While AMD’s 8-core Ryzen 7 CPUs are certainly worth considering if you need the multi-threaded grunt provided by eight CPU cores, most of us don’t need all that parallel power. For the same reason, we usually recommend Intel’s K-series Kaby Lake CPUs for mid to high-end gaming PCs, as four cores are enough for most of us, while Intel’s X99 platform is much more expensive all round. AMD’s cheaper Ryzen options, such as the Ryzen 5 1600X, are interesting, then, potentially offering six cores for less money than a Core i7-7700K quad-core processor.
The Ryzen 5 1600X is AMD’s flagship mid-range option, and it costs $60 less than the Ryzen 7 1700. More interestingly, though, it sports the same L3 cache as the more expensive Ryzen 7 CPUs and its base frequency is 600MHz higher than that of the Ryzen 7 1700 too.
In addition, it has a 300MHz higher Precision Boost speed than the Ryzen 7 1700, and benefits from a 100MHz XFR boost too, meaning it can reach the same lofty 4100MHz frequency as the Ryzen 7 1800X, although across all cores at the same time. Even the 95W TDP matches the flagship Ryzen 7 CPU, so only the core and thread counts differ, with the Ryzen 5 1600X offering six cores and 12 threads. Its nearest competitor in terms of specifications is Intel’s Core i7-6800K, which sports the same core and thread count, but costs $160 more.
That’s a substantial amount of money and, worryingly for Intel, Ryzen has proven to be just as fast, if not faster, in some scenarios too. The Core i7-6800K also lacks the full 40 PCI-E lanes of its more expensive siblings, so you won’t be able to offer full bandwidth to two graphics cards in SLI or CrossFire either, and the same is true of AMD’s Ryzen CPUs.
More significantly, though, the Ryzen 5 1600X is a 6-core CPU with 12 threads, while the similarly priced Core i5-7600K only offers four cores and four threads. It’s obvious which chip would win in a heavily multi-threaded fight, but Intel’s Kaby Lake K-series CPUs have proven to be very good overclockers, while most Ryzen CPUs we’ve tested have struggled to add more than a few hundred megahertz to their boost frequencies.
The Ryzen 5 1600X isn’t alone either. There’s a Ryzen 5 1600, 1500X and 1400 as well, and they’re all overclockable – we’ll be looking at the rest of the Ryzen 5 bunch next month, but there’s also the Ryzen 3 range to consider, which is being released later this year and is set to include overclockable quad-core chips for under $170.
In our image editing test, the extra clock speed of the Core i7-7700K was enough to claim the top spot, with Gimp clearly not taking advantage of several CPU cores. The Ryzen 5 1600X sat around 14,000 points lower than the Core i7, along with the equally mediocre Core i7-6860K. In the video editing test, though, the Ryzen 5 1600X was not only much faster than the Core i7-7700K, but managed to pip the Core i7-6850K to the post by 6,000 points too.
The multi-tasking test is another part of RealBench that favours multiple cores reaching high frequencies, as well as fast memory speeds. So with our standard Intel system sporting memory that runs nearly 300MHz faster than our Ryzen system could achieve, it was no surprise to see Intel’s CPUs taking the top two podium places in this test. However, the sheer amount of power on offer from the Ryzen 5 1600X did give it a healthy lead over the Core i5-7600K in this test.
The system score doesn’t really tell the whole picture, but the Ryzen 5 1600X edged out both the Core i7-7700K and Core i5-7600K, while coming fairly close to matching the Core i7-6850K, which can only be seen as a victory for AMD given the Ryzen CPU’s price.
However, the bulk of this score was achieved in multi-threaded tests, with the Intel quad-core chips being much faster in the image editing test.
The same was true in Cinebench, where the Ryzen 5 1600X beat the Core i7-6850K 7700K convincingly. Ashes of the Singularity is a bone of contention for AMD, as it’s one of several games that suffer from lack of optimization for Ryzen CPUs, although some Ryzen optimizations have been released in a more recent DLC version of Ashes of the Singularity, which shows some sizeable improvements.
We hope to test these optimizations soon, but for now, it’s clear that some games will perform better than others on Ryzen chips, especially in titles where CPU optimization is important. Overclocking was disappointing though; we could only get our chip to 3.95GHz, with a vcore of 1.425V, and adding more voltage didn’t see any improvement until the chip became too toasty. With all cores sitting at nearly 4GHz, the video encoding score rose from 366,090 to 383,751, while the Cinebench score was boosted from 1,241 to 1,299. The Intel Kaby Lake chips were all faster in the image editing test, though, where clock frequency is a key factor.
There are a couple of situations where a higher-clocked Intel CPU will be better than the Ryzen 5 1600X in terms of performance and extra overclocking headroom – in any task that doesn’t take advantage of more than four cores, they’re likely to have an advantage. If your primary interest is gaming, then you’ll be better off with a Kaby Lake CPU.
In any task where multi-threaded performance is important, though, the AMD CPU is a better bet – it’s not just quicker than the LGA1151 CPUs, but also the Core i7-6850K. If you’re on a tight budget and do a mix of multi-threaded work, such as rendering or video encoding, plus games and other apps, the Ryzen 5 1600X is a fantastic all-rounder. It’s quick at stock speed, and it offers even better value if you overclock it and put all its cores and threads to work.