Roughly five weeks ago, AMD launched its Ryzen 7 processor family. While the new chips are extremely powerful, they’re not particularly cheap. Today, AMD released its new Ryzen 5 midrange CPU family, aimed squarely at Intel’s desktop Core i5 and Core i7 SKUs. Can AMD pull a win out of its hat two months in a row?
AMD is launching multiple Ryzen 5 processors today, from the Ryzen 5 1400 (quad-core, SMT, 3.2GHz base, 3.4GHz turbo) to the Ryzen 5 1600X (six-core, SMT, 3.6GHz base, 4GHz turbo). We have two of the new parts on-tap today — the Ryzen 5 1500X, with an MSRP of $189, and the Ryzen 5 1600X, with an MSRP of $249. Details on the two chips are shown below.
Like Ryzen 7, Ryzen 5 is aggressively targeting Intel’s price points and market position. At $189, the 1500X offers SMT, a feature Intel’s desktop Core i5 chips have always lacked. At $249, the 1600X packs six cores and SMT to compete directly the upper end of Intel’s Core i5 range (the 7600 and 7600K) as well as the Core i7-7700K.
But the threat to Intel isn’t just about processors. AMD’s new B350 chipset has picked a fight with Intel’s midrange chipset designs as well.
The chart above show AMD’s various chipsets for Ryzen; we’ll be testing the midrange B350 today as opposed to the higher-end X370. Intel’s equivalent midrange chipset is the B250.
There are a few salient points to consider when comparing these platforms. Among them:
Overclocking: AMD’s B350 fully supports it for both memory and CPUs. Intel’s B250 does not. The highest RAM standard you can use on a B250 board is 2400MHz. This includes any attempt to use XMP settings — our Asrock B250M Performance board died and refused to POST every time we attempted to load XMP values. Why Asrock continues to make them an option on a motherboard that shouldn’t offer the feature is anyone’s guess.
RAID support: The B350 supports RAID 0, 1, and 10. Intel’s B250 supports no RAID of any kind.
USB support: Intel’s B250 offers more native USB 3.0 ports without the need for any additional chips, but AMD has a pair of native 3.1 Gen 2 ports that Intel lacks.
NVMe support: Both Intel and AMD can support NVMe, but there’s a difference between them. AMD’s support for PCI Express 3.0 is baked directly into the SoC on its own dedicated channel, while Intel’s NVMe support shares bandwidth with all of the other chipset I/O, connected via DMI 3.0.
Motherboards based on B350 are expected to retail for $75 – $120, which broadly corresponds to Intel’s B250 motherboard ($62 – $129 on Newegg).
Overall, we’d say AMD’s B350 offers better enthusiast features, with USB 3.1 Gen 2, RAID 0,1,10 support, and fully unlocked overclocking. Intel’s B250 has the edge in total PCI Express 3.0 lanes, but all of that I/O has to pass through the bottleneck of an x4 PCIe configuration (DMI 3.0). AMD also uses an x4 PCIe connection to provide much of its I/O, but that’s key to the company’s argument: What good is that much connectivity if any serious attempt to use all of it results in I/O bottlenecks?
Test setup: I’ve got the DDR4-3200 blues
My original plan was to test Ryzen 5 with the same 16GB of DDR4-3200 that we used for the Ryzen 7 launch. This worked beautifully with our Ryzen 5 1600X, but refused to play nice with the 1500X. We tried two different sets of DRAM from Geil and G.Skill, and neither could run at 3200MHz when paired with the 1500X. Adjusting timing and voltages made no difference.
We dropped back to DDR4-2933 for the 1500X and ran all those tests before realizing that Intel’s B250 chipset presented its own problem. With no memory overclocking capabilities at all, the fastest RAM we could pair with the Core i5-7500 was DDR4-2400. These configuration discrepancies are noted in our graphs. Since higher DRAM clocks and voltages also increase power consumption, our maximum power consumption tests cannot be considered a strict apples-to-apples comparison. All four testbeds were tested with the same Geil DDR-3200 with an Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 1070 running Nvidia driver version 376.33.
Our general benchmark results echo what we saw with Ryzen 7. Given room to stretch its legs threads, Ryzen 5 easily outperforms the Core i7-7700K. In tests that don’t thread as well, Ryzen 5 can be outmaneuvered by the 7700K’s higher clocks and IPC edge. In the 12 non-gaming benchmarks and sub-benchmarks we performed, the 1600X beats the Core i7-7700K in seven of them.
The i5-7500 and Ryzen 5 1500X show a nearly identical spread between tests. The only difference is that the i5-7500 and the 1500X effectively tied in PCMark 8 (tests within a 2-3% of each other are considered ties). The final count for the 1500X is seven wins to four losses vis-à-vis the i5-7500.
Let’s switch over now and consider gaming performance. We’ve retained the game settings and resolutions we tested Ryzen 7 with, but have updated Ashes of the Singularity and switched to its standalone expansion pack, Escalation, to take advantage of recent patches that improved Ryzen’s overall performance.
Conclusion: AMD is gunning for Intel’s entire product stack
AMD hasn’t pivoted from the Ryzen 7 strategy it debuted five weeks ago: Introduce extremely competitive CPUs at bargain-basement prices. forcing Intel to either cut its own prices or watch its market share shrink. It’ll take some time before we know how well that strategy is working, but the Ryzen 5 1500X and 1600X are both extremely well-positioned. The Ryzen 5 1600X wins a majority of its non-gaming benchmarks against the Core i7-7700K and maintains high frame rates (though not leadership) in comparison to the Intel processor. Given that the Core i7-7700K costs 1.4x more than the Ryzen 5 1600X, it’s hard to justify that CPU based on frame rates alone.
The Core i5-7500 is in an even tougher position compared with the Ryzen 5 1500X. Unlike the Core i7-7700K, which outperforms the 1600X in almost every gaming test, the 1500X beat the i5-7500 in Ashes of the Singularity and in one of our Civilization VI tests. In multi-threaded applications, the 1500X is always the better option.
Frankly, I’m not as concerned about the “Ryzen gap” in gaming as I was when Ryzen launched. AMD has demonstrated that Ryzen can recover some of the missing performance thanks to updates and patches, and our GTX 1080 Ti review illustrated that the 1800X can go head-to-head with Intel’s Core i7-6900K in 1440p and 4K with barely a hint of daylight between the two CPUs.
Ryzen 5’s debut has highlighted how weak the Core i7-7700K’s value proposition truly is. In the old days, when the FX-9590 competed with Core i7 in much the same way a pigeon competes against a bird-of-prey, Intel could get away with charging an extra $100 for Hyper-Threading. If you care about a mix of gaming and multi-threaded performance, the 1600X blows the Core i7-7700K out of the water. If you only care about gaming, the 7700K seems like an easy pick — but remember, repeated testing shows that Hyper-Threading adds almost nothing to overall frame rates over and above a fast Core i5. There’s nothing wrong with the Core i7-7700K, but it’s neither a great deal for gamers (the Core i5-7600K is $100 less and has a 3.8GHz base clock with a 4.2GHz boost), nor for multi-threading performance. Between high-end Core i5’s and Ryzen, the Core i7 doesn’t have much room to stake a position for itself.
While Intel wasn’t able to provide any six-core chips for testing, we don’t expect the six-core verdicts to look much different than the eight-core chip comparisons did in early March. Intel’s Core i7-6800K (3.4GHz base, 3.6GHz Turbo) is a $419 CPU; the 6850K (3.6GHz base, 3.8GHz Turbo) costs $609. At $249, the 1600X will go through both like a fat kid on cake.
Final verdict? These chips are everything we like about Ryzen, a bit less of things we didn’t like much, and they’re selling at prices that wreck Intel’s price structure. While there are exceptions and corner cases, AMD currently offers the best overall price/performance ratios in the CPU business.
It’s about time. If you want to watch Intel’s overall pricing and see if these new launches trigger any price cuts, UpgradeYourTech.com has put together a website where you can watch pricing.