The Zen 3 Update (Ryzen 5000 Series CPUs)

AMD and Intel have been the desktop CPU duopoly for as long as we can remember, with the mantle of “best CPU manufacturer” having been worn by both. From about 2005 to 2017, Intel was king. AMD’s Ryzen series began stealing the multi-threaded marketshare with the launch of a large number of high-core-count CPUs at a moderate price. These CPUs did not make AMD the “best CPU manufacturer” though, since single-threaded performance was still behind.

Numerically, 2017 was 3 years ago, but the numbers do not match the emotion: 2017 feels like it was in the Dark Ages. Many centuries have passed since the year 2017, and AMD has been improving. With each revision¬†to the Ryzen family, AMD’s multi-threaded superiority was extended, and Intel’s single-threaded lead was diminished.

With Intel stubbornly refusing to abandon the 14nm process that has been (reportedly) in use since the times of Genghis Khan, this day had to come. Intel’s single-threaded dominance is over, for no king can rule forever.

Performance of the Ryzen 5000 CPUs

Today is the launch of AMD’s Zen 3 CPUs, with four 7nm chip models being available: the R9 5950X, R9 5900X, R7 5800X, and R5 5600X. These are 16, 12, 8, and 6-core CPUs, respectively, all with hyper-threading enabled. When you have 16 cores and 32 threads at your disposal, your multi-threaded performance should be off the charts, and Zen 3 does not disappoint. But this is hardly news, as AMD has been dominant in multi-threaded tasks since the launch of their first-gen Ryzen offerings. What we all want to know is: How about that single-threaded performance? Has AMD done it at last?

Well, take a look at the chart on the right!

After many years, many revisions, and copious quantities of quality engineering, AMD has finally unambiguously beaten Intel in single-threaded performance. Three of the new chips (both of the R9 options and the R7 5800X) come out ahead of the i9-10900K.

With this launch, AMD has become the undisputed new champion, beating its rival in all areas. Whether it is single- or multi-threaded performance, power consumption, efficiency, or performance/dollar… AMD is in the lead. After today’s changes are implemented, a short half-decade or so since our chart was almost exclusively populated by Intel CPUs, our charts are going to be AMD from top-to-bottom.

Caveats to the Excellence of the CPUs

Ah, but Intel and AMD are two real companies in the real world, not rivals locked in mortal kombat, and there is no such thing as a flawless victory in the real world. There are a few issues with this launch that a buyer should be aware of:

  1. AMD is charging a small price premium for these new CPUs, compared to the launch prices of comparable CPUs in the past.
  2. The BIOS that supports these new CPUs has been out for about 2 months now. If the motherboard you are buying was manufactured before then, you’ll need to flash it. If you are buying just the CPU, then you need to make sure your motherboard and BIOS support the new CPU before installation.
  3. As with other hardware launches in the Year of the New Black Plague (a.k.a. 2020), these CPUs were sold out within minutes of launch. If you want them, you are going to have to wait for stock.

That wraps up our coverage of the Ryzen 5XXX series launch. We will be waiting for more Zen 3 CPUs, hopefully in the lower price brackets.

Changelog

Excellent tier:

  • CPU: AMD R5 5600X
  • HSF: Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4

Outstanding tier:

  • CPU: AMD R5 5600X

Exceptional tier:

  • CPU: AMD R7 5800X
  • HSF: Noctua NH-D15 SE-AM4

Enthusiast tier:

  • CPU: AMD R9 5900X
  • HSF: Noctua NH-D15 SE-AM4

Extremist tier:

  • CPU: AMD R9 5950X

These changes are live in the US list, and will roll out to other countries as the CPUs become available there.

Sources

(Many thanks to the people at these subreddits for collating these:)

Motherboard Addendum

Some of you may be curious about the mobos we recommend; are they BIOS compatible?

Asus:

ASRock:

Gigabyte:

As shown in the official links above, all of them, for the last two months, are compatible. There will be an issue if someone purchases a motherboard that was manufactured prior to September, but there is nothing that can be done about that, as there is no new chipset with these new CPUs.