Which Ryzen 5000 Series Processor Should You Buy?

Introduction

The AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Processor family has been available for a little over a year now. There are six different SKUs available from two different product lines. This leads to the question, Which Ryzen 5000 Series Processor Should You Buy?

AMD released their 7nm Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series “Vermeer” processors on November 5th, 2020. They released four SKUs at that time, which are still the only four SKUs available for the DIY market. On August 3rd, 2021, AMD also released two 7nm Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 Series “Cezanne” processors with integrated graphics for the DIY market. These APU choices give you more flexibility, but they also seem to add some confusion about which SKU to choose.

The six different DIY choices are shown below:

Which Ryzen 5000 Series Processor Should You Buy?
Micro Center AMD Ryzen 5000 Series Pricing, December 7, 2021

Since AMD processor names can be rather cryptic, I have a detailed post on Understanding AMD Processor Names here.

Which Ryzen 5000 Series Processor Should You Buy?

Honestly, this depends on your budget and the primary workload(s) that you plan on running on your machine. All six of these processors will work in most relatively modern socket AM4 motherboards after a BIOS update.

This includes most A530, B450, B550, X470, and X570 chipset motherboards. It is always a good idea to check the processor compatibility list for your motherboard to make sure what it will support. Some newer model B550 and X570 motherboards do NOT need a BIOS update, and they usually have a logo on the motherboard box that states, “Ryzen 5000 Series Ready”.

I’m going to walk through all six DIY processor choices, listing their specifications, and some of their pros and cons.

Ryzen 9 5950X

The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X CPU has 16C/32T, with a base clock of 3.4GHz and a max boost clock of up to 4.9GHz. It has an L3 cache of 64MB and a default TDP of 105W. This processor officially supports up to 128GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and it has PCIe 4.0 support. The Ryzen 9 5950X does not come with an included CPU cooler and it does not have integrated graphics.

This is the flagship SKU. The main reason not to choose this SKU is cost, and the fact that it is overkill for many workloads. For example, if your main use case is gaming, you won’t see a cost/effective benefit from the extra cost of this SKU. You would be better off choosing a lower SKU in the line and spending more money on a better GPU for gaming.

On the other hand, if you have workloads that will benefit from having more cores, then this is the best choice. This could include things like rendering videos, compiling very large projects, and very heavy multi-tasking. But other common tasks, such as photo editing, often do not benefit very much from having more cores. For most people, if you really need a Ryzen 9 5950X for what you actually do with your machine, you probably know it. If you just want one, and don’t mind spending the extra money, then more power to you!

If you do choose a Ryzen 9 5950X, you should also invest in a mid-range or better B550 or X570 motherboard and a good CPU cooler. The 5950X does not run especially hot, but a good CPU cooler will give you higher sustained boost clock speeds and better longevity.

Ryzen 9 5900X

The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X CPU has 12C/24T, with a base clock of 3.7GHz and a max boost clock of up to 4.8GHz. It has an L3 cache of 64MB and a default TDP of 105W. This processor officially supports up to 128GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and it has PCIe 4.0 support. The Ryzen 9 5900X does not come with an included CPU cooler and it does not have integrated graphics.

Which Ryzen 5000 Series Processor Should You Buy?
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

This is the second highest SKU in the lineup, and right now it gives the most bang for the buck. It is just as fast as the 5950X on many workloads and is much more affordable at current prices. Just as with the 5950X, I would invest in a decent B550 or X570 motherboard and a good CPU cooler for this processor.

If I wasn’t quite sure what I would be doing with a new PC, but I wanted enough CPU capacity to handle just about any workload, this would be my choice.

Ryzen 7 5800X

The AMD Ryzen 7 5800X CPU has 8C/16T, with a base clock of 3.8GHz and a max boost clock of up to 4.7GHz. It has an L3 cache of 32MB and a default TDP of 105W. This processor officially supports up to 128GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and it has PCIe 4.0 support. The Ryzen 7 5800X does not come with an included CPU cooler and it does not have integrated graphics.

When the Ryzen 5000 series was first released, I thought this was the least interesting SKU. Not because there was anything wrong with it, but because of the pricing. It originally had MSRP of $449.99, and often was being sold above that price.

Since the release of Intel’s Alder Lake desktop processors, AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors have seen significant price reductions. Micro Center was briefly selling the 5800X for $299.99, but the price has been creeping back up since then.

This is a good all-around choice. It is not overkill for gaming, and it has enough multi-threaded performance to handle productivity tasks quite well. As long as the price is below about $350, I don’t see any problems with choosing this CPU.

Ryzen 7 5700G

The AMD Ryzen 7 5700G APU has 8C/16T, with a base clock of 3.8GHz and a max boost clock of up to 4.6GHz. It has an L3 cache of 16MB and a default TDP of 65W. This processor officially supports up to 128GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, but it only has PCIe 3.0 support. The Ryzen 7 5700G does come with an included Wraith Stealth CPU cooler and it does have integrated Radeon graphics. The integrated Radeon graphics have 8 cores and a clock speed of 2000MHz.

Which Ryzen 5000 Series Processor Should You Buy?
AMD Ryzen 7 5700G

The included Wraith Stealth CPU will work, but a decent aftermarket CPU cooler will give you lower temperatures and less noise.

This is the flagship APU SKU. Having an APU instead of a regular CPU means that you can build a fully functioning system without having a discrete GPU. As you probably know, discrete GPUs are still hard to find and very expensive when you do find them.

Why Choose an APU?

So why not just spend less money on an APU rather than a conventional GPU SKU? There are a couple of main reasons, which may or may not be relevant to you. First, the two APU SKUs have only 16MB of L3 cache, instead of 32MB of L3 cache. They also have slightly lower boost clock speeds. This means that they typically score about 5% lower on many benchmarks. Most people probably won’t notice any difference in real life.

Second, you don’t get PCIe 4.0 support with an APU. This means that you will only have 50% of the bandwidth (per lane) with PCIe 3.0 compared to PCIe 4.0. For example, your PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots will be limited to “only” about 3,500MB/sec. For most daily usage, this is not going to be noticeable.

This APU lets you have a system that will handle normal usage, light productivity tasks and light gaming. Many people will be perfectly satisfied with their APU graphics for the lifetime of their system. You can always add a discrete GPU later (if you really need it and can find one).

Ryzen 5 5600X

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600X CPU has 6C/12T, with a base clock of 3.7GHz and a max boost clock of up to 4.6GHz. It has an L3 cache of 32MB and a default TDP of 65W. This processor officially supports up to 128GB of DDR4-3200 RAM and it has PCIe 4.0 support. The Ryzen 5 5600X does come with an included Wraith Stealth CPU cooler but it does not have integrated graphics.

This is a great gaming CPU that has very low power usage and is easy to cool. The included Wraith Stealth CPU will work, but a decent aftermarket CPU cooler will give you lower temperatures and less noise. I have three of these in dedicated Folding@Home rigs, that I purposely configured for low power usage.

Having 6C/12T also gives you enough CPU capacity for normal usage and light productivity tasks. I think it is a great “starter” CPU that has an easy upgrade path if you ever need it.

Ryzen 5 5600G

The AMD Ryzen 5 5600G APU has 6C/12T, with a base clock of 3.9GHz and a max boost clock of up to 4.4GHz. It has an L3 cache of 16MB and a default TDP of 65W. This processor officially supports up to 128GB of DDR4-3200 RAM, but it only has PCIe 3.0 support. The Ryzen 5 5600G does come with an included Wraith Stealth CPU cooler and it does have integrated Radeon graphics. The integrated Radeon graphics have 7 cores and a clock speed of 1900MHz.

Overall, this entry-level APU has the same strengths and weaknesses as the more expensive 5700G. There are fewer cores and slightly less powerful Radeon graphics. It lets you have a fully functional system for even less money, but still gives you an easy upgrade path.

Conclusion

So after all of this, what do I recommend? Well, my favorite choice (if you have or can get a discrete GPU) is the Ryzen 9 5900X. It has the lowest price per core (for a non-APU), and it has enough cores to do serious work.

If you don’t have a decent discrete GPU or don’t want to get one, then I recommend the Ryzen 7 5700G. It is the flagship APU choice that usually costs less per core than the 5600G.

Beyond that, it comes down to your personal preferences about your budget and workload.

Final Words

One of the great strengths of the AMD Socket AM4 platform has been its flexibility and longevity. You can start out with a less expensive CPU or APU, and easily upgrade to a more expensive, higher performance processor choice in the future. In most cases, you will be able to reuse your motherboard and RAM if you ever do this.

The upcoming Ryzen 5000 3D V-Cache SKUs should be the final hurrah for the AM4 platform. When they are available, probably in February/March 2022, there will be even more CPU choices. There will also probably be price reductions on older SKUs and good availability in the used market for upgrades.

I have Amazon Affiliate links for the entire Ryzen 5000 series here.

If you have any questions about this post, please ask me here in the comments or on Twitter. I am pretty active on Twitter as GlennAlanBerryThanks for reading!

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