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AMD Ryzen 5 5600X review

The Ryzen 5 5600X may be the runt of the Zen 3 family, but it delivers where it counts most: gaming.

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Awesome gaming performance at a great price, the Ryzen 5 5600X proves how far AMD has come in the last few years.

For

  • Awesome gaming performance
  • Great value for money
  • Wraith Stealth included
  • Decent overclocking potential

Against

  • Needs an AIO for best performance
  • Overclocking does little for gaming

The Ryzen 5 5600X is the most affordable of the Zen 3 family, and comes hot on the heels of our Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 7 5800X reviews. If there's one serious criticism of AMD's Zen 3 so far it's that the chips are a bit on the pricey side. This is less of a problem at the high-end, where time is money and high performance can claw back time, but as you head down the stack and focus more on gaming, the pay off needs to be more immediate. 

Basically a good gaming CPU shouldn't cost as much as a whole system.

Enter then the 5600X. While you couldn't really call $299 a budget CPU, it is a more manageable mainstream price point that has historically seen plenty of competition. Currently you're looking at the likes of the Core i7 10700K, which can be had for around $375, while a more direct comparison can be made with the Core i5 10600K, that will set you back $275. 

As with the other Zen 3 chips, this update to the 3600X has seen a $50 price increase, although unlike the other chips, you do still get a cooler with this one. This gives it the value edge over Intel's offerings (which don't ship with coolers), all other things being equal. 

For testing purposes we've used the included Wraith Stealth cooler as well as benchmarked using the same Zadak Spark AIO liquid cooler that we've used with the other Zen 3 chips we've tested. So you can see what difference you can expect if you do decide to upgrade to an aftermarket chiller.

Ryzen 5 5600X specs

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

(Image credit: AMD)

Ryzen 5 5600X specs

The Ryzen 5 5600X is a six-core, 12-thread processor with a base clock of 3.7GHz and max boost of 4.6GHz. It's built up of a single core complex that has 32MB of L3 cache to call its own, and the same I/O die that can be found in Zen 2. If you want the full lowdown on what makes Zen 3 tick, then it's worth taking a look at the Zen 3 architecture section of our Ryzen 9 5900X review.

Ryzen 5 5600X specs

Cores - 6
Threads - 12
Lithography - TSMC 7nm
Base clock - 3.7GHz
Boost clock - 4.6GHz
L3 Cache - 32MB
Memory support - DDR4 3200MHz
Socket - AM4
TDP - 65W
Cooler - Wraith Stealth
Launch price - $299 |£299

As with the other chips in the Zen 3 family, you'll often see the boost clocks rise above the official 4.6GHz limit. Even using the Wraith Stealth cooler you'll see the cores running at 4,650MHz, and with a water cooler 4.7GHz isn't unheard of. If you're using a fully-threaded application, where all the cores are maxed, then you'll see them top out at 4,175MHz, which is pretty healthy as well.

The 5600X has a 65W TDP, and limits itself to drawing 76W from the socket. That's impressively low for a modern CPU, and means that there is the potential for some overclocking shenanigans if that's your thing. This is an unlocked chip by the way, although you're going to need a decent cooler to really exploit this fact. 

The last thing to note is that the AMD official supports up to 3,200MHz DDR4 RAM, although you'll be able to run much faster memory without issue. The Infinity Fabric runs at 1,800MHz by default, so pairing it with 3,600MHz DDR4 makes sense. There is the potential for a faster Infinity Clock (FCLK) through BIOS updates in the future as well, although AMD isn't guaranteeing this at launch.  

Ryzen 5 5600X performance

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AMD Ryzen 5 5600X CPU benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)
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AMD Ryzen 5 5600X CPU benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)
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AMD Ryzen 5 5600X CPU benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)

Ryzen 5 5600X performance

Test Rig

CPU - AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
Cooler - Zadak Spark AIO / Wraith Stealth
Motherboard - Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master
Memory - 16GB Thermaltake DDR4 @3,600MHz
GPU - Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti
Storage - 2TB Sabrent Rocket PCIe 4.0
PSU - Ikonik Vulcan 1200W

Having looked at the 12-core 5900X and eight-core 5800X, it's a bit of rude awakening to only have access to six cores again. This is still a powerhouse compared to Intel's similarly priced 10600K though, with stronger figures in the X264 video encoding and Cinebench R20 3D rendering benchmarks. In fact the 5600X is closer to Intel's 10700K, which is impressive given that is an eight-core CPU. The Zen architecture really has come on that much.

If you like to pepper your gaming with more serious work, then something higher up the stack is probably where your money should go. The 5900X is a lot more expensive, but it does offer almost double the performance of this chip in rendering and encoding terms. That is because it is essentially two 5600Xs in one package. The gaming performance is the same regardless though…

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Ryzen 5 5600X gaming benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)
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Ryzen 5 5600X gaming benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)
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Ryzen 5 5600X gaming benchmarks

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Ryzen 5 5600X gaming benchmarks

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Ryzen 5 5600X gaming benchmarks

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Ryzen 5 5600X gaming benchmarks

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Ryzen 5 5600X gaming benchmarks

(Image credit: Future)

Which is a nice segue into what we're really interested here: gaming. It's the gaming performance where AMD really impresses, producing figures that take on the top of Intel's processor stack, the 10900K. Yes a chip that costs double what AMD is asking for this. Not in every game to be fair, but overall there's nothing between this $299 CPU and Intel's $599 10-core, 20-thread monster that draws significantly more power and requires a heftier PSU.

Once again the most impressive performance increase over its previous generation is in F1 2019, where the average performance not only increases significantly, but the minimum frame rates also improve. Making for a smoother experience overall. Total War: Three Kingdoms is also a stand out performer, with the averages matching the 10700K, which produces smoother frame rates than the 10900K.

Even at 4K the extra grunt of the 10900K doesn't offer much of an advantage, as can be seen in the Assassin's Creed Odyssey benchmark at 1440p and Far Cry New Dawn at 4K, with the latter highlighting the 2fps difference between Intel's top-end and this $299 CPU. If that isn't great value, I'm not sure what is. 

Ryzen 5 5600X overclocking

Ryzen 5 5600X

(Image credit: Future)

Ryzen 5 5600X overclocking

One of the themes with AMD Zen architecture is that it basically does a great job of handling the power draw, thermals, and core usage to get the most out of the chip. This is one of the reasons that its new CPUs have managed to produce such stellar performance. Conversely it has made overclocking a bit of a non-entity: basically AMD can handle your chip better than you can. This CPU is the exception to the rule.

The Ryzen 5 5600X is a great overclocker. 

This is a 65W chip, as opposed to the other Zen 3 chips which have all been 105W. If you do go for a third-party cooler, such as an all-in-one water cooler, then you can push the chip much harder than the 76W that it limits itself to normally. We managed to set all the cores to 4.7GHz at 1.3V (and possibly more impressively, 4.6GHz at 1.2V was stable too). We'll dig into this a bit more when we get a chance, but faster clocks or lower voltages should be more than possible.

We also found that Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) gives a neat little boost as well, although as ever with overclocking these chips it doesn't seem to have any impact in any of the games—whether you're talking about PBO, Auto OC, or manual overclocking to 4.7GHz. When it comes to more serious tasks it was a bit better news, with X264 seeing a boost from 39fps up to 42fps and Cinebench going from 4,292 pts upto 4,577 pts. Even overclocked the temperatures remained low as well, topping out at 76°C.

I wouldn't recommend overclocking on the bundled cooler though, as I hit 87°C just using PBO. There was a temptation to see how far I could push manual overclocking on the Wraith Stealth, but I have a bit too much respect for that cooler to be so mean to it. It's fine for stock clocks (you'll top out at 72°C under load) and it runs cooler than that in most games, but overclocking is a bit above its paygrade. It is quiet in use by the way, and don't let anyone tell you different. 

Ryzen 5 5600X verdict

Ryzen 5 5600X

(Image credit: AMD)

Ryzen 5 5600X verdict

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X is a surprisingly awesome gaming chip. It's not the monster in serious workloads that the more expensive chips are, but then this does only have six cores and 12 threads to play with. It'll still see you fine if you want to dabble in 3D rendering, video encoding, and the like, but if that's your focus, then you're going to have to spend more. 

It's definitely in gaming where the Ryzen 5 5600X shines. It's comparable to the Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 7 5800X, but it costs significantly less than either of those, rolling in as it does at $299. This is a chip for anyone that enjoys gaming. It'll trade blows with anything Intel has to offer, and keep your graphics card sated.

This is a chip for anyone that enjoys gaming.

The cooler is fine for stock performance, although the way that Precision Boost 2.0 works means that you won't hit the full potential of the 5600X until you throw a beefier cooler at it. This really only matters for serious number crunching, because in testing it didn't hold back game performance at all, which is great news from a value for money perspective.

Overall, this is another win for the Zen 3 architecture and for AMD. Sure it's $50 more than we would have like, but the inclusion of the cooler helps offset this. The more important win is for us gamers: we don't have to pay over the odds for great gaming performance. 

The Verdict
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Awesome gaming performance at a great price, the Ryzen 5 5600X proves how far AMD has come in the last few years.

Alan has spent far too much of his life in World of Warcraft and playing Magic the Gathering to be a normal human being, which is why he has retreated to the warm embrace of gaming hardware.