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AMD Ryzen 5 1600X & 1500X Performance Review

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Conclusion; Ryzen 5 Shines

When Ryzen 7 launched there was a fair bit of controversy surrounding some of its shortcomings. Overclocking headroom was disappointing, finding the right memory was like walking through a minefield, Windows 10’s power plans didn’t play nice and there were some serious questions about how the Zen architecture behaved in games. In many ways it felt like a rushed introduction to a key component of AMD’s roadmap.

Now, about six weeks after that release we are no closer to answering some of our burning questions but through a series of well-placed community updates, we’re slowly but surely getting a glimpse of what the future has in store. It seems like a pretty bright future too, especially when you take the new Ryzen 5 processors into account. With Ryzen 5 being their intended volume movers, AMD needed to hit this out of the park and for the most part that’s exactly what happened.

Earlier in this review I mentioned that historically AMD has combated Intel’s clock speed and IPC superiority with core counts. Nothing has changed this time around and unlike Ryzen 7’s alignment with an Intel architecture that’s more than three years old, Ryzen 5 has the dubious honor of going toe to toe against Kaby Lake. Luckily its
becoming increasingly apparent that Zen has made some major inroads on the IPC front but that doesn’t mean ultimate victory of AMD either.

Let’s start off with the Ryzen 5 1600X since I’m quite passionate about what it accomplishes. I have a pretty jaded view of this segment but if there’s a CPU I could get excited about, it would be this one. Despite a price alignment with Intel’s quad thread i5-7600K, it easily matches or beats Intel’s i7-7700K in most real world and synthetic benchmarks. Meanwhile, due to high base and XFR frequencies it makes the $500 Ryzen 7 1800X look completely overpriced and outclassed in every gaming-centric price / performance metric. This just goes to prove my initial opinion about those Ryzen 7 processors: they make for poor value when installed in a system used exclusively for gaming.

Perhaps the best part about the 1600X is an ability to act like a chameleon of sorts; it easily adapts to whatever scenario you are dealing with. If you happen to be a prosumer who needs those 12 processing threads for rendering or video conversion, its results are extremely robust and extremely close to Ryzen 7 processors. Switch to gaming and its results are within spitting distance of some of the best Intel has to offer in the sub-$350 bracket. All of this and it only costs $250USD. That’s a winner in my opinion.

My opinion about the Ryzen 5 1500X is a bit less definitive but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. Rather, I look at its $190 price and find myself wondering why someone wouldn’t save a bit and drop down a mere $60 more on the faster-clocked and infinitely more adaptable Ryzen 5 1600X.

When looked at within a vacuum and not being influenced by its siblings the 1500X does some yeoman’s work rounding out AMD’s lineup within a key market segment. In multithreaded workloads it walks all over the similarly priced i5-7500 and still hangs on strong in less highly threaded real world scenarios. However, Intel’s raw clock speed advantage still wins out in some cases, especially within situations that aren’t heavily multithreaded like games. One particularly egregious example of this is Adobe’s Premier Pro which saw the i5-7500 hang right with a Ryzen 5 1500X despite the fact Intel’s processor features four less processing threads. Honestly I feel the 1500X’s relatively low 3.5GHz / 3.7GHz frequencies play some havoc with its overall results but I also understand why AMD needed to keep some frequency separation between it and higher end Ryzen processors.

The clock speed discrepancy between Ryzen 5 and Kaby Lake CPUs is one of the challenges AMD knew they would have to deal with. While thread counts and very aggressive pricing have helped mitigate the fallout, as we see time and again, that strategy can only go so far before it starts faltering. Naturally, overclocking will ease this situation even more but Ryzen 5 shares the same limitations of its bigger siblings in that respect: try going above 4GHz and you run face first into a wall. I do have to give AMD credit for actually featuring unlocked multipliers on every one of their sub-$250 processors though; it’s a real ace up their sleeves against the majority of Intel’s i5 and i3 series processors.

As we get to the end of this review, I think my recommendation is pretty clear: while the Ryzen 5 1500X is a good processor the 1600X should be destined for greatness. Its price, performance, efficiency, decent overclocking headroom, situational adaptability and so much more make it one of the best CPU’s released in the last half decade. AMD’s willingness to be transparent about their progress refining Ryzen is just the icing on the cake and goes to show there’s much more to be excited about in the future. Pair one of these 1600X’s up with a $120 B350 motherboard alongside an RX480 or GTX 1060 and you’ll have an absolutely rocking foundation upon which to build a very, very capable budget system.

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