AMD is back in the desktop CPU game with its Ryzen family of processors, thanks to successes with per-core performance and energy efficiency brought about by its "Zen" micro-architecture. The company launched its Ryzen processor family with the top-end Ryzen 7 series, which consists of eight-core models that start at $329 and go all the way up to $499. These chips do manage to make you think twice before choosing an Intel Core i7-7700K quad-core chip, and makes the Core i7 "Broadwell-E" series look terrible, all the way up to the $1,199 i7-6900K. Ahead of Summer 2017, when PC gamers hit stores for hardware upgrades, AMD is launching a new line of Ryzen processors at price points targeting them, with the new Ryzen 5 series.
The Ryzen 5 series from AMD competes with the entire spectrum of Intel's Core i5 quad-core "Kaby Lake" series, at prices ranging from $169 to $249. This puts Intel's high-volume Core i5-7600K and value-oriented i5-7400 in its crosshairs. Carved out of the same 14 nm "Summit Ridge" silicon as the eight-core Ryzen 7 series, the Ryzen 5 series consists of six-core and quad-core SKUs, which are further bolstered by SMT (simultaneous multi-threading) and unlocked base-clock multipliers across the board. SMT (and its Intel implementation, Hyper-Threading) is something quad-core Core i5 parts lack, and unlocked multipliers is reserved only for the i5-7600K quad-core and the $189 i3-7350K dual core. What's more, the six-core Ryzen 5 parts feature a staggering 16 MB of L3 cache (compared to the paltry 6 MB of the price-comparable Core i5 quad-core parts), and the quad-core Ryzen parts feature a decent 8 MB. Given AMD has made significant strides in improving per-core performance and the software ecosystem finally taking advantage of more than four logical CPUs, the Ryzen 5 series chips are extremely exciting on paper.
The Ryzen 5 series is led by the Ryzen 5 1600X, a six-core part priced at $249. This is closely followed by the Ryzen 5 1600 six-core chip we're reviewing today, at $219. It is priced between the Core i5-7600 (non-K), which goes for $229, and the i5-7500, which is priced at $199, down from its launch price of $209. People who want performance "close" to the i5-7600K, but don't plan on overclocking their CPU usually opt for the cheaper (and slower) non-K variant to save some money (and get an included cooler). This is where the Ryzen 5 1600 is different. You get all the features of the 1600X, including the unlocked base-clock multiplier, but will have to deal with lower clock speeds. The Ryzen 5 1600 even keeps XFR (extended frequency range), a feature that automatically overclocks the processor beyond the maximum turbo frequency depending on the cooler's efficiency. The chip is clocked at 3.20 GHz, with 3.60 GHz TurboCore, compared to the 3.60/4.00 GHz the 1600X ships with. It's still a whole $30 cheaper. What's more, you even get the AMD Wraith Spire cooler, while the 1600X lacks stock cooling altogether.
AMD made the Ryzen 5 1600 by disabling two out of eight CPU cores physically present on the 14 nm "Summit Ridge" chip, which is, in turn, one core per quad-core complex (CCX), while leaving L3 cache untouched. So you have a staggering 16 MB of shared L3 cache and 512 KB of L2 cache per core. The chip is clocked at 3.20 GHz, with 3.60 GHz of TurboCore frequency. Its main competitor from the Intel stable is the Core i5-7600 non-K at $229, and there is the i5-7500 at $199.
On popular demand, we decided to also run our entire selection of games at HD resolution (1280 x 720 pixels). You will likely not game at this resolution, but it provides useful insights into the CPU's performance since games get extremely CPU limited at this resolution.