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AMD Ryzen: 8-core chips will cost half as much as Intel

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AMD Ryzen 5 Revealed: Specs, performance and launch date details

After launching its flagship Ryzen 7 processors at the start of the month, AMD has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons with its impressive-sounding mid-range Ryzen 5 chips, which look like a potential Intel Core i5 rival.

After AMD managed to partially usurp Intel at the enthusiast end of the market with its Ryzen 7 chips, all eyes have turned to AMD's next big launch: Ryzen 5.

Why is it important? Well, the Ryzen 5 line of processors will take on Intel's own incredibly successful Core i5 brand, which is the sort of processor we'd recommend for most mid-range to lower-high-end PC gaming builds. It used to be the default choice, but with the announcement of Ryzen 5, things just got a whole lot more interesting.

These are the specifications of the four new Ryzen 5 chips. Two of them will be six-core, while the other two will be quad-core, and all will launch on April 11.

  • 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 1600X, 3.6-4GHz, 95W
  • 6-core, 12-thread Ryzen 5 1600, 3.2-3.6GHz, 65W
  • 4-core, 8-thread Ryzen 5 1500X, 3.5-3.7GHz, 65W
  • 4-core, 8-thread Ryzen 5 1400, 3.2-3.4GHz, 65W

There are loads of interesting things to talk about here. The first is that AMD has entered a six-core chip (1600X and 1600) into the mid-range market, which could prove to be a brilliant gaming/video editing workhorse. The top-end 1600X has a decent maximum clock speed of 4GHz, although this is behind Intel's all conquering Core i5-7600K, which tops out at 4.2GHz and can be overclocked to well beyond that.

Clock speed is the biggest influence on gaming performance right now, so Intel would appear to have the upper hand in this regard.

Related: Best desktop PCs

While all Ryzen chips are unlocked for a bit of automatic or manual overclocking, we weren't hugely blown away with the performance with our eight-core Ryzen 7 1800X sample.

If this continues with Ryzen 5, we wouldn't be surprised if it trailed Intel slightly in gaming benchmarks. However, with simultaneous multi-threading (read more below) that results in 12 threads from six cores, it could be quite the video editing beast.

That's what AMD chose to market in its initial presentation slides shown to the press: the only performance comparison it opted to make was that the 1600X can manage a Cinebench rendering peformance that's up to 69% better than a Core i5-7600K.

Related: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review

This isn't a huge surprise since the Ryzen 5 1600X has three times as many threads as the quad-core Core i5.

Related: Intel Skylake review

Ryzen 5 price

The key will be price, and AMD hasn't managed the same headline-grabbing price difference as it did with its top-end Ryzen 7 processors.

Indeed, the Ryzen 5 1600X will start at $249 in the US (about £250 inc VAT), which lines up almost exactly with the Core i5-7600K's current RRP. Dropping down to the Ryzen 5 1600, which will likely rival the £212/$229 Core i5-7600, the price falls to, $219 (about £214 inc VAT).

The two quad-core chips, the 1500 and 1400, are perhaps the most interesting here as they have RRPs of $189 (about £184 inc VAT) and $169 (about £165 inc VAT), respectively. This is a price bracket that Intel doesn't really have covered, aside from with its fairly unexciting i5-7400 so it'll be fascinating to see whether these processors can come remotely close when it comes to gaming.

All four of these new chips will slot nicely into AMD's new AM4 chipsets, which you can read more about below.

The Ryzen 5 1400 will ship with AMD's new Wraith Stealth cooler, while the 1600 and 1500X will get the larger Wraith Spire.

AMD is expecting to launch its budget-end Ryzen 3 chips in the second half of this year.

Read on for a full primer on AMD's Ryzen architecture.

What is AMD Ryzen?

Ryzen is AMD's newest brand of high-end processors, taking on Intel's own Core i5 and i7 chips at their own game. The technology is based on AMD's Zen architecture, which uses a 14nm process for manufacturing smaller and more power-efficient chips.

AMD has long struggled when it comes to so-called "instructions per clock" (IPC), and while its processors of old have all had high clock speeds (measured in GHz), they often ran hot without the same efficiency as Intel's finest. Read on for more technical info on AMD Ryzen, as well as the latest news.

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AMD Ryzen: Why is it important and what can it do?

Although the PC market may be in decline, there's one area that's showing growth: performance and gaming. It's no surprise, then, that AMD is aiming Ryzen at that market, hoping to attract PC gaming fans away from Intel rigs.

This also shows that AMD is once again ready to compete with Intel properly. In the past, as discussed above, AMD didn't have Intel's performance per clock. This meant that the only way the company could match Intel's performance would be to increase clock speeds and power consumption.

With Ryzen and the Zen architecture in general, AMD has revamped its processor architecture to make it more efficient and capable of performing more work per cycle.

Video: Watch AMD's Ryzen launch event

Fast forward to 15 minutes in for the start of the stream

AMD has confirmed that Ryzen is capable of doing 40% more work per clock cycle, compared to the previous-generation Excavator core. Impressively, power consumption per cycle remains the same. AMD had these goals from the outset, but it's good to know that this has been achieved.

AMD Ryzen 7

So, how did AMD achieve Ryzen's performance boost? Partly, it's down to the new 14nm process, which means more transistors can fit onto a given piece of silicon, resulting in improved performance without a big increase in power consumption.

An entirely new architecture also helps. Importantly, Ryzen chips support “Simultaneous Multi-Threading”, which is similar to Intel’s Hyper-Threading tech. This allows for better distribution and handling of multiple tasks. For the high-end chip, there are eight cores that can handle 16 threads.

SenseMI drives performance and efficiency

Underpinning the processor are a series of new technologies bundled under the SenseMI umbrella term. These are technologies to make the processor more efficient and powerful.

Pure power is first. This uses monitors on the processor to work out the amount of energy required for any given task. In other words, the processor will run only as fast as it needs to, saving power when the system is relatively idle.

AMD Ryzen 9

Precision Boost is AMD's equivalent to Intel's Turbo Boost, increasing clock speed on the fly to deliver maximum performance when you need it. The company is promising that its speed-boost tech is super-smart, providing 25MHz steps with no latency or queue drain.

AMD Ryzen 11

Extended Frequency Range (EFR) is an automatic overclocking that kicks in if there's enough thermal headroom. EFR needs no user intervention and licks in automatically, while the processor remains cool. For those users who like to set everything manually, Ryzen can still be overclocked in the usual way.

AMD Ryzen 13

Neural Net Prediction is designed to speed up the CPU, by pre-loading instructions and choosing the best path through the CPU. With the right prediction, the CPU no longer has to wait for instructions to be loaded.

AMD Ryzen 15

Smart Prefetch is the final tool, designed to work out where the code is, anticipating the location of future data. This data can then be stored in the cache, so that the CPU isn't slowed down waiting for comparatively slow system memory.

AMD Ryzen 17

The new platform is AM4

AMD's new AM4 platform will accompany Ryzen. It brings all of the new tech that you'd expect, including DDR4 RAM, PCI-E Gen 3, USB 3.1 Gen 2, NVMe and SATA Express. AMD is promising that this is a platform that you can "buy and know that this will work for years and years".

AMD Zen Performance

You can read more about performance in our AMD Ryzen 7 1800X review, but in short Ryzen offers blistering multi-core performance up against a more expensive Intel CPU, but is still sligtly wanting in gaming performance versus cheaper Intel CPUs. These are problems that are hopefully going to be ironed out through software updates, but it is a minor mark on an otherwise very clean report sheet.

Related: Best gaming PC

AMD says the Zen architecture won’t only be limited to enthusiast desktop chips. Laptops and servers are also expected to benefit from Zen in the future, although the laptop part (Raven Ridge) won't launch until the end of 2017.

Zen architecture will also make it to AMD APUs, meaning you’ll be able to buy a full chip with both Zen architecture and AMD Radeon graphics on board. These have proven relatively successful for budget gaming PCs in the past, so with better processing performance and graphics, AMD could really take a bite out of the budget gaming market.

Watch: AMD Radeon RX 480 review

AMD Ryzen 5 or Intel Core i5, which do you think will prevail? Let us know in the comments below.

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