What The Ryzen 5000 Series Desktop Processor Reviews Say About Its Performance

By Patrick Moorhead - December 16, 2020

In October, AMD launched its newest lineup of desktop CPUs, the Ryzen 5000 Series. The Ryzen 5000 Series, codenamed "Vermeer," is the first CPU line to use AMD's new Zen 3 architecture. AMD has made massive strides in IPC performance with each generation of Ryzen, and I expected this launch to be no different. On the back of Ryzen, AMD has steadily climbed in the desktop CPU market since its introduction in 2017. The processors codenamed "Matisse" often beat Intel's best in many (not all) multithreaded and productivity workloads but fell short in gaming performance. The gaming performance losses were marginal, but in the gaming space, semiconductor companies take great pride in being able to say, "we have the best gaming CPU available." Many serious gamers want the absolute best and don't mind paying a premium to get it. 

With this launch's goals clear, analysts, reviewers, and press alike waited in anticipation to see if AMD could take the gaming crown from Intel and continue winning in multithread workloads and it had been a long time since AMD has held the gaming crown over Intel. I suspected this launch could bring the title back to AMD, and according to AMD's internal numbers presented at launch, it did. I don't doubt AMD's launch claims, but I waited until credible 3rd party reviews came out to provide my analysis on the launch.

Ryzen 5000 Series

Specs and pricing 

The new AMD Ryzen, 5000 Series processors come in 4 different options within the stack. With prices ranging from $299.99 to $749.99, a Ryzen CPU can surely fit any system builder's budget. The entry-level part is the Ryzen 5 5600X with 6 cores and 12 threads, 65W TDP, up to 4.6GHz boost clock, and 35MB of Cache at $299.99. It's worth mentioning that the 5600X is the only CPU in the 5000 Series lineup to come standard with a Wraith Stealth cooler. There are plenty of great air coolers on the market, but I would recommend a water cooler for the best performance. The Ryzen 7 5800X has 8 cores and 16 threads, 105W TDP, up to 4.7GHz max boost clock, and 36MB of Cache, at $449.99. The Ryzen 9 5900X has 12 cores and 24 threads, 105W TDP, up to 4.8GHz max boost clock, and 70MB of Cache at $549.99. The halo SKU in the stack is the Ryzen 9 5950X, which has 16 cores and 32 threads, 105W TDP, up to 4.9GHz max boost clock, and 72MB of Cache, at $749.99. With Ryzen 5000 Series, AMD offers a vast range of processor performance and price variations for DIY system builders looking to build their next gaming rig. As PC gaming becomes more and more popular, being able to address every price point is essential. I believe at the $299.99 price point, AMD will likely sell a boatload of the Ryzen 5 5600X. Now that we have covered processor specs and pricing let's look at what reviewers had to say about the Ryzen 5000 Series. 

Reviews we looked at: 

Below are the Ryzen 5000 Series reviews that we analyzed. 

For a complete look at the Ryzen 5000 Series reviews, you can follow the links provided above. Let's dig into the results. 

Gaming performance 

On Ryzen 5000 Series launch day, AMD advertised a whopping 19% IPC increase from its previous generation Ryzen 3000 Series desktop parts. That is the most significant IPC increase we have seen in a single generation of Ryzen since introducing the Zen architecture back in 2017. IPC or instructions per clock is synonymous with single threaded performance. Single-threaded performance impacts things like web browsing, productivity apps, and especially gaming performance. If you game on PC, you know how much single-threaded performance matters and its impact on frame rates. AMD got close to Intel in single-threaded performance with Ryzen 3000 Series but fell short of Intel's best, the i9-9900K and 10900K. Ryzen 5000 Series seems to have turned those numbers on its head. 

According to the reviews that I have read, gaming performance seems to favor Ryzen 5000 Series for the most part. Most of the reviewers paired the Ryzen 5000 Series with a 2080ti founder edition card for the testing duration. The games tested included but were not limited to Red Dead Redemption II, Counter-Strike Global Offense, Far Cry New Dawn, Deux Ex Mankind Divided, GTA V, and several others. The results were consistent across the board, with Ryzen taking the cake, usually by single digit percentage points. This win may not seem like a big deal, but it is the first time in a long time that AMD holds the gaming edge over Intel. As an analyst and raising a gamer son, I have learned that many gamers chose their CPU solely based on it being the best available for gaming. Even if that part loses vastly in other workloads, having the best for gaming matters. 

Gordon Mah Ung from PCWorld summed up the significance of the gaming win with the following statement, "If it doesn't seem like a big deal to be basically slightly faster to about the same as the Core i9, you have to remember that AMD hasn't beaten Intel in gaming ever. It's a huge accomplishment for the company. Like single-threaded performance victories in productivity applications, Ryzen 9 basically does everything Core i9 can do—except it can do it better."

Ryzen 5000 Series

Content creation performance 

Content creation is a use case that Ryzen desktop parts have historically performed well on since introduction. Content creation workloads take many shapes and utilize various tools and software that stress a CPU's multithreaded performance. There are many benchmarks to test video encoding, transcoding, photo editing, and file compression. The reviews we looked at most cited Handbrake, Adobe Premiere PudgetBench, 7-Zip, Blender, POV-Ray, and Cinebench R20 1T and nT as the content creation benchmarks of choice. The wins for Ryzen 5000 Series usually stretch into the double digits, and some being closer to double the performance of the comparable Intel CPU. The content creation wins aren't a massive shock, but with Intel and AMD being close to gaming performance, the dominance of Ryzen in multithreaded workloads could sway a customer to a Ryzen CPU. I see this as incredibly valuable for users looking to game, stream, and create all on a single platform without having to comprise performance on one of those workloads. If AMD can continue to offer more cores and threads at similar price points, it will be tough to beat AMD in content creation in the short term. AMD’s blind spot is machine learning performance, but until those get more fully utilized by reviewers and implemented more in application software, Intel isn’t getting as much credit here as it deserves. 

Wrapping up

I believe AMD accomplished what it set out to do with this launch, continue winning big in multithread while simultaneously taking the gaming crown from Intel. It's great to see the Zen 3 architecture in action. The architecture was long-awaited and received well by press and analysts. More than anything, it signifies that AMD will continue to make performance gains across desktop, notebook, and server as it continues to launch Zen 3 parts. 

A couple of weeks following the launch, demand for the Ryzen 5000 Series has been strong, resulting in most e-tailer and retail partners selling out of Ryzen 5000 Series CPUs. AMD needs to make hay while it can and drive end users into the AMD ecosystem. With Rocket Lake desktop processors coming soon, AMD's single-threaded advantage may be short-lived, but only time will tell. It is more important now than ever when considering AMD also recently launched its Radeon RX 6000 Series high-end GPUs, pairing well with Ryzen 5000 Series CPUs. With Ryzen 5000 Series and Radeon RX 6000 Series, it is the first time in the last decade that AMD can power a top-tier gaming rig with a high-performance CPU and GPU. Great job to the AMD team for bringing a tremendous amount of competition and performance to the gaming market. 

Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article. 

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.