When AMD first unveiled their Ryzen 5000 CPUs at the beginning of October, their new Zen 3 architecture hinted at several tantalising performance boosts, both in terms of power efficiency and overall gaming speeds. Alas, they’re also coming at much higher than expected prices, with their mid-range Ryzen 5 5600X starting at a decidedly not-mid-range £280 / $299. It had me worried.
While AMD’s outgoing Ryzen 3000 CPUs weren’t as quick as their Intel counterparts when it came to gaming performance, their lower prices (and bundled coolers) often made up for it, making them great value options in the face of their Intel competition. But the Ryzen 5 5600X isn’t just more expensive than its immediate predecessor, the Ryzen 5 3600X. It’s also more expensive than Intel’s monstrously powerful Core i5-10600K, which rather takes a sledgehammer to their previous value proposition.
Turns out my fear was misplaced, as the Ryzen 5 5600X isn’t just faster than the Core i5-10600K, both in terms of its gaming prowess and its multitasking chops, but you also don’t need ludicrously fast (and expensive) RAM or an equally beefy cooler and power supply to get the best out of it.
It’s an incredible achievement considering the Ryzen 5 5600X’s TDP (or thermal design power) is just 65W, and it very much sticks the needle into Intel’s 125W Core i5-10600K, showing you don’t actually need to throw lots of power at a problem to get better performance. Whether the Ryzen 5 5600X will maintain its lead once Intel release their upcoming 11th Gen Rocket Lake CPUs by the end of March 2021 remains to be seen, of course, but if you’re in the throes of upgrading your PC right now, the Ryzen 5 5600X makes a much better, not to mention more environmentally-friendly foundation for your new system than anything else at the moment.
Like Intel’s Core i5-10600K and the Ryzen 5 3600X before it, AMD’s new Ryzen 5 5600X is a 6-core, 12-thread CPU. It has a base clock speed of 3.7GHz and a max boost clock of 4.6GHz, putting its top speed 200MHz ahead of the 3600X, but 200MHz behind the Core i5-10600K. Not that you’ll notice once it’s inside your PC, though, as the Ryzen 5 5600X beasted the Core i5-10600K in pretty much every test going.
As I’ve mentioned in previous CPU reviews, assessing a processor’s gaming performance is still quite a challenging task compared to other components inside your PC, as most built-in gaming benchmarks don’t accurately reflect what your CPU’s doing. Benchmarks are getting better in this respect, with the likes of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Forza Horizon 4, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and the Total War series all providing a proper, in-depth look at your CPU’s performance as well as your graphics card.
However, there are lots of other factors that can affect your CPU’s gaming performance, too. These include your graphics card, the type of RAM you’ve got installed, and even the kind of storage you use to install your games on. As a result, getting a truly accurate picture of your CPU’s performance is tricky, but I’ve done the best with the equipment available to me.
As per my other recent CPU reviews, I’ve used Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Ti as my graphics card of choice, and 16GB of Corsair’s Vengeance RGB Pro RAM, both at its default speed of 2133MHz to keep things in line with other historic results, and at its top speed of 4000MHz to see how much more you can get out of it (spoilers: not a lot). I do have a slightly different motherboard to my previous Ryzen 3000 reviews – Asus’ ROG Crosshair VIII Hero, rather than Gigabyte’s X570 Aorus Master – but as you’ll see in my Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Hero review, there’s really not much difference between them in terms of overall performance. A frame or two here and there, perhaps, but no more, and certainly not enough to doubt its huge lead over the Core i5-10600K.
As you can see from the graphs below, even with my RAM clocked at just 2133MHz, the Ryzen 5 5600X is miles out in front of the Core i5-10600K in three of my test games at 1920×1080, and pretty much level in the other. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey has always been the great leveller in my CPU gaming benchmarks, but the other results speak for themselves, offering a 10% improvement in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and Total War: Warhammer II and 15% in Forza Horizon 4. That’s faster than even AMD’s Ryzen 9 3900X, and it even beats Intel’s Core i9-10900K.
That gap does level out when you put faster RAM into play, admittedly, but the Ryzen 5 5600X still comes out on top with a 5% lead over the Core i5-10600K in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, as well as more or less equal scores to both the Core i5 and Core i9-10900K in Forza Horizon 4 and Total War – all with a much smaller power outlay to boot.
The same goes for playing games at 2560×1440. The Ryzen 5 5600X still comes out on top compared to the Core i5-10600K with RAM speeds at 2133MHz (albeit only by a couple of frames in most cases), and it’s pretty much neck-and-neck with the Core i5-10600K at 4000MHz – all while using significantly less power again and without the need for a fancy water cooler to help keep things in check. Indeed, I conducted all my testing using the standard Wraith Spire cooler that comes in the box with the Ryzen 5 5600X, whereas my Core i5-10600K and Core i9-10900K results were all obtained with a Corsair iCue H150i RGB Pro XT water cooler as neither come with one as standard and their high TDPs of 125W would have been problematic for a more traditional fan-based tower cooler.
At 4K, meanwhile, you’re looking at identical scores across the board, as you’re still very much GPU-bound at this resolution, making your choice of CPU far less important overall – which only really works to the Ryzen 5 5600X’s favour, really, as spending any more won’t get you any real benefit.
Moreover, while I’m less interested in a CPU’s daily desktop chops (I’m more interested in finding out which one’s better for gaming), the Ryzen 5 5600X puts in a pretty stonking performance here, too. In Cinebench R20, for example, it finished with a whopping single-core score of 595, soaring past the Core i5-10600K’s score of 485 (that’s a lead of 23%), and an impressive multi-core score of 4289. The latter once again trounces the Core i5-10600K’s multicore result of 3520 with its improvement of 22%, and even comes within sight of the 8-core / 16-thread Ryzen 7 3700X’s result of 4592 – that’s just under 7% behind.
That’s impressive stuff for a $300 CPU, and in my eyes absolutely justifies the extra $30-odd you’ll need to spend over the Core i5-10600K. Not only does it offer faster gaming performance, but it’s a much better fit for general productivity tasks, too. Besides, once you add in the cost of a decent cooler to the Core i5-10600K, the Ryzen 5 5600X instantly becomes the better value option.
What’s more, the Ryzen 5 5600X is also compatible with all of AMD’s X570 and B550 chipset AM4 socket motherboards, and most X470 and B450 motherboards will support it as well after a BIOS update. This once again gives existing Ryzen owners a lot more flexibility than those thinking about sticking with Intel, as opting for a 10th Gen Comet Lake also requires shelling out for a new (and expensive) Z490 board due to its new LGA 1200 socket type. Plus, you don’t get the benefit of the increasingly important PCIe 4.0 standard with Comet Lake, as Intel have confirmed this will only arrive on their 11th Gen Rocket Lake CPUs, along with a whole new motherboard chipset to boot. With the Ryzen 5 5600X, it has PCIe 4.0 support out of the box, as do AMD’s existing X570 and B550 motherboard chipsets.
Ultimately, the Ryzen 5 5600X is an outstanding gaming CPU that’s faster and more practical than its Intel competition, and Intel are definitely going to have their work cut out for them if they’re going to better it when their 11th Gen Rocket Lake chips come out next year. By all means wait if you’re keen to see what Intel have up their sleeve, but honestly, I reckon the Ryzen 5 5600X is going to be a bloody tough act to beat when Rocket Lake eventually arrives in three or four months time, and I don’t think you’ll have any regrets if you need to upgrade now.
I’ll also be testing the Ryzen 7 5800X very shortly to see if it’s worth shelling out any more cash (early review samples were limited to the 5600X and 5900X), but once again, I don’t think anyone is going to be sore about the Ryzen 5 5600X’s day-to-day performance if you only use your PC for playing games (and not more demanding tasks like streaming and editing videos and the like). It offers an excellent balance of top notch gaming performance and day-to-day desktop speed, and if I was building a new PC today, there would definitely be a Ryzen 5 5600X sitting at the heart of it.