From the editor
Ryzen 5 has changed everything, to the point where we’ve had to revamp our Elite list, explains Ben Hardwidge
What we didn’t expect was the total annihilation of Intel’s Core i3 and Core i5 processors
Let’s do a CPU Labs! It feels like we haven’t done one since the Norman invasion, and now there’s some good competition, so it won’t just look like an Intel catalogue. It did indeed throw up some surprising results. So surprising, in fact, that we had to re-write various chunks of the magazine afterwards, including a complete revamp of the Elite list. I’ll explain the Elite changes in a minute, but I firstly want to discuss Ryzen’s impact.
Before we started work on this issue, we knew that Ryzen 7 had knocked Intel’s Broadwell-E chips for six, and we’d had a taster of Ryzen 5, courtesy of the 1600X.
I discussed the potential for a CPU Labs with Antony, and we both agreed that there would likely be pros and cons of Ryzen 5 vs Kaby Lake.
The latter chips would have higher clock speeds, so they would be better in games and software that relied on single- threaded performance. Conversely, the Ryzen 5 CPUs would be better in heavily multi-threaded software.
What we didn’t expect was the total annihilation of Intel’s Core i3 and Core i5 processors. Even Intel’s Core i7-7700K is only relevant to a specific niche now. As with most of our Labs tests, we used a weighted spreadsheet to collate all the performance results, along with the prices, and work out the scores for us. We could then judge the CPUs as fairly as possible.
You can see the results for yourself on p40, but there’s basically no point in buying a mainstream Intel CPU for most people. You can even buy a 6-core Ryzen 5 chip with 12 threads for under £200.
Yes, the higher clock speed gives Intel’s Core i7-7700K a slight advantage over Ryzen 5 CPUs in games, but that’s it, and the difference is small compared with Ryzen’s advantage in other tests. For nearly everything else, you’ll save a load of money and get faster performance from a Ryzen 5 chip. This situation transforms the PC enthusiast market significantly. We haven’t seen competition on this level since the Athlon 64 was up against the Pentium 4. Since then, we’ve mainly been recommending Intel platform after Intel platform, with tedious predictability. Intel stopped innovating, and kept effectively releasing the same chips with a few tweaks here and there for several years, and our industry moulded itself around it.
Which brings me to our Elite list – a section that basically became engineered to show you what Intel kit to buy. Occasionally there was a budget AMD APU machine, but the other five pages of PC builds would always be Intel-based.
Until now. There’s no point in building a budget Core i3 gaming rig now, or a midrange Core i5 machine. Even building an LGA2011 system seems largely fruitless unless you have loads of money and want to build a 10-core monster.
As a result, we’ve rejigged the Elite list into a component buyer’s guide, rather than a PC building guide. It gives us the flexibility to recommend a wider range of PC parts, there’s room to grow and you’ll notice that AMD’s Ryzen 5 and 7 CPUs are sitting pretty as our recommended 6-core and 8-core CPUs on p68.
Several readers have requested that we bring back the recommended CPUs, motherboard and coolers lists, so hopefully, this new Elite list will be more popular. We may reintroduce a couple of full PC lists in the future, but for the moment, Elite has gone back to being a component guide, with AMD right at the top of it. Different times indeed.