When AMD’s Ryzen 5 CPUs first burst onto the scene, I was happy to find that those chips hung right with Intel’s latest-and-greatest midrange parts for smooth gaming performance. I wasn’t able to complete our productivity testing before that NDA lift, though, and the intervening couple of months or so has been a bit rough for yours truly outside of the TR labs. Those clouds are behind me, though, and I’m happy to be able to share the second half of our Ryzen 5 results now.
In the intervening time, AMD kindly completed my Ryzen 5 collection with the six-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 1600 and the four-core, eight-thread Ryzen 5 1400. With these chips, I can give a complete picture of the Ryzen 5 family’s performance in 9-to-5 work. The TR labs were blessed with an Intel Core i5-7500 as part of Intel’s Optane Memory test rig, as well, and I’ve dutifully added it to our midrange CPU test suite. So equipped, we can get a great view of how Ryzen 5 CPUs stack up to Intel’s bread-and-butter quad-cores.
|Model||Cores||Threads||Base clock||Boost clock||Max XFR
|Ryzen 5 1600X||6||12||3.6 GHz||4.0 GHz||100 MHz||16MB||95W||$249|
|Ryzen 5 1600||3.2 GHz||3.6 GHz||50 MHz||65W||$219|
|Ryzen 5 1500X||4||8||3.5 GHz||3.7 GHz||200 MHz||$189|
|Ryzen 5 1400||3.2 GHz||3.4 GHz||50 MHz||8MB||$169|
For a quick refresher, the Ryzen 5 1500X offers four cores and eight threads for $189, while the Ryzen 5 1600X offers six cores and 12 threads for $249. AMD also offers lower-priced variants of each of these CPUs with lower clocks and less XFR headroom. The Ryzen 5 1600 takes a 400-MHz haircut across the board, and AMD slices $30 off the price tag of the 1600X for the trouble. The Ryzen 5 1400 loses 300 MHz of clock speed compared to the 1500X and costs $20 less. It also loses half of the full Ryzen die’s 16MB of L3 cache.
As far as the general state of Ryzen goes, not much has changed since our initial Ryzen 5 review. AMD has promised an update to the AGESA base firmware that will unlock more memory overclocking options on AM4 motherboards, but that update isn’t set to arrive before the end of this month. We got a good look at the many-core Ryzen Threadripper hardware over the course of Computex, too, but shipping Threadripper products aren’t supposed to arrive until later this summer. Given these tranquil climes, it’s a fine time to talk about Ryzen 5 productivity performance. Let’s get to it.
Our testing methods
As always, we did our best to collect clean test numbers. We ran each of our benchmarks at least three times, and we’ve reported the median result. Our test systems were configured like so:
|Processor||Ryzen 7 1800X||Ryzen 5 1500X||AMD Ryzen 5 1600||Ryzen 5 1600X||Ryzen 5
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5||Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3|
|Chipset||AMD X370||AMD B350|
|Memory size||16 GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3866 (rated) SDRAM|
|Memory speed||3200 MT/s (actual)||2933 MT/s (actual)|
|Memory timings||15-15-15-35 1T|
|System drive||Intel 750 Series 400GB NVMe SSD|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2500K||Intel Core i5-3570K|
|Motherboard||Asus P8Z77-V Pro|
|Memory size||16 GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Corsair Vengeance Pro Series DDR3 SDRAM|
|Memory speed||1866 MT/s|
|Memory timings||9-10-9-27 1T|
|System drive||Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SATA SSD|
|Processor||Core i5-4690K||Intel Core i5-7500||Intel Core i5-6600K||Intel Core i5-7600K||Intel Core i7-7700K|
|Motherboard||Asus Z97-A/USB 3.1||Asus Prime B250-Plus||Gigabyte Aorus GA-Z270X-Gaming 8|
|Memory size||16 GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||Corsair Vengeance Pro Series
|G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3866 (rated) SDRAM|
|Memory speed||1866 MT/s||
|3200 MT/s (actual)|
|Memory timings||9-10-9-27 1T||
|System drive||Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SATA SSD||Samsung 960 EVO 500GB NVMe SSD|
|Processor||Intel “Core i7-6800K” (Core i7-6950X with four cores disabled)|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-X99-Designare EX|
|Memory size||64GB (4 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||G.Skill Trident Z
|Memory speed||3200 MT/s|
|Memory timings||16-18-18-38 1T|
|System drive||Samsung 960 EVO 500GB NVMe SSD|
They all shared the following common elements:
|Storage||2x Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SSD|
|Discrete graphics||Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1080 Xtreme Gaming|
|Graphics driver version||GeForce 378.92|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro with Creators Update|
|Power supply||Corsair RM850x|
Thanks to Corsair, Kingston, Asus, Gigabyte, Cooler Master, Intel, G.Skill, and AMD for helping us to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. As a reward for making it past the dense tables above, you can gaze on some of our test hardware, first for the Ryzen 5 CPUs:
And our Ryzen 7 test platform:
And our Z270 test platform:
Some further notes on our testing methods:
- The test systems’ Windows desktops were set at a resolution of 3840×2160 in 32-bit color. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled in the graphics driver control panel.
- For our Ryzen systems, we used the AMD Ryzen Balanced power plan included with the company’s most recent chipset drivers. We left our Intel systems on Windows’ default Balanced power plan.
- The Ryzen 5 1400 wasn’t stable with DDR4-3200 speeds, so we had to dial it back a bit to DDR4-2933. That slight drop in speed explains the entry-level Ryzen 5’s slight performance deficit in some of our synthetic tests compared to its more expensive siblings.
In response to popular demand, we’re re-benching AMD’s Ryzen 7 1800X and Intel’s Core i7-7700K with identical DDR4 speeds: DDR4-3200 at 15-15-15-35 timings.
The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.
Memory subsystem performance
Before we dive into our real-world results, it’s worth revisiting how much data each of these CPUs can move around from main memory and what the latencies associated with those actions are. To get that picture, we rely on AIDA64 Engineer’s built-in memory benchmarks. Our thanks to FinalWire for providing us with this indispensable tool.
Equalize memory speeds between Ryzen CPUs and Intel’s Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs, and some interesting results fall out. The Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 chips enjoy a lead over the Intel quad-cores in memory reads, a smaller lead in copies, and are more or less equal in writes.
It’s not all rosy, though, as Ryzen CPUs have about the same memory bandwidth regardless of the number of cores and threads in the socket. The eight-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 1800X is splitting roughly the same amount of bandwidth among its cores as the four-core, eight-thread Ryzen 5 1500X is across the board (save for writes). Intel, on the other hand, gives its six-core i7-6800K a massive boost in bandwidth over its mainstream desktop CPUs. We’ll have to see how AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper platform and its quad-channel memory architecture affect these standings.
Raw memory bandwidth is important, but so is the latency of those accesses. All else being equal, the Ryzen chips lag every Intel CPU in this test by a wide margin. Those higher latencies, combined with the bandwidth pressure exerted by many hungry cores, could have an adverse effect on Ryzen CPUs’ performance in memory-intensive operations.
Some quick synthetic math tests
AIDA64 offers a useful set of built-in directed benchmarks for assessing the performance of the various subsystems of a CPU. The PhotoWorxx benchmark uses AVX2 on compatible CPUs, while the FPU Julia and Mandel tests use AVX2 with FMA.
The PhotoWorxx test shows how Intel’s superior AVX throughput on Broadwell-E, Skylake, and Kaby Lake chips, can effectively allow the company’s quad-core CPUs to match or outpace AMD’s six- and eight-core parts. The FPU Julia and Mandel tests further illustrate this deficit, where it takes eight AMD Zen cores to match the Core i7-7700K and the Core i7-6800K. The lesser Ryzens don’t have a chance.
Intel’s Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs bunch up at the top of these charts thanks to their killer combo of high single-threaded performance and high clocks. What’s most interesting is how closely the Ryzen 7 1800X, the Ryzen 5 1600X, and Ryzen 5 1500X cluster, especially in the Jetstream benchmark. Whether you’re paying $190, $250, or $460 for a CPU in the Ryzen family, you can expect the same general snappiness in lightly-threaded tasks.
As for AMD’s non-X Ryzen 5s, the 1600 is still a fairly close match for its more expensive sibling. The Ryzen 5 1400 trails far behind the pack, though, only besting Intel’s Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge Core i5s in Octane. Meanwhile, the Core i7-6800K can’t put up much of a fight against its cheaper six-core Ryzen competition here despite its Turbo Boost Max 3.0 support. Score one for the red team.
Compiling code in GCC
Our resident code monkey, Bruno Ferreira, helped us put together this code-compiling test. Qtbench records the time needed to compile the Qt SDK using the GCC compilers. The number of jobs dispatched by the Qtbench script is configurable, and we set the number of threads to match the hardware thread count for each CPU.
Chalk up another good showing for the Ryzen bunch in this test. The 1600X edges past the i7-7700K, and the 1600 trails the i7-6800K by a hair’s breadth. The Ryzen 5 1500X lands in between the unlocked Core i5 competition, leaving its $190 Core i5-7500 competitor a ways back. Even with eight threads, however, the Ryzen 5 1400 can only just match the Core i5-7500.
7-Zip file compression
If you need to zip up files often, the Ryzen CPUs are hard to beat for the buck. The i7-6800K opens a hefty margin on the six-core competition in 7-Zip’s compression test, possibly thanks to its copious memory bandwidth. Both the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1600X are hanging right with the Core i7-7700K here, though, and the Ryzen 5 1500X can finally stretch all eight of its threads to nose past the unclocked Core i5s.
I decompress ZIP archives far more often than I compress them, and here, the Ryzen chips dominate. The 1600X opens up a wide margin on the Core i7-6800K, and even the Ryzen 5 1400 can blast past the quad-core Skylake and Kaby Lake chips.
VeraCrypt disk encryption
Full-disk encryption is another task amenable to multithreaded performance gains, and the Ryzen 5 parts generally leave the Intel competition in the dust in both the hardware-accelerated AES and the pure-software Twofish portions of our test. Any Ryzen CPU is a fine choice if you need to hide your files from prying eyes quickly.
The Cinebench benchmark is powered by Maxon’s Cinema 4D rendering engine. It’s multithreaded and comes with a 64-bit executable. The test runs with a single thread and then with as many threads as possible.
Fire off Cinebench on every thread and there are no surprises in the results. The Ryzen 5 1600X and Ryzen 5 1600 bookend the Core i7-6800K, and the Ryzen 5 1500X outpaces every Core i5 in our test suite. Mark another win for Ryzen here.
Blender is a widely-used, open-source 3D modeling and rendering application. The app can take advantage of AVX2 instructions on compatible CPUs. We chose the “bmw27” test file from Blender’s selection of benchmark scenes to put our CPUs through their paces.
It’s not quite a win for Ryzen 5 CPUs in this test, but it’s close. The 1600 and 1600X stalk the i7-6800K and narrowly beat out the more expensive Core i7-7700K. The Ryzen 7 1500X’s eight threads narrowly beat the Core i5-7600K and its higher-throughput AVX hardware, too. The Ryzen 5 1400 even ekes out a victory over the Core i5-7500. The most notable results in this field come from the i5-2500K and i5-3570K, whose lack of AVX2 support severely hampers their standings.
Handbrake video transcoding
Handbrake is a popular video-transcoding app that recently hit version 1.0. To see how it performs on these chips, we converted a roughly two-minute 4K source file from an iPhone 6S into the legacy “iPhone and iPod touch” preset using the x264 encoder’s otherwise-default settings.
Handbrake multithreads well, and the Ryzen 5s take advantage by outpacing the similarly-priced Intel competition. The Ryzen 5 1600 matches the Core i7-6800K, and the 1600X is ever so slightly faster. Moving on.
LuxMark OpenCL performance
Because LuxMark uses OpenCL, we can use it to test both GPU and CPU performance, and to see how these different types of processors work together. We used the Intel OpenCL runtime for all of the CPUs at hand, since it delivers the best performance under LuxMark for x86 CPUs of all types in our experience.
We used the “Hotel lobby” scene for our testing, but we otherwise left LuxMark at its default settings.
In the CPU-only phase of our testing, performance scales as expected with cores and threads, save for the Core i7-6800K’s surprise win. All of the Ryzen CPUs handily beat out their comparable Intel competition here, though.
The GPU-only phase of the test tells us that the GTX 1080 in our test rig works equally well across all of our platforms. Moving on.
Putting the CPU and graphics card together shows some differences among CPUs, but the results are largely close together except at the extremes of the chart. Every CPU here gets a major helping hand by being paired with the GTX 1080.
Image analysis with picCOLOR
It’s been a while since we tested CPUs with picCOLOR, but we now have the latest version of this image-analysis tool in our hands courtesy of Dr. Reinert H.G. Mueller of the FIBUS research institute. This isn’t Photoshop; picCOLOR’s image analysis capabilities can be used for scientific applications like particle flow analysis. In its current form, picCOLOR supports AVX2 instructions, multi-core CPUs, and simultaneous multithreading, so it’s an ideal match for the CPUs on our bench today. Check out FIBUS’ page for more information about the institute’s work and picCOLOR.
picCOLOR’s real-world results seem to scale nearly perfectly with CPU resources, so as usual, the most cores and threads at the highest clocks win. In this case, that means the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1600X beat out the Core i7-6800K, and they’re only rivaled by the i7-7700K. The Ryzen 7 1800X blows away the rest of the field with its sixteen threads, so much so that we had to double-check its score for accuracy. The result checks out, though.
CFD performance with Euler3D
Euler3D tackles the difficult problem of simulating fluid dynamics. It tends to be very memory-bandwidth intensive. You can read more about it right here. We configured Euler3D to use every thread available from each of our CPUs.
Euler3D hungers for memory bandwidth, and only the Core i7-6800K can truly sate it. The Broadwell-E chip roughly doubles the performance of its six-core Ryzen competition. While the Ryzen 5 1600s can still put up a fair fight with the Core i5-7600K and Core i7-7700K, they simply can’t match Broadwell-E’s quad-channel memory bandwidth. Save us, Threadripper, you’re AMD’s only hope.
Digital audio workstation performance
After our trial run with DAWBench in our last CPU review, we (gasp) read the instructions for the benchmark and discovered that we had been doing it wrong (though not in a fashion that would have unduly favored one CPU over another). This time around, we’re doing it right. We’re able to run both the DAWBench DSP benchmark, which tests the number of instances of a VST plugin a CPU can handle before being overloaded, and the DAWBench VI test, which tests virtual instrument and sampler performance. We chose the most demanding versions of both the DAWBench DSP and DAWBench VI tests from the project file to put as much hurt as possible on our test systems.
We used the latest version of the Reaper DAW for Windows as the platform for our tests. To simulate a demanding workload, we tested each CPU with a 24-bit and 96 KHz sampling rate, and at two ASIO buffer depths: a punishing 64 and a slightly-less-punishing 128. We then added VSTs or notes of polyphony to each session until we started hearing popping or other audio artifacts. We used Focusrite’s Scarlett 2i2 audio interface and the latest version of the company’s own ASIO driver for monitoring purposes.
A very special thanks is in order here for Native Instruments, who kindly provided us with the Kontakt licenses necessary to run the DAWBench VI project file. We greatly appreciate NI’s support—this benchmark would not have been possible without the help of the fine folks there.
In the steady-state DSP test, the six-core Ryzen 5s slightly trail the Core i7-6800K. Excepting the Core i5-4690K’s unusually good performance (which may be a reflection of platform differences rather than pure CPU performance among Intel parts), the Ryzen 5 1500X comes out on top versus Intel’s four-core, four-thread parts. For serious power behind this type of work, however, more cores and threads really seem to help, and the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1600X both offer quite a bit of DSP prowess for not a ton of cash.
The DAWBench VI test starts each of its loops with a many-voiced instrumental stab, so performance in this test depends on how a CPU can handle a steady-state workload interrupted by a sudden, much more resource-intensive and latency-sensitive burst of work.
At the punishing buffer size of 64, the older and lower-clocked chips in our lineup can’t handle the VI test at all. The Ryzen 5 1500X redeems itself nicely over the i5-7500, and the Core i7-7700K only barely edges by the Ryzen 5 1600s. The Core i7-6800K turns in a freakishly good performance here, though, and we can only presume that’s because of its scads of memory bandwidth compared to every other chip in our lineup.
Relax the buffer size to 128, and every chip in our lineup can at least run the VI test. The 1500X still comes out atop the i5-7500, although the matchup is much closer at these more forgiving settings. The Ryzen 5 1600s just trail the i7-7700K. Meanwhile, the i7-6800K maxes out the number of voices available in the DAWBench VI test file. If you need to do this kind of work, the X99 platform simply can’t be beat.
The Ryzen 5 chips make digital audio workstation performance more accesible than similarly-priced Intel parts, and that’s a major win for AMD. However, the Core i7-6800K’s total dominance of these tests suggests the Ryzen parts could do with more memory bandwidth to play with. Bring on the Threadripper.
A quick look at power consumption and efficiency
A piece of the Ryzen puzzle that we’ve left unaddressed so far is power efficiency. The fact of the matter is that my testing facilities don’t have the sophisticated power-measurement equipment that we’ve enjoyed access to in the past. Still, we’ve found a way to estimate our classic task energy measurement by using a trusty Watts Up power meter and the Blender “bmw27” standard benchmark. Our observations indicate that Blender is a very steady-state workload, meaning that power consumption varies little over time. Using this knowledge and the fact that one watt correlates to one joule per second of energy expended, we can estimate the entire amount of energy expended over the course of our benchmark run.
First, let’s look at idle power consumption for each system in our test lineup. These measurements will vary with the host motherboard and the connected devices attached to a system, so we’d caution putting too much stock in them. Still, the Ryzen systems consume just a few more watts than comparable Intel chips do at idle. The Gigabyte X99-Designare EX motherboard hosting our Core i7-6800K is notorious for high power consumption at idle thanks to its PLX PCI Express multiplexer, so it should be considered an outlier.
Next, let’s look at load power results. Unsurprisingly, the Ryzen 7 1800X consumes the most power of the bunch at load, and the Ryzen 5 1600s and the Core i7-6800K aren’t far behind. The Core i5-7500, on the other hand, sips power even compared to the 65W Ryzen 5 1400 and 1500X. Just goes to show that TDP isn’t a useful way of comparing the efficiency of CPUs from different manufacturers.
Load power consumption alone doesn’t tell us anything about efficiency, though. Some chips finish work quickly despite their high load power draws, while others take much more time to complete a job despite deceptively low peak figures at load. By converting instantaneous watts into joules per second and multiplying that figure by the number of seconds taken to complete our Blender benchmark, we can arrive at an estimation of total task energy in kilojoules—emphasis on estimation.
Ideally, the standings of each chip would correlate 1:1 with the time taken to complete our selected workload. For the most part, they do. The Core i5-7500’s power-sipping ways mean it floats toward the top of the chart for efficiency, though, despite its rather lengthy time to completion. The Ryzen 5 1600 also beats out the Ryzen 5 1600X and Core i7-6800K despite finishing behind them in our time-to-completion standings. The Ryzen 5 1600X is “only” as efficient as the Ryzen 5 1400, suggesting its high clocks and relatively high 95W TDP put it at an efficiency disadvantage compared to the other six-core chips in this test despite its third-place time-to-completion performance.
Overall, though, these estimated numbers are far more heartening for AMD than the company’s past showings in our energy-efficiency tests. Every Ryzen CPU in our tests seems about as efficient as similarly-priced Intel CPUs, and that’s a huge leap forward for AMD compared to the bad old days of the FX-8350 and friends. Builders won’t have to trade power efficiency for performance when they choose a Ryzen CPU to power their systems.
It’s time once more to sum up our results using our famous scatter plots. To spit out this final index, we take the geometric mean of each chip’s results in our real-world productivity tests, then plot that number against retail pricing gleaned from Newegg. Where Newegg prices aren’t available, we use a chip’s original suggested price.
When we first looked at the performance of AMD’s Ryzen 5 processors, I had a feeling that big changes were on the horizon for the midrange CPU market. Our productivity tests prove it. The $250 Ryzen 5 1600X is actually a hair faster than Intel’s $340 Core i7-7700K in most of our real-world testing, and it walks all over the $240 Core i5-7600K in all but a few lightly-threaded tests and synthetic benchmarks. The i5-7600K boasts much higher single-threaded performance than the Ryzen part, but that advantage only gives the Intel chip an edge in some games and for general desktop usage. Even so, one can hardly call the 1600X a pokey processor in those tasks thanks to its high clocks and XFR boost. Given its all-around competence, I think the Ryzen 5 1600X is the chip to get for $250 right now.
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X
Wait up, though. In a happy development for builders, it’s not necessary to spend $250 plus the cost of a cooler to get a powerful midrange CPU any longer. The Ryzen 5 1600 barely trails both the i7-7700K and the 1600X in our productivity tests, and it includes a hefty Wraith Spire cooler in the box. For just $220 out the door, you can grab an enviable amount of multithreaded performance for just a smidge more than what you might have paid for a locked Intel quad-core in the past. Can you say value?
Neither Ryzen six-core part can catch the Core i7-6800K in our final standings, but the hexa-core Broadwell-E’s advantages only come into play where memory bandwidth or floating-point prowess is a concern. When it can tap those advantages over AMD’s chips, the i7-6800K can totally lap the field. Even so, our final reckoning puts the i7-6800K just 11% ahead of the Ryzen 5 1600X, and the Intel chip is a whopping 52% to 76% more expensive than the AMD part depending on the discount winds. Those prices are quite hard to swallow given the virtues of the Ryzen 5 1600-series. It’s no wonder Intel is pricing its Skylake-X chips more in line with historical trends.
For quad-core CPUs, the $190 Ryzen 5 1500X is the clear choice over any four-core Intel part in its price range. The evergreen Core i5-7500 can hang with the 1500X in some of our tests, but the Ryzen chip’s eight threads give it enough of an advantage in a wide enough range of work that we’d heartily recommend the AMD chip instead. The i5-7500’s integrated graphics processor will still be of interest to some PC builders, but enthusiasts and gamers will likely be adding a discrete graphics card to their parts lists anyway. That said, $30 more buys you a lot more CPU in the Ryzen 5 1600, so we’d save up and get the six-core chip if at all possible.
The Ryzen 5 1400 isn’t worth the $20 one would save over the 1500X. Even with four cores and eight threads, the 1400 plods behind the i5-7500 in our tests, and it’s well outpaced by its faster quad-core sibling. That $20 savings also requires one to give up half of the L3 cache on board the 1500X, as well. Given those caveats, we’d strongly recommend spending the extra money on the 1500X.
All told, the shortcomings of AMD’s Ryzen CPUs mostly fade away when one isn’t paying $300 or more for a chip. The Ryzen 5 1600X delivers Ryzen 7 1800X-class gaming performance for half the money, and its productivity performance is unprecedented for its price. The Ryzen 5 1600 and Ryzen 5 1500X also bring new levels of multithreaded performance to their price points. PC builders have real choice again in sub-$300 CPUs with the Ryzen 5 family, and for those who lean hard on their systems, our tests show their choice should be AMD.