AMD Ryzen 5 2600 3.4 GHz Review 10

AMD Ryzen 5 2600 3.4 GHz Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The AMD Ryzen 5 2600 retails for $199.
  • Gaming performance matches Ryzen 7 1800X
  • Restores AMD's competitiveness in the sub-$200 market
  • Good energy efficiency
  • Outstanding performance in multi-threaded apps
  • Unlocked CPU multiplier
  • Supports existing AM4 motherboards
  • CPU cooler included
  • Soldered IHS
  • Gaming performance lower than competing Intel Core i5 chips
  • Limited overclocking potential
  • Memory still a bit more problematic than on Intel
  • Lacks integrated graphics
This review uses our updated test suite for processors in 2018, which includes the latest BIOS updates with microcode fixes for recent security issues, Windows 10 Fall Creators Update with all updates, and new software tests and games, which are all using the latest versions as well.

A lot is riding on the shoulders of AMD's most affordable 12 nm processor, the Ryzen 5 2600. It picks up the mantle from the embattled Ryzen 5 1600, which once smacked Intel's entire sub-$200 lineup around until it ran for cover with the Core i5-8400. The good news is that the Ryzen 5 2600 manages to avenge the i5-8400 in CPU tests, with 3.5% higher performance. The not-so-good news is that it's slightly behind the i5-8400 in gaming, with the Intel chip offering 7% more performance at 1080p and 3.5% more performance at 1440p, two key gaming resolutions; but these are nothing like the double-digit performance differences we saw on the previous-generation Ryzen 5 1600. AMD has definitely made gains there—impressive for a second revision just a year later.

Intel wasn't sitting idle as AMD launched its second-generation Ryzen chips. It bolstered its 8th generation Core lineup with more SKUs, crowding the $189-$249 space with five SKUs. The one closest to the Ryzen 5 2600 is the Core i5-8500, which is priced at around $204. This chip has nearly the same gaming performance as both the $229 i5-8600 and $249 i5-8600K, and isn't that far behind them in CPU tests, which means its gaming performance is a bit better than the Core i5-8400. Overall, these differences are small though and mostly of academic interest—a difference of a few percent isn't really noticeable during actual gameplay.

Much like the Ryzen 7 2700, the 2600 is one of AMD's "high efficiency" SKUs, and both its idle and multi-threaded power are on-par with Intel's offerings in this price range. Even its gaming power draw is in the same league as Core i5 chips. One area where the chip aces the i5-8500 chips is in energy usage (which also takes into account how fast the processor completes a given task). Here, its efficiency rivals the i7-8700K even though the i5-8400 is slightly ahead. Overclocking the Ryzen 5 2600 is easy thanks to the unlocked multiplier, and we were able to get the chip up to 4.00 GHz, which, when looking at low-threaded clocks, isn't much higher than the max boost frequency of the chip, which it sustains very well across multi-threaded loads. For higher thread counts, especially when running at the maximum of twelve threads, there is some solid gains from overclocking, though, as with, for example, an eight percent increase for Blender rendering. What's also important to highlight is that the processor holds onto its boost clocks much better than the Ryzen 7 2700 because it respects the 65 W TDP better due to two fewer cores.

The Ryzen 5 2600 has enough in it to be a processor we recommend under $200 (even counting the i5-8500 as a sub-$200 chip). I'd say it comes down to what kind of workloads you are going to run. For single-threaded applications and games, the Intel lineup has the slight advantage due to its better low-threaded performance, but if you run highly threaded applications all day, then Ryzen 5 2600 is the clear winner.
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