Back in March, AMD finally unleashed their highly anticipated Ryzen 7 series processors. They were a long time coming, given how thoroughly rival Intel had dominated the market from the hearts and expectations of gamers and enthusiasts.
I was lucky enough to review the Ryzen 7 1700 that served as AMD’s gateway for performance-oriented users, and recently covered the Ryzen 5 1600X too. This time we put the Ryzen 5 1500X CPU through the wringer as an wholesome alternative to those other options, and may be the best overall bang for the dollar. But what, if anything, might you be giving up for that sweeter MSRP?
For The Gamer In All of Us
The 1500X in particular is a 65W TDP quad-core eight-thread (4C/8T) chip that operates at a 3.5GHz base clock, and a default boost of 3.7GHz across dual cores. Like its higher-end Ryzen 7 brothers, 16MB of L3 cache, simultaneous multithreading (AMD SMT), Precision Boost with SenseMI, and a 14nm FinFET process. Many of these impressive specs are also shared within between the Ryzen 5 1600 and entry-level Ryzen 5 1400—effectively gaining an upper hand over the available Intel equivalents.
XFR (extended frequency range) is capable of being bumped up to 3.9GHz on a single core with a fortified setup, which is nice if you invested in a beefier fan or graduating to liquid cooling. However, this is just what the CPU does by itself, and you can easily bump this up a comfortable 4GHz if you choose.
What You Get
You get the processor, sticker badge, installation/warranty manual, and a Wraith Spire fan cooler inside another box. AMD also provided a MSI Tomahawk B350 Motherboard and 16GB of GeIL EVO RGB 3200MHz dual-channel DDR4 memory. Additionally, I brought a Kingston SSDNow UV400 480GB SSD and an NVIDIA OEM GeForce GTX 1080 Ti to the table.
The reason why we are using an AM4 B350 chipset is largely due to cost-friendliness by omitting four USB 3.0 ports, two fewer SATA6Gb/s ports, two fewer PCI-E 2.0 ports, and no capability of dual GPU enhancement (NVIDIA SLI and/or AMD Crossfire). Overclock components is still possible except you aren’t burdened with paying more for the X370 chipset, which is really a fair compromise.
Out of the box performance was surprising for a number of reasons, the main one being benchmarks against the Ryzen 7 1700 CPU. The 1500X settles right below the 1600X and matches the 1700 for cross-platform APIs such as UNIGINE and OpenGL. One way to look at the results that the 1500X is just a tad tamer compared to the 1600X.
Both the Intel i5-7600K and i7-7700K held their own, both gaining an edge at lower resolutions. This is thanks in part to higher stock frequencies and core optimization for games, but when the things go above 1080p the differences between AMD are Intel are negligible since the limitations fall on the GPU and hardware ecosystem.
However, the fact remains Intel’s offerings still cost more and the Ryzen chips in general gain a moderate edge if 4K/UHD is a deciding factor. Very few games, if any, are able to take advantage of any processor with more than four physical cores equipped.
Like the 1600X I reviewed earlier, overclocking is possible via AMD’s Ryzen Master desktop tool, which remains easy to use and has a logically proficient GUI. You get the ability to disable cores or reach higher non-stock speeds, and AMD recently updated the platform so that HEDT is not required to launch the program.
We manually clocked the 1500X to 4.0GHz with XMP-enabled memory at 3200MHz/1.35v, finding the system ran stable throughout later testing Oddly enough, this frequency was the maximum the CPU can handle before crapping out, an anomaly that hasn’t hindered any unlocked Intel CPU I tested here. For this you might be better off leaving the overclock settings alone until AMD eventually gets the kinks sorted out.
AMD is back into the mainstream with their quad-core Ryzen 5 1500X CPU, which is a excellent alternative by chopping off two extra cores. To be honest, many won’t need them anyways because multithread performance is meant for workflow applications, rather than all-out gaming. Suddenly, getting a B350 motherboard and 1500X CPU for less than $300 seems like an infinitely more attractive deal than shelling out for comparable power just for an Intel processor, doesn’t it?
For those of you wanting to pull the trigger on a gaming processor but are trying to juggle a Kaby Lake into the equation, you may want to give AMD’s latest a second thought.