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 cornered the market to quasi-totalitarian effect. It was imperative that AMD get it right because they’ve always fought a uphill battle, and now more than ever after some failures involving their previous Bulldozer mircoarchitecture.
I was lucky enough to review the Ryzen 1700 that served as their gateway for performance-oriented users. It made such an impression that it was lauded it as a value alternative that conquered much of the current Broadwell-E lineup from Intel, and a augury turnaround for the company. Now we have the Ryzen 5 1600X CPU, the mainstream choice that touts solid overclocking potential and affordable longevity.
While the Ryzen 7 range (1700/1700X/1800X) is intended for workspace warriors and avid creators looking to escape the premium that Intel inflicts—paying heavy for Xeon chips and “Extreme Edition” models—a similar formula applies to the remarkably potent Ryzen 5. Many of the criticisms remain if you readily believe bandwagon subjectivity, however, real-world benchmarking will tell a different story here.
For those interested in the specs, the 1600X is a 95W TDP six-core twelve-thread (6C/12T) chip that operates at a 3.6GHz base clock, and a default boost of 4.0GHz 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 can also be found down the line in the Ryzen 5 1600, 1500X, 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 4.1GHz on a single core with a fortified setup, which is nice if you invested in beefier fan or graduating to liquid cooling. Of course—and you know where I’m going with this—only one of Intel’s standard unlocked CPUs (i7-7700K) sport similar features, albeit to an noticeably inferior checklist.
What You Get (And What You Don’t)
You get the processor, sticker badge, and installation/warranty manual. People expecting a cooler fan will either need to buy one separately (apparently) or opt for the 1600 or 1500X units. For this review, we have a Wraith Max cooler made by Cooler Master incorporating four copper heat pipes and aluminum sink fins, along with integrated RGB LEDs for styling. 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 I’m using an AM4 B350 chipset is largely due to cost-friendliness; it omits 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). Component tweaking remain intact, 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 1600X beats it in tests that involve cross-platform APIs such as UEngine and OpenGL. One way to look at these results on the AMD side is that the 1600X (and by extension the 1500X) is geared for regular usage where low-end bottleneck efficiency is less prioritized. On the flipside, the 1700 remains on top in HandBrake and Geekbench with the extra embedded threads (8C/16T).
Meanwhile, both the Intel i5-7600K and i7-7700K held their own for PC gaming, being equal to or a little better at lower resolutions. This is thanks in part to higher stock frequencies and core optimization for games, albeit not by much. Only when the action 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 that 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 at all, are able to take advantage of any processor with more than four physical cores equipped.
Like the 1700 we reviewed earlier, overclocking is possible through the 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 1600X to 4GHz with XMP-enabled memory at 3200MHz/1.35v, finding the system ran stable throughout later testing, and benefitted without any issues. Oddly enough, 4.1GHz is the maximum the Ryzen 5 CPUs can handle, an anomaly that has not hindered any unlocked Intel CPU I tested here.
AMD is going for consumer disruption with the Ryzen 5 1600X CPU. This processor does everything extremely well – with a continued emphasis on multithreaded productivity, rivaling almost anything out there for users on a moderate budget. It also happens to do PC gaming extremely well, although Intel still clings onto the theoretical crown.
Besides, building a powerful machine isn’t getting any cheaper these days, and it’s wonderful to see AMD’s competitive laurels once again recognizable. In short: No i5-7600K, and certainly not an i7-7700K, can touch this as a complete package.