Every so often there comes a processor that captures the market. It ends up being that right combination of price, cores, frequency, performance, features and compatibility when added to the right sort of motherboard that makes it fly off the shelves. The main CPU this cycle seems to be the Ryzen 5 3600, offering six high-performance Zen 2 cores and 24 lanes of PCIe 4.0 for only $199. It currently sits at #1 on the Amazon best seller list, so we put one through the paces just to see if the hype was actually real.

At $199, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 has been one the cheapest way to get ahold of AMD’s latest Zen2 microarchitecture. In our reviews of the lead generation Ryzen products, as well as Zen2 on Threadripper, Zen2 in EPYC, and Zen2 in Renoir, this microarchitecture is pushing new performance boundaries clock-for-clock against Intel’s other desktop offerings. In fact, until the latest launch of the Ryzen 3 line of processors, the Ryzen 5 was the cheapest Zen 2 processor on the market.

(On 5/18, Amazon's price was down to $189. Newegg was $172, but sold out).

 

Competition

With six cores and twelve threads, the comparative Intel options vary between something like the Core i7-9600KF with six cores and no hyperthreading, or to the i7-9700KF with eight cores and no hyperthreading. The downside is that both of these processors are more expensive: where the Ryzen 5 3600 is $199, the i5-9600KF is $263 and the i7-9700KF is $385. Frequencies between the three are competitive, however the AMD has a TDP of 65 W, compared to 95 W, and it comes with DDR4-3200 support with 24 lanes of PCIe 4.0, rather than DDR4-2666 and 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 vs Overclockable Intel Equivalents
AMD
Ryzen 5 3600
AnandTech Intel Core
i5-9600KF
Intel Core
i7-9700KF
$199 / $189 Price $263 $385
Zen 2 Architecture Coffee Lake-R
(Skylake+++)
Coffee Lake-R
(Skylake+++)
6C / 12T Cores 6C / 6T 8C / 8T
3600 MHz Base Freq 3700 MHz 3600 MHz
4200 MHz Turbo Freq 4600 MHz 4900 MHz
65 W TDP 95 W 95 W
2 x DDR4-3200 DDR4 2x DDR4-2666 2x DDR4-2666
PCIe 4.0 x24 PCIe PCIe 3.0 x16 PCIe 3.0 x16

Just by going with these on-paper specifications, it’s not hard to see why the Ryzen 5 3600 has been so popular. Even at the $199 price point, the i5-9400F is a $182 processor with the same memory/PCIe downsides, as well as being lower in frequency, despite matching the power rating. The Ryzen 5 3600 is also an unlocked processor, for anyone that wants to overclock.

Intel has announced its newest 10th Generation processor line, however the official launch date of the processors has not been officially announced yet. Out of the processor lineup however, the closest match would be the Core i5-10500.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 vs Intel 10th Gen
at ~$200
AMD
Ryzen 5 3600
AnandTech Intel Core
i5-10500
Intel Core
i5-10600
$199 / $189 Price $192 $213
Zen 2 Architecture Comet Lake
(Skylake++++)
Comet Lake
(Skylake++++)
6 C / 12 T Cores 6 C / 12 T 6 C / 12 T
3600 MHz Base Freq 3100 MHz 3300 MHz
4200 MHz Turbo Freq 4500 MHz 4800 MHz
65 W TDP 65 W 65 W
2x DDR4-3200 DDR4 2x DDR4-2666 2x DDR4-2666
PCIe 4.0 x24 PCIe PCIe 3.0 x16 PCIe 3.0 x16
Yes Overclockable No No
No iGPU Yes Yes

This processor matches the six cores and twelve threads, is near in price, doesn’t quite match the base frequency but does exceed in the turbo. It is 65 W, the same as AMD, and on the plus side it does have integrated graphics. But again, it is only DDR4-2666 and only has 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, compared to AMD’s DDR4-3200 and 24 PCIe 4.0 lanes.

 

Not only this, but our recent trips to brick-and-mortar stores (before the lockdown) looking for Intel mid-range 9th processors have been relatively fruitless. Intel is still facing increased demand for its high-end silicon, and is still focusing on making those parts that command the highest margins, like the Xeons. We also understand that Intel might be staggering the exact release of some of this hardware, focusing on the 10th Gen K processors first, so it might be a while before we see the mid-range CPUs at retail.

The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X and 3100 CPU Review: A Budget Gaming Bonanza

The third angle in the competition for the Ryzen 5 3600 will be with AMD’s own hardware. Having recently launched the Ryzen 3 3300X for only $120, users will have to decide if the extra $80 is worth the two extra cores in the processor. The Ryzen 5 3600 may only be popular because of it being the cheapest Zen 2 processor on the market, and if that is the case then the Ryzen 3 3300X could easily fill that role (or the Ryzen 3 3100, at $99). We tested the Ryzen 3 3300X and Ryzen 3 3100 very recently, and that review is well worth a read.

AMD vs AMD
AMD
Ryzen 5 3600
AnandTech AMD
Ryzen 3 3300X
$199 / $189 Price $120
Zen 2 Microarchitecture Zen 2
6 C / 12 T Cores 4 C / 8 T
3600 MHz Base Freq 3800 MHz
4200 MHz Turbo Freq 4300 MHz
65 W TDP 65 W
2 x DDR4-3200 DDR4 2 x DDR4-3200
PCIe 4.0 x24 PCIe PCIe 4.0 x24

This is one area where the Ryzen 5 3600 is in a bit of an awkward position, especially with the recent announcement relating to B550.

The Ryzen 5 3600 is a popular mid-range processor, meaning that it should be paired with a good mid-range motherboard. For the longest time, that was the B450 motherboard line, with an expectation of a possible upgrade to Ryzen 4000 later this year or next year. Unfortuantely AMD has stated that it will be locking the possible CPUs on B450 to Ryzen 3000 and below, meaning that the highest processor that a B450 owner can use is the Ryzen 9 3950X.

As is perhaps understandable, B450 owners with mid-range CPUs looking for an upgrade path are not too happy. With the announcement of B550 offering an upgrade path, there will be a lot of potential mid-range customers now waiting for the B550 motherboards to come to market.

The AMD X570 Motherboard Overview: Over 35+ Motherboards Analyzed

For those that have some money burning a hole in the pocket, X570 is always an option, with the cheapest boards available being around $150. We have performed a large round-up of all the X570 boards in the market, with specific one-off reviews for some of the more impressive models. I suspect however that potential Ryzen 5 3600 customers might be waiting for a good $120 B550 board, should one come to market.

This Review

At the request of a number of our readers, we sourced the Ryzen 5 3600 to put it through its paces in our updated test suite. Based on the responses on social media, it looks like potential Ryzen 5 3600 customers are into gaming and/or workflow on reasonably priced systems, so we’ll tackle both areas.

In our review, there are two key comparisons to look out for:

  • Ryzen 5 3600 vs Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 5 3600 vs Core i5-8400 / 9400

Unfortunately we don’t have an i5-9400F for comparison, however the i5-8400 is basically the same chip by 100 MHz, with the same memory support and microarchitecture design. To make the graphs easier to understand, we've listed the results as 8400/9400. If we get a 9400 or 9400F in for testing, we will update the graphs as necessary.

Turbo, Power, and Latency
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  • vortmax2 - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Anyone know why the 3300X is at the top of the Digicortex 1.20 bench? Reply
  • gouthamravee - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    I'm guessing here, but the 3300X has all its cores on a single CCX and if Digicortex is one of those benches that's highly dependent on latency that could explain why the 3300X is at the top of the list here.

    I checked the previous 3300x article and it seems to be the same story there.
    Reply
  • wolfesteinabhi - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Thanks for a great Article Ian and AT.

    the main problem with mid/lower range CPU (review) like this Ryzen 3600/X and even i5/i3's is that their reviews are almost always focused on "Gaming" (for some reason everything budget oriented is just gaming) ... no one talks about AI workloads or MATLABs, Tensorflows,etc many people and developers dont want to shell out monies for 2080Ti and Ryzen 9 3950X or even TR's .... they have to make do with lower end or say "reasonable" CPU's ... and products like these Ryzen 5 that makes sensible choice in this segment ... a developer/learner on budget.

    a lot of people would appreciate if there are some more pages dedicated to such development workflows (AI,Tensor,compile, etc) even for such mid range CPU's.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Ian periodically tweets requests for scriptable benchmarks for those categories and for anyone with connections at commercial vendors in those spaces who can provide evaluation licenses for commercial products. He's gotten minimal uptake on the former and doesn't have time to learn enough about $industry to create a reasonable benchmark from scratch using their FOSS tools. On the commercial side, the various engineering software companies don't care about reviews from sites like this one and their PR contacts can't/won't give out licenses. Reply
  • webdoctors - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Because office tasks don't require any computation, and gaming is what's most mainstream that actually requires computation.

    Scientific stuff like MATLAB, Folding@Home needs computation but if that's useful you'd just buy the higher end parts. Price diff between 3600x and 3700x (6 vs 8core) is $100, $200 vs $300 at retail prices. For someone working, $100 is nothing for improving your commercial or academic output. These are parts you use for 5+ years.

    I agree a TR doesnt make sense if you can get the consumer version like a 3800x much cheaper.
    Reply
  • Impetuous - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Logged in to second this. I think a lot of students and professionals like me who do research on-the-side (and are on pretty tight Grants/allowances) would appreciate a MATLAB benchmark. This looks like a great option for a grad student workstation! Reply
  • brucethemoose - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    I think one MKL TF benchmark is enough, as you'd have to be crazy to buy a 3600 over a cheap GPU for AI training training. If money is that tight, you're probably not buying a new system and/or using Google Colab.

    +1 for more compilation benchmarking. I'd like a Python benchmark too, if theres any demand for such a thing.
    Reply
  • PeachNCream - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    A lot of people don't have money to throw away at hardware, moreso now than ever before so we are going to make older equipment work for longer or buy less compute at a lower price. It's important to get hardware out of its comfort zone because these general purpose processors will be used in all sorts of ways beyond a narrow set of games and unzipping a huge archive file. After all, if you want to play games, buying as much GPU as you can afford and then feeding it enough power solves the problem for the most part. That answer has been the case for years so we really don't need more text and time spent on telling us that. Say it once for each new generation and then get to reviewing hardware more relevant to how people actually use their computers. Reply
  • jabber - Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - link

    Plus most of us don't upgrade hardware as much as we used to. back in the day (single core days) I was upgrading my CPU every 6-8 months. Each upgrade pushed the graphics from 28FPS to 32FPS to 36FPS which made a difference. Now with modest setups pushing past 60FPS...why bother. I upgrade my CPU every 6 years or so now. Reply
  • wolfesteinabhi - Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - link

    as i said in one of the replies below... maybe TF is not a good example ..but its not like it will be purely on a CPU for TF work, but some benchmark around it ...and similar other work/development related tasks.

    Most of us have to depend on these gaming only benchmarks to guesstimate how good/bad a cpu will be for dev work. maybe a fewer core cpu might have been better with extra cache and extra clocks or vice versa ... but almost no reviews tell that kind of story for mid/low range CPU's.... having said that..i dont expect that kind of analysis from dual cores and such CPU ..but higherup there are a lot of CPU that can be made to do a lot of good job even beyond gaming (even if it needs to pair up with some GPU)
    Reply

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