AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Review 250

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Review


Value and Conclusion

  • The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X will retail for $550.
  • Large performance increase over previous generation
  • Huge IPC gains
  • Gaming performance improved
  • Impressive application performance
  • Compatible with existing AM4 motherboards
  • Multiplier unlocked
  • Power efficiency improved
  • Support for PCI-Express Gen 4
  • 7 nanometer production process
  • Price increase over previous generation
  • Multi-CCD design costs some performance
  • Overclocking barely worth it
  • CPU cooler not included
  • No integrated graphics
AMD has done it again! Their new Ryzen 5000 Series desktop processors bring yet another huge generation-over-generation improvement. Many years ago, the naysayers had talked about AMD just grabbing the low-hanging fruit, and that these gains would soon be history—guess not. The new Ryzen 5000 processors have been rearchitected from the ground up, with impressive results.

We have a total of three Zen 3 reviews for you today: Ryzen 9 5900X, Ryzen 7 5800X, Ryzen 5 5600X. Our fourth review, of the Ryzen 9 5950X, is half-finished and will be posted soon.

Just like last-generation's Ryzen 9 3900X, the Ryzen 9 5900X is a 12-core/24-thread processor. While the predecessor had a boost clock range of 3.80 to 4.60 GHz, AMD has upped this to 3.70 to 4.80 GHz, which alone brings with it a few percent in performance. AMD was extra careful to ensure compatibility with existing platforms and cooling, so the TDP has remained at 105 W. Thanks to architectural changes, we see more than impressive performance in applications. On average, the Ryzen 9 5900X is 18% faster than the Ryzen 9 3900X in our mix of single, low, and multi-threaded applications. Compared to the Core i9-10900K, Intel's flagship, there is just no contest anymore. The Ryzen 9 5900X wins nearly every single test we performed; it's a bloodbath. Remember when the $499 Ryzen 7 1800X was the flagship just a few years ago? 3900X is now twice(!) as fast—a transition that took AMD only three years and three generations. Intel is preaching Moore's Law, AMD is executing it.

In their presentations and launch event, AMD has been marketing the Ryzen 9 5900X as the "best gaming CPU"; our results are not as convincing, but kinda close. In our mix of 10 games, the Ryzen 9 5900X is around 2-3% behind the Core i9-10900K across all resolutions. There are bigger differences in specific games, especially Far Cry and Assassin's Creed have always been challenging for Ryzen. While performance is much improved over Zen 2, it's still behind. Other titles are almost a tie, and in games like Wolfenstein, Civilization and Sekiro, AMD has indeed taken the performance crown.

I'm not sure if it's the selection of tests or the fact that we're running memory at 3200 MHz and AMD's numbers are at 3600 MHz, the silicon lottery, or something else. I even updated to Windows 20H2 for the scheduler improvements, as the Windows thread scheduler in version 1903 will definitely put loads on the wrong Zen 3 cores (I tested it). The performance loss without the update is a few percent, so make sure to update your OS when upgrading to Zen 3. I don't doubt for a second AMD's legal team didn't ensure their claims are waterproof, so I'll be digging deeper into what's going on, and will keep you updated.

Even with my current results, the Intel gaming advantage is effectively gone, a percent here or there really isn't worth worrying about, especially when you consider the application performance and platform improvements. While Intel wants you to buy a new motherboard every time a new processor generation is released, AMD has given us a solid upgrade path with AM4. If you own an AMD AM4 motherboard with the 400 or 500-series chipset, upgrading to Zen 3 is really just a "BIOS update, remove the heatsink, plop in the new CPU, re-install the heatsink, and done". As mentioned before, AMD made sure not to increase power requirements, so your cooler, power supply, and everything else will continue to work just fine.

We tested overclocking on the Ryzen 9 5900X and achieved an all-core overclock of 4.50 GHz. 4.60 GHz was in reach but required too much voltage to be completely stable in all our tests. 4.5 GHz is considerably lower than the maximum rated boost of 4.80 GHz. This means that unless you are running highly threaded applications that fully load all cores on your processor all day, you'll be better off without an overclock. It also helps keep power draw and temperatures low. It's still nice to see an unlocked multiplier on Ryzen processors. Intel charges you extra for this.

AMD not only engineered a new, faster architecture, they also improved power efficiency without a node shrink. The Zen 3 processors are produced on the same 7 nm process at TSMC, just like their Zen 2 brothers; even the IO die is completely identical. AMD has still achieved significant power savings. We measured about 15 W lower power draw in both single and multi-threaded workloads with higher performance. Multi-threaded energy efficiency of the Ryzen 9 5900X is now twice as good as the Core i9-10900K.

While many owners of Zen 2 processors were unhappy with their CPUs not boosting high enough, this is definitely not an issue on Zen 3. AMD has been more conservative with their "up to" boost clocks. While the 5900X is rated for 4.80 GHz, we regularly observed boosts to 4.90 GHz that were sustained for long, not only a fraction of a second. Looking at our frequency analysis, we can see an almost gradual drop off in clocks as the thread count is increased—excellent. When fully loaded on all 24 threads, the 5900X still ran around 4.50 GHz, not far from its maximum boost. It looks like the base clock is more of a worst-case minimum, not something you will encounter in daily life. Good job, AMD!

We have mentioned the lack of an integrated GPU in all Ryzen reviews and received a lot of criticism for just mentioning that fact. It's still true and not a big deal at all, but Intel offers an iGPU that is sufficient for basic tasks and minimal gaming. Yes, I know that AMD has their APU line of products, but given the modular design of the Ryzen processors, I wonder how expensive it could be to design a very basic GPU die connected via Infinity Fabric to strengthen the Ryzen position in non-gaming market segments, where every dollar counts.

AMD is asking $550 for their Ryzen 9 5900X, which matches the current Core i9-10900K pricing. Last-generation's Ryzen 9 3900X launched for $500, so AMD has increased prices by 10%, which is not surprising of any company once they a leading product. Also, I suspect supply of Zen 3 will be constrained in the first months, so a higher price will only improve AMD's margins, which is required to support their current stock price. Taking a closer look at performance per dollar, I get the feeling that AMD decided to price Zen 3 based on the performance gained, not the product name or typical positioning.

The Ryzen 9 3900X came with a cooler in the box, which means the actual price increase is even bigger than $50. I actually miss the Ryzen-boxed coolers, even on the high-end. They were very decent, great-looking, and perfectly fine to run the processor without overclocking. Intel isn't giving you a boxed cooler on their high-end products either.

Nevertheless, looking at what Intel is offering right now, and at which pricing, the Ryzen 9 5900X is the definitely the best choice if you run a mix of games and applications. If you are mostly a gamer or your applications are only low-threaded, the Ryzen 9 5800X is the better option because it is more affordable at $450 and offers identical or better performance in those tasks. Definitely also check our Ryzen 5 5600X review; it beats most Intel CPUs for gaming and productivity and is only $300.
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