AMD made a spectacular comeback in the processor market with its Ryzen processor family, to which Intel responded with its 8th generation Core processor family that has 50%-100% core-count increases across the lineup. These held Intel's fort until AMD responded with its 2nd generation Ryzen "Pinnacle Ridge" family. We've covered every other chip in this rather slick family of just four SKUs and now have a chance to look at the most affordable one, the Ryzen 5 2600.
When you think about the first-generation Ryzen family, more glamorous SKUs such as the 1800X or 1600X come to mind; retailers, however, think of the Ryzen 5 1600 as their cash cow. This was because it was an unlocked 6-core/12-thread chip that included a cooler and sold for around $200. The value proposition was overwhelming for Intel's paltry 7th generation Core i5 lineup, and it was only with Intel's introduction of the interestingly priced Core i5-8400 that Intel managed to put the brakes on AMD's success south of $200. Unlike Intel, which bloated its Core i5 6-core family with a staggering five SKUs, AMD's lineup is rather slim with just two SKUs, the Ryzen 5 2600X and Ryzen 5 2600. The 2600X impressed us in our launch review and is still one of the best sub-$300 processors in our books.
AMD didn't segment the Ryzen 5 2600 from the 2600X by much. It's still a 6-core/12-thread chip and has the full 16 MB of shared L3 cache available on the 12 nm "Pinnacle Ridge" silicon, and you still get an unlocked multiplier for some overclocking fun. The clock speeds are a little subdued with 3.40 GHz nominal clocks and 3.90 GHz boost, and a rudiment of the XFR 2.0 feature adding a marginal 50 MHz on top. This is surprisingly close to the 3.60 GHz nominal and 4.10 GHz (+200 MHz XFR) boost clocks of the Ryzen 5 2600X when compared to the difference between the 2700X and 2700. The lower clock speeds translate into a significantly lower TDP rating of 65 W. The Ryzen 7 2700 more than surprised us with its energy efficiency, and we can only imagine what two fewer cores could do to that.
The Ryzen 5 2600 is being launched at $199, or $30 cheaper than the Ryzen 5 2600X. At its price, it targets several Intel SKUs, including the i5-8400, i5-8500, and perhaps even the i5-8600. Its target audience is gamers who are looking for a well-priced processor that won't bottleneck today's high-end graphics cards, and which on top of gaming can also provide decent multi-threaded productivity performance.
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, too.
|Price||Cores / |
|Core i3-8350K||$175||4 / 4||4.0 GHz||N/A||8 MB||91 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Ryzen 5 1500X||$170||4 / 8||3.5 GHz||3.7 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
|Core i5-7400||$180||4 / 4||3.0 GHz||3.5 GHz||6 MB||65 W||Kaby Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i5-8400||$180||6 / 6||2.8 GHz||4.0 GHz||9 MB||65 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i5-7500||$200||4 / 4||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||6 MB||65 W||Kaby Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Ryzen 5 1600||$180||6 / 12||3.2 GHz||3.6 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
|Core i5-8500||$205||6 / 6||3.0 GHz||4.1 GHz||9 MB||65 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i5-7600K||$230||4 / 4||3.8 GHz||4.2 GHz||6 MB||91 W||Kaby Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i5-7640X||$200||4 / 4||4.0 GHz||4.2 GHz||6 MB||112 W||Kaby Lake||14 nm||LGA 2066|
|Core i5-6600K||$250||4 / 4||3.5 GHz||3.9 GHz||8 MB||91 W||Skylake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i5-8600||$230||6 / 6||3.1 GHz||4.3 GHz||9 MB||65 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Ryzen 5 1600X||$200||6 / 12||3.6 GHz||4.0 GHz||16 MB||95 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
|Core i5-8600K||$250||6 / 6||3.6 GHz||4.3 GHz||9 MB||95 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Ryzen 5 2600||$200||6 / 12||3.4 GHz||3.9 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 1700||$290||8 / 16||3.0 GHz||3.7 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
|Core i7-6700K||$350||4 / 8||4.0 GHz||4.2 GHz||8 MB||91 W||Skylake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i7-7700K||$340||4 / 8||4.2 GHz||4.5 GHz||8 MB||91 W||Kaby Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i7-8700||$300||6 / 12||3.2 GHz||4.6 GHz||12 MB||65 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Ryzen 5 2600X||$230||6 / 12||3.6 GHz||4.2 GHz||16 MB||95 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 1700X||$290||8 / 16||3.4 GHz||3.8 GHz||16 MB||95 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 2700||$300||8 / 16||3.2 GHz||4.1 GHz||16 MB||65 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Core i7-8700K||$350||6 / 12||3.7 GHz||4.7 GHz||12 MB||95 W||Coffee Lake||14 nm||LGA 1151|
|Core i7-7800X||$380||6 / 12||3.5 GHz||4.0 GHz||8.25 MB||140 W||Skylake||14 nm||LGA 2066|
|Ryzen 7 2700X||$330||8 / 16||3.7 GHz||4.3 GHz||16 MB||105 W||Zen||12 nm||AM4|
|Ryzen 7 1800X||$320||8 / 16||3.6 GHz||4.0 GHz||16 MB||95 W||Zen||14 nm||AM4|
A Closer Look
The Ryzen 5 2600 ships in a fairly big cubical box because it includes a 95 W-capable Wraith Spire cooling solution, besides a case-badge and some literature.
It's important to note that this isn't the same variant of the Wraith Spire you'd find inside a Ryzen 7 1600 box as it lacks all lighting. There's no RGB LED-illuminated ring along the fan frame or the AMD logo. The underlying heatsink is the same, and so is the fan itself, so cooling performance isn't affected. The heatsink features a copper core welded to a hunk of aluminium with somewhat radially projecting fins, and all of this is ventilated by a large 80 mm fan that's optimized for low noise.
The Ryzen 5 2600 package looks just like any other Ryzen socket AM4 processor. It comes with a soldered IHS (like 1st-gen Ryzen, but unlike Raven Ridge APUs and Intel). AMD claims to be using a high-grade indium-alloy solder which works to lower temperatures by as much as 10°C. Enthusiasts generally prefer a soldered IHS, and gamers don't care as long as their machines run quietly enough.
AMD continues to use the AM4 socket, which means all existing Ryzen motherboards will be compatible with the new Ryzen 2000 series (after a BIOS update, which most recent boards already have). The company also plans to stick to AM4 for the rest of this decade, so there's a pretty long upgrade path ahead for this platform.
AM4 still has a rectangular cooler-mount-hole layout (as opposed to the square ones on Intel LGA platforms). AMD should have switched to a square layout to make it easier to orient tower-type coolers to blow hot air out the rear of the case. Current AM4-ready tower coolers have elaborate retention module kits that let you do so. Most popular cooler vendors are either already including AM4 retention kits with their latest coolers or will send you a mounting kit for free if you want to continue using a cooler you have. You often also have to remove the plastic retention module motherboards ship with to install certain kinds of coolers.
At the heart of the Ryzen 5 2600 is the new 12 nm "Pinnacle Ridge" silicon by AMD. This chip is based on the new "Zen+" micro-architecture in which the "+" denotes refinement rather than a major architectural change. AMD carves out its 6-core Ryzen 5 chips by disabling one core per 4-core CCX (Zen CPU complex), resulting in a 3+3 CCX configuration. Each CCX has the full 16 MB of L3 cache.
AMD summarizes the "+" in "Zen+" as the coming together of the new 12 nm process that enables higher clock speeds, an updated SenseMI feature-set, the updated Precision Boost algorithm that sustains boost clocks better under stress, and physical improvements to the cache and memory sub-systems, which add up to an IPC uplift of 3 percent (clock-for-clock) over the first-generation "Zen."
The biggest change of "Pinnacle Ridge" remains its process node. The switch to 12 nm resulted in a 50 mV reduction in Vcore voltage at any given clock speed, enabling AMD to increase clocks by around 0.25 GHz across the board. The switch also enables all-core overclocks well above the 4 GHz mark, to around 4.20 GHz.
AMD also deployed faster cache SRAM and refined the memory controllers to bring down latencies significantly. L3 cache latency is 16 percent lower, L2 cache latency is a staggering 34 percent lower, L1 latencies are reduced by 13 percent, and DRAM (memory) latencies are reduced by 11 percent. This is where almost all of the IPC uplift comes from. AMD also increased the maximum memory clocks. The processor now supports up to DDR4-2933 (JEDEC) and is capable of DDR4-3400.
Updates to the chip's on-die SenseMI logic include Precision Boost 2 and Extended Frequency Range (XFR) 2. Precision Boost 2 now switches from arbitrary 2-core and all-core boost targets to a perpetual all-core boosting algorithm that elevates the most stressed cores to the highest boost states in a linear fashion (i.e. boost frequency increases with load). Every core is running above nominal clock when the processor isn't idling, which contributes to a multi-core performance uplift. Besides load, the algorithm takes into account temperature, current, and Vcore. Granularity is 0.25X base clock (25 MHz).
Extended Frequency Range 2 (XFR 2) builds on the success of XFR with a new all-core uplift beyond the maximum boost clock. If your cooling is good enough (60°C), XFR will now elevate all cores beyond the boost state as opposed to just the best few cores. Unlike the 2700X, the 2700 isn't advertised as featuring XFR 2.0. There's still a rudiment of the feature which increases the clock by 50 MHz beyond the maximum Precision Boost frequency, however.
The AM4 Platform and New X470 ChipsetWhat sets "Pinnacle Ridge" apart from Intel dies, such as "Coffee Lake," is that it is a full-fledged SoC (system-on-chip). It integrates both the northbridge and southbridge. In addition to memory and PCIe, socket AM4 processors also put out USB 3.0 and two SATA 6 Gb/s ports. The platform still has something called a "chipset," but it only serves to increase connectivity options, such as adding more SATA ports, USB 3.1 ports, and a few more general-purpose PCIe lanes (which are PCIe Gen 2). On Intel's platforms, the PCH (platform controller hub) serves the functions of the southbridge, while the northbridge is fully integrated with the processor.
The new AMD X470 chipset, which was launched alongside the Ryzen 2000 "Pinnacle Ridge" series, succeeds the X370 chipset. It has the same exact feature set as the X370, but with lower power draw. Although not directly related to the chipset, X470 specifications prescribe higher CPU VRM standards for motherboards.
The X470 also comes with AMD StoreMI technology out of the box (something even X370 has, but through a BIOS update). The only reason X470 probably exists is to clear the compatibility confusion for first-time buyers. You're assured that an X470 motherboard will support AMD "Pinnacle Ridge" chips out of the box. Regardless, every AM4 motherboard ever launched is capable of running "Pinnacle Ridge," and most motherboard vendors have started rolling out BIOS updates.
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