ANTONY LEATHER PUTS SIX OF THE LATEST MID RANGE CPUS THROUGH THEIR PACES
AMD Ryzen 5 1400
A n overclockable quad-core CPU for $230 sounds too good to be true, but the Ryzen 5 1400 is just that. It oers four physical cores for $4 more than the dual-core Core i3-7350K – and thanks to AMD’s SMT (simultaneous multi-threading) technology, it can actually handle eight threads simultaneously, which is twice what you’ll get from a Core i5 chip.
The sacrifices are obvious: there’s only 8MB of L3 cache, and the Ryzen 5 1400 has a base frequency of just 3.2GHz, capable of boosting up to a maximum of 3.45GHz. That relatively slow stock speed didn’t do the Ryzen 5 1400 any favours in our image-editing test, but it regained ground in rendering tests, where its quad-core design raced ahead of the Core i3-7350K.
And things looked up when we tried overclocking the Ryzen 5 1400. Using a vcore of 1.425V, we achieved a stable 4GHz clock speed – slightly faster than we were able to get out of the Ryzen 5 1600. As a result, the cheapest of this month’s chips managed to nudge ahead in our benchmarks. Notably, it was also much quicker in Cinebench than the overclocked Core i5-7600K.
Even so, this chip wasn’t able to keep up with the Ryzen 5 1500X, which has twice the amount of L3 cache. That was especially noticeable in our gaming tests: in Total War: Warhammer the Ryzen 5 1500X proved quicker at stock speed than the overclocked 1400. While the Ryzen 5 1400 is temptingly aordable, we reckon it’s worth shelling out the extra for its X-series sibling.
AMD Ryzen 5 1500X
T he quad-core Ryzen 5 1500X costs only $46 less than the six-core Ryzen 5 1600. That might make it look like an iy proposition: after all, the 1600 delivers 50% more processing power for your buck. However, this is an X-edition CPU, which means it holds advantages elsewhere.
In particular, it has a huge 16MB L3 cache – the same as the most expensive Ryzen 7 CPUs. It runs fast too, with a base frequency of 3.5GHz, a Precision Boost clock of 3.7GHz and the highest XFR boost of any Ryzen CPU, at 200MHz. Together, these features make it quicker than the Ryzen 5 1600 at stock speed – as long as the workload doesn’t rely too heavily on multithreading.
The 1500X also compares favourably to Intel’s quad-core opposition. The Core i5-7600K costs nearly $86 more, and admittedly at stock speeds it proved a little faster in our image-editing test. However, we were easily able to overclock the Ryzen 5 1500X to 4GHz, eroding that advantage significantly. And in our multi-threaded tests the AMD chip sailed into the lead – no great surprise, as it can process twice as many simultaneous threads as the Core i5.
The real choice is between the 1500X and 1600. For lightly threaded tasks, the 1500X edges out its rival with faster clock speeds, making it a great value chip for everyday desktop computing. For multithreaded performance, however, the 1600’s extra cores give it a big advantage.
AMD Ryzen 5 1600
T he Ryzen 5 1600 is the second most powerful CPU in the Ryzen 5 family, behind the 1600X. On paper, the speed gap is quite wide: its 3.2GHz base and 3.6GHz Precision Boost frequencies are 400MHz slower than those of the Ryzen 5 1600X, and XFR only pushes this up to 3.65GHz, compared to the 1600X’s 4.1GHz. Otherwise, though, the two are largely identical, oering six cores (12 threads) and 16MB of L3 cache.
As you’d expect, the 1600 lagged slightly behind the X-edition CPU in every one of our benchmarks. The 1600’s lowly clock speed also left it behind the Intel CPUs, and AMD’s own 1500X, in our image-editing and game tests. The multithreaded tests, however, allowed the six-core design to show its power, outstripping the Core i5-7600K and Ryzen 5 1500X by sizeable margins.
The thing to remember, of course, is that stock speed isn’t the whole story. Like all Ryzen CPUs, the 1600 can be overclocked: we got its core speed up to 3.9GHz using a vcore of 1.425V, which enabled it to beat an overclocked Core i7-7700K in our encoding test, and in Cinebench. This also allowed the Ryzen CPU to hold its own against the Intel chips in games. The pricier Core i5 managed to deliver 4% more performance in Total War: Warhammer, but aside from that we saw next to no dierence between Intel and AMD chips in other games, including Fallout 4.
In short, the Ryzen 5 1600 is a strong and very aordable general-purpose CPU – as long as you’re up for some overclocking.
AMD Ryzen 5 1600X W
Why does the Ryzen 5 1600X cost $50 more than the Ryzen 5 1600? Both have six cores and 12 threads, plus identical cache allocations. One dierence is TDP – this X-edition is rated at 95W, versus the 65W of the regular Ryzen 5 1600.
That in turn supports higher speeds: the 1600X has a nippy 3.6GHz base frequency, with a 4GHz maximum Precision Boost. The higher base figure is significant, as it represents the point where Precision Boost kicks in. Above this frequency, multi-core performance no longer scales linearly, as parallelism is sacrificed in order to achieve higher speeds.
As well as higher base and Precision Boost frequencies, the Ryzen 5 1600X has a 100MHz XFR boost, giving a maximum frequency of 4.1GHz in lightly threaded workloads. That’s a decent advantage over the maximum 3.65GHz of the regular Ryzen 5 1600.
Intel’s nearest rival to the Ryzen 5 1600X is the Core i5-7600K. That CPU took the lead in our image-editing test and in Total War: Warhammer, but in multi-threaded tests the six-core AMD CPU shone, even at stock speeds. The i5 scored 239,176 in our encoding test, compared to 366,090 for the 1600X. For even higher performance, we were able to overclock the 1600X to 3.95GHz with a vcore of 1.425V. This yielded very similar performance to the overclocked Ryzen 5 1600, so if you’re comfortable tweaking BIOS settings, that cheaper chip is better value.
Intel Core i3-7350K H
Hopes were high when Intel revealed its overclockable Core i3-7350K at the start of the year. With Hyper-Threading, 4MB of L3 cache and a base frequency of 4.2GHz, it looked like the perfect CPU for enthusiasts on a budget.
Sadly, its appeal has always been undermined by its price. An extra $110 will net you a Core i5-7600K with four physical cores – and the Ryzen 5 1400 oers twice the physical cores at almost the same price.
The Core i3-7350K does have its strengths. One is the onboard GPU, making it cheaper and simpler to build a system around. And with a TDP of just 60W, you can get away with using a cheap CPU cooler even if you overclock it.
It’s also true that Intel’s Kaby Lake CPUs generally oer higher stock clock speeds than Ryzen CPUs, helping them pull ahead in lightly threaded software. The Core i3-7350K is no exception, proving much faster than all this month’s Ryzen CPUs in our image-editing test. However, in every other test, its lack of physical cores meant it was at a distinct disadvantage.
In our Handbrake video encoding test, for example, the cheaper Ryzen 5 1400 was significantly faster, with a score of 223,065 compared to 152,334 for the Intel CPU. Even when overclocked to 5GHz using a vcore of 1.35V, the Core i3-7350K couldn’t compete with the Ryzen 5 1400. Likewise for games tests.
With a big price drop, the i3-7350K could still be a tempting chip, but with things as they stand it makes very little sense.
Intel Core i57600K I
Intel’s K-series Core i5 chips have long been mid-range favourites, oering unlocked overclocking potential at a reasonable price. Now, like many of Intel’s oerings, they’re challenged by Ryzen chips with more cores and threads.
Still, the Core i5-7600K is a powerful CPU. It has a base frequency of 3.8GHz and a turbo frequency of 4.2GHz – faster than any Ryzen – plus 50% more L3 cache than the i3-7350K. That pays o when it comes to lightly threaded work: in the image-editing test, it bettered all our stock-speed Ryzen CPUs by a big margin.
Elsewhere, though, the story was mixed. In our Handbrake encoding test, its stock speed score was just 239,176, compared to 319,637 for the six-core $295 Ryzen 5 1600.
There’s impressive headroom for overclocking. We were able to hit a massive 5.1GHz with a vcore of 1.35V, giving the 7600K a huge lead over AMD in the image-editing test. Even so, the Ryzen 5 1600 scored nearly 100,000 points more in the video encoding test once it too was overclocked. And the Cinebench test saw the Core i5 languish in second-to-last place, with even the Ryzen 5 1400 posting a significantly higher score.
The 7600K’s key strength turned out to be gaming: it had a 10% lead in Total War: Warhammer and Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, so if you’re building a gamefocused system it’s worth considering. But the Core i5 is no longer the best all-rounder in town: in multi-threaded productivity tasks, it gets battered by Ryzen.