How we test
It’s been over half a decade since our last CPU group test, simply because AMD has been mainly playing catch-up since the launch of Intel’s Core architecture in 2006. In fact, the Phenom and FX CPUs that AMD churned out over the past ten years were generally poor, particularly in terms of instructions per clock, efficiency and single-threaded performance. Outside of a few multithreaded benchmarks, Intel’s CPUs were massively faster, and AMD’s CPUs were also often very hot-running and powerhungry, especially when overclocked.
But now that’s all changed with the introduction of AMD’s Ryzen CPU line-up. It’s had a rather bumpy ride at launch, as so much software is Intel-focused at the moment, plus there were stability and compatibility issues. However, Ryzen is now shaping up to be a stunning CPU architecture, offering especially strong multi-threaded performance for the money. As a result, we decided it was time to pitch the entire Ryzen 5 line-up against every unlocked Intel LGA1151 CPU, to see which chips are worth your money.
We used an Asus Crosshair VI Hero, along with 16GB of Corsair 3000MHz Vengeance LPX memory, to test the AMD CPUs, with the memory clocked at 2933MHz due to the divider you’re forced to use with the base clock at 100MHz. For the Intel CPUs, we used our standard 16GB Corsair 3200MHz Vengeance LED memory kit, along with an Asus ROG Strix Z270F Gaming motherboard with the XMP profile enabled, but no other settings touched. Both systems use a 480GB Crucial M500 SSD with Windows 10, along with the latest Creators Update, plus an XFX R9 390X 8GB graphics card, a Cooler Master MasterLiquid 120 CPU cooler and a Corsair RM750 PSU.
We put each CPU through our RealBench 2015 suite, Cinebench R15, Terragen 4, plus Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and Total War: Warhammer, along with power consumption tests. We also recorded the load temperature at each CPU’s maximum overclock, so you can gauge the level of cooling you’ll need. For Intel CPUs, we set the maximum voltage at 1.35V, which is Asus’ recommended maximum for an everyday overclock, while AMD’s maximum for short-term testing is 1.45V, which we reduced to 1.425V to achieve a realistic long-term overclock. We then increased the CPU multipliers to find the maximum stable frequencies.