It has only been a few short weeks since AMD released their Ryzen 7 lineup of CPU’s and both sides of the red and blue fence are still passionately debating about the price and performance numbers of Ryzen compared to Intel’s flagship components. I think that conversation is about to be shaken up some with the release of the Ryzen 5 1600X, which is the CPU that I believe is the true sweet spot in the lineup for mainstream PC builders.
While AMD marketed the R7s as the go-to chips for enthusiast gamers, in reality, those CPU’s are meant for workstations and content creators. Modern games today aren’t CPU hungry, with a vast majority of titles still using only 4 physical cores to power them. So what happens to all that extra horsepower under the die of an 8-core CPU? It idles. The R5’s in my mind are the true sweet spot that gaming-centric builders and aspiring content creators should pay attention to. Not only are these chips priced competitively to Intel’s i5 and i7 lineup, but they offer almost 85 per cent of the gaming performance as team blues i7 7700K without being fully optimized yet.
The heart of our build this time around is the Ryzen 5 1600X, sporting 6 physical cores, 12-threads, a 95W TDP value, and a base clock of 3.6 GHz all for $249.99 USD. Our motherboard choice this time was the MSI B350 Tomahawk, a performance oriented motherboard that uses the B350 chipset, which only loses out on the ability to SLI configure two Nvidia GPU’s, but still retains support for Crossfire if the user desires to use AMD cards instead. Finishing off the build we have 16 GB of DDR4 ram clocked at 3200 MHz, an RX 480 4GB GPU, and the most powerful stock cooler AMD has offered to date, the Wraith Max. It should be noted however that the Ryzen 1600X does not contain any of the three AM4 stock coolers at launch, meaning users will need to purchase a third-party supported cooler for their personal builds instead.
The question on a majority of the community’s mind is whether or not this CPU is just an R7 1800X with just two cores disabled. The answer is that this assumption is pretty spot on and the theory is backed up by all of our gaming and productivity based benchmarks. Beginning with Cinebench R15, the R5 1600X system finished with great scores of 115 FPS in Open GL, 1229 cb overall and the same single-core score of 161 cb as our R7 1800X. The numbers don’t lie. If the 1600X had two more cores it would be match up almost perfectly to how the 1800X performed in our original review. To further support that this chip is offering powerful productivity performance to users, the 1600X actually achieved better scores in PC Mark 8’s Creativity benchmark then the 1800X at launch. This performance increase isn’t due to any increase in raw power though, it’s just caused by new bios updates further optimizing Ryzen on the AM4 platform.
So now we reach the gaming benchmarks, but before I reveal the numbers I should address why we aren’t using a Nvidia top-tier graphics card or even an R9 Fury since we appear biased to AMD. Simply put, we just don’t have those cards on hand at the CGM office, meaning the RX 480 is the highest gaming performance we can currently reach. It may not be an enthusiast level GPU, but the RX 480 makes sense in our build because this system is based on mainstream PC builders who don’t have thousands of dollars to blow on a beastly rig. The system we have built will set users back about $1200 CAD with no sales or rebates, excelling at 1080p gaming. While there has also been talk in the community that Nvidia GPUs may be gimping Ryzen’s performance or that higher speed Ram will unlock all that hidden potential under the die, in truth, it’s new software and consistent driver support that will make Ryzen CPU’s shine brighter over time.
Because I wasn’t as time constrained with the 1600X as I was with the 1800X, the library of gaming titles I tested has expanded, allowing readers to see updated numbers from the original review as well as commonly requested titles. Starting with DOOM (Vulkan, Ultra) and Total War: Warhammer (DX12,11, Ultra), the 1600X actually saw a stable performance gain of 15-20 FPS on average, showing that any level of software support can make a noticeable difference. Speaking of optimization, this is a perfect moment to bring in Ashes of the Singularity (Extreme preset, DX12), which is the first optimized game for Ryzen that is showing upwards of 30 per cent performance gains. Our system, unfortunately, can’t offer a comparative score to vouch for this gain, but the 1600X achieved an average of 36 FPS in the intense CPU Focused benchmark.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Ultra, all Nvidia effects on) is the next subject in our line of testing. The basis for using The Witcher 3 here is that I wanted a game built with Nvidia tech that could abuse the R5 1600X’s lack of optimization. This fantastic open-world game may not be a powerhouse built for AMD-based systems, but it still performs beautifully. After my testing was done in Novigrad, Velen and Skellige, the system achieved an average of 60 FPS. The game dipped the most while entering in and out of towns, dropping to a low of 45 FPS and hitting a high total of 72 FPS while Geralt was in enclosed spaces or standing idle. The GPU was the true hindrance here. Grand Theft Auto 5 was easily the highlight of the benchmarks though, hitting highs of 120 FPS, never dropping below 60, and reaching an average of 89 FPS. This was all done with a mix of very high and high settings while working with 3 GB of video memory.
Retailing for half the price of the flagship R7 1800X, the Ryzen 5 1600X is releasing as one of the best CPU’s to cater to both gamers and content creators alike. While Intel is still the king of gaming, I haven’t once been disappointed with the performance per dollar of a Ryzen CPU and we haven’t even seen its full potential yet with a “Vega” GPU, let alone a game fully built to work off of its architecture. While AMD is aiming to hit Intel as hard as they can and bring back some healthy competition to the marketplace, they are also competing with themselves with the Ryzen 5 1600, which has reported to overclock to 4.0 GHz with a Wraith Spire. Retailing for $30 less and coming with a surprisingly good stock cooler, the $1600X now has a price factor of $60 over its head after a user purchases an aftermarket cooler. AMD has made a mistake here at launch by not offering a cooler to consumers who have no need in overclocking their system, but that doesn’t mean they can’t fix that in the future with a new SKU. Despite this price factor, I still believe this is the sweet spot CPU that readers should lean towards when building a gaming-centric Ryzen system.