AMD Ryzen 5 2600X 3.6 GHz Review 46

AMD Ryzen 5 2600X 3.6 GHz Review

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Value and Conclusion

  • The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X retails for $229.
  • Solid performance improvements
  • Scales well with multi-threaded apps
  • More cores and threads than competing Intel parts
  • Unlocked CPU multiplier
  • Supports existing AM4 motherboards
  • CPU cooler included
  • Soldered IHS
  • Single-threaded performance still lower than Intel's
  • 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.

Just a year after the original Ryzen launch, AMD brings us a refined version of Zen, called Zen+. The new processors use an improved 12 nanometer process, which AMD used to increase clock frequencies without having to bump the voltage. AMD also added refinements to their cache and memory subsystem, which result in a few percentage points of extra performance. Also new are improvements to how Boost works, which will dial in higher clocks more consistently.

Taking a look at CPU performance, we find the Ryzen 5 2600X to be about 13 percentage points behind the flagship Ryzen 7 2700X. Compared to Intel CPUs, the 2600X is about 4 points faster than its biggest competitors, the Core i5-8600K and Core i7-7700K. Intel's 8700K is 15% faster. When taking a more detailed look at scores, we find that despite having the same amount of cores and threads as the 8700K, there is just no way the 2600X will win against that processor in multi-threaded tests. When comparing against Intel mid-range six-core and previous-gen high-end quad-core parts, such as the i5-8600K and i7-7700K, the 2600X races ahead due to having more cores and more threads. When it comes to single-threaded workloads, Intel is still king, but the margin has shrunk significantly. This means that for general productivity, AMD's Ryzen is now on par with what Intel has to offer—pretty exciting for "just a refresh."

Gaming performance has also improved dramatically. Here, the Ryzen 5 2600X is barely any different to the 2700X, with just a 0%-3% difference depending on resolution. The lower the resolution, the more of a bottleneck the CPU becomes, limiting framerates. This is also why we include 720p results in our reviews, to indicate the highest framerate one can expect from a given CPU no matter how fast the graphics card. An interesting result is Rise of the Tomb Raider, which previously was one of AMD's weakest titles. The game has since received a Ryzen-focused performance update, which turned things around. Now, Ryzen is clearly faster than Intel in this one game, which shows what can happen when game devs jump on the Ryzen train. The majority of games definitely run faster on Intel, but the differences are relatively slim, and get smaller the higher the resolution you play at. Still, if you are a 1080p gamer looking to drive your monitor at 144 Hz then Intel is the way to go since no Ryzen will be able to provide framerates nearly as high for that task. Everybody else should consider Ryzen for gaming now, even more than before; especially when using slower GPUs or running at 4K—both scenarios which are almost completely GPU limited.

AMD is marketing the unlocked multiplier on all their processors as a unique selling point. We tested this on the Ryzen 5 2600X with mixed results. Yes, overclocking is possible and our sample reached 4.1 GHz stable on all cores, but that won't always give you higher performance, as our benchmarks show. The underlying reason is that Ryzen has very clever Boost algorithms that automagically increase clock frequencies beyond rated stock frequencies. Out of the box, the 2600X will boost to 4.2 GHz when just a single core is active, which is higher than what we managed with manual overclocking. As a result, single-threaded applications will run faster than without overclocking. Multithreaded applications saw a clear advantage, though, but overall, I'm slightly unsure whether overclocking is worth it on the Ryzen 5 2600X. You can also look at this as being a good thing. Thanks to AMD's optimization of the Boost algorithm, a majority of users will have a better experience without having to learn how to overclock. If you get lucky in the silicon lottery, i.e. your processor can reach significantly higher than its maximum boost, then overclocking will give you small gains, but I'm not sure if that's worth all the trouble.

Currently, the Ryzen 5 2600X is priced at $230, which is quite a decent offer. It's a bit cheaper than the Core i5-8600K (both come with a heatsink in the package). The Core i7-7700K is priced at $340, so there is no reason to go for that instead of the 8600K unless you absolutely want 4 cores plus HyperThreading... but then you should go with the Ryzen 5 2600X in the first place, which gives you twelve threads instead of eight. At the price point the 2600X is coming in at I would think long and hard about what kind of applications I'll be using most. If the majority of what you do is single-threaded, the Core i5-8600K should end up as the better option. Otherwise, Ryzen is the way to go. An interesting competitor could be the recently released Core i5-8600, which lacks overclocking, but that makes it easy to justify buying a cheaper motherboard to increase overall savings. For the Ryzen 5 2600X specifically, I'm not sure if buying a X470 motherboard is the best approach since these boards are currently overpriced, and there really isn't much of a difference to X370. Personally, I would probably buy a B350 motherboard for this CPU to save some money that could be used on a faster graphics card or more/faster memory.

AMD's first Zen refresh made an excellent impression. The company's incremental update has given us more than Intel's have for a long time (think Skylake to Kaby Lake or Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge). It'll now be interesting to see what the big blue giant comes up with.
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