The first chips with AMD’s new Zen architecture were the high-end, enthusiast-oriented Ryzen 7 parts. It’s now the mainstream’s turn, with AMD announcing Ryzen 5.
There are four Ryzen 5 parts launching on April 11. At the top end is the R5 1600X: 6 cores, 12 threads, with a base of 3.6GHz and a turbo of 4.0GHz, for $249. Below that is the $219 1600. It has the same core and thread count but cuts clock speeds to 3.2/3.6GHz. At the bottom end are a pair of 4-core, 8-thread parts: the $169 1400 at 3.2/3.4GHz, and the $189 1500X at 3.5/3.7GHz.
The chips will continue to use the AM4 socket and will be compatible with all the same chipsets and motherboards as the R7s.
Just as was the case with the Ryzen 7, AMD is offering many more cores and simultaneous threads than Intel does for similar money. Whether driven by a different ideology or the practical realities of having to go head to head with a much larger competitor, AMD doesn’t limit features such as simultaneous multithreading or unlocked multipliers to certain expensive chips; all the Ryzen 5s include these features, just as all the Ryzen 7s also do.
The 6 core parts use two 4-core Core Complexes (CCXes) with one core from each disabled. Each core within a CCX has a 2MB slice of level 3 cache, and interestingly, all 16MB of cache are available. The 1500X again uses two CCXes, this time with two cores from each disabled, but again still offers the full 16MB of level 3 cache. The cheapest 1400 part, however, only has 8MB cache.
So the top $249 processor is competing with Intel’s Kaby Lake i5-7600K, a 4-core, 4-thread processor running at 3.8/4.2GHz retailing at around $240, and the bottom-priced R5 1400 is going up against the i3-7350K, a 2-core, 4-thread part running at a fixed 4.2GHz selling for around $174.
Just as with Ryzen 7, the Ryzen 5 parts are going to give up quite a bit of single threaded performance relative to the Kaby Lakes; they have lower clock speeds and execute fewer instructions per cycle. But the presence of those extra cores means that in many workloads, the Ryzen will be able to hold its own, or even pull ahead, making the decision of which processor to buy more complex than it has been in the past; Kaby Lake may win for some workloads, especially older games that lean heavily on one or two compute-bound threads. But other workloads, including an increasing number of modern game engines, show much greater ability to distribute their work across multiple cores, and for those applications, the Ryzen will be a compelling option.