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AMD's Ryzen 5 Processors; A Preview

Author: SKYMTL
Date: March 15, 2017
Product Name: Ryzen 5
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Well that was fast. Before AMD launched their Ryzen processors they were promising a very quick cadence from the flagship 7-series processors to the more mainstream offerings of the Ryzen 5 and 3 series. Part of that promise is coming true today since they have allowed us to preview the Ryzen 5 CPUs which will be available for purchase on April 11th.

Whereas the already-launched Ryzen 7 1800X, 1700X and 1700 target higher end price brackets, Ryzen 5 will focus largely upon mainstream users who want some serious performance. Now Iím using the words ďhigher endĒ here quite loosely. Although the 1800X and its siblings compete directly against Intelís $1000 and higher Broadwell-E processors in many disciplines, they hit almost unbelievably low price points. Iíve already extolled upon the awesome value they represent, particularly for professionals in the creative fields but Ryzen 5 endeavors to push those metrics even further.


When it the Ryzen 5 processors are launched on April 11th, they will go after two diverse but quite similar markets. The first is to take over from the Broadwell-E i7-6800K by offering high performance 6-core, 12-thread CPUs at a fraction of Intelís cost. AMD is hoping these processors will offer an enhanced price / performance ratio for everyone from gamers to more budget-minded prosumers when compared against some of the best that Intel has to offer. This shouldnít be all that hard since the high-end Socket 2011 Core i7 lineup has been lagging behind as of late with a microarchitecture thatís nearly two years old. The AMD team sees this as an opportunity to strike and I couldnít agree more.

The positioning of the other Ryzen 5 processors is a bit more precarious since they will offer four cores and eight threads. As such, theyíre meant to be an arrow straight through the heart of Intelís latest and greatest Kaby Lake architecture with its flagship i7-7700K and slightly lower priced i5-7600K. Remember, those go for $340 and $240 respectively which actually meshes well with how these new AMD processors are positioned. You may remember my claims that Ryzen 5 would provide some awesome price / performance ratios for gamers and it looks like it will deliver exactly that.


Sitting in the flagship position of AMDís Ryzen 5 lineup is the aptly-named 1600X. It boasts six physical cores and twelve concurrent processing threads. Basically what AMD has done is taken a Ryzen 7 part and disabled a pair of cores, meaning thereís also 3MB of L2 cache and 16MB of shared L3 cache as well.

Initially I was hoping the top level Ryzen 5 part would offer increased Base and Precision Boost frequencies over certain Ryzen 7 parts but it looks like that didnít happen. In this case the Boost frequency remains at 4GHz and based on previous testing, AMDís algorithms wonít allow the cores to operate at that speed unless a single thread is being used. With that being, thereís hope that gaming performance will be very much aligned with the 1800X, a CPU that costs some $150 more. XFR rate wasnít discussed by AMD but if the 1800X is anything to go by, single threaded operation could hit 4.1GHz or a bit higher.

AMD expects the 1600X to compete directly against the i7-6800K and offer a much better bang for buck than the 7700K. Considering the lofty prices for both of those alternatives, it isnít too hard to buy into this narrative. Meanwhile, the only chart shown during our presentation was one showing it against the 7600KÖ.in Cinebench multi thread once again. This is also the only SKU within this Ryzen 5 lineup to boast a 95W TDP.

The 6 core, 12 thread $220USD Ryzen 5 1600 follows in the tradition of other non-X series products by eschewing a higher XFR speed while also offering dramatically lower clock speeds than the 1600X. At just $219 it is well positioned to become an excellent option for system builders and DIYers alike.


These 6-core Ryzen 5 parts are essentially 8 core parts with a pair of logic engines disabled. Both AMD and Intel do this in an effort to increase the number of viable processors they can attain from a single wafer. By locking out those two cores, AMD can effectively reuse CPUs which donít pass QA testing as 8-core parts rather than consigning them to the dustbin.

Alongside the core cutting, Zenís caching structure has also undergone some rescaling within the CCXís as well. Oddly enough, the L3 remains intact with the 6 core parts still having access to the full 16MB of shared cache.


Moving down-market from the 6-core Ryzen processors are the quad core, eight thread Ryzen 5ís. Here we can see AMD is manipulating frequencies in an effort to maintain some separation between their product series. Despite it using a different product name the 1500X still uses a pair of enabled CCXs, but with a pair of cores on each disabled. That means it still receives a full 16MB allotment of L3 cache. The 1400 meanwhile gets cut back to 8MB.

The 1500X and oddly-named Ryzen 5 1400 operate at lower speeds than some of their six and eight core stable mates. More importantly, these CPUs which should have been excellent alternatives to Intelís own quad core Kaby Lake family find themselves saddled with operating frequencies that are a full GHz behind.

On a positive note these eight threaded processors are priced to move at $190 and $170, thus competing against the Intel i5-7400 and i3-7300 series from a raw cost perspective.


Whereas higher end Ryzen processors arenít shipping into standard retail channels with included coolers, the Ryzen 5 1600, 1500X and 1400 will come with included Wraith-series heatsink fans. AMD fully expects their Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 1600X offerings to appeal to enthusiasts who will go out and buy their own custom cooling solution. However people looking at the more affordable 5-series CPUs could indeed see some benefit in not having to spend more to attain acceptable temperatures.

At this point the Ryzen 5 1600 and 1500X will come with the Wraith Spire heatsink while the 1400 is paired up with the Wraith Stealth. If you take a close look at these solutions, they look awfully like Intelís pushpin stock heatsinks but instead have more substantial fans and integrated red LEDs. I should also mention that installing any of these AMD reference coolers will require removal of the motherboardís stock blackplate and mounting clips.

As with all of their other launches of late, AMD is targeting the upcoming Ryzen 5 CPUs towards a value-oriented pricing structure. Due to their relative costs and top-to-bottom ability to overclock via unlocked multipliers, I can really get behind that stance for these particular SKUs. Pair up a Ryzen 5 with a B350 motherboard which essentially has all the features of the more expensive X370 (minus dual GPU support) and you could have a killer platform on your hands for a seriously affordable price. When Ryzen 3 launches in the second half of this year, expect that value quotient to grow even more.

With Ryzen 5 now officially unveiled before its official launch in typical AMD fashion, weíre starting to get a better idea of Zenís abilities and limitations. Naturally, overclocking headroom (or the lack thereof) will always factor into the equation, as will IPC and standard operating frequencies. Regardless of how these launches are rolled out, it seems like once again AMD is relying on thread counts rather than raw frequencies in an effort to out-value Intelís offerings. Will that actually work, particularly as we get into products that could be more beneficial to gamers and home users rather than professionals? Only time will tell.
 
 

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