AMD's long-awaited new Ryzen 5 microprocessors have finally been released this week, with parts available at the usual retailers. But, more interesting has been a slew of early reviews, tests and benchmarks that indicate that it is more than capable of holding its own against the Intel Core i5 and low-end Core i7 parts.
The Ryzen 5 weighs in at around £170 to £250 in the UK (including 20 per cent VAT), and will compete in the mainstream section of the PC chip market, with the budget Ryzen 3 (intended to go up against Intel's Core i3, predictably enough) expected in early July.
A number of respected PC hardware websites have been quick off the mark with reviews and benchtests, and the Ryzen 5 has generally performed competitively against its more highly priced Intel equivalents.
Tom's Hardware has reviewed the top-end Ryzen 5 part, the Ryzen 5 1600X, pitting it against the Ryzen 7 1700, as well as the Intel Core i5 7600K.
Both were benchmarked at stock speeds, as well as overclocked to the max, although it also notes that overclocking the Ryzen 5, like with the Ryzen 7, tops out at "somewhere between 3.9 and 4.1 GHz", while the Intel Core i5 7600K can be overclocked to 5GHz.
But the Ryzen 5 nevertheless does pretty well: "The six-core Ryzen 5 1600X can work on three times as many threads than Intel's Core i5s, so it easily trumps the competition in the parallelized physics metric. AMD's 1600X also ekes past the Ryzen 7 1700 in Futuremark's DX11 physics test."
But it falls short in some of the same tests that the Ryzen 7 disappointed in: "The Ryzen 5 1600X is competitive in some API overhead tests, such as the DX12 benchmark where it leverage its extra threads.
"However, Kaby Lake's IPC throughput advantage shines through in the DX11 overhead tests. The Ryzen 5 falls behind Intel's Core i5 family during the DX11 single- and multi-threaded workloads, even with the help of an overclock. That helps explain Intel's oft-superior frame rates in real-world game tests."
Indeed, when the Ryzen 5 and the Core i5 7600K are pitted against each other in benchmarks running Battlefield 1, Ashes of the Singularity, and Civilisation VI, the Ryzen 5 generally loses out, especially when the Core i5 is overclocked to 5GHz. But, clocked or overclocked, the Ryzen 5 still puts in a good shift (and knocks spots off the old AMD FX-8370, or any of AMD's other legacy CPUs and APUs).
If you really want an AMD Ryzen microprocessor in your next PC, suggests Tom's Hardware, the 1600X is the one to go for - although while it comes close, it generally doesn't quite beat Intel's Core i5 7600K. It's still early days, though, and as software is optimised and manufacturing of GlobalFoundries' 14nm process improves, the small gap may be narrowed further.
Hot Hardware, meanwhile, conducted a series of mainstream benchmarks and tests of the AMD Ryzen 5 1600X and 1500X, and was impressed with both parts.
"The two Ryzen 5 series processors we tested performed well throughout our entire battery of tests. Despite its lower cost, the four core/eight thread Ryzen 5 1500X competed very well with the four core/four thread Core i5-7600. In single and lightly threaded tests, the Kaby Lake-based Core i5 usually had an edge, but the 1500X was never too far behind.
"In multi-threaded workloads like Blender, Cinebench, or 3DMark Physics, however, the Ryzen 5 1500X's support for SMT allowed it to jump out to significant leads over the Core i5."
"The six core/12 thread Ryzen 5 1600X is slightly pricier than the Core i5-7600, but the 1600X's two additional cores, higher clocks, and support for SMT push its performance into a different category and easily justify the cost. The Ryzen 5 1600X's performance was often better than the Core i7-7700K, which is particularly evident in the multi-threaded tests."
However, in single-threaded tests, Hot Hardware noted, the Intel Core i7 7700K is typically faster.
"All things considered, Ryzen 5, particularly when paired to a B350 motherboard (some of which can be found for as low at $80), represents a very good value," concluded Hot Hardware. Although you can overclock to 1.45v, it added, 1.35v is probably the maximum voltage for long-term overclocking.
In a series of benchmarks published by the enthusiast website HardOCP.com, the entry-level Ryzen 5 1400 overclocked to 4GHz more-or-less matched Intel's Core i5 7600K running at 5GHz - despite the AMD part coming in at just under £60 less than the Intel part, which is popular with overclockers and gamers.
The Ryzen 5 1600, also overclocked to 4GHz, also edged out the Core i7 7700K, overclocked to 5GHz, according to the HardOCP benchmarks. It was more positive than Hot Hardware: "I like the Ryzen 5 1600. I like it a lot. AMD is delivering a lot of desktop processing power for the money," it concluded.
2017 is a busy year for AMD as it bids to make up lost ground against Intel in CPUs and Nvidia in GPUs. But so far, it looks to be keeping up (more or less) to its promise.
Regardless of what happens, the launch of the microprocessors has already stimulated price cuts in the market - first to AMD's legacy products, where prices have been slashed, but vendors such as Ebuyer have also cut the prices of a number of Intel parts, too - which is just what the market needed.
These cuts include a £46 reduction in price of the the Intel Core i7-7700, and more modest, but still significant, cuts across the Core i5 range that AMD's Ryzen 5 is squarely aimed at.
Possibly as early as July, AMD will complete its major Ryzen launches this year with the release of the Ryzen 3 microprocessor series, which is broadly intended to compete at the low end against Intel's budget Core i3 and Pentium parts.
All prices quoted correct at time of writing
Computing's IT Leaders Forum 2017 is coming on 24 May 2017.
The theme this year is "Going Digital: Why your most difficult customer is your best friend".
Attendence is free, but strictly limited to IT Leaders. To find out more and to apply for your place, check out the IT Leaders Forum website.
With £6.7m in initial funding, Mosa Meat could be the first company to offer lab-grown meat to the public
Manufacturing and finance jobs will be hit, but health and education can look forward to job creation, says PwC
US startups plan to modify existing jet engines, but are likely to fall foul of environmental legislation
The Brexit white paper "gets pretty close" to company desires, but there's still work to do