Hands on with AMD’s cheaper Ryzen 5 CPUs

Serving up eight pukka CPU cores at a price mere mortals can afford was easily the most compelling part of the initial AMD Ryzen proposition. But there’s been some filling out of the Ryzen range since last we alighted the subject. Specifically, a load of quad-core and six-core models have hit retail. They’re significantly cheaper than the beefy eight-core beasts. Might they actually make more sense for gaming than those slightly flawed eight-core chips?

It’s little more than journalistic OCD and of absolutely no consequence to the end-user experience. But it very slightly winds me up that AMD, like Intel, spurns logic with its CPU nomenclature.

AMD has announced that Ryzen will come in three flavours for the foreseeable. Ryzen 7 is the performance king, Ryzen 5 balances price and performance and Ryzen majors on value. There are also – again for the foreseeable – three different basic configurations for Ryzen. Eight-core, six-core and quad-core.

You might think they map neatly and logically to Ryzen 7, 5 and 3. But no, that would make too much sense. Ryzen 5 includes both six and quad-core models. Ryzen 3 has yet to be detailed.

Anyway, the first thing to note about the latest quad and six-cores models is that some make a lot more sense in value terms than others. There’s about a £60 gap between the priciest six-core Ryzen, the £260 Ryzen 5 1600X, and the cheapest eight-core chip, the Ryzen 7 1700, for instance. Add about 5% to those numbers (and all the prices that follow, for that matter) for US $ prices.

Given that you’re certainly going to also need a new motherboard and very likely some sticks of memory, too, the 1700 is the no brainer in that comparison. After all, you’re looking at perhaps £150 minimum for a decent X370 motherboard plus maybe £75 for 8GB of memory and perhaps a few more quid for sundry items like a new cooler.

Factor in the motherboard, RAM and more and the cost of upgrading to Ryzen certainly adds up

The plain old Ryzen 5 1600 non-X surely makes more sense at £219 given that it’s also six cores and likewise unlocked for easy overclocking, if you care about that sort of thing. It’s fully a £100 jump to the cheapest eight-core model from the Ryzen 5 1600.

A similar logic applies to the quad-core models. The Ryzen 5 1500X clocks in at £179, which looks likes poor value when you can have 50% more cores for just £40 extra. To be honest, even the £159 Ryzen 5 1400 quad-core chip looks like marginal value when you factor in the overall costs of upgrading to Ryzen.

Predictably, I’ve had a go with the two most difficult to justify models in the Ryzen 5 range, the 1600X and the 1500X. The former is clocked at 3.7GHz base and 4GHz Turbo, the latter at 3.5Ghz base and 3.7GHz Turbo. Both are a little quicker than their core-count-parity but cheaper siblings, the 1600 and 1400. But the point is that they’re broadly representative of the gaming experience you can expect from the six and quad-core breeds.

Gaming joy in a small box?

As it happens, when Ryzen was originally announced it seemed like the six core models could be the bang-for-buck sweet spot. Relatively affordable, reasonably high clocks for single threaded performance, plenty of cores and threads for multi-threading. Remember, every Ryzen can process two software threads in parallel per core.

That’s pretty much how it pans out in practice. The 1600X makes similarly priced Intel processors look very, very silly in any software that’s multi-threaded, like video encoding. The catch, as it has been from the get go with Ryzen, is that the gaming performance is ever so slightly patchy.

All Ryzen CPUs use the full eight-core processor die and disable cores in the two quad-core modules within the chip in symmetrical pairs. So, the configurations are therefore 4:4, 3:3, and 2:2

The benchmark numbers mostly look solid. But there’s no getting away from the fact that some games run tangibly less smooth on Ryzen than Intel CPUs. I had a good hard look, for instance, at Total War: Attila and every Ryzen chip I’ve dabbled with exhibits some stutter from which Intel processors simply don’t suffer. I even sense checked what I was seeing with passing colleagues. It’s unmistakable. And you simply wouldn’t spot it in the relatively small gap in average frame rate.

It’s not a total deal breaker and most games run without such hitches. But for me, it slightly undermines Ryzen’s appeal for a dedicated gaming rig. As it happens, the quad-core Ryzen chip is no worse and indeed knocks out similar frame rates to the six-core model in most games. So, of all the existing Ryzen processors, it’s perhaps the quad-core 1400 that’s most compelling. It’s cheapest and you lose little in games.

For the same price from Intel you’re looking at the quad-core, quad-thread Core i5-7400, which rocks in at 3GHz base and 3.5GHz Turbo but no scope for significant overclocking. Overall, the choice between the Core i5-7400 and Ryzen 5 1400 is awfully tough. But if the decision is being driven primarily by gaming concerns, then with a somewhat heavy heart I still lean Intel.

As things stand, I think you’re probably guaranteed a great gaming experience even with that relatively lowly Intel Core i5 processor. To be sure, the Ryzen chip will mostly be just as good. But just occasionally it will frustrate.

The problem, therefore, is this. I reckon the mere knowledge that the Ryzen option might occasionally underperform can be quite damaging to one’s subjective enjoyment. I’m pretty sure every time a game felt a bit juddery I’d be wondering if the Ryzen CPU was to blame, even when the bottleneck was likely elsewhere.

It’s a similar psychology that has always put me off multi-card graphics – that constant, niggling doubt whether it’s working properly. There’s not a lot in it, let’s be clear about that. But Intel retains its status as the go-to CPU option for gamers for now.

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38 Comments

  1. dahools says:

    They are seriously good value though compared to what intel have been charging in their absence. The 1600 / 1600X are both 20 quid cheaper than the prices in your article. Maybe result of the £/$ exchange rate slowly climbing back up.

    I’m looking to upgrade my ivy bridge rig to one of these just don’t know which to go for or which motherboard as i think the manufacturers are all still trying to improve memory compatibility / performance at the moment.

  2. haldolium says:

    I think previous more in-depth reviews have shown that the Ryzen might not be the messiah to gaming, but delivers much more performance in other applications.

  3. colliflower says:

    Ryzen 5 1400 is an exception for disabling cores on each module as for the 1400 one entire ccx is disabled, hence half the L3 cache

  4. jellydonut says:

    I can honestly say this is the first time I have seen ‘pukka’ in print since reading Max Power magazines well over 10 years ago.

  5. poliovaccine says:

    Few questions, cus I dont care if I look like a neube – what’s pukka mean? And what’s sense checking?

    Elsewise, thanks for the detailed consumer report, as always!

  6. GurtTractor says:

    From my experience of using my 1700x so far I can say that Total War Atilla is a bit of an outlier in terms of performance on these new CPUs. Empire Total War for example runs superbly, load is spread well across all threads, allowing me to run maximum size battles with no discernable slowdown. Total Warhammer has pretty consistent performance generally, though still can lag a bit in very large battles (maybe just because it is a bit more modern, though I get the impression that optimisation could be better). Atilla by comparison seems to run terribly, clearly lacking optimisation for high core count CPUs and/or the Ryzen architecture. Every other game that I have tried has seemed pretty solid on this CPU (Actually ARMA 3 is somewhat poorly optimised too).

    IMO the only two Intel chips that are worth buying at the moment are the low end Pentium G4560 which nearly matches the i3 chips at a much lower price, no competition from AMD for this one yet (Ryzen 3 should be soon), and the other chip that might be worthwhile is the i7 7700k which seems like the best chip if you really need that single core performance for high refresh gaming or productivity tasks that eat up clockspeed (I think some Photoshop stuff is mainly single core). Every other Intel CPU just seem seems like terrible value compared with the kind of general performance/price of the Ryzen chips. Like the 7600k vs the 1600 for example, 4 threads vs 12!! No 5Ghz overclock can really make up for that.

    Regarding the i5 7400 vs the 1400; you’re probably not going to be wanting to push the highest framerates with either CPU, but the eight threads of the 1400 vs the 4 of the 7400 should mean more consistent performance with most modern titles. Even if it is just for gaming I would definitely still go for the 1400 if that was my budget, here’s video comparing the two (not the most extensive of tests but I think it’s pretty fair) – link to youtube.com

    • SquarePeg says:

      Thanks for the link at the bottom of your post. That was a very solid comparison between the Ryzen 1400 and the i5 7400.

      Seeing how so many games only make use of four threads I’m very interested to see how the Ryzen 3’s perform. A quick check on pcpartpicker shows the R5 1400 as low as $159.99 here in the US. So I’m wondering how low AMD will go with say the R3 1100. $99 to $119 at launch seems to be a reasonable expectation. If the Ryzen 1100 can easily overclock to 3800mhz+ it would be an fantastic value. Also, given that a socket AM4 system will be upgradeable for several more generations of Ryzen CPU’s it makes the Intel i5 7400 a hard sell.

  7. Vesperan says:

    Slight correction for article – the base clock of the Ryzen 1600X is 3.6ghz, not 3.7ghz.

    I have an issue with this article, and its one I share with damn near every review out there – with the notable exception of Anandtech’s Ryzen 5 review. Which is unbelievably detailed in the permutations of CPUs/GPUs/resolutions it tests.

    The issue I have is that its too simple to say Ryzen is worse than Intel at gaming.

    Yes it is true if you match it with an Nvidia 1080 and a high refresh rate 1080 resolution monitor.

    But it’s less true with an Nvidia 1070 or 1440p monitor(GPU constraint kicking in).

    Go 4k monitor and its irrelevant entirely.

    Have a bog standard 1080p monitor and a Nvidia 1080? What the hell are doing matching that with an Nvidia 1080 GPU? The monitor is pretty much maxed out.

    Drop the graphics drop down to an Nvidia 1060/Radeon 480 and below – the GPU is pretty much your entire constraint.

    And so – is Ryzen “worse” at gaming? Sure – if you have one helluva graphics card, and monitor to match.

    But if you’re like me on something like a mid-range RX470 and budget 1080p monitor? (which I would say is a lot of people)

    Well, you just picked up a CPU that smashes the comparable Intel i5 chip in a lot of ways, for effectively identical gaming performance.

    • Replikant says:

      [EDIT] Oops, this wasn’t meant as a reply. I fully agree, actually.

    • sweenish says:

      There is a reason that CPU benches are run like that.

      While you’re correct that no one runs a setup like that, the point is to benchmark the CPU, not the GPU. They did what they said they would, and benchmarked the CPU.

      It’s up to you to determine how the CPU performance stacks up against what you want to do, and you can do that, because you have accurate CPU performance numbers.

    • Kasjer says:

      Yeah, this article completely misses the point that those budget Ryzen processors won’t be the ones that PC enthusiast will drop money for – taking in to consideration that new mobo and in most cases, DDR4 RAM (still on DDR3 like many of us? Tough luck) will be required. It’s not very realistic that Ryzen 5 (and even less likely with 3) CPU will be paired with GTX 1080 (or better) card.

      Considering the value, I think Ryzen 5 range will be very popular choice in pre-built PCs aimed at people who are looking for inexpensive PC or mid-tier one at best. This means land of 1080p/1440p 60hz monitors, anything from GTX 1050Ti, RX460 up to GTX1060 and RX480. And in such PCs, these CPUs will do quite well in terms of gaming.

      Plus, as it was said, Ryzen is based on new socket, which will be supported in years to come, this opens room for future upgrades of such PCs… can’t say that about buying older/second hand Intel i5/i7 CPUs.

      I’m currently on old i5 4460, 8GB DDR3 and 1050Ti (recent upgrade from 750Ti). In about two-three years (three is a stretch), as games will move more in to multi-threaded territory, I would have to buy new PC. Most likely I still will be stuck in 1080p 60hz land as I game on 1080p60 48 inch Samsung TV I’m not willing to retire any time soon (it’s not that old model and works great, so there is no point…). I suspect this PC will be based on second gen Ryzen processor unless Intel comes with something that can offer similar value. No going back to red team cards though, I’m too fond of low-powered silent ones from nVidia! Silent card can make huge difference when you are gaming in living room.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      The first problem you have is that I didn’t say Ryzen 5 was “worse” for gaming. I’m afraid you made that bit up.

      In fact, I said, “to be sure, the Ryzen chip will mostly be just as good.”

      I also said that just occasionally it will frustrate. I said that based on the objective fact that it underperforms in some games. How many? Probably only a small number overall.

      So my broad take is that for a primarily gaming rig, I’d still lean Intel. It’s my view that you’re tangibly less likely to find a given game runs surprisingly poorly on the Intel chip. I think the Intel chip will give a good experience in pretty much every game. The AMD chip will be mostly just as good, occasionally sometimes better, but critically it will occasionally be poor.

      The occasionally better bit isn’t of significant value it’s better than something that’s already good – ie it’s better objectively in terms of the benchmarks, but you likely won’t be able to subjectively sense that advantage. When Ryzen occasionally runs poorly, you very much can sense it and as I said in the article, it’s not something that’s obvious from looking at the benchmark numbers.

      I don’t want to overstate the problem. But I tried to explain my viewpoint in the main piece. It’s not that Ryzen is a disaster. It’s that the knowledge that it occasionally underperforms in games can undermine your confidence and enjoyment. And that’s why I would be reluctant to build a gaming system around it today.

      You needn’t agree with that – it’s a viewpoint, not a statement of fact. But dismissing it as though I had simply said Ryzen is “worse” is to misrepresent what I wrote.

      And you’re wrong about the 4K thing. When Ryzen doesn’t get on nicely with a game, you can feel it at 4K as well. I’ve tried it!

  8. Replikant says:

    I beg to disagree. The Ryzen processors are really good value for the money compared to Intels offerings and, in addition, they are probably a lot more future-proof, considering that newer games tend to have improved multi-core support and Intel is ramping up the core-count as well.
    Secondly, it’s a new platform, performance is bound to improve (wait for Zen+, maybe).
    Third, total cost of ownership of a Ryzen system should be lower than an Intel system, as far as I know, the AM4 socket is going to be around for a while.

    But, most importantly: We are just coming out of a ten year stretch when Intel ruled the (PC) world and followed the Way of the Dinosaurs: Become greedy, fat and lazy and hurt the (PC) environment as whole in consequence. AMD does not beat Intel in raw performance (that would be the i7 7700k) but has an advantage in terms of performance / price.
    So, having seen what a monopolized market looks like, we should all seriously consider buying AMD chips once in a while. Most of us probably won’t, though, because in Jeremy’s words:
    “The problem, therefore, is this. I reckon the mere knowledge that the Ryzen option might occasionally underperform can be quite damaging to one’s subjective enjoyment.”

    Funnily enough, gaming theory favors Intel.

    • identiti_crisis says:

      Established PC programming practices favour Intel.

      Console game development probably points to the future of the bigger, high-sys-req PC games. This is where AMD’s long game with heterogeneous computing starts to pay off.

      • Bigmouth Strikes Again says:

        Established PC programming practices favour Intel.
        How? Genuine interest here.

        • identiti_crisis says:

          It’s to do with the way that programming tasks are approached, in a schematic sense. We are effectively sequential beings, so we have historically more easily made things that run sequentially, with clear logical stops and checks. Intel’s CPUs do this really well, across multiple threads, in the classic “multi-tasking” approach.

          To exploit more of the parallel power in our computers, we’ve effectively needed new ways of programming, or of thinking about programming, and of constructing programming tasks in an algorithmic sense. The use of functional programming styles and moving away from traditional threading into more fragmented job-based approaches is a start.

          There is a risk in adapting any codebase in this way, so there will be a lot of inertia.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      The thing is, if Ryzen didn’t occasionally underperform, then we would all buy Ryzens.

      It’s not some irrational fear drummed up by Intel marketeers. The problem is that Ryzen is mostly fantastic, but where its performance is a little anomalous just so happens to take a form that slightly undermines it as a gaming CPU proposition.

      It’s by no means a terrible gaming CPU. It’s mostly a good gaming CPU. But if my life depended on a gaming CPU delivering a smooth subjective experience, I would choose Intel.

      In practice, if I was building a rig for myself today I would go Ryzen because I don’t have any PCs that are exclusively or really even primarily gaming PCs. They’re all multipurpose. I’d probably go with the 1700 and not need an upgrade for years. As an overall package, Ryzen is a really easy win. But for a system primarily for gaming, I still lean Intel for now.

      The margin isn’t huge. The trade offs are somewhat nuanced. But if I am providing advice about choosing a CPU for a primarily gaming rig, then that advice is that I think Intel remains the best choice today.

      • KenTWOu says:

        But if my life depended on a gaming CPU delivering a smooth subjective experience, I would choose Intel.

        You’re saying this, but some of the reviewers mentioned the opposite effect, that Ryzen gives albeit lower, but more smooth frame rate than i7, like in this video below:

        • Jeremy Laird says:

          No, that is not the opposite effect, that’s quite a different issue.

          That reviewer clearly states on multiple occasions that subjectively in blind tests they couldn’t reliably identify which platform they were running. The Intel system suffered a few more of GTA’s occasional stutters, but this isn’t a fundamental difference in experience.

          The problem I was talking about is very different. It’s immediately obvious the difference between Intel and AMD in the scenario I described. You’d have no problem picking them apart in a blind test. It’s not about occasional lock ups but persistent judder as you pan across the battlefield or make other camera movements.

          So my point remains. There will be times when Ryzen in better in games. But for those games I think Intel will still give a good experience and so that advantage isn’t hugely consequential. The problem as I see it with Ryzen is that just occasionally it gives a poor experience.

          The more I have to repeat / go over what I said in response to this kind of misrepresentation, the more it seems like I’m saying Ryzen is a bad CPU and that absolutely isn’t the case. It’s a close call, but my position is that if the remit is primarily gaming, Intel remains the best way to ensure at minimum a good experience as often as possible.

  9. Tyrmot says:

    I think as well while you *might* give intel the nod today, a very important consideration is that having 2 extra cores in your system right now is going to give a hell of a lot more future-proofing than going with 4. While it’s always wise to be a bit careful about future predictions, the scaling of software (including games) across more cores is, it’s reasonable to assume, pretty inevitable.

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      I would agree with that except games having been supposedly going multi-threaded for years. And yet even today so few scale well to those extras cores.

      I thought when the consoles went to eight weedy AMD mobile cores, that would change. But here we are years later and it still hasn’t happened. It will probably, maybe even certainly, happen one day. But will it happen within the typical lifecycle of a CPU bought today? Hard to say. And thus I lean towards buying what works best right now.

      it’s also worth noting that’s its’ probably going to be an awfully long time before a major game dev puts out a game that runs poorly on a quad-core Intel Kaby Lake CPU. I really can’t see that happening for many years. So, I’m largely unconvinced by the future proofing argument.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Addie says:

    At the moment, having to buy a new motherboard and RAM (and probably a new graphics card to make use of the CPU) makes this look a not-too-compelling upgrade over my FX9370. But probably by the time they’re a significant improvement the prices will have come down a bit and any bugs will be squashed. I’d certainly be looking to buy an Ryzen system if I was building from new, though.

    Looks like the main difference between the x370 chipsets and the b350 chipsets is that the former supports SLI / CFx? I thought that dual graphics cards were basically dead in the water now anyway, being supported by very few new games, and that one graphics card at twice the price was a much more sensible investment? In which case, you can cut the price of the motherboard in half and buy more RAM instead.

    • Arathorn says:

      The B350 motherboards might not be great for overclocking, at least that is how I understood it when I was researching for my build. Apart from that, it seems to be a great platform. It kind of depends on what you intend to do with it.

      • GurtTractor says:

        I think most B350 boards should be fine for overclocking actually, you are more likely to hit the wall in the silicon lottery on your specific CPU than exceed the potential of the board chipset. Always a good idea to check reviews and forums for people’s overclocking results though. The main benefits to X370 are the greater number of ports and things like fan headers, many of the board’s VRMs and other components are in theory a little better but the difference is not huge.

  11. Arathorn says:

    An extra thing to keep in mind is that the 1600 comes with a bundled cooler, and the 1600X does not, so the plain 1600 is an even better price proposition than the X.

    RAM support for Ryzen is still somewhat crappy, making it hard to get fast RAM to work at full speed at the moment. And Ryzen benefits from fast RAM because its clock speed is linked to the communication speed between Ryzen’s two core complexes.

    I finally bought and built a PC with the 1600 and an RX 580 video card last week, and so far I’m very happy with it. I haven’t been able to test it with something heavy yet for lack of games, but Doom 2016 is on offer on Steam this weekend, so that sounds like a fine opportunity.

  12. Megadeth dude says:

    It’s a fallacy to assume you need “a decent X370 motherboard”. Why would you need at least that? You probably don’t know what the features are on an X370 and yet you’re assuming you need to spend the money for that. I personally got myself a cheap Gigabyte B350 Gaming (non-X even cheaper model) because I didn’t need crossfire or additional LED strip control. And this, for my Ryzen 7 1800X. And I am getting the most necessary feature, which is BIOS updates with new AGESA for memory compatibility updates.

    Disappointed in the article.

    Everyone, please watch AdoredTV’s vids on YouTube instead of taking advice from RPS.

    • GurtTractor says:

      There’s even going to be X300 motherboards at some point which will be a cut-down small form factor (Mini-ITX) version with fewer USB ports and stuff but will allow overclocking. Should be great for a portable PC or living room console replacement.

  13. wodin says:

    I’m considering an update to the 1600 chip. Currently have a AMD 6300. Also it seems the new Ryzen and MB’s use PCI Express 3 at last.

    Priced a 1600 and a 370 MB for around £350.

    Will my current Mem be OK in the 370 Motherboard?

    • GurtTractor says:

      If you mean can you use your DDR3 RAM that you are currently using with your 6300, then unfortunately that wont work as DDR3 wont be compatible. Ryzen and the AM4 motherboards require DDR4 memory, which is sadly quite expensive at the moment.

    • Megadeth dude says:

      In addition to what GurtTractor said, you might want to double check if you really need a 370 mobo. It has features that the majority don’t need, so perhaps you can save a few bucks with a 350 instead. That price difference might just as well go towards a 1600X.

  14. Scrofa says:

    Penny wise and pound foolish. Still not persuaded by AMD to buy their inferior cheap ass crap with awful drivers decade after decade written in a basement by a bunch of students somewhere in India. After a bunch of “value” videocards AMD is a “never again” company in my books. Sure it’s an awful thing to say but AMD, sadly, still isn’t a valid competition nor for NVIDIA nor for Intel and I see no point in supporting them just in case things get better somewhere in the future.

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