With its third-generation Ryzens AMD has finally sorted its single-core problems, as the nimble and affordable Ryzen 5 3600X proves
- High single- and multi-core performance
- Compatible with older chipsets
- Runs hotter than the Ryzen 5 2600X
AMD’s mid-range Ryzen chips have always felt like support acts to the Ryzen 7 series’ main event. Even if they’re all been good or even great CPUs in their own right, middling gaming performance and confusingly narrow differences between the X- and non-X-branded parts meant that the new range – including today’s subject, the Ryzen 5 3600X – hasn’t exactly been awaited with the eagerness met by the Ryzen 7 3700X or Ryzen 9 3900X.
Perhaps that’s unfair, though. The Ryzen 5 3600X comes with all the same upgrades as its 3rd-gen cohorts, and at least one of these – boosted clock speeds – could help it soar where the Ryzen 5 2600X stalled.
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AMD Ryzen 5 3600X review: What you need to know
This new chip maintains the same six-core, 12-thread setup as both its second-gen and first-gen predecessors. Unlike with the Ryzen 7 3700X, the move to a smaller, tighter 7nm manufacturing process hasn’t produced such efficiency gains that the TDP has dropped – it’s still 95W, same as the Ryzen 2 2600X – but then the increased clock speeds might have something to do with that. The base clock speed is 3.8GHz, up 200MHz from the previous-generation CPU, while the maximum boost speed has jumped up by the same amount, to 4.4GHz. The L3 cache size has also doubled, to 32MB.
Because that 4.4GHz figure includes the maximum possible gains from AMD’s Precision Boost and Extended Frequency Range (XFR) systems, both of which attempt to dynamically overclock the Ryzen 5 3700X when there’s sufficient thermal headroom, you shouldn’t expect to hit that top speed except under light loads, and even then probably not on more than one or two cores at a time. Still, lower single-core performance has typically been Ryzen’s weakness against its Intel counterparts, so even a base speed increase is an encouraging sign.
AMD hasn’t yet made a standalone Ryzen 5 3600X available to us, so I’ve tested it as part of the pre-built PC Specialist Inferno R1 system. This includes an Asus TUF X470-Plus Gaming motherboard, and while that’s not an X570 model, this shouldn’t affect core performance. The Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 120 watercooler will also help the CPU run at its best.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X review: Performance
For once, the most basic part of our 4K benchmark tests is the most interesting: this image test is primarily a measure of single-core strength; the one arena in which Intel’s most recent chips have had the advantage. This looks to have changed at last, as the Ryzen 5 3600X produced a score of 186, blasting past the Ryzen 5 2600X’s 149 and even managing to beat the Intel Core i9-9900K’s 173.
The Ryzen chip’s newfound gaming prowess is proven further in how the Inferno R1 ran Dirt: Showdown, a game that’s CPU-reliant to a fault. At 1080p with Ultra quality graphics, the combination of a Ryzen 5 3600X and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 Super produced 190fps, one of the highest scores we’ve ever recorded.
Back in Ryzen’s comfort zone of multithreaded performance, I recorded scores of 255 in the video test and 302 in the multitasking test. These aren’t particularly close to those of the Ryzen 7 3700X, so it’s still worth paying more if you want to do regular media editing or other serious application-juggling, but they’re big steps up from the Ryzen 5 2600X. For comparison, the calculated overall score of that chip (at stock speeds) was 206; here, it’s 267. That’s nearly a 30% improvement, whereas the Ryzen 5 2600X only managed a 10% improvement on the original Ryzen 5 1600X.
This overall score also puts the Ryzen 5 3700X on par with the Intel Core i7-9700K, let alone anything from the mid-range Core i5 family. Not bad at all for £219.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X review: Thermal performance
If there’s a downside, it’s that the Ryzen 5 3600X seems to run a little hotter than any other Ryzen 5 I’ve tested. Even with water-cooling, it idles at 50°C, hovers around 71°C under sustained load and peaks at 78°C. When I tested the Ryzen 2600X it only peaked at 68°C, and that was with air cooling.
Still, none of these temperatures are so high as to be an actual concern; as with the second-gen Ryzens, a bigger obstacle to overclocking will be the fact that stock clock speeds are set so high in the first place.
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AMD Ryzen 5 3600X review: Verdict
With the relatively simple improvement of a single-core speed boost, AMD has made the Ryzen 5 3600X the most well-realised mid-range Ryzen chip yet. It’s always been nice to have such immense multicore power, though anyone who seriously needs it would likely be better off going all the way with a Ryzen 7 instead, but this chip’s big selling point lies elsewhere.
By enhancing gaming capability to a level that rivals Intel’s Core i5, AMD has delivered a CPU that covers anyone who wants to avoid bottlenecking their graphics card without having to invest £300 in a high-end chip.