Note (1): This article was first published on 14th May 2017.
AMD has a lot riding on its new Ryzen processors. After practically ceding the high-end CPU market to Intel for years, the company really needs Ryzen to succeed. So far, reviews have been generally positive, and save for slightly lackluster 1080p gaming performance, the consensus has been that the Ryzen 7 chips are quite attractive workstation parts for their prices.
Furthermore, AMD attributed the middling gaming performance to the lack of developer-side optimizations, and it says that we can expect a better showing once game developers have had the time to patch their games to take proper advantage of Ryzen’s architecture and high thread count.
So far, things are looking up, and early patches for Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, Total War: Warhammer, and Dota 2 are quite promising. If things continue apace, Ryzen could see its most glaring weak spot become less of an issue.
Earlier this month, AMD further fleshed out its Ryzen line-up with the announcement of four mid-range Ryzen 5 processors. And like their Ryzen 7 bedfellows, these beat their equivalent Intel chips handily in terms of core and thread count.
The 6-core/12-thread Ryzen 1600X and 1600 were intended as even more affordable chips for gamers, Twitch streamers, and workstation users, while the 4-core/8-thread Ryzen 1500X and 1400 were focused more narrowly on gaming performance.
That said, with the vast majority of games today still benefiting more from higher core clocks than multiple cores, we’ll be looking closely at gaming performance in this review to see if a chip like the Ryzen 5 1500X (3.5GHz, 16MB L3 cache) could end up being a CPU bottleneck.
Here’s a table summarizing the key specifications of all the Ryzen chips announced so far (contrary to initial reports, XFR is actually enabled on all Ryzen chips, but -X SKUs have more headroom):
|CPU model||Cores / Threads||Base/ Boost clocks||XFR||L3 cache||TDP||Price|
|Ryzen 7 1800X||8-core / 16-thread||3.6GHz / 4.0GHz||4.1GHz||16MB||95W||S$818|
|Ryzen 7 1700X||8-core / 16-thread||3.4GHz / 3.8GHz||3.9GHz||16MB||95W||S$599|
|Ryzen 7 1700||8-core / 16-thread||3.0GHz / 3.7GHz||3.75GHz||16MB||65W||S$499|
|Ryzen 5 1600X||6-core / 12-thread||3.6GHz / 4.0GHz||4.1GHz||16MB||95W||S$359|
|Ryzen 5 1600||6-core / 12-thread||3.2GHz / 3.6GHz||3.7GHz||16MB||65W||S$329|
|Ryzen 5 1500X||4-core / 8-thread||3.5GHz / 3.7GHz||3.9GHz||16MB||65W||S$289|
|Ryzen 5 1400||4-core / 8-thread||3.2GHz / 3.4GHz||3.45GHz||8MB||65W||S$259|
One interesting thing to note is that Ryzen 5 actually faces a very different playing field than Ryzen 7. The latter went up against Intel’s Haswell-E and Broadwell-E chips, both of which are based on an over two-year-old microarchitecture. Furthermore, AMD’s absence from the high-performance computing space meant that Intel was able to fatten its margins with impunity, and there are few that really think even the 10-core Intel Core i7-6950X (3.0GHz, 25MB L3 cache) is worth all of its US$1,650 price tag.
It also didn’t hurt that the audience for those chips are traditionally not too averse to shelling out top dollar for the best possible CPU performance, but mainstream consumers eyeing the mid-range Intel Core i5 and Ryzen 5 chips are a lot more sensitive to price.
In this segment of the market, Intel has had to price its chips more competitively, so AMD has a lot less wiggle room to undercut the competition on price while offering similar performance. Ryzen 5 is also going toe-to-toe with Intel’s latest Kaby Lake processors and microarchitecture, and clearly AMD’s strategy is to offer more cores and threads than the competition.
For example, the US$249 Ryzen 5 1600X (3.6GHz, 16MB L3 cache) has 6-cores/12-threads, whereas the US$217 Intel Core i7-7600K (3.8GHz, 6MB L3 cache) has just 4-cores/4-threads. That’s a major advantage AMD has in terms of thread count, although Intel still wins in terms of single-core performance.
In this article, we’ve pit the Ryzen 7 and select Ryzen 5 chips against each other to give you an idea of the performance of the entire stack, and included a performance-per-dollar analysis on exactly how much you’re getting for your money. The Ryzen 7 1800X (3.6GHz, 16MB L3 cache) may be the top dog here, but what if the Ryzen 5 1600X (3.6GHz, 16MB L3 cache) is really all you need?