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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  • PeachNCream - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Anandtech spends a lot of time on gaming and on desktop PCs that are not representative of where and how people now accomplish compute tasks. They do spend a little time on mobile phones and that nets part of the market, but only at the pricey end of cellular handsets. Lower cost mobile for the masses and work-a-day PCs and laptops generally get a cursory acknowledgement once in a great while which is disappointing because there is a big chunk of the market that gets disregarded. IIRC, AT didn't even get around to reviewing the lower tiers of discrete GPUs in the past, effectively ignoring that chunk of the market until long after release and only if said lower end hardware happened to be in a system they ended up getting. They do not seem to actively seek out such components, sadly enough. Reply
  • whatthe123 - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    AI/tensorflow runs so much faster even on mid tier GPUs that trying to argue CPUs are relevant is completely out of touch. No academic in their right mind is looking for a bang-for-buck CPU to train models, it would be an absurd waste of time. Reply
  • wolfesteinabhi - Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - link

    well ..games also run on GPU ...so why bother benchmarking CPU's with them? ... same reason why anyone would want to look at other workflows .. i said tensor flow as just one of the examples(maybe not the best example) ..but more of such "work" or "development" oriented benchmarks. Reply
  • pashhtk27 - Thursday, May 21, 2020 - link

    Or there should be proper support libraries for the integrated graphics to run tensor calculations. That would make GPU-less AI development machines a lot more cost effective. AMD and Intel are both working on this but it'll be hard to get around Nvidia's monopoly of AI computing. Free cloud compute services like colab have several problems and others are very cost prohibitive for students. And sometimes you just need to have a local system capable of loading and predicting. As a student, I think it would significantly lower the entry threshold if their cost effective laptops could run simple models and get output.

    We can talk about AI benchmarks then.
    Reply
  • Gigaplex - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    As a developer I just use whatever my company gives me. I wouldn't be shopping for consumer CPUs for work purposes. Reply
  • wolfesteinabhi - Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - link

    not all developers are paid by their companies or make money with what they develop ... some are hobbyists and some do it as their "side" activities and with their own money at home apart from what they do at work with big guns!. Reply
  • mikato - Sunday, May 24, 2020 - link

    As a developer, I built my own new computer at work and got to pick everything within budget. Reply
  • Achaios - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    "Every so often there comes a processor that captures the market. "

    This used to be Sandy Bridge I5-2500K, all time best seller.

    Oh, how the Mighty Chipzilla has fallen.
    Reply
  • mikelward - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    My current PC is a 2500K. My next one will be a 3600. Reply
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - link

    Sandy was an absolute knockout. Most of the development thereafter was aimed at sticking similarly powerful CPUs in sleeker packages rather than increasing desktop performance, and while I feel like Intel deserve more credit for some things than they get (e.g. the leap in mobile power/performance that can from Haswell) they really shit the bed on 10nm and responding to Ryzen. Reply

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