Ryzen 5 review vs. Core i5: Ryzen 5 1600X wins for best mainstream power CPU

We test the best for $250, pitting the new Ryzen 5 1600X against Intel's vaunted Core i5-7600K.

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Gaming performance: The big question

On the application side, Ryzen 5 has it handled. But how about gaming performance? That’s been the Achilles heel for Ryzen in early-days testing. 

ryzen 5 15 Gordon Mah Ung

3DMark Performance

First up is Futuremark’s popular 3DMark test. This test is designed first and foremost as a GPU and graphics load test. Everything works as it should: Ryzen 5 gets a small advantage thanks to its additional cores, but for the most part, it’s dead-even between the pair of GeForce GTX 1080 cards we used for testing.

ryzen 5 3dmark firestrike overall IDG

3DMark Fire Strike is first and foremost a GPU test. Because the two very different CPUs were tested with the same GPU, the results are pretty much the same.

3DMark also include a physics test using a real-world game physics engine. The more cores you have, the more theoretical performance you get out, so guess what: Ryzen and its 12 threads pummels the Core i5 and its 4 threads.

Thee problem with Fire Strike’s physics test is that it measures things in a perfect world. In the real world, game developers just don’t exploit all the cores in a CPU. This result, though it highlights the horsepower of Ryzen 5, isn’t going to match the reality in 99.9 percent of today’s games.

ryzen 5 3dmark firestrike physics IDG

3DMark's Fire Strike test favors Ryzen 5's many CPU cores, but most games don't use all the cores anyway. 

The world of gaming is supposed to change with DirectX 12, where cores matter. If we’re to believe 3DMark’s DX12 test, things don’t look quite so decisive for Ryzen. AMD says the API test doesn’t really scale much beyond six cores (true), and it tends to love cache bandwidth, too. 

ryzen 5 3dmark api overahead 1.5 multi threaded IDG

3DMark’s API Overhead test puts Ryzen in the lead, but not by the margin you’d expect. AMD says the test favors cache bandwidth and doesn’t scale with core and thread count.

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation Performance

Moving on to a real game, we used Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation. Oxide, the developer of Ashes, has said much of the controversy around Ryzen 7’s gaming performance comes from the new micro-architecture. While AMD’s offerings foundered, the gaming world optimized for Intel—and it showed in our first tests out of the gate, with Ryzen 7. The results you see here follow a few weeks of code-tweaking for Ryzen.

Ryzen 5, for the most part, is slightly faster than Core i5. When you consider the slightly higher clock speeds and improved IPC of Core i5, that’s actually a pretty significant win in this GPU-centric test mode. The results, Oxide said, are only expected to get better.

ryzen 5 ashes escalation 19x10 gpu all batches low IDG

The patched version of Ashes puts Ryzen 5 on very good footing against Core i5.

Ashes also includes a CPU-centric mode too that’s designed to put more units on the screen. It should favor more cores (although it doesn’t scale as much as we’d hope), and Ryzen 5 comes out with a decent victory here. Neither CPU is slow, but the fact that Ryzen 5 performance can be made faster with a few tweaks is very encouraging.

ryzen 5 ashes escalation 19x10 cpu low IDG

When you set Ashes to its CPU centric mode, it puts more strain on the CPUs, which favors Ryzen 5.

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Ghost Recon: Wildlands is considered to be a serious system hog with its incredible foliage effects, and it lived up to its reputation. We ran it at 1080p on just the High setting, and we barely kept our head above the 100-fps mark. Core i5 finishes about 7 percent faster, but for the most part I’d consider this a tie, or at best a moral victory for Ryzen, which unfairly got a reputation for being “bad” at gaming. It’s not.

ryzen 5 wildlands 19x10 high IDG

Wildlands puts the Ryzen 5 at a very close second to the Core i5.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Running Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in DX12 mode, Ryzen was just a little slower than Core i5-7600K. Interestingly, many reviews have shown Ryzen tying with or even beating Kaby Lake. The Core i5’s advantage likely comes from its higher clocks and higher IPC, but it’s another moral victory for Ryzen 5. 

ryzen 5 deus ex divided dx12 19x10 high IDG

Core i5 shows a slight advantage with the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided benchmark, but Ryzen 5 loses by very little.

F1 2016 Performance

Among the games that seem to favor Ryzen is Codemaster’s F1 2016.  Although AMD’s own tests put Ryzen 5 ahead of Core i5, my tests show Ryzen 5 slightly trailing Core i5. Note that in AMD’s own tests, the company configured the Core i5 with the RAM set at DDR4/2400, while my tests tried to make it more even by using DDR4/2933 on both. In the grand scheme of things I’d rule it a tie, which makes it another moral victory for Ryzen.

ryzen 5 f1 2016 19x10 high IDG

For our F1 2016 test we used the same memory in both testbeds, something AMD didn’t do for its own benchmarks.

Sleeping Dogs Performance

The thing is, Ryzen 5 still exhibits performance issues that have many wringing hands over the CPU’s gaming chops. You can see it with Sleeping Dogs, where at 1080p resolution and Medium settings, Ryzen exhibits the typical 20-percent to 30-percent slower performance.

ryzen 5 sleeping dogs 19x10 medium IDG

Running Sleeping Dogs at 19x10 with Medium quality shows why Ryzen’s performance still gives some gamers the willies. 

That performance difference is what you see when you remove the GPU as a bottleneck and move the work to the CPU. By notching Sleeping Dogs’ quality to Extreme (the quality you’d likely run at with a GeForce GTX 1080), you move the load back to the GPU, and the differences mostly vanish.

ryzen 5 sleeping dogs 19x10 extreme IDG

In most PC gaming the GPU is the bottleneck. Once you shift to Extreme quality and focus on the GPU, the CPU performance differences disappear.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance

Other games are even worse. Ubisoft’s Crystal Dynamic's Rise of the Tomb Raider at Medium and 1080p shows a massive frame rate difference. 

ryzen 5 rise of the tomb raider 19x10 medium IDG

Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of the titles that clearly doesn’t run well on Ryzen right now. At medium, the performance disparity is huge.

Even running Rise of the Tomb Raider at its top Very High setting, Ryzen can’t keep up with Core i5. Only by moving up to a higher resolution and making it more of a GPU test do things even out.

ryzen 5 rise of the tomb raider 19x10 very high IDG

Even setting the the game to very high, the CPUs can still hold back performance some.

Conclusion: Don't panic. Keep reading. 

At a Glance
  • AMD Ryzen 5 1400 with Wraith Stealth cooler

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