AMD's top CPUs aren't quite the performance leaders they were when they were first released in 2020, but that doesn't mean its CPUs aren't worth buying. The best Ryzen CPUs represent excellent value for their money, offering high core counts and blistering clock speeds at reasonable prices. The most recent Ryzen 5000 range includes processors that can go toe to toe with the best from rival Intel. The question is: Which CPU should you pick up?
The Ryzen family is broken down into four distinct branches, targeting the entry-level, mainstream, performance, and high-end enthusiast sectors of the market — otherwise known as Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9. They're all great chips in their own ways, but some certainly offer more value than others, and for many, the most powerful chips will be complete overkill.
For most people, we recommend the Ryzen 5 5500 thanks to the excellent value for money it presents.
Ryzen 5 5500
The best value Ryzen CPU for gaming
- Six cores and 12 threads
- Cheapest Zen 3 desktop CPU
- Excellent gaming performance
- Relatively low default clock speed
- Less L3 cache than other Ryzen CPUs
Why you should buy this: The Ryzen 5 5500 is the cheapest Zen 3 desktop CPU and has good mid-range performance.
Who it's for: Gamers and hobbyists who want the best bang for their buck.
What we thought of the Ryzen 5 5500:
When AMD launched Ryzen 5000 in late 2020, we had no idea we wouldn't see a truly budget Ryzen 5000 CPU for over a year. The Ryzen 5 5600X, with an MSRP of $300, was the cheapest CPU you could buy until the much cheaper Ryzen 5 5500 came out in April 2022. The price of the 5600X had fallen in the meantime, but at the time of writing, it is still about $200, whereas the 5500 can be found for around $140.
So, what do you get for $140? Six cores and 12 threads utilizing the Zen 3 architecture. On the surface, this is identical to the more expensive 5600X, as well as the Ryzen 5 5600 (which currently retails for around $185), but the 5500 is actually quite different from its neighbors. The 5500 is based on the same silicon that Ryzen APUs use, but with the integrated graphics disabled. This means the 5500 only has 16 MB of L3 cache as opposed to the 32 MB of the 5600X and 5600.
In spite of this lack of cache, the 5500 performs well enough to be worth it. The 5500 can easily do 120-plus frames per second in games](https://www.tomshardware.com/news/amd-ryzen-5-5600-and-ryzen-5-5500-review) and has similar multi-threaded performance to the 5600 and 5600X. If you're looking for the best bang for your buck, it's just not worth it to pay $45 more for the 5600 or $60 more for the 5600X.
Alongside the Ryzen 5 5500, AMD also launched the Ryzen 5 4500 for $135, but we really don't think anyone should buy this CPU. Like the 5500, the 4500 is basically an APU with the graphics disabled, but it uses the much older Zen 2 architecture that came out in 2019, not to mention it has a measly 8MB of L3 cache. When you can buy the 5500 for just $5 more, the 4500 basically has no reason to exist.
Ryzen 5 5600G
The best value Ryzen APU
- Six cores and 12 threads
- Fast integrated graphics
- Cheapest Zen 3 desktop APU
- Overclockable CPU and GPU cores
- Less L3 cache than other Ryzen CPUs
- Relies on high speed DDR4 RAM for good integrated graphics performance
Why you should buy this: The Ryzen 5 5600G is the cheapest Zen 3 desktop APU, providing both good CPU performance and decent integrated graphics.
Who it's for: Gamers who can't afford a discrete GPU at the moment and hobbyists who want to build a compact PC without discrete graphics.
What we thought of the Ryzen 5 5600G:
The Ryzen 5 5600G is basically the Ryzen 5 5500, so it has the same six Zen 3 cores, the same 12 threads, and the same 16 MB L3 cache, but it also has slightly higher clock speeds and working integrated graphics. At the time of writing, the 5600G can be found for around $170, and although this price isn't nearly as affordable as the venerable Ryzen 3 3200G (which often went on sale for well below $100), the 5600G is far more capable thanks to faster and more numerous CPU and GPU cores.
If you wanted to build a fast but budget-friendly PC without discrete graphics, the 5600G is the best Ryzen APU you can choose. Older and slower Ryzen APUs are either out of stock or are more expensive, which makes the 5600G really the only choice for this segment. Not that that's a bad thing, because the 5600G is significantly better than Ryzen 3000 APUs, which came out in 2018 and used the original Zen architecture.
The 5600G is also decent for people who don't want or can't really afford a good discrete GPU now but plan on getting one later. Even though the 5600G is pretty mid-range, you could pair it with a fairly high-end GPU like the 3070 Ti as long as you're just aiming for 60 to 120 fps. The 16 MB L3 cache is particularly limiting for gaming at a super high frame rate (200-plus fps), but it's hard to not recommend a $170 APU with good gaming performance, good multi-threaded performance, and decent integrated graphics.
Ryzen 7 5700X
The best value Ryzen CPU for productivity
- Eight cores and 16 threads
- Large L3 cache
- Cheapest eight-core Zen 3 desktop CPU
- Not much higher gaming performance compared to cheaper Zen 3 CPUs
Why you should buy this: The Ryzen 7 5700X provides both a good gaming experience and high performance in productivity tasks.
Who it's for: Users who want to game and work on the same PC.
What we thought of the Ryzen 7 5700X:
If you want more performance in the productivity department while maintaining great frame rates in games, you'll want the Ryzen 7 5700X. The 7-series part comes with eight cores and 16 threads while featuring the same IPC and memory improvements as the Ryzen 5 5500 and the 5600G. It also requires a lot more power — 105 watts to 65 watts — and boosts higher, with a max boost clock of 4.6GHz.
Having launched in April at $299 (and currently retailing for around $285), the 5700X is essentially a discounted Ryzen 7 5800X, which launched for an eye-watering $449 in late 2020, but at the time of writing, is selling for around $310. The 5700X not only has a much, much more reasonable price tag but also has about the same performance in games and isn't far behind in multi-threaded applications and other software. Enabling Precision Boost Overdrive on the 5700X basically turns it into a 5800X with no discernible differences, making the more expensive 5800X almost pointless.
If you need integrated graphics, the Ryzen 7 5700G is basically the APU version of the 5700X. But just as the 5600G has less L3 cache than the 5600 and 5600X, the 5700G also has less cache than the 5700X: 16MB versus 32. The 5700G currently goes for around $275, so it is cheaper than the 5700X, but most will probably find the integrated graphics aren't worth trading away gaming and multi-threaded performance. Most will be much better off with the 5700X.
Ryzen 7 5800X3D
The fastest Ryzen CPU for gaming
- Fastest gaming CPU
- Massive amount of L3 cache
- Low productivity performance relative to price
- Inflated pricing due to low supply
Why you should buy this: It's the fastest gaming CPU, period, and it can be found for less than $500.
Who it's for: Gamers who want the highest performance possible on an AMD platform.
What we thought of the Ryzen 7 5800X3D:
The Ryzen 7 5800X3D isn't for everyone, but it does have one important characteristic: It's the fastest CPU for gaming. Thanks to AMD's 3D V-Cache technology, the 5800X3D has a whopping 96MB of L3 cache, way higher than anything we've ever seen on a consumer CPU. However, it only has eight cores, the same eight cores you'll find in the 5700X (albeit running at a higher clock speed). This means that while the 5800X3D can go head to head with the Ryzen 9 5950X and the Core i9-12900K in games, it gets left in the dust in anything more multi-threaded.
The 5800X3D is supposed to retail for $449, but it's more commonly found for around $470, which isn't great but isn't terrible either. Even at $449, though, the 5800X3D finds itself in an awkward position because both AMD and Intel's current-generation 12 core CPUs, the Ryzen 9 5900X and the Core i7-12700K, are currently on sale for just under $400. The 5900X and the 12700K aren't quite as fast in gaming but are far ahead of the 5800X3D in any application that can use more than eight cores.
The 5800X3D is the best choice for gamers who want the best or nearly the best gaming performance guaranteed while also saving some money. The 5950X and the 12900K are sometimes faster than the 5800X3D, but they're also significantly more expensive, especially the 12900K, which relies on fast but expensive DDR5 memory to do its best in games.
Ryzen 9 5900X
The best value high-end Ryzen CPU
- 12 cores and 24 threads
- High default clock speed
- Very large L3 cache
- Good value for a high-end CPU
- Not quite as fast as the 5950X or 12900K
- No V-Cache option
Why you should buy this: The Ryzen 9 5900X is the second most powerful Ryzen CPU and provides great value.
Who it's for: Users who really need powerful multi-thread performance.
What we thought of the Ryzen 9 5900X:
Of AMD's high-end Ryzen CPUs, the 12-core, 24-thread Ryzen 9 5900X is the best overall. Although it doesn't have the Ryzen 7 5800X3D's V-Cache and lacks the 16 cores of the Ryzen 9 5950X, it has a great combination of gaming performance, multi-threaded performance, and price. At the time of writing, the 5900X retails for about $390, lower than both the 5800X3d and the 5950X (which is going for about $540).
Although the 5900X can't run circles around 12th-gen Intel CPUs like it did 10th- and 11th-gen, it doesn't lose to Intel's competing chip, the Core i7-12700K, either. When it comes to gaming and multi-threaded applications, the 5900X performs similarly to 12700K for about the same price. Whether you're building a new PC or upgrading from a lower-end Ryzen CPU, you can't go wrong with the 5900X.
Perhaps the much more interesting comparison, however, is against the Ryzen 9 5950X. In games, the 5900X and 5950X are often neck and neck, which isn't surprising since more cores generally don't improve gaming performance. However, in multi-threaded workloads, the 5950X is only about 15% faster than the 5900X. Since the 5950X is nearly 40% more expensive than the 5900X, the 5900X clearly provides a much better bang for the buck.
Like other non-G Ryzen CPUs, the 5900X lacks integrated graphics, and there isn't a 12-core APU that is equivalent to the 5900X, but for the vast majority of users, this probably won't be much of an issue, and we don't recommend choosing the similarly priced and performing 12700K just because it has graphics.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends. For multi-thread performance, it's the Ryzen 9 5900X, which does very well in applications like Blender. For gaming, it's the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. However, all of these CPUs provide decent to great performance in both applications and games. You don't need a 5900X for work, nor do you need a 5800X3D to game.
At the moment, AMD and Intel provide very similar performance at any given price point. Intel's Core i9-12900K, however, is the overall fastest CPU you can buy. Ryzen 5000 CPUs are more power efficient than 12th-gen CPUs, which can be important for smaller and more compact PCs that use smaller CPU coolers.
Integrated graphics aren't as fast as discrete graphics, and Ryzen G processors (or APUs) have slightly worse CPU performance than non-G CPUs. We really only recommend Ryzen APUs for users who don't plan on using discrete graphics. Ryzen APUs are good for users on a budget who might not be able to afford a discrete GPU right now but plan on buying one later.
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