This is a comparison that we have wanted to put together for some time. With Computex 2019 out of the way and full confirmation of 3rd generation Ryzen before it hits us, here's an updated comparison between the Ryzen 5 1600 and the Core i5-7600K. It's time to see which processor will give players the best performance in 2019.
When the R5 1600 was first released, it was easy to argue for the 7600K as a better gaming CPU. The vast majority of games performed better on the Core i5-7600K and were often much faster in older games. However, in the newly released games in 2017, they were more even, and in some core-heavy titles like Ashes of the Singularity, the Ryzen CPU was a bit faster or more consistent overall in Battlefield 1.
We still saw Ryzen processors struggling to name a few prime examples in a number of titles like Arma 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Far Cry Primal, Grand Theft Auto V, Total War Warhammer II, and Watch Dogs 2 . Still, we liked the Ryzen 5 1600 because it was cheaper, promised superior platform support, shipped with a box cooler, and generally outperformed the Core i5 processor in productivity tasks. In fact, the Ryzen 5 1600 mimicked what we saw from the Core i7-7700K when the workload was intense, and that was impressive at the time.
For these and other reasons, we called the Ryzen 5 1600 "the most affordable desktop CPU" just two months after its release. Although we've found the 7600K to be a better choice for high-upgrade games, at least in the short term, we expected the 2 additional cores and 8 threads of the Ryzen 5 processor to be useful shortly. It's been about two years since these first impressions, and we haven't checked that comparison again. Most recently, the focus was on Zen + processors such as the Ryzen 5 2600 and 2700. But today we will see how times have changed and preferred one side or the other.
The Ryzen 5 1600 was tested on the MSI B450 Tomahawk using the G.Skill Ripjaws V DDR4-3200 CL15 memory. The Core i5-7600K was tested on the Asrock Z270 Taichi with the same G.Skill memory. Both systems were configured with the Xtreme memory profile and MCE was deactivated on the Intel system at least for the inventory check. We used a Gigabyte RTX 2080 Ti Aorus Xtreme and the CPUs were cooled with the Corsair Hydro H100i Pro AIO liquid cooler. Both CPUs were tested in stock and then used with realistic overclocking. So we don't pretend that every CPU sold is made of the highest quality silicon.
A total of eight games with two resolutions are tested. That has led to over 200 benchmarks to create this piece … Let's get to the results.
First, we have Rage 2, the newest game we tested for this article. This title only uses the Vulkan API and we have found that it is not very CPU demanding as it works very well on a modest quad core.
The Core i5-7600K offered a slight increase in performance over the Ryzen 5 1600, although given the clock speed deficit, you'd probably expect margins to be bigger at 1080p with an RTX 2080 Ti. At 1440p we see similar edges. The Core i5 processor is a bit faster right away, but once we overclock the edge closes almost nothing.
World War Z supports DirectX 11 and Vulkan, but we always test with the latter API for optimal performance. Both CPUs immediately enabled over 100 fps, but the 7600K was 14% faster on average. This is another title that doesn't put a heavy load on the CPU, and we've found that modern quad cores will do the job. If we switch to 1440p and see that the edges are practically eliminated, the 7600K was instantly ~ 4% faster and 3% faster if both CPUs were overclocked.
When we first compared the Ryzen 1000 series in games, we found that Far Cry Primal is a particularly bad title for AMD's new heavy core processors. Single thread performance seems to be the key here, and the games weren't designed for Ryzen, although AMD sponsored the latest edition of the series, although I believe that this was mainly used to optimize Radeon technology.
Whatever the case, Ryzen CPUs are not good in Far Cry games and we have a good example here with Far Cry New Dawn. Although the R5 1600 was able to deliver smooth gameplay, it was still much slower than the Core i5-7600K, which delivered a whopping 25% more performance.
The edges are also very similar at 1440p. The R5 1600 can't return here, and we've seen much better performance with the 7600K. We are aware that some of the latest 6-core Core i5 processors in Far Cry 5 and Far Cry New Dawn have reported stuttering, but I have to say that the experience was certainly no worse than the one we had seen from Ryzen 5 1600.
The Hitman 2 results for the 7600K are really weird. Given that the CPU limits this title, a 23% increase in core frequency is expected to have a significant impact, but this is not the case. We only saw a few frames from the 7600K after overclocking, we often see strange results when testing with Hitman 2 and frankly we don't know what's going on in our NPC benchmark. The R5 1600, on the other hand, saw a decent performance increase of 6% after an all-core overclocking of 8%. We see similar margins at 1440p, overall, both CPUs in Hitman 2 delivered a similar gaming experience.
Things are getting interesting now. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is one of the most challenging games released last year. The Ryzen 5 1600 was noticeably smoother in this title and much faster with an average of 22% more frames. We can see that even when overclocked, the 7600K appears so throttled that the frequency rise doesn't help. There appears to be another type of benefit restriction.
The performance increases for the R5 1600 when overclocking are also very small, but correspond much more to the frequency increase. The switch to 1440p and the R5 1600 flashes the 7600K further and offers ~ 30% more performance if both CPUs are overclocked.
The Ryzen 5 1600 also proves to be the superior choice for the Assassins Creed Odyssey, another modern, sophisticated title. Here the Ryzen processor immediately offered 16% more performance. The results come together at the GPU-limited resolution of 1440p, but after overclocking, the R5 1600 still enabled 8% more performance and was a bit smoother overall.
Battlefield V is the first time the i5-7600K has fallen flat on his face. Although it was still playable, the experience was pretty horrible compared to the sleek R5 1600. We saw a similar thing in our first Ryzen reporting, if not quite on this scale. Back then, the 7600K had higher frame rates on average, but the 1% low performance was weaker.
When testing with Battlefield V today, the 1% low performance is a disaster for the 7600K, and this means that while the R5 1600 was only slightly faster on average, the actual gaming experience was worlds better. The Core i5-7600K crashed and burned at 1440p. This is a game that simply requires more than four cores and threads, even if they are clocked at or around 5 GHz.
Another series of terrible results for the Core i5-7600K can be seen testing with The Division 2. The Ryzen CPU was 33% faster compared to the average frame rate and 32% faster compared to the 1% low result. This margin is reduced as soon as both CPUs are overclocked, although the margin was still ~ 25% faster on average and 24% faster for the 1% low.
The Ryzen 5 1600 remains far ahead with 1440p and is the clear winner even with overclocked CPUs.
What we found
For those who skipped to this point, we will summarize briefly: Overall, the Ryzen 5 1600 was noticeably slower in a single game, Far Cry New Dawn. Performance was still very playable, but frame rates were significantly lower on the Core i5-7600K. Ryzen was also a bit slower in World War II and it was a tie in Rage 2 and Hitman 2. As we turned to more sophisticated modern titles, we found that the R5 1600 in Assassins Creed Odyssey was a good deal faster and then overwhelmingly faster with Battlefield V, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and The Division 2.
These results are in line with what we said and found two years ago. At that time, the i5-7600K was a bit faster in most games, but Ryzen showed promising results if it performed well and performed more consistently in the most CPU-demanding games of the time. We recommended the Ryzen 5 1600 2017 over the Core i5-7600K for a number of reasons, many of which were relevant at the time. However, one that is relevant today is that we assumed that it happens to be the better gaming CPU in the long run.
Given that, you could say that choosing the 7600K when you were about to upgrade or build a new gaming PC in mid-2017 and choose between these two processors was a mistake. Today, the R5 1600 is the superior performer that enables highly playable performance in all the latest games, while the 7600K struggles in a number of titles.
If you invested in the AM4 platform two years ago, you now have the luxury of upgrading to what we believe to be a more powerful Zen 2 processor without having to change your motherboard. Core i5-7600K owners, on the other hand, would have to pay for a 7700K through the nose to enable playable performance in titles like Battlefield V. In fact, there's almost no chance you'll land a used 7700K for less than that A brand new Ryzen 5 3600X costs.
In this article, our only focus was on gaming performance. However, if you're interested in the performance of heavy core applications, there's not much to discuss. The R5 1600 hit the 7600K at launch and nothing has changed there (benchmarks from our original test below, more on that here).
If anything, Ryzen has only improved on workstation tasks as the software continues to be optimized for the Zen architecture. The platform is also very mature and is now faster and more stable. In the meantime, the Intel Kaby Lake range along with all of its processors has slowed down due to the vulnerabilities that became public in early 2018 and some newer ones. The next time we evaluate a Ryzen processor, it will hopefully be the brand new 3000 series until the next one.