Ryzen 5 is pitched as the Gamer’s CPU. Let’s take a moment to look at the core needs of a gamer. Multiple cores are important but not as much as to an enthusiast; price and motherboard options are also key with regard to longevity, upgrades and connectivity for peripherals and potentially VR. Speed – single core performance is also important as many games are not optimised to take full advantage of multiple cores. Overclocking is on the list but it isn’t a universal requirement.

We received two AMD Ryzen 5 series CPUs for this review (1600X and 1500X) along with an ASROCK B350 motherboard, GEIL memory and a Wraith LED cooler. I’ll talk about the supporting components individually in the test setup section but we tested with what was provided for this review and followed the instructions from AMD with regard to BIOS and Windows settings – again I’ll declare all of this in the test section but there was nothing untoward.

ryzen header

The Ryzen 5 1600X CPU is the highest rated and priced Ryzen 5 chip available running at 3.6-4.0GHz, featuring 6 cores / 12 threads and rocking a TDP of 95W. This specification is a step down from the Ryzen 7 series where all CPUs had 8 cores / 16 threads. The Ryzen 5 1500X operates at 3.5 – 3.7 GHz, with 4 cores / 8 threads and running at 65W, making it a step down again and more aligned with the number of cores that gamers usually buy for their rigs. If Ryzen 7 was for enthusiasts and creators, Ryzen 5 looks to be aimed at serious gamers.

LINE

AMD Ryzen™ 7

AMD Ryzen™ 7

AMD Ryzen™ 7

AMD Ryzen™ 5

AMD Ryzen™ 5

AMD Ryzen™ 5

AMD Ryzen™ 5

MODEL

AMD Ryzen™ 7 1800X

AMD Ryzen™ 7 1700X

AMD Ryzen™ 7 1700

AMD Ryzen™ 5 1600X

AMD Ryzen™ 5 1600

AMD Ryzen™ 5 1500X

AMD Ryzen™ 5 1400

PLATFORM

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

Desktop

TDP

95 W

95 W

65 W

95 W

65 W

65 W

65 W

Performance

             

# OF CPU CORES

8

8

8

6

6

4

4

# OF THREADS

16

16

16

12

12

8

8

BASE CLOCK SPEED

3.6 GHz

3.4 GHz

3 GHz

3.6 GHz

3.2 GHz

3.5 GHz

3.2 GHz

MAX TURBO CORE SPEED

4 GHz

3.8 GHz

3.7 GHz

4 GHz

3.6 GHz

3.7 GHz

3.4 GHz

Memory

             

MEMORY TYPE

DDR4

DDR4

DDR4

DDR4

DDR4

DDR4

DDR4

MEMORY CHANNELS

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Key Features

             

AES SUPPORT

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

AVX

AVX2

AVX2

AVX2

AVX2

AVX2

AVX2

AVX2

XFR

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

AMD SENSEMI TECHNOLOGY

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

FMA

FMA3

FMA3

FMA3

FMA3

FMA3

FMA3

FMA3

AMD VIRTUALIZATION

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

The above table shows the AMD Ryzen line up so far. Interestingly, the 1600X has the same clockspeed rating as the 1800X so we would logically expect the 1600X to outperform the 1700 in some areas where multi-threading isn’t utilised or is not optimised beyond 12 threads. It’s important to note that the ‘X’ processors have the ability to extend themselves a little further with decent cooling using the Extended Frequency Range (XFR). Our testing of the higher TDP 1600X involved the stock cooler as provided by AMD and we saw all cores hit 4092MHz at some point in the benchmarking as a maximum on the ASROCK B350 board. The temperatures seemed to top out at 80C but the Wraith cooler didn’t seem as warm to touch as we’d expect so it looks like the 20C offset for temperature reporting is in effect here.

Ryzen 5 1600X unboxing shots are in the gallery below including the Wraith Max LED cooler that was also supplied by AMD. Please note that this cooler is not bundled with the 1600X for retail sale.

The Ryzen 5 1500X comes with a Wraith Spire cooler. You need to remove the AMD clamp mounts from the motherboard and mount the Wraith Spire into the backplate. It sounds tricky but takes about 5 minutes in total to fit.

The new AM4 platform is the only platform AMD system builders need to worry about. The 1331-pin socket will support the 7th Generation AMD APU (Accelerated Processing Unit), Ryzen and the future “Raven Ridge” APU. This means that you can buy a board with an APU or entry level CPU, decide to become a power user, developer or content producer and then upgrade the CPU to the top end later without needing to change the rest of your system. Cheaper upgrades and the lack of a need to reinstall the operating system is very handy indeed.

During our testing, we tested first with the 1600X, then just swapped out the CPU/Cooler and the only thing requiring intervention was the motherboard BIOS where the memory timings and CPU configuration needed to be re-tweaked. The operating system didn’t care about the change and the only difference was the performance of the 1500X.

Ryzen 5 – Same as Ryzen 7 but with less cores?

Ryzen is built on a 14nm manufacturing process. Each CCX package contains 4cores/8 threads – AMD have incorporated 2 CCX packages with a shared cache. The Ryzen 5 1600X and 1500X use 2 CCX packages with some cores disabled (2 cores on the 1600X and 2 cores on the 1500X) but the shared L3 cache of the two CCX packages is still available despite the disabling of 1-2 cores per CCX.

ccx

DDR4 Memory support is identical across the series and officially rated up to 2667MHz and Dual Channel but we are already seeing motherboard manufacturers push the envelope here and there have been several BIOS updates from the board manufacturers to improve memory compatibility. The GEIL EVOX DDR4 3200 kit that we received with our review kit was able to run at 2933MHz with some tweaks to the voltage and timings.

Ryzen 5 has Simultaneous Multi-Threading (two threads per physical core) with some intelligent cache and prefetch instructions. The 512KB dedicated L2 cache per core provides a 6MB total cache for the 1600 and 1600X or a 4MB total cache for the 1500X, 1500 or 1400 CPUs. The pre-fetching algorithms were designed and implemented to enhance the throughput of the cache and execution engines.

AMD SENSEMI technology has the task of monitoring and managing the power/thermals of the processor. AMD breaks the explanation down to Pure Power, Precision Boost, Extended Frequency Range (‘X’ series CPUs), Neural Net Prediction and Smart Prefetch.

  • Pure Power monitors the power draw, temperature and usage of the CPU to optimise the power draw for the workload which can result in reduced heat and noise (from cooling).
  • Precision Boost covers tuning performance with 25MHz incremental adjustments to the clock speed in real time.
  • Neural Net Prediction looks at how the applications are using the CPU and prepares the fastest processor pathways for the application instructions based on past behaviour.
  • Smart Prefetch is achieved with learning algorithms that can identify the data used by applications and then manage access to that data by preloading it.

The new chipsets dictate what you can get out of the new AMD AM4 CPUs
AM4-Chipsets

Ryzen Master

Whilst incredibly easy to use, Ryzen Master didn’t have as much success with the 1600X or 1500X using the included stock coolers that came with our review kit. The XFR certainly kicked in and we saw speeds beyond the rated standard boost clocks but when we tried to push it further, we only managed another 50MHz above the XFR rated speed (4.15GHz on the 1600X and 3.95GHz on the 1500X). Due to time constraints and wanting to use only the components as supplied by AMD, we will follow up with another article covering overclocking with a different motherboard and superior cooler.

ryzenmaster-1500X


TEST SYSTEMS

All systems had Windows 10 operating in ‘High Performance’ mode under the Power Settings. This is not a default setting for Ryzen and you have to manually set it but it is a one-off task and only takes about 20 seconds to get there and change the option.

We ran the tests with our GTX 980 card as it is the single fastest card in the lab.  We wanted to eliminate any complications of multi GPU for this round of testing and test Crossfire scaling as a separate round of testing. All the tests in this section are with a single MSI GTX 980 graphics card.

AMD 990FX Platform

We have a dedicated AMD platform with 4 core / 8 thread AMD FX 8350 test bench here in the lab and it represents what many AMD users are likely to be upgrading from. The AM3 platform has been around since early Feb 2009 and received a modification to AM3+ to support the Bulldozer architecture along the way, an update that was backward compatible with AM3. This longevity is important but has come to an expected end with Socket AM4 and Ryzen. The FX8350 CPU in our AMD AM3+ platform CPU currently retails for $229

Specification

AMD FX 8350, 16GB ADATA XPG V3, Gigabyte 990FX Gaming motherboard, AMD Wraith Cooler, MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G Kingston M.2 120GB SSD, Western Digital Black 6TB HDD, Cooler Master V1000 PSU, Cooler Master Cosmos SE Case, Logitech G910 keyboard, Logitech G900 Mouse, Logitech Z533 desktop speakers, Kingston HyperX Cloud headset, BenQ XL2730Z Freesync Display

 

Intel X99 Platform

Our standard test system is an Intel X99 based platform with a 6 core / 12 thread i7-5930K CPU. This CPU released in August 2014 is still available in retail outlets for approximately $819

Specification

Intel i7-5930K, 32GB Kingston Savage DDR4 3000, MSI X99S Gaming 7 motherboard, MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G, Fractal Design Kelvin S36, ADATA SX900 256GB SSD, Western Digital Blue 4TB SSHD, Corsair HX850 PSU, Fractal Design Define R5 case, Logitech G910 keyboard, Logitech G900 mouse, Logitech Z533 desktop speakers, Kingston HyperX Cloud headset, BenQ XL2730Z Freesync Display

 

Intel Z170 Platform

We also threw an Intel 6600K into the mix for this review, the i5-6600K is a quad core CPU rated at 3.5-3.9GHz, 95W and has a retail price of $345

Specification

Intel i5-6600K, 16GB ADATA Dazzle DDR4 2800, Gigabyte Z170N Gaming 5 motherboard, MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G, HyperX 250GB SSD, Western Digital Blue 1TB SSHD, Fractal Design Node202 case, Logitech G910 keyboard, Logitech G900 mouse, Logitech Z533 desktop speakers, Kingston HyperX Cloud headset, BenQ XL2730Z Freesync Display

 

AMD Ryzen 7 Test System

The Ryzen7 test system has a Ryzen 7 1700 CPU, Gigabyte Aorus AX370 Gaming 5 motherboard with the extremely capable EK-XLC Predator 240mm AIO Water cooler – all supplied by AMD for this review. We added the remaining components from our other review samples to end up with the spec below.

Specification

AMD Ryzen 7 1700, 32GB Kingston Predator DDR4 3333, Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard, MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G, EK-XLC Predator 240mm AIO Water Cooler, Samsung Evo 840 250GB SSD, Western Digital Blue 1TB SSHD, Fractal Design Integra-M 750W PSU, In Win 303 Case, Logitech G910 keyboard, Logitech G900 mouse, Logitech Z533 desktop speakers, Kingston HyperX Cloud headset, BenQ XL2730Z Freesync Display

AMD Ryzen 5 Test System

The Ryzen 5 test system involved testing a 1600X and 1500X both with the coolers as supplied by AMD. Supporting these processors was an ASROCK Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 motherboard and 2x8GB GEIL EVOX RGB DDR4 3200 RAM modules as supplied byAMD for this review. We added the remaining components from our other review samples to end up with the spec below.

Full Specification

  • AMD Ryzen 5 1600X with Wraith MAX LED cooler / 1500X with Wraith Spire (Non-LED) cooler
  • 16GB (2x8GB) GEIL EVOX RGB DDR4 3200 RAM with timings of 16tCL, 18tRCDRD, 18 tRCDWR, 18tRP, tRAS 36 @ 1.35V.
  • ASROCK Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 motherboard
  • MSI GTX 980 Gaming 4G 4GB
  • Samsung Evo 840 250GB SSD
  • Western Digital Blue 1TB SSHD
  • Fractal Design Integra-M 750W PSU
  • In Win 509 Case
  • Logitech G910 keyboard
  • Logitech G900 mouse
  • Logitech Z533 desktop speakers
  • Kingston HyperX Cloud headset
  • BenQ XL2730Z Freesync Display

For the purposes of comparison, consider the Ryzen 7 1700 relative to the Intel i7-5930K and the Ryzen 5 processors relative to the Intel i5-6600K. This represents the Enthusiast and Gaming grades of the CPUs, pricing and industry ‘battlefields’ in play.

Cinebench Testing – Single and Multi-Thread

Cinebench is a good way to test both single and multi-core performance. In single core performance the Intel CPUs perform better than Ryzen competitors but the Intel CPUs fall behind in the multi-threaded test. Ryzen clearly has the advantage in multi-threaded performance, hence the focus by AMD on content creation in their marketing. With applications and needs heading down the multi-threaded path, this is a relevant factor when choosing your next CPU.
1-main-Cinebench

PCMARK 8

PCMARK 8 Creative testing showed the value of an upgrade from the FX 8350 with all recent CPUs smashing it. The Ryzen CPUs have the edge in PCMARK 8 Creative with the most telling difference the gaps between the i5-6600K and the cheaper 1500X and similarly priced 1600X.
2-main-pcmark

SuperPI

SuperPI is a single threaded benchmark that puts the CPUs into a single core, single thread foot race. The Intel CPUs take the points here in first and second place with the 1600X taking third place a little over a minute behind the i5-6600K.
3-main-superpi

Gaming and Physics results

Unigine Heaven 4.0 Extreme

The Unigine Heaven benchmark scores showed the Intel i7-5930K ahead of the rest by less than 1%. Given how close the FX8350 was with 1972 points, this test shows that the GTX 980 graphics card is the limiting factor.
5-main-unigine

3DMark

This test is for 4K ready systems. The graph is ordered by the physics score as it represents the CPU difference given all test systems used the same GTX980. We see the 1600X narrowly leading the 1700
6-main-firestrike-ultra

Firestrike Extreme showed a similar picture to Firestrike Ultra but the lead switched to the 1700 over the 1600X by a narrow margin. Interestingly, the i7-5930K beats the 1500X in the Physics score but loses by a narrow margin on the overall benchmark score.
7-main-firestrike-extreme

The 1600X takes the points again by a small margin over the 1700 with the i7-5930K in third place.

8-main-firestrike

All the Futuremark benchmarks show the advantage that the 1500X has in the Physics department with the additional 4 threads, despite the lower clock speed.

The Sky Diver benchmark is aimed at lower rated systems than our test platforms from this review but it demonstrates the pattern that we saw in the previous Firestrike benchmarks.
9-main-skydiver

3DMark’s Time Spy DX12 benchmark is the best indicator we have for DX12 and future titles. The results here were more interesting with the 1500X and i5-6600K much closer in terms of performance and both lagging behind the top 3. When you consider that the i7-5930K CPU has the same core/thread count as the 1600X but costs more than double to take home, the 1600X looks to be amazing value in this test.
10-main-timespy

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is an older DX11 benchmark and we were expecting to see the GTX 980 bottleneck the scores. All scores were within what we would consider margin for error of each. In this case, there is little value in upgrading from the older FX8350.
Please note that this benchmark was run at 2560×1440 with the following settings:
tombraider-settings

11-main-tombraider

Hitman (2016)

The DX12 performance at 2560×1440 on maximum settings showed very little difference if you consider 1-2FPS for margin for error. Once again, the game is dependent on the graphics card with minimal benefit being delivered by a better CPU.
12-main-hitman

The Division

In the Ryzen 7 review, I mentioned that this benchmark can be a little misleading. The performance statistics obtained by the FX8350 are better in the benchmark than when playing the game under DX12 with everything cranked up. Gameplay on the FX8350 was not smooth and the CPU was stressed more than the other CPUs in the test. The rest of the field played the Division with the same level of responsiveness and aside from the less desirable frame rate, they all felt the same in general game play. Ideally, these settings would be scaled back for normal game-play as opposed to benchmarking.
13-main-division

GTA V

The benchmark average FPS has this as a close race and in general gameplay with an hour of testing on each platform, the only noticeable difference was the occasional stutter of the FX8350. I was unable to detect any noticeable difference between the Intel or Ryzen CPUs when playing GTA V.
14-main-GTAV

Overclocking

For the record, I was only able to hit 4.15GHz with the 1600X and 3.95GHz with the 1500X as stable overclocks with the provided coolers during this review period.

The thermal solution of the Wraith Spire and Wraith Max coolers was effective, perhaps more effective than the reported temperatures were indicating. I’d like to see if the EK water cooler from our Ryzen 7 review combined with an X370 motherboard gives us better results than the 50MHz increase that I achieved above the XFR boost so stay tuned.

Thermals and Noise

I had to keep reminding myself that the Wraith Spire (on the 1500X) and the Wraith Max LED (1600X) were stock coolers. They were incredibly quiet but the fins didn’t feel hot or in general use, even warm. The CPU temperatures seemed to cap out at 80 degrees when under extreme load but even then, the heat pipes on the Wraith Max didn’t feel hot to touch. I checked the seating of the cooler and it was fine, I didn’t see any evidence of thermal throttling as XFR was in effect and saw the XFR frequency being reached so it looks like the discrepancy is down to the way Ryzen ‘X’ CPUs report their package temperatures. Typical operating and gaming temperatures were under 60C for the 1500X with Wraith Spire and under 65C for the 1600X with Wraith Max LED cooler – it should also be said that these temperatures were maintained with very little noise.

Wraith Max (LED) Cooler paired with the 1600X

The Wraith Max is without a doubt the best looking ‘Stock’ CPU cooler I’ve ever seen and it works a treat.

Wraith Spire Cooler Paired with the 1500X

The Wraith Spire is smaller than the Max and the bundled version doesn’t have an RGB LED but it’s almost as quiet and quite effective. This is a far cry from the coolers that we saw with AMD’s previous CPUs – this is a welcome change because coolers like this actually add value to the package. 


Final Thoughts

It should be noted that we didn’t have as much time with the Ryzen 5 CPUs as we did with the others.

I ran some benchmarks where I converted the same 4.3GB MKV file to an MP4. All platforms had either the same or an identical spec source/destination SSD model installed, the i7 and Ryzen 7 test systems had 32GB of RAM, the i5 and Ryzen 5 were running with 16GB RAM, all CPUs were running at stock settings (no overclock present) and had the same version of Handbrake on the same patch level of Windows 10. This was as close to apples and apples as I could manage.

  • i7 5930K converted the 4.3GB video file in 44 minutes and 17 seconds.
  • Ryzen 7 1700 converted the same file in 34 minutes and 25 seconds.
  • Ryzen 5 1600X took 43 minutes and 10 seconds
  • Ryzen 5 1500X struggled a little and finished in 57 minutes, 43 seconds
  • Intel’s i5-6600K put up a valiant effort with 1 hour, 10 minutes and 3 seconds.

When you consider that the 6600K only has 4 cores with 4 threads, those 4 cores look alright but Ryzen is perhaps more impressive with more cores and more threads per dollar. Further to this point, the 1600X and i7-5930K have the same core/thread count and finished about a minute apart in favour of the 1600X.

The 1600X and 1500X both felt essentially the same from a gaming perspective. I deliberately tested the 1600X first with the expectation that I was more likely to notice the ‘downgrade’ to the 1500X when gaming – but I didn’t. With a GTX 980 graphics card in the system, the step down between the CPUs wasn’t big enough to detect. Ideally I’d like to have had more time to switch between the two before releasing this review but even then, I’m not convinced that I’d notice a performance change. Productivity tasks would be more likely to expose the 2 core / 4 thread difference between the 1500X and the 1600X.

Gaming on the 1500X and 1600X was trouble-free and didn’t seem to stress either of the CPUs. The 1500X had a consistently higher utilisation percentage when gaming as expected but it was still generally half or less than half of the available horsepower. Battlefield 1 pushed the 1500X more than other games but generally only spiked when loading or spawning. The 1600X also registered the same utilisation spikes but it didn’t cause any stuttering, delay or apparent performance hit. If anything, it highlighted the value of more cores/threads.

Using Ryzen 5 was a smooth ride and unless overclocking, the Wraith Spire cooler that comes with the 1500X is also a worthy ‘value-add’ from AMD. It isn’t silent but it’s a little better than some entry level after market CPU coolers I’ve seen. The Wraith Max is better again and looks great with the RGB LED, square compact design and heat pipes. I liked the Wraith cooler that I received for our FX8350 test system last year but the new versions are even better.

Price

This is one of the most interesting points of Ryzen. Either Intel CPUs are too expensive – especially in the i7 space – or Ryzen is too cheap and perhaps an attempt by AMD to buy back some market share – perhaps a little of both. It will be interesting to see what CPU prices do over the next 6 –12 months. AMD haven’t declared what kind of margin they are making on Ryzen CPU sales and I don’t expect them to. It is also possible that this is what AMD thinks performance CPUs are really worth – either way, this is what a company disrupting the market looks like.

4-main-price

At the end of the day, any gamers holding out on their upgrades from Sandy Bridge or AM3 to see what Ryzen 5 has to offer may have been well rewarded. The B350 motherboards are currently available in ATX and MATX sizes with a wide range of feature combinations for some very affordable gaming builds. The other consideration is that with the Ryzen CPUs so aggressively priced and the expectation of AM4 socket longevity, the X370 boards are perhaps easier to justify and afford as well.

Value has clearly been a focus of AMD’s in the delivery of Ryzen but we shouldn’t let that take away from the performance Ryzen brings to the market. If the Ryzen 7 1700 CPU was out of reach or perhaps overkill, the 1600X delivers similar performance in the areas that matter to gamers for about $90 less at $359. The 1500X is also very compelling at $275 – it’s only $50 more than the now-obsolete FX8350 and $70 cheaper than the last gen Intel quad core i5-6600K.

Conclusion

Ryzen 5 exceeded my expectations and the 6 core/12 thread 1600X presents a real dilemma for enthusiast gamers given how closely it performs to the Ryzen 7 1700. The 1600X will almost certainly fill the requirements of an enthusiast who games 70% of the time or more but also likes to dabble in content creation. It’s quick but still has the extra cores to handle a heavy workload or additional parallel tasks. The 1600X is my pick of the Ryzen offerings released to date.

The 1500X scales back a bit with less cores but still has 8 threads and snappy base/boost clocks. This CPU will handle today’s gaming requirements and should be good for the foreseeable future. Transcoding isn’t as quick as a six or 8 core CPU with multi-threading technology, and understandably so, but if you are a gamer and you only play games on your PC, the 1500X would be $275 well spent.

I can’t remember a better time to be in the market for a CPU/platform upgrade.

 

AMD Ryzen 5 1600X & 1500X CPUs
 Ryzen50032

PROS

Solid Multi-Core performance
1600X is close to 1700 in performance
Both are suitable for gaming, 1600X is also a good option for content creation
New AM4 platform, wide range of motherboards available
Great Value for money at the current prices
Good Single Core Performance

CONS

crossOverclocking with the Wraith coolers was limited
                        EditorsChoiceAwardTheValueAward

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