, when comparing prices, look at the platform price including motherboards. I got an Asrock AB350 Pro 4 for $39 bundled with the CPU so total price $258. Cheapest 7600K bundle at the same place: $315, cheapest 7700K bundle $465.
    Reply
  • Kamgusta - Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - link

    Are you replying to me? I talked about i7-7700 (NOT K), not i7-7700K.
    Which cope very well with some budget DDR4-2400MHz and a budget H270 board with no penalties whatsoever.
    Reply
  • msroadkill612 - Wednesday, May 3, 2017 - link

    Interesting. ta for sharing. pretty awesome price for the 1600/mobo bundle.

    How did the intel mobo compare for functionality do u think?
    Reply

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