We doubt many CPUs have changed the desktop market more than AMD’s 16-core mainstream monsters, forcing Intel to drastically cut the prices of its high-end desktop CPUs and ushering previously unheard-of numbers of cores into the home computing market. The Ryzen 9 5950X built on the success of the Ryzen 9 3950X, made large swathes of the high-end desktop CPU market obsolete in the process, and is now available for around $550.
A year ago, it was still the most powerful mainstream desktop CPU by far, but Intel has now finally responded, both in terms of single-threaded and multi-threaded performance. The Core i9-12900K also cost less than the 5900X at launch, so AMD’s mainstream desktop flagship now sits at $550, which is just below the price of the Intel chip.
It has a massive peak boost frequency of 4.9GHz, even if its all-core boost has to remain below 4GHz in order for the chip to stay within its 105W power envelope. It also comes with 64MB of L3 cache and 8MB of L2 cache, so when it was launched, it was fast at pretty much any task you threw at it. It still gives Intel a run for its money too, with its score of 74,586 in our lightly threaded image editing test, beating the score of the Core i5-12600K, although falling short of the 80,155 scored by the Core i9-12900K.
The fact it has more threads than the Core i9-12900K, with the latter only offering Hyper Threading on its P-Cores, means the 5900X is also a potent force in heavily multi-threaded applications, with its Handbrake video encoding result being just 3 per cent behind the Core i9-12900K, while the system score sat at 373,168 vs 387,778 for the Intel chip. While the Ryzen 9 5950X wasn’t too far behind the Core i9-12900K in Cinebench’s multi-threaded test, however, it was night and day in the single-threaded test, with the Core i9 enjoying a 21 per cent lead.
We managed to hit 4.6GHz across all cores with a manual overclock, using a 1.25V vcore, although this was a big climb down from the peak single-core boost frequency we saw at just over 5GHz, even if it adds 600MHz to the all-core boost frequency. Not surprisingly, this overclock provided mixed results in our tests, seeing lightly threaded tasks – such as our image editing test – slow down, but it resulted in big gains in multi-threaded results, such as Cinebench, where it leapfrogged both the Core i9 chips to claim the top spot.
The overclock didn’t change much in our game tests, where the 5950X produced a similar 99th percentile frame rate to the Core i9-12900K in Far Cry 6, but a much slower average frame rate, while it was noticeably slower than the Intel chip in Watch Dogs: Legion. It’s biggest advantage, though, was in power efficiency, with our 5950X test rig drawing nearly 90W less from the mains at stock speed than the Core i9-12900K system.
Base frequency 3.4GHz Max boost frequency 4.9GHz Core Zen 3 Manufacturing process 7nm Number of cores 16 x physical (32 threads) IGP None Simultaneous Multithreading Yes Cache 64MB L3, 8MB L2 Memory controller Dual-channel DDR4, up to 3200MHz Packaging AMD Socket AM4 Thermal design power (TDP) 105W Features Precision Boost 2, Precision Boost Overdrive 2, FMA3, F16C, SHA, BMI / BMI1 + BMI2, AVX2, AVX, AES, SSE4a, SSE4, SSSE3, SSE3, SSE2, SSE
The Ryzen 9 5950X no longer dominates the desktop CPU market. Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs are more than a match, offering better performance across the board. It’s definitely worth considering as an upgrade for an old AM4 system, but if you’re building a new PC and need monstrous gaming and content creation performance, the Core i9-12900K is a better buy.
+ Pros + Excellent multi-threaded performance + Manual overclock really helps multi-threaded work + Power-frugal at stock speed - Cons - Low all-core boost clock - Zen 3 no longer top dog in games - Core i9-12900K is faster for not much more cash