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AMD just unveiled its much-anticipated desktop line of CPUs based on the latest Zen 3 architecture. Rumors about the next-gen 5000-series processors have been swirling for some time now, and AMD’s official announcement finally cleared all the clouds from the crystal ball and put an end to the speculations.

AMD has been on a roll lately, slowly chipping away at its competitor’s market share with its Zen line of desktop and mobile processors. Making good on its promise to disrupt the market, AMD delivered highly competitive products that contributed to its resurgence.

Not resting on its laurels, AMD decided to shift its focus to challenge Intel’s dominance in gaming performance while still increasing its lead in productivity workloads. AMD claims that the new chips sporting the Zen 3 architecture have a higher single-threaded rating, improved power efficiency, and better overall performance than the previous generation and the competition.

New Ryzen Mainstream Processor Lineup

The new members of the Ryzen desktop family of processors are the Ryzen 9 5950X, Ryzen 9 5900X, Ryzen 7 5800X, and the Ryzen 5 5600X. At the top of the heap is the 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X, which has a max boost clock of 4.9 GHz. Next up is the Ryzen 9 5900, a 12-core, 32-thread processor with a boost frequency of 4.8 GHz. Down the stack is the 8-core, 16-thread Ryzen 7 5800X, capable of boosting up to 4.7 GHz. Capping the list is the Ryzen 5 5600X, which sports six cores, 12 threads, and a max boost clock of 4.6 GHz.

The new processors will hit the shelves on November 5th. This time around, AMD decided to increase the price of the new chips across the board. The Ryzen 9 5950X, 5900X, 5800X, and 5600X are 6.25% more expensive than their predecessors on launch day. Although the price hike is a bit hard to swallow, the new processors’ performance is so promising that it may justify the increased pricing.

ModelCores/ ThreadsTDPBase Clock Boost ClockCache 
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X16C/32T105W3.4 GHzUp to 4.9 GHz72 MB
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X12C/24T105W3.7 GHzUp to 4.8 GHz70 MB
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X8C/16T105W3.8 GHzUp to 4.7 GHz36 MB
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X6C/12T65W3.7 GHzUp to 4.6 GHz35 MB

The change in the naming scheme is a relief. AMD’s previous nomenclature for their mobile and desktop CPUs caused widespread confusion due to their lack of uniformity. Zen+ APUs such as the 3400G and 3200G use the same naming scheme as the Zen 2-based 3000-series CPUs. To muddle things a bit more, mobile and desktop APUs such as the 4800H and 4700G are designated 4000-series chips despite being based on the Zen 2 architecture.

AMD seeks to clear the generational confusion this time around by branding all CPU models of the same generation in a single naming format. This move not only does away with the confusion, but it also eliminates the possibility of misleading consumers.

Ground-up Architecture

Physically, the new chips are identical to the previous generation. The mainstream processors sport the same 7nm process and multi-chip layout, which was first implemented in Zen 2. The physical similarities, however, end there. AMD redesigned the core complex (CCX) of the 5000-series chiplets to have a unified 32MB L3 cache. AMD claims that this layout improves core-to-core communication and performance due to reduced latency.

We’ve seen this configuration before with the Ryzen 3 3300X, where it outperformed the Ryzen 3100 even if both chips sported the same 4-core 8-thread config. The 3100 used two core complexes, each with two cores and a dedicated 8MB L3 cache. The 3300X, on the other hand, employed the unified cache approach, using a single 4-core CCX with a unified 16MB cache.

AMD notes that Zen 3 is an entirely new microarchitecture and not an optimized version of its predecessor. AMD claims a 19% IPC improvement across all applications over the previous generation. If true, this is a massive uplift within a single generation without moving on to the next process node. What’s even more impressive is that AMD made these improvements within a year after releasing Zen 2.

The huge IPC gains of the 5000-series CPUs can also be attributed to the bump in base and boost frequencies. The 5900X and 5600X feature a 100Mhz boost clock increase from the previous generation. This slight increase in the single-core boost clocks is especially useful for gaming and single-threaded workloads.

It’s also interesting to note that the 5800X has the same 4.7 GHz boost frequency but a lower base clock than its 3800XT predecessor. It would be interesting to see just how much of an improvement Zen 3 has over the older architecture by comparing the similarly-clocked chips.

Another noticeable improvement of the 5000-series is on power consumption. AMD stated that the new chips are 24% more efficient than the previous generation despite using the same 7nm process. While new chips still have the same TDP as their predecessors, AMD managed to squeeze extra performance out of the chips, increasing their performance per watt ratings.

Productivity and Gaming Performance

It is important to note that AMD’s first-party benchmarks should be taken with a grain of salt until independent reviewers can validate the numbers. Overall, the graphs show favorable productivity and gaming performance of the 5900XT over its 3900XT predecessor and the competition’s i9-10900K.

AMD took a shot at Intel by pitting the 5900X and the 5950X against the competition’s i9-10900K flagship. To AMD’s credit, the performance graphs were not misleading or skewed in a way to heavily favor its new chips. Nor did AMD use benchmarks that are optimized to harness the full potential of the Zen architecture.

To recap, AMD presented a 10-game performance benchmark on 1080p at high image quality preset using a GTX 2080 Ti and DDR4 3600. The graphs show that the 5900X is 25.7% faster on average than the 3900X while being 6.8% quicker than the i9-10900K using the same configuration.

As for productivity workloads, AMD showcased the 5900X breaking the 600-point mark at 631 points on the Cinebench R20 single-thread benchmark. AMD has been playing catch-up to Intel for some time now when it comes to single-thread performance. The 5900X just scored 631 in the Cinibench single thread test while running at 4.8GHz turbo. If this result is accurate, AMD now holds the single-thread performance crown, depriving Intel of its last major advantage.

For content creation, AMD claims that the 5950X 13% faster than the 10900K in Adobe Premier, a 6% lead in SolidWorks, and a whopping 59% advantage in V-Ray. Again, these figures come from AMD and need further validation from third-party reviewers.

Motherboard Support

The Ryzen 5000 series CPUs will still use the old but reliable AM4 platform. The new processors will run out of the box on X570 and B550 motherboards with the latest AGESA 1.0.8.0 BIOS or newer. A subsequent update, the AGESA 1.1.0.0, will be available on November 5th for full support of the new hardware.

It can be recalled that AMD initially decided to cut Zen 3 support on X470 and B450 motherboards. This move was met with disapproval by the PC community. AMD gave in to the pressure, and to its credit, eventually decided to support the older 400-series motherboards. That said, the BIOS update is still in the works and is expected to roll out on January 2021.

The backward compatibility support for X470 and B450 boards is excellent news to owners who want to upgrade their existing processor without buying a new motherboard. It’s a step in the opposite direction from Intel’s practice of not supporting backward chipset compatibility from Comet Lake processors onwards. However, AMD made it clear that Zen 3 supports ends with the 400-series chipsets. So don’t expect compatibility updates for X370, B350, and A320 motherboards.

Of the four Ryzen CPUs, only the 5600X will come with a box cooler. As per AMD’s spec sheet, the cooler is the Wraith Stealth, the most basic of AMD’s existing cooling solutions. AMD deemed this cooler sufficient for the 5600X’s 65W TDP. The same cannot be said for the 5950X, 5900X, and 5800X. AMD recommends beefier cooling solutions to cool the 105W TDP parts effectively.

Radeon 6000 Sneak Peek

Not letting its new CPUs getting all the limelight, AMD also teased its upcoming Radeon 6000 series GPUs codenamed Big Navi. Without fully getting into the details of next-gen GPUs, AMD’s Dr. Lisa Su showed a demo using the Borderlands 3 built-in benchmark on a 5900X-based testbed.

The unnamed 6000-series card churned out an average of 61 FPS at 4K on Badass Quality. Dr. Su also showed 4K performance numbers for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Gears of War 5. Both games were run at Ultra Quality with the Big Navi card running CoD:MW at 88 FPS and Gears 5 at 73 FPS.

Regardless of these numbers from AMD, the actual performance of the upcoming cards remains to be seen. Initial numbers show promising 4K gaming performance, but we hope that the new Radeons live up to the hype and not be another disappointment. We’ll know more about the new cards on the 28th when AMD officially launches the 6000-series.

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