The last time I remember AMD credibly claiming to have the world’s fastest gaming CPU, CPUs — and PCs — looked very different. The original Xbox was still in development. Games like Crysis hadn’t become a meme. Even the word meme hadn’t become part of the global lexicon. But 2020 has brought many surprises, and the Ryzen 5900X and 5600X are just two more to add to the pile.
AMD has spent the entirety of the Ryzen era making one fairly simple claim: AMD represents value. Our chips offer more cores, more threads and “great” — as in, comparable but not the best — performance for a vastly better price.
And to their credit, that’s been right on the money. The first-gen Ryzen CPUs were a genuine breath of fresh air. They couldn’t beat Intel in pure gaming benchmarks. But at the time, an 8 core/16 thread CPU from Intel would cost nearly $1500. AMD’s alternative? About $670.
Four generations on and AMD’s claims are very different. The first generation of the Zen architecture made AMD relevant again; its latest generation represents a genuine threat to Intel.
The last time I compared Intel’s best gaming CPU against Ryzen’s most competitive offerings, it wasn’t much of a competition. Intel didn’t have a huge lead, but the 10900K was consistently faster in all the games I tested thanks to its higher frequencies. That performance came with some serious caveats, like being tied to a vastly more expensive older motherboard platform that wouldn’t be upgradeable due to its lack of PCIe 4.0 support, high-end water coolers practically being a necessity, and still less versatility than AMD for workstation tasks.
AMD’s advantage in the early Ryzen years was the newer, more power efficient 7 nanometer manufacturing process, courtesy of their fabrication partners TSMC. That process has since received multiple refinements, but it’s really the underlying CPU architecture that has come a long way.
And that’s the main takeaways with the Ryzen 5600X, 5800X and 5900X. Unlike the XT refresh earlier this year, the Ryzen 5000 series actually gets significant improvements without enormous increases in CPU frequency or power. Here’s the full list of CPUs launching later this year.
AMD Ryzen 5000 Series: Australian Pricing, Release Date
|MODEL||CORES/ THREADS||TDP||BOOST/ BASE FREQ. (GHz)||TOTAL CACHE||COOLER||PRICE||AUSTRALIAN RELEASE|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5950X||16C/32T||105W||Up to 4.9 / 3.4||72MB||N/A||$1249||Nov 5, 2020|
|AMD Ryzen 9 5900X||12C/24T||105W||Up to 4.8 / 3.7||70MB||N/A||$859||Nov 5, 2020|
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800X||8C/16T||105W||Up to 4.7 / 3.8||36MB||N/A||$699||Nov 5, 2020|
|AMD Ryzen 5 5600X||6C/12T||65W||Up to 4.6 / 3.7||35MB||Wraith Stealth||$469||Nov 5, 2020|
Apart from slight increases in boost frequency — the 5600X can hit 4.6GHz, 100Mhz more than the 3600XT — the product stack looks the same as it has for a few years. The 5900X and 5950X are the prosumer chips targeted at content creators, streamers, video editors, or any user that dabbles in heavier 3D rendering, machine learning or other workstation-like applications.
The 5600X and 5800X are the chips targeted more at mainstream gaming, or gaming-only PCs. The difference between the 6-core and 8-core Ryzen chips (and the Intel equivalents too) has been pretty marginal in most games, although with the next console generation built around much more powerful 8-core CPUs, it’ll be interesting to see whether games from 2021 onwards start to scale much better with more CPU cores.
Anyway, we need to get a little bit nerdy. AMD bragged heavily about an almost 20 per cent improvement in instructions per clock (IPC), without requiring a ton more juice or any advanced tricks in the manufacturing process.
Ryzen 5 5600X, Ryzen 9 5900X Architecture
A major problem that faced the previous generations of Ryzen processors was latency. Because of the dual core complex design that AMD used, games would frequently hit a wall. The CPUs would have their cores — and L3 cache — split into two sections, and you’d lose potential performance as data hopped back and forth between all the cores.
To fix that, the new Ryzen 5000 chips have some substantial changes. All of the cores are now housed on a unified structure, rather than having half the cores and L3 cache on one core complex (CCX) and the other half on its own. Merging those together cuts out some of the latency, and the benefits are especially prominent in games that are heavily CPU bound.
AMD’s briefing touted enormous games in esports titles like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive — about 36 percent and 35 percent from the Zen 2 generation. Unfortunately, AMD’s embargo lined up precisely alongside the embargo for the next-generation consoles, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to see how the chips performed on those titles.
A crucial element of all of this is that the new Zen chips achieve the better performance without — supposedly — drawing more power from the motherboard socket, or the wall. Again, the timing and the craziness of the gaming industry meant I simply had no chance of testing this in time. However, there should be plenty of power consumption tests online by the time you read this.
Ryzen 5 5600X, Ryzen 9 5900X Test Bench
Same deal as before with previous tests we’ve run. I would make one small point: if you’re going to buy a Ryzen system, try and get higher speed RAM if possible. You’ll do just fine with a CL14 3200Mhz kit if that’s what you can grab. AMD reckons that 3600MHz is now the sweet spot, and they expect to see many users running Ryzen systems with 4000MHz kits.
Precision boost overclock isn’t enabled for these tests, and all test software, including Windows, are updated to their latest versions at the time of testing.
- CPU: Ryzen 3900XT, Ryzen 5600X, Ryzen 5900XT (all stock speeds)
- CPU Cooler: Corsair H115i RGB Platinum
- RAM: 32GB DDR4 3200MHz GSkill Trident Z (14-14-14-34)
- GPUs: RTX 3080 Founders Edition
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG CROSSHAIR VIII HERO (using beta BIOS for Ryzen 5600X/5900X support)
- GPU Drivers: Nvidia 456.71
With that out of the way, let’s get onto the numbers.
Ryzen 5 5600X, Ryzen 9 5900X Benchmarks: Synthetic/Productivity Tests
Everyone’s favourite angry robots are back. I swear I’ve seen these two fight so much this year that I’m starting to have weird dreams about them.
Either way, I’ve got a couple of benchmarks in the mix here. 3D Mark will provide a sense of the overall gaming performance, and there’s Cinebench R20 for the multi-core testing. I unfortunately don’t still have the Intel 10900K or platform to replicate in the rest of testing, and as the rest of the benchmarks are gaming related, I would have needed to re-run all of them now that the RTX 3080 is the default testing card.
Still, Cinebench does at least provide a CPU-only measure of how a system fares. (I didn’t have single core scores on hand for all the chips, so I couldn’t incorporate that into a separate graph. However, if you’re curious, the Ryzen 5600X hit 567 in the single core score, while the Ryzen 5900X had a single core result of 624. Both, in case you’re wondering, are miles ahead of the i9-10900K.
The 5900X has the most cores and highest frequency out of the AMD chips, so it’s no surprise that it’s at the top of the pack. If you’re just interested in these figures from a gaming standpoint, however, I’d direct your eye to the Fire Strike Ultra results (the yellow bar).
There, you’ll see that the three chips are basically deadlocked. The real differences come out when Fire Strike, the test rendered at the lowest resolution, is run. You’ll see that story play out a little bit more over these next graphs.
Ryzen 5 5600X, Ryzen 9 5900X Benchmarks: Gaming
As is the case with these tests, all figures reported are average FPS, with all games run at the highest preset. Dynamic resolution was disabled in Forza, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was run in DirectX 12 without DLSS enabled, and Total War: Three Kingdoms was on the Ultra preset with no additional changes.
Unlike the XT refresh, there’s a genuine and noticeable uptick in performance here. The 5600X having an edge on the 3900XT is a really interesting sign, and it does add a little verified ammunition to AMD’s claims of having good FPS gains in esports titles and heavily CPU-limited games.
One of Intel’s final marketing battlegrounds has been within the realm of esports, a world where most gamers play titles at 1080p or lower resolutions. We’re talking games like Valorant, Counter-Strike, League of Legends. But it’s good to see the Ryzen 5900X also getting some really solid gains in different scenarios.
The jump between the 3900XT and the 5900X in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is pretty staggering. That’s nearly 28 percent at 1080p, although that lead shrinks to a much more reasonable 7 percent at 1440p, due to the game being more GPU bound. Forza Horizon 4 hits some nice highs, too, although again those whittle away as soon as you bump the resolution up.
There is so much more I would have loved to have done with these CPUs. But juggling the embargoes for these, two next-gen consoles and then a backlog of hardware (plus regular daily news) meant that I had to be pretty limited in what tests I could run.
Something I’d really love to investigate down the road is their performance on the esports front, especially in something like Counter-Strike. A lot of CS:GO tests tend to run the game in completely unrealistic scenarios, rather than doing a timed benchmark during a live deathmatch server or something more applicable to regular gameplay. It’d also be good to go the other way, using the Ashtray Maze test in Control that I rigged up for the RTX 3080 review.
Everything else I’ve seen anecdotally also indicates that the Ryzen 5000 series is probably the most interesting since the original Ryzen launch. AMD are treating this as a full, major architecture refresh, and the gain in performance is definitely something that will give Intel a little bit of pause.
Is it the world’s fastest gaming CPU? I can’t definitely say that myself, and hopefully given the above you will all understand why.
However, I can easily say this. There was already enough of a justification with the Ryzen 3000 series for gaming PCs, given the price-to-performance ratio and the better motherboard platform. Now, figures are starting to leak out showing the Ryzen 5600X — not the 5900X or the 5950X, but the baby CPU of the stack — matching and beating the Intel i9-10900K in a good chunk of games.
The best part? If you built a Ryzen 3000 series platform on a 500-series motherboard, you can eventually upgrade to the newer chips just by … popping the new chip in. You’ll need a BIOS update to do it, but you won’t have to replace your entire motherboard, which makes the prospect of upgrading viable for a lot of users. I wouldn’t recommend upgrading from, say, a 3900X or 3950X to a Ryzen 9 5900X. But if you were on a cheaper Ryzen 5 3600 and you wouldn’t mind the extra productivity boost from something like the 5700X? That’s a discussion worth having.
For users that have been holding off on an older Intel platform (like 7700K or 8700K-esque chips) or you’ve been sitting on the first-gen Ryzen CPUs for a while, now is definitely a good time to buy in. AMD hasn’t just finally come to the party with more core counts, price and power efficiency — now their architecture is genuinely starting to kick some arse. Intel really needs a good response, and hopefully a little bit sooner than the first quarter of 2021. Because if AMD keeps pumping out chips like this, it’s going to be bloody hard to recommend an Intel PC — even for gaming.