AMD has officially announced that the Zen 3 architecture will land this year and outlined the new models, setting the stage for a new wave of powerful chips based upon a newer version of AMD’s most successful architecture to date. The new Zen 3 microarchitecture will power AMD’s full lineup of next-gen chips, including the Ryzen 5000 “Vermeer” desktop processors that will soon vie for a spot on our list of Best CPUs, the Ryzen 5000 laptop chips, and the EPYC Milan data center processors. 

The first four new Ryzen 5000 models come as chips for the desktop PC, and they stretch from the $299 Ryzen 5 5600X up to the $799 Ryzen 9 5950X. The chips will be on shelves on November 5th.

AMD says Zen 3 features a grounds-up rethinking of the architecture that finally allows it to take the 1080p gaming performance lead from Intel. Paired with a 19% boost to instructions per cycle (IPC) throughput and peak boost speeds of up to 4.9 GHz, AMD may just have the magic 7nm bullet that finally upsets Intel from its position at the top of our gaming performance benchmarks. In fact, given what we’ve seen so far, it looks like AMD could soon enjoy a dominating position in the desktop PC market unlike anything we’ve seen since the Athlon 64 days. 

Here’s the Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 processors that AMD has announced thus far, but we expect more to come to market soon:

Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Processors RCP (MSRP) Cores/Threads Base/Boost Freq. TDP L3 Cache
Ryzen 9 5950X $799 16 / 32 3.4 / 4.9 GHz 105W 64MB (2×32)
Ryzen 9 5900X $549 12 / 24 3.7 / 4.8 GHz 105W 64MB (2×32)
Ryzen 7 5800X $449 8 / 16 3.8 / 4.7 GHz 105W 32MB (2×16)
Ryzen 5 5600X $299 6 / 12 3.7 / 4.6 GHz 65W 32MB (2×16)

AMD’s Zen 3 stack begins with the impressive 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X that will retail for $799. This chip boosts up to 4.9 GHz, has 64MB of unified L3 cache, and a 105W TDP rating. AMD says this chip is faster than Intel’s 10-core Core i9-10900K in pretty much everything, which isn’t surprising — Intel has no equivalent for the mainstream desktop.

The $549 Ryzen 9 5900X slots in as the more mainstream contender, at least by AMD’s definition of ‘mainstream,’ with 12 cores and 24 threads that boost up to 4.8 GHz. AMD says this chip beats the 10900K by even more impressive margins in gaming. Further down the stack, we find the 8C/16T Ryzen 7 5800X for $449 and the 6C/12T Ryzen 5 5600X for $299.

Intel is stuck with its Comet Lake chips for five long months to try to fend off the Ryzen 5000 lineup until Rocket Lake arrives in Q1 2021, which doesn’t bode well. 

As odd as it sounds, Intel may have one hidden advantage — pricing. AMD now positions Ryzen as the premium brand and says it has the benchmarks to prove it. As a result, AMD has pushed pricing up by $50 across the stack compared to its Ryzen XT models. However, the XT family doesn’t really represent AMD’s best value chips; its own Ryzen 3000 series, which comes at much lower price points, holds that crown.

As a result, Intel’s Comet Lake chips now have comparatively lower price points than AMD’s Ryzen 5000 lineup. However, AMD says it still maintains the performance-per-dollar lead. We won’t know the full story until the chips land in our labs, but that obviously won’t be long — AMD says the full roster of Ryzen 5000 chips will be available at retail on November 5.

If one thing is for certain, the Zen microarchitecture has completely redefined our expectations for mainstream desktop chips, and it’s rational to expect more of the same with Zen 3. Let’s cover what we know about Zen 3 so far. 

AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 At A Glance

AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Specifications

Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Processors RCP (MSRP) Cores/Threads Base/Boost Freq. TDP L3 Cache
Ryzen 9 5950X $799 16 / 32 3.4 / 4.9 105W 64MB (2×32)
Core i9-10980XE $815 (retail) 18 / 36 3.0 / 4.8 165W 24.75MB
Ryzen 9 3950X $749 16 / 32 3.5 / 4.7 105W 64MB (4×16)
Ryzen 9 5900X $549 12 / 24 3.7 / 4.8 105W 64MB (2×32)
Core i9-10900K / F $488 – $472 10 / 20 3.7 / 5.3 125W 20MB
Ryzen 9 3900XT $499 12 / 24 3.9 / 4.7 105W 64MB (4×16)
Ryzen 7 5800X $449 8 / 16 3.8 / 4.7 105W 32MB (2×16)
Core i9-10850K $453 10 / 20 3.6 / 5.2 95W 20MB
Core i7-10700K / F $374 – $349 8 / 16 3.8 / 5.1 125W 16MB
Ryzen 7 3800XT $399 8 / 16 3.9 / 4.7 105W 32MB (2×16)
Ryzen 5 5600X $299 6 / 12 3.7 / 4.6 65W 32MB (2×16)
Core i5-10600K / F $262 – $237 6 / 12 4.1 / 4.8 125W 12MB
Ryzen 5 3600XT $249 6 / 12 3.8 / 4.5 95W 32MB (2×16)

Here we can see the full Ryzen 5000 product stack, and how the new chips stack up against Intel’s Comet Lake. The first big thing you’ll notice are the increased Precision Boost clock rates, which now stretch up to 4.9 GHz. However, we also see a broad trend of lower base frequencies for the Ryzen 5000 series compared to the previous-gen chips, but that isn’t too surprising considering the much higher performance-per-watt that we’ll outline below.

AMD obviously leans on its improved IPC rather than raw clock speeds, thus boosting its power efficiency and reducing heat generation. The Ryzen 5 5600X is the best example of that — despite only a slight reduction to the base frequency, the chip drops to a 65W TDP compared to its predecessor’s 95W. 

What’s not as impressive? AMD has continued with the precedent it set with its Ryzen XT series: Bundled coolers no longer come with processors with a TDP higher than 65W. That means the Ryzen 5 5600X will be the only Ryzen 5000 chip that comes with a cooler in the box. AMD said it decided to skip bundled coolers in higher-TDP models largely because it believes most enthusiasts looking for high-performance chips use custom cooling anyway. AMD also still specs a 280mm (or greater) AIO liquid cooler for the Ryzen 9 and 7 chips, which significantly adds to the overall platform costs.  

AMD continues to only guarantee its boost frequencies on a single core, and all-core boosts will vary based on the cooling solution, power delivery, and motherboard BIOS. The Ryzen 5000 chips still expose the same 20 lanes of PCIe 4.0 to the user (another four are dedicated to the chipset), and stick with DDR4-3200 memory. We’re told that memory overclocking capabilities remain the same as we see with the Ryzen XT models, so AMD hasn’t changed its guidance on that front. 

AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Performance Benchmarks and Comparisons 

Before we get into the benchmarks, be aware that AMD provided these benchmarks. Like all benchmarks provided by any company, they could be (and probably are) heavily skewed toward games and applications that favor the company’s products.

Also, AMD tested all processors (both the Ryzen 5000 and Intel models) with DDR4-3600 memory. For reference, DDR4-3200 is the stock configuration for the AMD processors, and DDR4-2933 is stock for the Core i9-10900K. AMD also used a Noctua NH-D15s, a high-end air cooler, for all tested platforms (which is fine), and an Nvidia GeForce 2080 Ti. (It probably couldn’t buy a GeForce RTX 3080 or GeForce RTX 3090 either.)

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AMD Zen 3

(Image credit: AMD)
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AMD Zen 3

(Image credit: AMD)

What does the 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 5950X and its eye watering $799 price tag get you? The first slide pits AMD’s 5950X against the previous-gen Ryzen 9 3950X and shows 20% performance gains in the tested games, though the deltas do vary. 

AMD also says the Ryzen 9 5950X scores 640 points in the single-threaded Cinebench R20 benchmark, which is much higher than the Core i9-1900K’s 544 points. The content creation benchmarks show the 5950X with solid gains in lightly-threaded apps, like CAD, Adobe Premier, and compilation. 

However, performance gains in the heavily-threaded V-Ray application are a bit less pronounced. AMD says the Ryzen 5000 processors still have to adhere to the 142W power limit of the AM4 socket, which reduces performance gains in heavily-threaded applications. 

On the brighter side, AMD says those performance gains come at the same level of power consumption, which means the chips are more power-efficient. It will also be interesting to see how that looks when we lift the power limits in our own tests.

The second slide shows the 5950X against the Intel Core i9-10900K in several games and applications. The benchmarks show what is basically a dead heat with the 10900K, but the Ryzen 9 5900X is actually the faster gaming chip, so you’ll see bigger deltas over the Core i9-10900K in the benchmarks below.

Of course, with the RTX 2080 Ti, it could be the main bottleneck even at 1080p ultra. We joked about AMD not having RTX 3080 or RTX 3090 testing results, but in all seriousness, anyone upgrading to Zen 3 for gaming purposes is likely eyeing Nvidia’s Ampere or AMD’s Big Navi as well. That’s something we’ll be testing once we have hardware in our labs. 

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X Gaming and Application Performance Benchmarks 

(Image credit: AMD)

Here’s a quick look at the improvement in AMD’s favorite single-threaded benchmark, Cinebench R20. AMD like this test because it is extremely favorable to its Zen microarchitecture.

The Ryzen 9 5950X scored 631 points, while the Core i9-10900K weighed in at 544 points. That works out to an outstanding 16% advantage for the Ryzen 9 5900X, but bear in mind this occurs in a single benchmark, so take it with a grain of salt. 

We scored 535 points with the 10900K in the same test, albeit obviously with a different test platform and conditions. AMD didn’t show the Ryzen 9 5900X’s multi-threaded CineBench score, but measured the Core i9-10900K at 6,354 points. That’s close enough to call a tie with our own measurement of 6,356 points.

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AMD Zen 3

(Image credit: AMD)
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AMD Zen 3

(Image credit: AMD)
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AMD Zen 3

(Image credit: AMD)
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AMD Zen 3

(Image credit: AMD)

AMD bills the Ryzen 9 5900X as the fastest gaming CPU on the market, which it says it measured from the average fps from 40 PC games at 1920×1080 at maxed-out settings.

Here we see a spate of AMD’s 1080p performance benchmarks with the Ryzen 9 5900X up against the Ryzen 9 3900XT. Overall, the 5900X provides a 26% average fps performance improvement, which is pretty stellar for an in-socket upgrade. Notably, the processor notches higher gains in some titles — to the tune of 50% in League of Legends and 46% in CS:GO. Other titles, like Battlefield V and Total War, see low single-digit gains. 

The second slide pits the Ryzen 9 5900X against the Core i9-10900K in a selection of games at 1080p with high fidelity settings. AMD recorded a slight loss in Total War, and some single-digit performance increases in a few titles. However, League of Legends and CS:GO, both of which are older titles, received significantly higher fps measurements.

We’ll obviously have to see these titles tested on our own test systems, and Intel could gain a bit more performance from overclocking. The jury is still out on Ryzen 5000’s overclockability, but the chips use the same process as the existing Ryzen XT models, so we don’t expect much headroom.

AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Motherboards

(Image credit: AMD)

AMD didn’t launch a new chipset with the Ryzen 5000 series; instead, the chips drop right into existing 500-series chipsets, like X570 and B550 models. These boards require an AGESA (or newer) BIOS to boot a Zen 3 processor, but AMD has been shipping silently shipping supporting BIOSes since summer. As a result, every 500-series motherboard on the market should have a downloadable BIOS available.

While the early BIOS revisions ensure  the chips will work on the most basic level, you’ll have to update to an AGESA (or better) BIOS for the best performance. These revisions will be available for all 500-series motherboards by the November 5th Ryzen 5000 launch date.

AMD originally announced it wouldn’t provide Zen 3 support for 400-series motherboards, but due to concerns from the enthusiast community, the company reversed course. Now AMD will also provide support for 400-series chipsets, but the BIOS updates are under development the first beta BIOSes will be available in January of 2021. 

However, a series of important restrictions apply to 400-series upgraders, which you can read more about here, but here’s the short version from AMD:

Note: You lose support for PCIe 4.0 on 400-series boards, but most gamers will not, and should not, care — PCIe 4.0 makes no meaningful performance difference in gaming. 

AMD Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Price

AMD’s suggested pricing often has little to do with what we see at retail, but the Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 processors do come with a recommended $50 markup across the product stack. The change comes as AMD positions itself as a premium chip supplier as opposed to its long history as the value alternative. The continued absence of bundled coolers also serves to drive up the platform cost – in most cases, you’ll need to invest at least $40 to find a cooler that’s as capable as AMD’s stock coolers. 

That’s led to plenty of complaints, and Intel’s Comet Lake lineup actually has lower pricing in critical price bands. We do have to take performance into account, though, and we have yet to do our own testing. That means the jury is out on the price-to-performance ratio for Ryzen 5000. 

AMD’s Zen 3 pricing in the market will be largely predicated upon how it performs relative to Intel’s chips. Given the big performance gains we expect with the Zen 3 generation, it’s possible the numbers could work out to be vastly in favor of Intel’s competing chips. We won’t know until the silicon lands in our labs, but you can bet that will be soon given the November 5th 2020 launch date. 

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