AMD Ryzen 5 5600X review
- Excellent single- and multi-core performance across the board
- Goes toe-to-toe with the 5800X and 5900X when gaming at higher resolutions
- Impressive power efficiency and thermal performance
- Six cores instead of eight means slightly lower parallel computing performance
- For the entry-level option, it's not exactly cheap
AMD kicked off 2021 with the release of its Ryzen 5000 series CPUs. Successor to the popular Ryzen 3000 series, this new product line promises significant performance gains in gaming and non-gaming applications.
Leading the charge is the Ryzen 5 5600X, the most affordable option of the first wave of Ryzen 5000 series CPUs. AMD pitches it as the choice for folks who "just want to game", promising high-end gaming performance from its 6-core, 12-thread package. Does it deliver? Let's take a look.
Tested on PowerCube gaming PC
- Motherboard: MSI MAG X570 Tomahawk Wi-Fi AM4 ATX
- RAM: 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4 3200MHz
- GPU: AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT
- SSD Storage: 1TB Samsung 970 EVO M.2 NVMe SSD
- HDD Storage: 2TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM HDD
- CPU Cooler: Cooler Master ML240R RGB
- PSU: be quiet! Pure Power 11 700W
- Case: Tecware VXR Dual Chamber Mid Tower
- Zen 3 improves performance and efficiency across the board
- Support for newer technologies gives it an edge over Intel's 10th-generation CPUs
- Low power draw and compatibility with existing AM4 motherboards makes for easy upgrading
Priced at $469 MSRP, the Ryzen 5 5600X is currently the most affordable CPU within the Ryzen 5000 series. It's a 6-core processor with a total of 12 threads, placing its parallel computing capabilities below that of the 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 7 5800X and the 12-core/24-thread Ryzen 9 5900X.
On the Intel front, this puts the 5600X in between the Core i5-10600K (currently around $349) and the Core i7-10700K (currently around $539). The 10600K features a similar 6-core/12-thread design, while the 10700K packs 8 cores and 16 threads.
At first glance, the core/Boost clock speeds of 4.1GHz/4.8GHz and 3.8GHz/5GHz for the 10600K and 10700K respectively might seem to give Intel the edge over the 5600X's 3.7GHz/4.6GHz clocks. However, there's more to CPU performance than raw clock speeds and it's here that AMD takes the lead.
First of all, the 5600X is built using AMD's 7nm manufacturing process while Intel's 10th-generation chips use the older 14nm process. These numbers refer to the size of the transistors used to construct each chip, with smaller transistors enabling greater power efficiency and ultimately better performance. It's part of the reason the typical Thermal Design Power (TDP) for the 5600X is only 65W compared to the 10600K's 95W TDP and the 10700K's 125W TDP.
Memory support and performance is also superior on the 5600X. Without overclocking, the 5600X supports DDR4 RAM at up to 3200MHz, whereas the 10600K only supports up to 2666MHz and the 10700K tops out at 2933MHz. Maximum memory bandwidth is higher on the 5600X as well at 47.68GB/s versus 41.6GB/s for the 10600K and 45.8GB/s for the 10700K. Lastly, the 5600X benefits from a larger L3 cache for high-speed access to frequently-used data. You get 32MB compared to the total cache pool of 12MB on the 10600K and 16MB on the 10700K, allowing more data to be cached for increased performance overall.
The 5600X stacks up well against its comparably-priced Intel counterparts, but how does it fare against its predecessors? Unlike the jump from Ryzen 2000 to Ryzen 3000, Ryzen 5000 is more of an incremental upgrade. Both Ryzen 3000 and Ryzen 5000 use the 7nm fabrication process and support DDR4 RAM up to 3200MHz out of the box. They share the same AM4 CPU socket as well, meaning you don't need to buy a new motherboard if you're upgrading from a 3000 series CPU to the 5600X.
Comparing the 5600X to its direct predecessor, the Ryzen 5 3600X, the improvements are small but meaningful. Total power draw drops from 95W to 65W, a testament to the greater power efficiency of AMD's new Zen 3 architecture. The core clock drops from 3.8GHz to 3.7GHz but the Boost clock jumps from 4.4GHz to 4.6GHz. The L3 cache, previously consisting of two 16MB chunks each allocated to three of the processor's six cores, is now a full 32MB accessible to the entire CPU. AMD claims that this drastically reduces cache latency which in turn increases general performance.
The most exciting upgrades though, are all under the hood. The Zen 3 architecture powering Ryzen 5000 promises a higher Instructions Per Clock (IPC) count, increasing the number of tasks the CPU can complete for every 1Hz "tick" of its internal clock. AMD cites an average of 19% more performance when comparing the Ryzen 7 3800XT and the Ryzen 7 5800X, implying similar gains when upgrading between comparable Ryzen 3000 and Ryzen 5000 CPUs.
Zen 3 is even more bullish on gaming performance. According to AMD, the combination of higher IPC and a unified L3 cache lead to an average of 26% faster gaming performance at 1080p when comparing the Ryzen 9 3900XT and Ryzen 9 5900X.
As evidenced in the lower TDP of the 5600X compared to the 3600X, Zen 3 represents a 24% improvement to energy efficiency over the Zen 2 architecture of Ryzen 3000. It puts AMD well ahead of the competition too, with all Ryzen 5000 CPUs drawing less power than their 10th-generation Intel counterparts.
- Gaming performance on par with 5800X and 5900X, especially at 1440p and 4K
- Tops its Intel 10th-generation counterparts in most benchmarks
- Maintains impressively low power draw even under heavy load
The Ryzen 5 5600X reinforces AMD's strong position in the high-end CPU space. Even as the least-powerful member of the Ryzen 5000 family, it delivers excellent performance across the board in both gaming and non-gaming applications.
Examining raw compute performance through benchmarking tools like Geekbench 5 and SiSoft Sandra, the 5600X acquits itself well against its Intel counterparts. Its score of 1,609 in the Geekbench 5 single-core test puts it ahead of the 1,346 and 1,313 averages of the i7-10700K and i5-10600K reported by Geekbench at the time of writing. Its multi-core score of 7,714 sits in between the 10600K's 7,004 and the 10700K's 8,955, but that makes sense given the 10700K's two extra cores.
Turning to the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking suite, I ran the processor test which compiles an aggregate score based on performance across a variety of tasks including image processing, cryptography and general arithmetic. The 5600X completed with a score of 8.37kPT, placing it firmly ahead of the average 10700K score of 8.07kPT and leaving the 10600K's average score of 6.15kPT in the dust.
The one benchmark that favoured Intel was Time Spy. Here, the 5600X recorded a CPU score of 7,342, considerably less than the 8,222 average of the 10600K and 11,341 average of the 10700K.
As with most modern high-end CPUs, the 5600X is more than powerful enough to handle the compute demands of the latest games. Especially at 4K and 1440p, performance is largely bound by the GPU's capabilities. Increasing CPU power rarely has a significant impact on framerate, as you can see in the charts below.
Even at 1080p where higher framerates put more pressure on the CPU to keep up, the benefit of a faster CPU is negligible. Most games I tested delivered comparable performance across the 5600X as well as its more-expensive 5800X and 5900X siblings. Only Gears Tactics saw significant change with a marked increase to its minimum FPS. Other slight discrepancies are attributable to the volatile nature of real-time benchmarking.
With AMD talking up the increased energy efficiency of Zen 3, the 5600X should deliver impressive thermal performance – and it does. Within our test PC, Cooler Master's ML240R liquid CPU cooler kept the processor chill under heavy load, never exceeding a maximum of 58.5 degrees Celsius throughout my testing.
Power consumption is nice and low too. AMD's TDP of 65W is a fair estimate, with 76W being the highest power draw I saw during testing, and that was only during the most demanding benchmarks.
Should you buy the AMD Ryzen 5 5600X?
- Buy it if you want a powerful CPU at a decent price.
- Don't buy it if you're looking to build a budget-friendly gaming PC.
The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is an excellent CPU for folks wanting high-end performance at a price that won't send them bankrupt. Its raw compute power lets it compete with Intel's more-expensive i7-10700K, and its support for faster memory and newer technologies like PCIe 4.0 make it a more-attractive future-facing option.
For gaming, the 5600X is even more compelling than other Ryzen 5000 series CPUs. By delivering gaming performance comparable to both the Ryzen 7 5800X and Ryzen 9 5900X for hundreds of dollars less, it is the best value option especially when gaming at 1440p and 4K.
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