Today is an exciting day for PC enthusiasts as we can officially welcome AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series to the market. This launch comes with a lot of promises, including a 19% IPC improvement and industry-leading single thread performance. Make no mistake, if these results hold true, this would turn the desktop CPU space on its head, making AMD the new top dog for gaming, content creation, and performance per dollar. Is it time to upgrade your gaming PC with a new Ryzen CPU?
For our coverage at MMORPG, we’ll be reviewing both the Ryzen 5 5600X and the Ryzen 9 5900X. To better differentiate between this coverage, it will be split into two articles. This article covers the Ryzen 9 5900X. To view our article on the Ryzen 9 5600X, click here. That said, portions of these articles will overlap as we explore the new architecture.
Ryzen 5000 Series – What’s New?
The Ryzen 5000 series represents a major advancement for AMD, reducing latency and substantially increasing performance over last generation’s Zen 2 processors. Spoiler alert: the IPC improvements quoted in AMD’s marketing aren’t bluster. Instead, they’re a result of major design changes in the architecture of the chip.
One of the biggest changes is with how these new CPUs manage their cache. Unlike the Zen 2 architecture, Zen 3 now shares a large pool of L3 cache that is directly accessible by each core. That means, for the Ryzen 9 5900 X, all 12 cores can draw on the full 64MB of L3 cache, reducing the latency of each operation. This change alone results increases the IPC of each processor, particularly for tasks like gaming.
Zen 3 carries with it a number of other advancements, all aimed at decreasing latency and increasing the performance per watt of each respective CPU. On the front end, branch prediction has received significant enhancements that make it faster and better able to recover from mispredictions. The Execution Engine is more capable, with wider floating point and integer capability, and larger execution windows. Load/Store is enhanced with higher bandwidth each and more flexibility within operations.
All of this adds up to much better single-core performance and power efficiency. In fact, the uplift on offer comes with the same TDP or improved TDP as last generation. The Ryzen 9 5950X, 5900X, and 5700X are each quoted at 105 watts each. The Ryzen 5 5600X comes in at only 65 watts, which is more than 30% less than the Ryzen 5 3600X.
In our closed-door presentations, AMD was also keen to point out that memory overclocking is also improved. Thanks to the enhancements made to the core, users should be able to use 4000MHz memory without facing the same performance penalty as with Zen 2. During my testing, I was able to overclock my own Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro memory kit, which came stock at 3600MHz to 4000MHz fairly easily and see a performance improvement first-hand.
For gaming, the Ryzen 5000 series aims to be best in class. The improvements to frequency and latency all carry the weight of improved FPS on their shoulders, lending Zen 3 an advantage that previously resided with Team Blue. At the same time, these enhancements also enhance the multi-threaded workloads that catapulted the Ryzen line to acclaim in the first place. It’s an incredibly compelling offering, only dampened by the slightly increased prices.
That said, those extra savings are mitigated by the continuation of the AM4 socket. If you’re already running an AMD 500 series chipset (X570, B550, A520), you’ll be good to go with just a new CPU.
Ryzen 9 5900X
The Ryzen 9 5900X is the penultimate consumer CPU launching with the Ryzen 5000 series. It features 12 cores and 24 threads, making it a particularly good fit for the “gamers AND” population where users might be gaming AND streaming, editing video, working in CAD, or doing other creative work that would leverage those extra cores. It carries the same core count as last generation’s 3900X but with several meaningful upgrades.
As discussed in the arch section above, the improvements to cache latency a large. While the cache amounts are the same, the restructuring of core communication drastically reduces the time it takes to send data between core complexes.
The Base and Boost frequencies have also received an upgrade. At its base speed, it operates at 3.7GHz, however, with the current generation of Precision Boost (Precision Boost 2, AMD’s auto-overclocking capability) it reliably clocks hovers much closer to its stated Boost Speed of 4.8GHz. It’s a big improvement from the boost behavior of the Ryzen 9 3900X, though you should not count on the processor operating at a locked 4.8GHz just while gaming.
In addition to its rated speeds, the R9 5900X brings with it an expanded amount of PCIe lanes. Each new processor in this line now supports 24 PCIe Gen 4 lanes to support multiple NVMe drives and high-end graphics cards.
AMD Test System: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master Motherboard, Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4-3600 (64GB), Corsair H115i RGB Platinum AIO, Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1000i Power Supply
Intel Test System: ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme, Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4-3600 (64GB), NZXT Kraken X72, Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Power Supply
The test systems used for this performance test were built to be largely symmetrical. I conducted my testing in sequence, bringing components from one machine to the next, formatting the SSD in between the AMD and Intel tests.
The only major change coming from prior tests was the upgrade to Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4-3600 (64GB) kit. Leading up to this launch, Corsair reached out to ask if our test bench could use the upgrade and in capacity and timings, the proposed kit was a better fit. DDR4-3600 MHz is the suggested baseline speed for performance testing, though once tests were done I was fairly easily able to manually overclock this kit to 4000 MHz, something I was unable to reliably do on our previous memory kit across machines. On a purely subjective level, the Vengeance Pro RGB kit is the best looking RGB kit I’ve seen and definitely enhances the look of any mainboard I’ve tested it in.
Otherwise, our test benches are largely the same as our prior CPU tests.
Looking at these results, it’s hard to feel anything other than impressed. The single-core performance improvements are real, meaningful, and put Intel on notice. When it comes to processing workloads, this uplift, as well as the additional two cores versus the Intel 10900K (reviewed here) provide a substantial improvement across the board.
When it comes to gaming, AMD has done well to close the gap. It’s not quite as convincing as I had hoped – there are still cases where Intel has the edge, to be sure – but it’s also so close that it really doesn’t make a meaningful difference. Still, with all of the talk about gaming performance leadership, I had hoped for a more definable lead.
That said, does it matter? Given the relative pricing of the two CPUs ($529 is the cheapest I could find the 10900K at as of this writing), it is absolutely worth buying the Ryzen 9 5900X instead. The improvements to application performance simply leave the 10900K out in the cold. What’s more, as a reviewer, I’m left wondering what exactly Intel can do to remain competitive in the market today. The pace at which AMD has iterated and the generational improvements in a relatively short time make Intel’s progress feel glacial.
There will be a response, without doubt. But will it be enough given the development lead AMD has? That I'm not so sure of. This launch, in other words, may well be the end of an era. AMD is done playing catch up and is now leading the industry.
Thermals and Overclocking
Since the Ryzen 9 5900X is unlocked, the urge to overclock will likely overcome a fair share of gamers. As a high core count, high-frequency CPU, it’s advisable to run under a liquid cooler or larger air cooler if possible. I conducted my testing using the Corsair H115i RGB Platinum all-in-one liquid cooler which features a 280mm radiator, in balanced mode.
The thermal performance of the CPU was decent, coming in at 34C while idle in a room with an ambient temp of 21C. To assess load temperatures, I ran Prime95 (Small FFTs) for 20 minutes to give the liquid in my cooler a chance to warm up and stabilize. The maximum temperature in this setting was 71C.
Overclocking headroom is decent, given the overall core count. After tweaking voltages, I was able to achieve a stable overclock of 4.7GHz with a voltage of 1.39v.
The Ryzen 9 5900X is an outstanding processor. On its own, it is an absolute gaming powerhouse. With 12 cores and 24 threads, however, it’s likely going to be overkill if gaming is all you’re doing. Instead, this is a processor for content creators, multitaskers, and professionals who need that additional power and are willing to pay a premium to get it.
As a user of the 3950X, last generations 16-core, 32-thread beast, I will officially be switching to the 5900X. I didn’t think that would be the case going in, and yes, I’ll be losing a small amount of performance in apps like Adobe Premiere Pro with those four fewer cores. At the same time, the enhancements to single-threaded performance are just too big to pass up and tip the scales officially in favor of Zen 3.
Make no mistake: this launch is a hallmark moment. With the launch of the Ryzen 5000 series, AMD is stepping into the leadership position in the desktop CPU market in a big way. Whether you’re a gamer, creator, or professional, AMD has staked their claim on “performance leadership” and delivered. The crown has changed hands.
The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.