AMD Ryzen 5 1600X 3.6 GHz Review 90

AMD Ryzen 5 1600X 3.6 GHz Review

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  • The AMD Ryzen 5 1600X currently retails for $250.
  • Convincingly beats the Core i5-7600K "Kaby Lake"
  • Trades blows with costlier i7-7700K in some tests
  • Features SMT/HTT (which competing Intel Core i5 quad-core chips lack)
  • Single-threaded performance improved over previous generation
  • Unlocked multiplier
  • Platform updated to include latest features (PCIe 3.0, USB 3.1, NVMe)
  • Gaming frame rates lower than competing Intel chips
  • High power draw
  • Memory frequency options and memory compatibility limited
  • Setup complicated (memory, HPET, CCX, SMT, and power profile)
  • Overclocking barely worth it
  • Requires optimized apps of which there are not many
  • Lacks integrated graphics
The Core i5-7600K is an important SKU for Intel because spending at least $250 on a CPU apparently gives some gaming PC builders the confidence to opt for >$650 enthusiast-segment graphics cards without "feeling" that the graphics subsystem is somehow bottlenecked by the CPU. Thanks to a lack of competition, Intel was happy selling a quad-core chip that lacks HyperThreading and has just 6 MB of L3 cache at this price-point, and given its gaming frame rates are within 15% of the $350-ish Core i7 part, consumers were happy to buy it. This gravy-train for Intel's bean counters has run out of line thanks to the Ryzen 5 1600X.

At $250, the Ryzen 5 1600X is giving you so much more than the i5-7600K - 6 cores, SMT enabling 12 logical CPUs, and 16 MB of L3 cache, and high clock speeds of 3.70 GHz, with 4.00 GHz boost, and XFR unlocking higher clocks if your cooling is good enough. We are happy to report that these greater features on paper do also translate into performance that beats the Core i5-7600K at everything. It even beats the $330 Core i7-7700K in apps that scale with cores. You can go ahead and pair this CPU with a really expensive graphics card.

The gaming performance of the Ryzen 5 1600X renders AMD's costlier Ryzen 7 eight-core lineup redundant. Owing to higher clock speeds, the chip is faster than the Ryzen 7 1700 (non-X) at gaming, which only goes to show that while some of the newer games are beginning to take advantage of more than 4 logical CPUs, you still don't need 8 cores/16 threads, and the 6 cores with 12 threads of the 1600X make for a good gaming-PC CPU. But that's just half the story. We also measured minimum framerates (99th percentile), which suggest that in some games Ryzen delivers better minimums, but we're not completely convinced of whether our data is accurate yet. This is important because lower minimum frame rates can sometimes affect gameplay. The minimum fps of the 1600X isn't, however, as low as with the 1500X quad-core chip.

With non-gaming tasks such as multi-threaded media encoding, the Ryzen 5 1600X wields a handsomely competitive edge over the entire Core i5 "Kaby Lake" series and even trades blows with the costlier i7-7700K. You could benefit from the 12 logical CPUs this chip offers thanks to SMT, in scenarios such as game streaming, in which some of the processor's resources are encoding and streaming your game capture to services such as Twitch. Productivity software can already take advantage of as many CPU cores as you can throw at them, and with the advent of DirectX 12 and Vulkan, games too are beginning to benefit from more than 4 logical CPUs.

With 2 fewer CPU cores than the Ryzen 7 1800X, you'd expect the power draw of the 1600X to be slightly lower. Unfortunately, the 1600X has higher power draw than any of the Intel chips in our comparison. Surprisingly, its power draw is higher than even the eight-core Ryzen 7 1700, which happens to lack XFR. Perhaps XFR is responsible for tapping into higher core voltages to unlock speeds beyond the maximum TurboCore frequency, thereby impacting power-draw significantly. The 1600X has a higher power draw than any of the Core i5 "Kaby Lake" chips in Prime95, a multi-threaded stress-test that loads all the cores and threads available. The single-threaded test SuperPi also highlights that the 1600X isn't as efficient as "Kaby Lake" quad-core chips. During gaming, however, power-draw is just 10% higher.

While on paper the Ryzen 5 1600X gives you so many more features than similarly priced Core i5 "Kaby Lake" chips, it lacks integrated graphics (yes, even if the motherboards have monitor connectors). It may not mean much to gaming PC builders, but system integrators, builders of office computers and you when building a computer for your parents might miss integrated graphics, which is a cost-effective solution to keeping platform cost down for non-gaming loads. If this affects you, maybe you could wait for AMD to roll out its Ryzen-branded "Raven Ridge" socket AM4 APUs in the second half of 2017.

Should you pick the Ryzen 5 1600X over Intel's offerings? Most definitely. The similarly priced Core i5-7600K is convincingly beaten by the 1600X across the board, and the 1600X even registers wins against the much costlier i7-7700K in some tests. These chips give you so much more, and the average frame rates are on par with Intel, but if you do nothing other than gaming on your $1,500 rig, you're still better off opting for an Intel Core i5-7600K or 7700K. If, however, you're looking for a more wholesome package that gives you the power to handle media-productivity tasks, as well as great gaming performance, then the Ryzen 5 1600X makes for an incredible option. Intel's $200-350 CPU lineup is certainly in a bit of a pickle.
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