Whether you choose a Ryzen 5 processor or a Ryzen 7 depends on your needs and your budget, but it’s a mistake to think it’s as simple as the Ryzen 7 being necessarily ‘better’ just because it has more cores and costs more money.
It’s also a mistake to think that because it has fewer cores and a slower clock speed, the Ryzen 5 range is in any way ‘underpowered.’ The recently released Ryzen 5 5600X can take on Intel’s leading chip in its range, the i9-10900K, win on points and then reveal its superpower – it costs around half as much as the Intel.
But let’s compare and see which range is better for gaming.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
The 95W TDP is fairly high, especially when you consider the 3700x is only 65W
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Cores and Threads
With the Ryzen 7, there’s a single simple headline on cores and threads. 8 cores, 16 threads, all the way from the 1000 series 1700 to the most recently released 5800X.
The Ryzen 5 is more of a spectrum when it comes to cores and threads. The mainstay of the range, including the 5600X, gives you 6 cores and 12 threads all day long. That’s certainly the bulk of the range, though even as recently as the 3000 series, AMD was putting out processors like the 3400G, which had just 4 cores and 8 threads.
Certainly, the future of the Ryzen 5 looks wedded to a minimum of the 6/12 format – not least because it will need to stay competitive in the gaming world which will move on ruthlessly and fast.
Right now, hexacore CPUs are great for all-round use and most gaming. But as the Ryzen 7 range and its direct competitors push on into octal core technology – assuming single-core performance improves along with it, the Ryzen 5 range may find itself outmatched for more intense gameheads.
Clock speed is where you might expect to find some difference, between the two CPU ranges. In the 5000 series, for instance, the Ryzen 5 5600X gets you a base clock speed of 3.7 GHz, with a boost of 4.6 GHz, while the Ryzen 7 5800X clocks in at 3.8 GHz base, and 4.7 GHz boost.
That means there’s very little difference in the potential clock speeds of the most modern additions to the range. If this helps to take the disappointment out of the news, there’s very little difference in base clock speed even if you upgrade to the new Ryzen 9 5950X. It may have 16 cores and 32 threads, but it still runs a base clock speed of 3.4 GHz, with just a 4.9 GHz boost.
Whatever the clock speeds across the Ryzen 5 and the Ryzen 7 ranges, one important factor is overclocking. So, how high can you overclock these processors? And is it worth it?
It may have been worth it in the past. Certainly, the Ryzen 5 3600X has been a favorite of gamers who overclocked their CPUs. Those users then had to watch their Thermal Design Point and the power of their internal cooling system to make sure their overclock wasn’t unstable. Is it worth it on the newer Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs? It may be. We’re still waiting for official bench testing figures, but some users have reported overclocking their Ryzen 7 5800X to the full 4.8 GHz while gaming.
Single-core speed is the friend of gamers everywhere – it’s a top performance criterion that translates to smoother gameplay. It’s true to say that in single-core speed, the Ryzen 5 range and the Ryzen 7 are not really competing against one another, but against similar market leading CPUs by other chipmakers.
In the Ryzen 5 and the Ryzen 7, the single-core speed has always been at least reasonably good, though there’s been some drop-off in more recent iterations.
There are signs though that any single-core speed missteps are on their way into the recycle bin of history, because the 5000 series single-core speeds are in, and they’re impressive.
The Ryzen 5 5600X has been recorded with a single-core speed of 258cb. The Ryzen 7 5800X has recorded single-core speeds of 257cb.
So, in terms of comparing the two most recent additions to the ranges, it’s close enough to make astonishingly little difference, with the Ryzen 5 taking at least technical glory.
Importantly though, the Ryzen 7 single-core speed is a vast improvement on anything in its previous series. More importantly still, both results beat out Intel’s Core 10900K processor on single-core performance. (Bear in mind that the Ryzen 5 doesn’t directly compete in the same market as the 10900K, but the 10600k). The statistic that will have gamers’ mouths watering most though is that single-core speeds like these will deliver in the region of 19% IPC (instructions per cycle) improvement.
Faster is always better when it comes to IPC; it’s equivalent to how many coherent ‘thoughts’ your core can have, so a boost like this makes both the Ryzen 5 and the Ryzen 7 shine. And probably, if we’re honest, makes Intel cry to bartenders about how their motherboards don’t understand them anymore.
Why the increase over previous series? Could have something to do with the Zen 3 architecture redesign. OK, let’s not be coy, it has everything to do with the Zen 3 architecture redesign, and the Compute Die shuffle.
Previous AMD CPUs, in the relatively recent 3000 series, were based around Zen 2 processors. In the Zen 3, each Compute Die contained a couple of Core Complexes. Inside each of the Core Complexes were 4 cores and 16MB of L3 cache.
That design had its advantages, but the downside was that when running single-core – and again, most gaming runs on single-core speed – you only had direct access to that 16MB of L3 cache. If you needed more, you had to go outside the Core Complex, which caused a latency in the processing speed.
The Zen 3 redesign puts 8 cores in each of the Core Complexes, and each of them has direct access to 32MB of L3. That’s an instant doubling of direct access L3 cache per Core Complex between the 3000 series and the 5000 series. Double the cache, reduce the latency. That’s the quantum leap that has let the single-core speed numbers for the 5000 series of AMD processors zoom past Intel and genuinely rattle the market. All the while, gamers are rubbing their sweaty palms with excitement – maybe not for now, but for the potential impact such a doubling of accessible cache has on future game development.
Oh, and one last thing. While the real headline here is in the single-core speed results, the same test also showed the Ryzen 7 5800X nailing some serious playability numbers in multi-core speeds too, suggesting that the Zen 3 redesign has begun to break down the single-core optimization barrier that has made those single-core numbers so crucial in the past.
We’ve already broken the headline for you on cache, particularly when it comes to the 5000 series of Ryzen CPUs. In previous iterations, up to and including the 3000 series, AMD struggled to break the 16MB cache-per-core barrier.
The Zen 3 architectural redesign has solved that problem, at least for the foreseeable future, and both the Ryzen 5 5600X and the Ryzen 7 5800X come with a 32 MB L3 cache per core, meaning you can access game memory faster, for smoother moves, faster reactions and less in-game glitching.
PCIe: As part of the rebuilding process of Zen 3, the 5000 series Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 CPUs both support the latest evolution of PCIe, PCLe 4, on X570 and B550 motherboards. PCIe 4 allows rapid information transfer (16GB/s) between solid-state drives and high-powered graphics cards. While PCIe 4.0 has yet to fully come into its own, fitting it now will futureproof your set-up for some years – its predecessor system, PCIe 3 (which transferred up to 8GB/s), was in full-on use for over a decade.
Precision Boost 2: Remember the Extended Frequency Range automatic overclocker? Meet the new version. Available on all 5000 series Ryzen PCUs or newer, it will help you maximize the efficiency of your processor, though you will need to configure it first.
Precision Boost Overdrive: This is exactly what it sounds like. While Precision Boost 2 automatically overclocks you within safe tolerances on a more or less permanent basis, Precision Boost Overdrive is the technological equivalent of a big red turbo boost button. It will increase the clock speeds of selected cores temporarily, over AMD’s stated clock speeds. It’s available on the Series 5000 Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors, and we’d be prepared to bet good folding money that nothing else on this page has made you want one more.
So what does all the technology, all the cleverness, and Zen 3 rebuilding amount to in terms of the gameplaying experience? Generally, the Ryzen 7 3700X slightly exceeds the performance of the Ryzen 5, but if you don’t want to pay the extra difference for the Ryzen 7 3700X, the Ryzen 5 3600X is still an excellent option that will provide you with the results you need.
Even if it isn’t the reason you were looking at this particular processor, it is hard to argue with the Ryzen 5 3600X’s backward motherboard compatibility. This, combined with multithreading support, makes this processor a great choice, especially for those who are thinking about the future of PC gaming.
It is no secret that Ryzen 7 processors are excellent performers and that they are a step-up from their predecessors, especially with features like extra cores and threads. Where the Ryzen 7 has 8 cores and 16 processing threads, the Ryzen 5 has a slightly lower amount of 6 cores and 12 processing threads.
A CPU core is a CPU’s processor. In the beginning, processors only had one core each that was only able to handle one task at a time. With newer processors, they usually have between 2 and eighteen cores that are each able to work on different tasks. When one core is busy, another will jump in to handle the next task, so the higher the number of cores, the more efficient the processor will be.
For gaming purposes, the likelihood is that you will need at least four cores in your processor to handle playing games. The fact that the Ryzen 5 has six cores highlights that it is more than efficient enough to handle running high-end games. This means that with eight cores, the Ryzen 7 can handle gaming even better.
Both of these processors use a process called multithreading, which means that the cores can be split into virtual cores, which are also called threads. So, AMD processors with six cores can use multithreading to provide twelve threads. This allows the processor to run much faster and handle running more tasks at once.
While there may not be that much of a difference between the two processors, the Ryzen 7 can simply run that much faster than the Ryzen 5.
We began with some straightforward stereotypes about the Ryzen 5 range and the Ryzen 7, based on the simplest of numbers – the Ryzen 7 5000 series has more cores, more threads, and a higher price, therefore it must be for the hardcore gamers, while the Ryzen 5 is more general use with some gaming along the way.
But the truth about the 5000 series of AMD CPUs is more complex. Because the Zen 3 architecture rebuild was applied to both CPUs, there’s much less to separate them than any straightforward banner headline would like there to be. Yes, in very general terms, if you want a more intense gaming experience, the Ryzen 7 probably takes you there, with its octal cores and its phenomenal single-core speeds.
But the Ryzen 5 refuses at any point to be shaken off just because it has fewer cores and threads, and because it’s financially suited to budget gamers. Time after time, the 5 is right there with the 7, often just a nose ahead of the more core-heavy CPU. So unless you feel you’d benefit in the longer term from having more cores as game developers work to use more of them, the Ryzen 5, in its 5000 series guise, looks set to stay close to, if not at the top of its game.