Testing the Ryzen 5 1500X gaming PC
Then it was time for the most tense moment of any build: pressing the power button. Everything worked. Phew.
After installing a clean version of Windows, I hopped into the BIOS and activated the XMP profile for the memory, which activated the RAM’s rated 2,933MHz speeds without a hitch. The same can’t be said for all RAM modules on all AM4 motherboards; BIOS updates scheduled for May aim to fix that, but in the meantime, do some homework to make sure the memory you choose plays nice with your particular motherboard. Ryzen’s gaming performance can be very responsive to memory speeds.
Before I dive into gaming results I need to mention a weird, frustrating bug I encountered. At one point, after many hours of testing and repeatedly booting up the PC without issue, I dipped back into the BIOS to change the motherboard’s RGB lighting color. After saving and exiting, the PC didn’t work. The Gaming 3 motherboard couldn’t see the M.2 SSD, and kept asking me to insert a boot device. So I ripped out the Radeon RX 480 (see why I dislike the M.2 slot’s placement?), reseated the drive, and put everything back together. Then the PC really didn’t work, plunging into an endless boot loop. I couldn’t even reach the BIOS.
After much curse-filled troubleshooting, clearing the motherboard’s CMOS and reseating the drive again got everything working. The issue never reoccurred despite my best recreation efforts and the system’s been stable as a rock since. But this temporary roadblock serves as a reminder that the AM4 motherboard experience can be quirky in the platform’s early days, even with boards from a reliable vendor.
That said, it’s also worth noting that this is the only major issue that either I or PCWorld hardware editor Gordon Mah Ung have run across in eight separate Ryzen PC builds. Fresh BIOS updates are rolling out at a furious pace as well, quashing bugs and boosting performance—though I did find another report of the Gaming 3 suddenly failing to identify an M.2 SSD.
But that’s all in the past and everything’s working fine now. On to the gaming results!
I tested four games, all at the ultra-popular 1080p resolution, with High graphics presets and V-sync disabled. The Division’s a gorgeous open-world loot shooter that can bring underpowered systems to their knees. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is another demanding game, but it plays particularly well on Ryzen systems with high memory speeds. Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation is DirectX 12’s flagship and the first game to ship Ryzen-specific performance optimizations. Finally, Metro: Last Light Redux is getting up there in age but its heavy use of supersample antialiasing means the game still looks gorgeous…and it still kicks gaming systems in the teeth.
Here’s how the all-AMD gaming rig performed:
As you can see, it holds up very well, with all games cruising well past 60 frames per second while delivering a smooth experience throughout. (And if you disable SSAA in Metro: Last Light, the frame rate doubles.) Don’t get me wrong: Intel’s Core i5 chips hold a frame rate advantage over Ryzen 5 in some games right now, as you can see in PCWorld’s Ryzen 5 1600X vs. Core i5 review. But the Ryzen 5 1500X still delivers a damned good gaming experience, with the aforementioned Ryzen game optimizations looking mighty positive indeed—and with twice the threads of even the $250 Core i5-7600K, this rig’s productivity and multitasking chops blow away Intel’s quad-core chips.
This is just the baseline of performance, too. Aside from hopping into the BIOS to set the Corsair Vengeance LPC RAM to its rated speed, I didn’t do any other tricks or tweaks to boost Ryzen performance. Overclocking the chip, disabling Windows’ High Precision Event Timer, using either the High Performance or AMD’s Ryzen-optimized Windows power plan, and performing the other quick tips outlined in that article can seriously supercharge your PC’s performance, by up to 20 or 30 percent in some edge cases. Overclocking your graphics card could push frame rates even further than that.
Bottom line: The beleaguered-FX era is over. With the $190 Ryzen 5 1500X’s arrival, you’re finally able to build an all-AMD gaming PC that goes toe-to-toe with Intel’s Core chips—and offers overclockable 4-core, 8-thread performance that won’t break the bank. Giddy up.