We're two weeks on from the release of AMD's Ryzen 7 CPU range and plenty of ink has been spilled discussing, in rather spirited words, the pros and cons of AMD's latest and greatest CPU platform. However it's now time to turn our attention to the mid-range: the forthcoming Ryzen 5's, a CPU range that AMD hope will cause more than a few headaches for their competitors. We should note ahead of time though that this information isn't complete, there's still plenty more for AMD to disclose in the coming weeks.
If the Ryzen 7's were taking the fight to Intel's X99 platform, the Ryzen 5's is all about the performance and gaming mainstream, which invariably means the Intel Core i5 range. At this launch the red team are returning to the <$300 market, aggressively angling for a price/performance lead as well as hoovering up consumers who have under-served by Intel's restrictive range (both in terms of overclocking and raw multi-threaded support).
Where Ryzen 7 was exclusively 8-core, Ryzen 5 is a little more flexible as mix of 6-core and 4-core SKUs, each of which have Simultaneous Multithreading enabled. This means that at the baseline level there will be a 4-core, 8-thread Ryzen 5 CPU available far below the price of Intel’s 4-core/8-thread equivalent (the Core i7-7700K); however with gaming so key to this market and many game engines still not well tooled for multithreaded support raw IPC and clock speed will remain highly relevant.
Ryzen 5 CPUs are all based on the 8-core design present on the Ryzen 7's, but with certain cores and other components fused off depending on the SKU. As a consequence all Ryzen 5 CPUs are dual-CCX parts with one or two cores disabled per CCX module, which probably means that the forthcoming Ryzen 3 chips will all be single CCX designs from the get-go.
Without further ado let’s move on to the specifics.
At the top of the Ryzen 5 range sits the flagship, AMD's Ryzen 5 1600X. A 6-core, 12-thread part, it's clocked at a very healthy 3.6GHz base and 4.0 GHz boost frequency which compares favourably with the speeds achieved by the top-end Ryzen 7's. As an ‘X’ part the 1600X’s XFR range is maximised to be the highest possible.
AMD aren’t sharing many benchmarks for the Ryzen 5 range at this point, but previously they noted that the Ryzen 5 1600X is approx. 69% faster than the i5-7600K in the heavily multithreaded Cinebench nT benchmark. As it’s being compared to a 4-core, 4-thread CPU this may be the best case result for the 1600X, but it underscores the CPUs likely strengths as a content creation (esp. video rendering) workhorse.
A small step down from the 1600X is the Ryzen 5 1600. Still sporting 6 cores and 12 threads, the 1600 lacks the wide Extended Frequency Range of the 1600X as well as some of its raw speed – expect to see this chip at reference speeds of 3.2GHz base and 3.6GHz boost. Both the Ryzen 5 1600X and 1600 are configured as three cores per CCX, with the one remaining core in each CCX fused off.
Changing tac somewhat, we’ll next look at the entry level: the Ryzen 5 1400. This 4-core, 8-thread CPU is clocked at 3.2GHz base and 3.4GHz boost, and aims to be the best possible value for those constrained by budgets but still in need of solid multi-threaded performance. As a 4-core part IPC is going to be critically important when going up against Intel’s Core i5 Kaby Lake chips, but you can also expect to see it priced extremely aggressively.
Rounding out the Ryzen 5 launch will be the Ryzen 5 1500X. This SKU matches the 4-core/8-thread configuration of the 1400, but supports both higher reference clock speeds (3.5/3.7 GHz base/boost respectively) and wider XFR (as denoted by the X suffix). It will be interesting to see how attractive this will be compared to the Ryzen 5 1400, and whether aggressive binning makes it a better candidate for overclocking.
Speaking of overclocking, we should once again confirm that each of the Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 CPUs are multiplier unlocked. Overclocking support on this CPU range is dictated by the system’s motherboard chipset, specifically the X370, B350 and X300 ‘boards.
Extended Frequency Range
Extended Frequency range, or XFR, is additional frequency boosting functionality which AMD are building into all their Ryzen CPUs, but the level and extent of XFR support differs down the range. Ryzen 7 ‘X-class’ CPUs gained an additional 100MHz headroom at the top-end thanks to XFR, accessed in lightly threaded (generally 1-T) scenarios where CPU sensor data indicated it would stay within thermal and power limits. The sole Non-X CPU was granted only 50MHz XFR by comparison.
AMD are doing things a little differently with Ryzen 5. The Ryzen 5 1500X - AMD's fastest Ryzen quad-core - will have an XFR range of 200MHz; that's at least double the XFR of Ryzen 7 8-core part. An additional 200MHz will allow it to reach 3.9 GHz under appropriate workloads, perhaps indicating that AMD are conscious of just how critical poorly threaded workloads are at the more affordable end of the price spectrum.
In follow-up communication AMD revealed the XFR details across the Ryzen 5 range:
Ryzen 5 1600X - 100MHz
Ryzen 5 1600 - 100MHz
Ryzen 5 1500X - 200MHz
Ryzen 5 1400 - 50MHz
Ryzen 5 1600 - 100MHz
Ryzen 5 1500X - 200MHz
Ryzen 5 1400 - 50MHz
Additional Technical Details
Just after publication AMD were able to share additional details on the Ryzen 5 SKU cache arrangements, and they make for interesting reading. Whilst both Ryzen 5 6-core CPUs have a single core per CCX disabled, they each still have access to the full 16MB L3 cache physically present on the chip.
The Ryzen 5 4-core CPUs are more substantially different - whereas the 1500X is equipped with the full 16MB L3 cache, the Ryzen 5 1400 is restricted to only 8MB L3. This may or may not have a very substantial impact on performance, but it's clear that the difference between the two SKUs are more significant than we previously thought.
We can also share that the Ryzen 5 1400, 1500X and 1600 are all 65W TDP parts, whilst the Ryzen 5 1600X is a 95W model that will demand appropriate cooling.
Price and Availability
The Ryzen 5 range is due to launch on April 11th, very early into the promised Q2 window AMD publicly floated last month. These will of course be accompanied by an extensive range of B350 and X370 motherboards, the former of which are most likely to be paired with this CPU range.
At the entry-level the Ryzen 5 1400 hits a very modest $169 sweet spot, whilst the better clocked 1500X comes in at just $189. With only $20 MSRP between them, and both sporting similar core configurations, it will be interesting to see which is the more popular model of the two. Clearly the substantial difference in clock speed, L3 cache and XFR will be highlighted as the key differentiating factor, but overclockers will surely be eyeing up the Ryzen 5 1400 as a candidate for overclocked value.
Moving up to the 6-core models, the Ryzen 1600 will be available for an MSRP of $219. The Ryzen 6 1600X meanwhile is only $30 more expensive at $249. To put that into context Intel’s Core i5-7600K is currently listed on Newegg for $249.99, so it’s going to be quite the head-to-head upon the CPUs release next month.