AMD Ryzen 5 1600X & 1500X Performance Review



There I was last Monday, about four weeks after AMD’s successful Ryzen 7 launch and not that long after the first true details of Ryzen 5 were allowed to filter through and a package arrived from AMD. Inside was a pair of processors, the 1600X and 1500X. I was even more excited to review this dynamic duo than any of the other CPUs which have passed through these labs in the last four or so years.

Now make no mistake about it; Ryzen 7 had me giddy with anticipation since it represented a return to competitiveness for the company which originally produced the CPU in my first DIY system. But Ryzen 5 and the processors under its umbrella are something else entirely. Whereas even something like the competitive Ryzen 7 1700X will be unobtanium for many, the more affordable chips in the 5-series lineup will be what the rest of us can afford.

Even though I already covered the Ryzen 5 processors’ relative positioning against their Intel competitors, let’s reiterate for a moment since some of you may not have read our initial preview. Starting at the very bottom of the lineup is the $170 Ryzen 5 1400. Equipped with a quartet of physical cores and eight threads, it will be running straight up against the unlocked dual core, quad thread i3-7350K. In previous generations AMD’s intent was to fight Intel’s clock speed or IPC domination by offering more processing threads and nothing has changed with Ryzen.

Move a bit further down-market and we come to the Ryzen 5 1500X, one of the highlights in this particular review. At $189 it slides into the very narrow space between the i5-7400 and i5-7500 while offering something neither Intel processor does: an unlocked multiplier and eight threads.

The $250 Ryzen 5 1600X and $220 1600 are pretty unique processors. Even though they cost about as much as the i5-7600K and i5-7600 respectively, both offer six cores, twelve threads and some very appealing performance metrics. AMD isn’t quite expecting these to compete against the i7-7700 series (and that says a lot about Ryzen 5’s positioning) but they nonetheless represent a significant monetary savings over even the lowest-tier Ryzen 7.

Looking beyond pricing towards the raw specifications shows some interesting elements of these new Ryzen 5 products. First and foremost the 1600X may “only” have 6 cores but its internal clocks match those of a $499 1800X. While the extra threads on the higher end Ryzen CPU may help it win some heavily multithreaded benchmarks, frequencies alone may allow its more affordable stablemate to compete in games. One thing to note about the 1600X is that its single thread XFR rate goes to a maximum of 4.1GHz, much like the 1800X.

The 1600 is more of an outlier than anything else and we are sure to see it become a darling in the system integrator space due to its TDP of just 65W. Due to substantially lower speeds, it will likely be less appealing for DIYers who want a drop-in solution that will maximize performance per dollar.

The Ryzen 5 1500X represents the transition point with AMD’s lineup to a quad core layout. There was a lot of care put into its frequencies to insure higher end Ryzen offerings didn’t have their toes stepped on but base / boost rates of 3.5GHz and 3.7GHz respectively aren’t anything to turn your nose up at either. The 1500X also happens to be the only processor in the AMD lineup thus far that has an additional 200MHz of XFR headroom. Those numbers are actually very close to the 3.4GHz / 3.8GHz i5-7500 as well.

Rounding out the Ryzen 5 lineup is the lowly 1400, a chip that will surely be destined for emerging markets. Even though it is just $20 less expensive than its sibling, both frequencies and cache allocation has been cut quite drastically.

AMD has taken a pretty interesting approach when it comes to designing their lower-end processors. If you have already read our deep dive, you will know the Zen architecture’s foundational building block is the highly modularized CCX or Core Complex. Each CCX houses a quartet of physical cores, 64K L1 I-cache, 64K L1 D-cache, 512KB dedicated L2 cache per core, and 8MB L3 cache shared across all cores. That means in order to create an 8-core part like Ryzen 7, AMD added a pair of CCX’s to a common die and allows them to communicate with one another via a high level on-chip network called the Infinity Fabric.

The Ryzen 5 processors –even the quad core parts like the 1500X- all use the exact same 8-core layout as Ryzen 7 but cut down the physical cores equally across CCX’s. For example, the 1600X uses a 3+3 layout while the 1500X and 1400 have a 2+2 implementation. Since each core has an associative L2 Cache block, that section of the chip scales in a linear fashion as well, whereas the shared L3 cache remains a constant 16MB throughout the lineup. The only exception to this is the Ryzen 5 1400 which also gets a portion of its shared cache chopped off.

Adding a bit more value to this equation is the inclusion of a Wraith Spire cooler with the 1600 and 1500X. Remember, this is a non-RGB version of the cooler so if you are expecting some sexy lighting effects you’ll be let down. Meanwhile the 1400 will receive a more basic but still quite capable Wraith stealth heatsink.

While the Ryzen launches haven’t been without their fair share of controversy and missteps, AMD has understandably high hopes for the Ryzen 5 lineup. Whereas Ryzen 7 will act as a type of halo product with plenty of appeal for professionals and prossumers alike, these new more affordable processors are meant to be their volume movers. Not only will that put them in direct contention against Intel’s newer Kaby Lake microarchitecture but AMD needs competitive mid and lower-tier offerings if they have any hope of long-term success. With that in mind, a lot is riding on this launch.

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