AMD's affordable Ryzen 5 CPUs arrive April 11 starting at $169

After struggling for years to again compete with Intel in the high-end CPU market, AMD seems to have finally found solid footing in Ryzen, which should serve the company well for at least the next couple of generations. In the meantime, AMD is not finished releasing its first generation Ryzen parts. In just a few weeks—April 11, to be exact—AMD's Ryzen 5 series will make a retail debut.

There will be four Ryzen 5 series processors to choose from, including two 4-core/8-thread models and two 6-core/12-thread chips. Have a look:

These are more affordable options than the first batch of Ryzen 7 series CPUs AMD launched. Like those higher-end chips, these all support simultaneous multi-threading (SMT), more commonly known as Hyper-Threading in Intel-speak. While AMD's Ryzen 5 processors have fewer cores than its Ryzen 7 series, they're all clocked at 3.2GHz or higher.

Here's rundown of how they compare:

  • Ryzen 7 1800X: 8 cores, 16 threads, 16MB L3, 3.6GHz to 4GHz, $499
  • Ryzen 7 1700X: 8 cores, 16 threads, 16MB L3, 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz, $399
  • Ryzen 7 1700: 8 cores, 16 threads, 16MB L3, 3GHz to 3.7GHz, $329
  • Ryzen 5 1600X: 6 cores, 12 threads, 16MB L3, 3.6GHz to 4GHz, $249
  • Ryzen 5 1600: 6 cores, 12 threads, 16MB L3, 3.2GHz to 3.6GHz, $219
  • Ryzen 5 1500X: 4 cores, 8 threads, 16MB L3, 3.5GHz to 3.7GHz, $189
  • Ryzen 5 1400: 4 cores, 8 threads, 8MB L3, 3.2GHz to 3.4GHz, $169

There are some intriguing options there. The Ryzen 5 1600X has two fewer cores than the Ryzen 7 1800X, but it's clocked the same and costs half the price at $249.

The Ryzen 5 1500X is also an interesting product. It's a quad-core part with a 100MHz faster base and 100MHz slower boost than the Ryzen 7 1700X, and also around half the price ($189 versus $399). The 1500X also has 16MB L3 cache and a 200MHz XFR range, more than any other Ryzen CPU to date.

The Ryzen 5 1600X has a 95W TDP; the other three are 65W. AMD informed us that the 6-core Ryzen parts have symmetrically disabled cores, so three cores in each module remain active, with the full 16MB L3 cache. The 1500X also includes a full 16MB L3 cache, with two cores in each CCX module active, while the 1500 has half the L3 cache disabled as well.

That means the Ryzen 5 CPUs are all using the same die as the Ryzen 7, just with fewer cores. They support AMD's Extended Frequency Range (XFR) technology, which means they'll clock even higher than their boost specs in some situations, and they feature other Ryzen highlights such as Precision Boost and Smart Prefetch.

AMD's Ryzen 5 processors also come with unlocked multipliers, just as the Ryzen 7 lineup does. One thing we don't know, however, is how well they'll actually overclock. They might overclock a bit higher than the 3.9-4.0GHz we managed with Ryzen 7. However, given all the parts are using the same die it sounds like they might clock 100-200MHz higher at most.

Regardless of overclocking chops, AMD sees its Ryzen 5 processors disrupting the market. According to AMD, twice as many people buy sub-$300 processors versus those that spend over $300 on a CPU. The company is especially hoping for its Ryzen 5 series to be a disruptive force among gamers and creators seeking a high price-to-performance ratio.

To drive the point home, AMD says its Ryzen 5 1600X is up to 69 percent faster than Intel's Core i5-7600K (Kaby Lake) in Cinebench (multithreaded). Both are priced at $249. AMD's Cinebench claims have been pretty accurate up to this point, it's the gaming performance that is in question. Here is what our own Jarred Walton had to say on the matter:

"For PC gamers, the message is decidedly mixed. Yes, there are a few games where Ryzen performs quite well, but without the SMT tweaks there isn't a single title where Ryzen 1800X can beat the i7-7700K. I'm also not that sold on the Twitch streaming sales pitch, since both AMD and Nvidia (and Intel for that matter) can do accelerated encoding of video without overloading the CPU. If you're serious about getting the best quality encoding going with your Twitch broadcasts, Ryzen is worth a look, but that's about as far as I'd take it."

AMD counters that gaming performance will improve over time as developers start to take advantage of Ryzen's features, and it's worth mentioning that its AM4 platform is brand-spanking-new as well. As the platform matures, performance should improve. We're still awaiting additional BIOS/firmware/driver improvements.

The last thing to cover here are the cooling solutions. Three of the Ryzen 5 CPUs will come with Wraith coolers. The Ryzen 5 1400 gets a short version (Wraith Stealth) geared toward low noise, while the Ryzen 5 1500X and 1600 both are bundled with a taller Wraith Spire cooler. Like the Ryzen 7 1800X and 1700X, we presume the Ryzen 5 1600X will not ship with a cooler. Note that unlike the Ryzen 7 boxed coolers, the Ryzen 5 coolers will not include LED lighting.

With availability slated for April 11, we're excited to see how well the Ryzen 5 parts perform. Even if clockspeeds and gaming performance are a bit lower than Intel's CPUs, there's a lot to be said for a 6-core/12-thread part for half the price of the i7-6800K. We'll have the full review of Ryzen 5 next month.