It is hard to imagine but it has now been more than two years since AMD rocked the CPU industry with the release of their “Zen 1.0” based Ryzen 1000 series. In the interim, AMD did release a minor refresh in the form of the ‘Zen+” Ryzen 2000 series (dubbed by many as Zen 1.5) that brought a fabrication nod size reduction (12nm instead of 14nm), as well as some under the hood modifications to make the Zen processor design more efficient. The Ryzen 2000 was indeed a nice, and much needed, upgrade to AMD’s lineup. However even the Ryzen 2000 models were intended to simply bring CPU performance parity back to the marketplace and allow AMD to compete against Intel in more than just the ‘value’ end of the marketplace. Mostly it did this by being both less expensive and offering more cores than Intel’s mainstream / non-HEDT processor options.
Recently AMD released the all new Zen 2 based Ryzen 3000 series and this time has a rather ambitious goal in mind: market dominance. Today we will be focusing in on the more typical ‘every man’ option of their new Ryzen lineup. The Ryzen 3600X, which offers 6 cores / 12 Threads, running at 3.8 to 4.4GHz, and yet only has an MSRP of $249 US. This processor certainly is not a Ryzen 3000-series with the highest core count (Ryzen R9 3950X with 16 cores and 32 threads), the fastest Ryzen 3000 CPU (also the 3950X with single core boost rating of 4.7Ghz), nor even the least expensive (Ryzen 3 1200 with an MSRP of $109 USD). Instead the 5 3600X sits right in the middle of the lineup with a relatively low asking price and yet high (enough) core count. This is generally the sweet spot most people call ‘value’, and its overall value is meant to take buyers away from Intel’s largest consumer CPU market: you the average buyer who use a system for everything from ‘gaming’ to ‘work’ related tasks.
AMD intends to do this by not only capitalizing on Intel’s ongoing fabrication woes, but by making a CPU that is simply more efficient than ever before. Yes, for the first time since the days of AMD’s X2 series, AMD is focused not in on competing against Intel but beating them. Beating them at their own game. Beating them by not concentrating on shear frequency scaling, or number of cores, but on Instructions Per Clock cycle. Strip away all the fancy marketing and if you have two competing products running at the same speed, the one that can offer more IPC’s will be the ‘faster’ processor. This is especially true of PC games and other single, or low, thread count applications.
Ryzen 1.0 and Ryzen 2.0 did indeed make great strides to get to parity, but there was still the equivalent of a couple hundred MHz handicap on Zen 1 and Zen 1+ designs compared to Intel’s latest and greatest. Thanks to Intel and their lackluster IPC improvements in the past couple generations, AMD saw this as an opportunity and thus Zen 2 was born. We will go over not only how they obtained IPC improvements, upwards of 15 percent, but also how these improvements translate to real-world benefits. Specifically, how they compare to AMD’s last Ryzen 5 series and Intel 8 and 9 series. If Zen 2 can indeed deliver on its promises, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X may just become the default processor to buy for large swaths of the buying public. A processor that offers excellent single threaded performance, enough horsepower for heavily threaded applications and yet only set buyers back less than $250…. which on paper certainly sounds like an excellent way to redefine value.