Table of contents
A few weeks ago AMD made some wild claims about the performance of Zen 3, according to them be Ryzen 5000 series is supposed to be a massive leap forward and improve in some key areas where the previous generation of processors came up a bit short. That means better multi-core performance, where AMD was already super strong, but more importantly addressing single core and lightly threaded situations too. This should lead to higher frame rates in games, and gaming was one of the last areas Intel could claim any lead.
As a result, we set out to test out every one of those claims, and let me just say: These are some amazing processors! I have never been this excited about a new product in a really long time, so allow us to walk you through our experience, talk about the new Zen 3 architecture, followed by a quick recap on the Ryzen 5000 series lineup, and then obviously onto testing and performance results.
In setting up to design Zen 3 AMD identified 3 key areas that were needed to deliver the best possible performance across every application and not just multi-threaded ones. Basically, they needed to boost overall output, but without increasing power consumption. The first step of that journey was the core itself, here they have done things like adding a larger instruction cache, increased overall bandwidth, lowered latency of integer and floating point units, and a bunch of other things. It would take a few thousands words to dive into all of this, but let’s just say the primary goal was to get instructions through the architecture faster to take advantage of the changes AMD did to their cache design.
Like we already know each is Zen CPU is made up of chiplets, which are also called core chiplet dies or CCDs for short. Until Zen 3 each of those dies held two CCX groupings of 4 cores, and each of those had access to 16MB of L3 cache. The problem was that if data needed to be transferred between one CCX and another it would need to be done over the Infinity Fabric, and that added up quite a bit of latency, especially in lightly threaded workloads. Zen 3 now combines all the cores within the CCD into one unit with a large shared 32MB of L3 cache, so single cores have access to the full cache amount. That leads to communication between the cores and the cache and between the cores themselves being streamlined in a big way since instructions don’t need to moved outside the CCX. Games and other workloads that require low latencies (like sound producing) are going to love this layout.
Another possibility is this new design could seriously 8 core and lower CPUs, like the 5800X and the 5600X since all their operations are done within a single CCD. Meanwhile, the 5900X and the 5950X would still need to offload lightly threaded operations through the Infinity Fabric and IO die between their two CCDs, which would technically increase latency. However, according to AMD, actually seeing a negative performance impact from that would be super rare, especially since these higher-end CPUs run at higher frequencies which can offset any latency penalties.
Models & Prices
All that leads up to the new lineup. At the very top is the 16-core/32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X, which has a 200MHz higher boost clock than the 3950X. We will be covering that in a completely separate review because it’s a beast and it deserves its own dedicated coverage. That flagship model is followed by the 12-core/24-thread 5900X, and this is where things get interesting on some fronts. While its boost clock is a 100MHz higher than the 3900XT, the base frequency gets a 100MHz cut. Thankfully, the Zen 3 improvements mean that small reduction won’t be noticed at all. Moving down and the Ryzen 7 5800X is being launched to replace the 3800X and XT, what we don’t see yet is a clear 3700X replacement, but in a lot of ways the 5600X ends up muscling into its territory. The Ryzen 5 5600X seems like it will be a great Bang for the Buck gaming CPU, and it improves big time over the 3600X. I should also mention the 5600X is the only CPU in this lineup that gets an included heatsink. Looking at pricing it’s obvious that AMD is targeting a bit more of a premium market for their Ryzen 5000 series.
While the 5950X, the 5900X and the 5800X still directly replace the 3000 series CPUs, underneath that things start to get interesting. By moving the Ryzen 5 5600X up to $300 USD allows all the CPU’s from the 3600XT on downwards to live on for folks building more affordable systems. And speaking of motherboards, that is where people holding onto older motherboards might have to wait a little longer. While B550 and X570 will have support right out of the gate – provided you update them first – the 400 series chipsets will still need to wait until January at the earliest to upgrade their systems to Zen 3. I sort of understand this move because it allows the engineering teams to fully focus on optimizing performance of current platforms for AMD’s new architecture. It also controls the amount of people who just rush out to buy one of these new Ryzen 5000 series of CPU’s. Hopefully this will also improve availability in the first few months after launch.
The Platform & Cooling
Just remember though, Zen 3 is a bit of a dead end platform since these are the last CPU’s that will be using the AM4 socket. If you buy one of these right now, along with a B550 or X570 motherboard, you won’t be able to upgrade to Zen 4 in the future. Another thing I want to mention is coolers, while AMD might make it look like you need to spend mega bucks on a heatsink or AIO, that’s not really the case at all. Every one of these processors was cooled by a Noctua NH-U12S without any problems inside a closed case.
You can see our test system specs above. As usual we are going to be focusing on real-world applications and games rather than loading up with synthetics. Also, I’m going to be focusing on the original Ryzen 3000 series rather than any newer XT CPUs since the performance benefits of those was minimal and they weren’t as popular by a long shot. I want to start with the gaming results, which is one area where Intel still held a lead and AMD really wanted to address that. We are running gaming benchmarks at a more realistic 1080P with the highest details and an RTX 3090, which should eliminate some bottlenecks. Also remember that like you saw in the AMD CPU scaling article, as you use lower spec GPU’s or increase resolutions, these results will tighten up even more.
Starting off with Call of Duty, and right away it is obvious that there are some gigantic performance improvements over the previous generation. However, it also looks like even the RTX 3090 ends up being a bottleneck at the high end. Now for DOOM: Eternal we are seeing another GPU bottleneck, but every one of the AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs is right in line with the Core i9-10900K. The biggest story here is the 5600X though, since it offers about a 20% improvement over the 3600X and is basically tied with the other two more expensive Zen 3 processors. In Horizon: Zero Dawn we see a game engine that can take advantage of more threads, so the 5900X’s 1% lows end up being a bit better than the other two CPU’s, but again there is a clear advantage for Zen 3 over Zen 2. It looks like AMD’s focus on latency is paying off here big time. Red Dead Redemption 2 sees a GPU bottleneck come back, but that still doesn’t stop the Ryzen 5000 series from bridging the gap between Intel and last year’s fastest AMD CPUs.
Moving on to eSports, and Rainbow Six: Siege seems to favour Intel but Ryzen is really catching up. Something else I want to draw your attention to is how close the 5600X, 5800X, and the 5900X are to one another in all these games. You can literally save $250 USD by going with the 5600X and get almost the exact same frame rates as the 5900X. And now we start getting into some really insane results, I mean the CS:GO frame rates are just mind blowing. It turns out the biggest benefits of Zen 3’s ultra-low latency design are seen in competitive online shooters that use DX9. CS:GO is one of those games and it turns out moving to Zen 3 can give you a massive frame rate boost if your graphics card is powerful enough.
The same thing can be said for Valorant into where the 5900X, 5800X, and 5600X walk all over everything else, their 1% lows are pretty much equal to the 3900X’s average frame rate, which is just insane. Finally, in Overwatch, well even after the new patch increased the frame rate cap to 400, the RTX 3090 is still more than powerful enough to hit that mark with every processor in this review.
AMD promised to deliver better gaming performance and that is exactly what they did… and in some cases it was just mind blowing. You see in standard AAA games Intel has to be worried, because less expensive Ryzen processors like the 5600X and the 5800X can either match or beat the Core i9-10900 K. Intel is probably freaking out right now about getting slapped around so hard in competitive games like CS:GO and Valorant, and that is because influential eSports players could end up switching to Ryzen for a competitive advantage. Before hardcore gamers were stuck with Intel and that influence was something that Intel counted on to generate sales, but now they might start seeing those influencers start slipping away.
With that out of the way I think it’s time to get into our usual suite of real-world application benchmarks. However, in order to set a baseline let’s show the results from the one synthetic that we are using which is Cinebench. Starting off with the multi-core results and the Ryzen 5000 series processors just demolish everything in these charts by a massive margin. It’s so dramatic that the 5600X is starting to muscle into 3700X territory, and that processor has 4 more active processing threads. As for single core, it isn’t even close, the difference between Zen 2 and Zen 3 is like night and day. It looks like AMD’s special sauce is working like a miracle, but will that actually translate into such huge leads in the real world?
Let’s start with DaVinci Resolve, a program that I use on a daily basis, and it looks like there are some minimal gains for the new CPUs. However, let me explain that DaVinci is basically a GPU-bound program where the processor takes a backstage to CUDA, but the 5900X is still a really good choice. Switching to Adobe Premiere, and Intel has an advantage here since they can leverage their integrated QuickSync engines to accelerate processing times. However, the speed up from AMD’s architecture revisions meant the Ryzen 5000 series narrows the gap by a big amount here. In our charts Reality Capture used to be dominated by Intel since the workloads we use have a combination of heavily multi-core and lightly threaded loads, but now AMD is able to take that lead without any problems. Handbrake really highlights all of the improvements Zen 3 has rolled into it. We are seeing almost a minute reduction in the transcode times of a relatively short 4K video is just insane for one CPU generation to another. If you extrapolate that over a longer 10GB file, the amount of time saved by moving to a 5900X, 5800X, or even the 5600X is pretty huge.
Moving on to compiling, and the lead for these new CPU’s is a bit less than in Handbrake, but they are still offering better performance across the board. One of the biggest changes seems to be right at the middle of the chart with the 5800X really pulling far ahead of the 3800X. MetaShape has been one of Intel’s strongest programs in our charts and AMD has made some pretty good progress here with Zen 3. As for Blender, this is a program that really focuses on multi-threaded dominance and of course that shows AMD leading in a big way, but that is something that they’ve been doing for years now. And finally, there is AutoDesk Maya, where the 5900X sees a relatively small lead over the 3900X, but the real story is actually happening lower down in the lineup. There the 5800X and 5600X ended up being a lot better than the previous generation and that is a big deal for more budget-oriented CPU’s.
So what does this all tell us about the Ryzen 5000 series? Well, first of all, in multi-core applications AMD’s lead over Intel has extended by a big amount. Even in programs that aren’t heavily multi-core focused Zen 3 does give these new Ryzen CPUs a huge advantage, and that really makes it hard to recommend Intel for anything in the productivity and creativity markets at this point. AMD just seems to have a much better platform and CPU architecture that can just be adapted in pretty much any situation. There is not that much to say about power consumption either, because AMD delivered on their promises here as well. These new CPU’s don’t consume any more power than the Ryzen 3000 series, even though they deliver much better overall performance.
This year has been pretty busy, especially with tech, but in my opinion Zen 3 is a game changer. It has improved multi-core and single core performance, killer gaming frame rates, and it managed to deliver all of that within the same power specs as Zen 2. Yes, these chips are more expensive than the Ryzen 3000 series processors, but based on these results the new Ryzen CPU’s are worth every penny, especially the Ryzen 5 5600X for gaming. It is just an awesome value. Would I run out and upgrade my 3900X, 3800X, or 3600X right now? Well that really depends, because for productivity and creativity apps there are benefits, but they aren’t groundbreaking over Zen 2. The same can be said for most games, since the GPU will likely be a bottleneck before the CPU is. On the other hand, for competitive gaming Zen 3 is pretty mind-blowing. As for Intel, they are in a world of hurt until they get their 7nm process up and running. We are now at a point where AMD has basically run away with the CPU market.
I barely even mentioned them in the benchmarks since the expensive Core i9-10900K really didn’t factor into the results. So what is Intel’s option right now? Well they have an inferior platform with slower CPU’s that are priced similarly to what AMD’s offering right now, and Rocket Lake is only coming out next year. They can’t lean on the “better at gaming” crutch anymore either since Zen 3 is either matching or beating them. The only thing that is left is to cut prices and hope for a miracle in the short term. And on that note, all I’m going to say is spend responsibly, and in this case that probably means looking very seriously at Zen 3 for your next upgrade.
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