The Ryzen 5 3600XT ($249) is a midrange refresh of a winning desktop CPU that’s just today reaching its one-year anniversary on shelves: the Ryzen 5 3600X. The lowest-end of AMD’s new-for-2020 three-chip XT series of CPUs, it’s an improved gaming chip that adds some much-needed daylight between itself and AMD’s shockingly good low-end gaming CPU, the $120 Ryzen 3 3300X, while putting the hurt on competing Intel midrange options like the Core i5-10600K in content-creation tasks. It may not be the CPU of choice for budget-strapped 1080p gamers (the Ryzen 3 3300X will be tough to beat for months to come), but its overall performance, thermal profile, and gaming results will thrill joint content creators and 4K gamers on the rise.
The Ryzen 5 3600XT vs. the Core i5-10600K: AMD vs. Intel in the 2020 Midrange
If you’re looking for a more in-depth exploration and contextualization of the Ryzen XT line and what’s new about it, head on over to our companion Ryzen 9 3900XT review. In short, though: The Ryzen XT CPUs are “tune-ups” of three of AMD’s key 7-nanometer (7nm) Zen 2 CPUs from its hugely successful mid-2019 launch. The Ryzen 9 3900XT is a $499 chip that heads this field of three new XT chips; the other one not yet mentioned is the $399 Ryzen 7 3800XT. Those two, with the Ryzen 5 3600XT, are close siblings to the chips that they are refinements of: the Ryzen 9 3900X, the Ryzen 7 3800X, and the Ryzen 5 3600X. The new three don’t replace the older three; all six will stay on the market together.
And that makes shopping in this price space complex. Even before the XT chips, midrange gamers weren’t wanting for choice in the second half of 2020, and even the low-range has become so competitive, with options like the Ryzen 3300X entering the market, that the borders between CPU budgets from $100 to $400 are hazier than ever.
Here are the key specs for the XT chips…
All of the XT chips work on AMD’s now-venerable Socket AM4 and thus shouldn’t require a new motherboard if you’re already in the Ryzen ecosystem, though you’ll want to check for individual board compatibility before making any assumptions. As you can see, the Ryzen 5 3600XT is a six-core, 12-thread desktop processor with a base clock speed of 3.8GHz, a max boost clock of 4.5GHz (up from 4.4GHz in the Ryzen 5 3600X version), an L2 cache of 3MB and an L3 cache of 32MB. The chip comes with no integrated graphics (IGP) silicon, just like the Ryzen 5 3600X, and at this price point, that could actually be a deal breaker, depending on your budget.
While relying on an IGP may not make a ton of sense on mega-core monsters like the Intel Core i9-10900K (in that performance space, you almost certainly have a video card), competing options to the Ryzen 5 3600XT, like the Core i5-10600K or even AMD’s own $149 Ryzen 5 3400G, represent the threshold where gamers still might consider using an IGP as their daily driver (at least while they save up for a dedicated graphics card). We won’t ding AMD for no IGP on this round of chips. (After all, the Ryzen 5 3400G does exist, if you want to go that route, and its IGP is excellent.) But hopefully by the time Zen 3 comes along, we’ll have a muscular processor in the $250 range from AMD that also comes with the option of a Vega IGP.
So here’s a breakout of the Ryzen 5 3600XT alongside its 3600X kin, as well as Intel’s closest Core i5 equivalents from its current and previous generation…
Note the major thread uptick with the Core i5-10600K versus the Core i5-9600K; more on that later.
One issue we noted with the launch of the Ryzen 9 3900XT was the difference in price between itself and the Ryzen 9 3900X. Depending on the supplier, the 3900X has been seen as low as $400 on some websites. At $499 MSRP, the Ryzen 9 3900XT is solid in isolation, but it doesn’t achieve quite enough to justify a 25 percent jump in cost. We’ll have to see how actual street prices shake out.
At the half-the-price level of the Ryzen 5 3600XT, though, the price difference is a plus. At this writing (July 2020), the Ryzen 5 3600X is going for about $225 from major etailers, and the Ryzen 5 3600XT is going on sale for $249 MSRP, or just over 10 percent more. (You’ll see why this matters once we get to the gaming results.)
Another consideration with the Ryzen 9 3900XT is the lack of any stock air cooler being included in the box. Of the three XT CPUs, the Ryzen 5 3600XT is the only one that comes with an included AMD Wraith cooler, here the Wraith Spire. That’s another way the Ryzen 5 3600XT comes out looking like a better deal than the chip it’s succeeding, especially compared to how that same relationship in cost plays out between the sibling Ryzen 9 3900X (which comes with a cooler) and the Ryzen 9 3900XT (which doesn’t).
Testing the Ryzen 5 3600XT: A Tale of Two Worlds
Cooler in the box regardless, the PC Labs AMD AM4 test rig can keep the AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT quite cool under pressure, using a closed-loop liquid cooling system with a 240mm radiator (an NZXT Kraken model), installed onto an MSI MEG X570 Godlike AM4 motherboard with two of the DIMM slots populated with 16GB of G.Skill DDR4-3600 memory. It uses a 1TB Addlink S70 PCI Express Gen 3 NVMe M.2 SSD as the boot drive, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition card to handle video output during the CPU tests. For all tests, we ran the memory at its maximum 3,600MHz speed, using the Godlike board’s top supported XMP profile.
Everything worked well right out of the box with the Ryzen 5 3600XT, no compatibility-related BIOS updates needed or “#AMDdrivers” problems in sight, which made it that much easier to jump straight into our benchmarking suite.
Cinebench R15 and R20
Among the most widely used predictors of a CPU’s relative performance are the Cinebench R15 and R20 benchmark tests, which offer a good muscle measure for demanding multi-threaded content-creation apps. These are thoroughly CPU-centric tests that gauge both the single-core performance and the multicore performance of a processor when it is stressed. The resulting scores are proprietary numbers that represent the CPU’s capabilities while rendering a complex 3D image.
So, right off the line, it’s not a surprise to see the Ryzen 5 3600XT leading both the Core i5-10600K and the Ryzen 5 3600X in these tests. But what is really interesting is that it’s not as far ahead of the Core i5-10600K as one might have expected it would be, given the past year Intel has had.
Remember that earlier mention of 12 threads supported with the Core i5-10600K? Intel restoring thread-doubling Hyper-Threading to its midrange Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs with its 10th Generation “Comet Lake-S” CPUs is a huge deal in tests like this. 2019’s best Core i5 chips were six core/six-thread, while the Core i5-10600K is six-core/12-thread.
For another kind of real-world look at single-core performance, we use a, shall we say, well-aged version of Apple’s iTunes to encode a series of music tracks. It remains in our test lineup simply as a representative of legacy software we all use from time to time that has not been optimized for multicore operation.
Conversely, the Ryzen 5 3600XT isn’t as far behind the Core i5-10600K in a single-core test. (What is this upside-down world?) The chip, once again, offers rock-solid improvements over the original Ryzen 5 3600X, all while closing the gap with Intel’s latest offerings.
The POV-Ray benchmark is a synthetic, highly threaded rendering test that offers a second opinion on the Cinebench results. This test uses ray tracing to render (offscreen) a three-dimensional image. (Note that it doesn’t use the ray tracing features of Nvidia’s RTX-class GPUs; this is purely CPU-focused.) We run all-cores and single-core variants.
While the POV-Ray multicore result may not be one to hang on AMD’s wall of trophies, the 41-second improvement in single-core versus the Ryzen 5 3600X is a strong result worth a mention.
Handbrake and Blender
As an all-core rendering benchmark, the Handbrake test is a great indicator of how well a processor will handle tasks like video editing, video rendering, and video conversion, as these kinds of apps tend to chew on all the cores and threads they can get…
Strange results on this test. The XT, for some reason, actually scored worse than not only the Core i5-10600K, but also the AMD chips meant to follow it. Both the Ryzen 5 3600X and the Ryzen 3600 (not charted here) were faster than the 3600XT on this test.
Meanwhile, the shorter Blender test, as run with our test file, is mostly useful for highlighting the vast differences between low-end and high-end chips, and the similarities between chips within these two categories.
Blender set things back in line (as much as it’s able to, given such small gaps in the timings), with the Ryzen 5 3600XT shaving a second off the 3600X’s and 3600’s scores.
And here on the 7-Zip file-compression benchmark, another thread-happy, CPU-intensive task…
In this benchmark, AMD’s Ryzen 5 3600XT simply takes names in its price range. Record for the category, so if you compress a lot of files every day, today’s…well, today’s your lucky day.
Gaming Benchmarks: Ryzen 5 3600XT Frame Rates
Here’s where the value proposition of the Ryzen 5 3600XT–which was so clear with the Ryzen 5 3600X!–gets a little fuzzy.
As a content-creation churner, there’s little doubt that this chip is a solid entry for midrange buyers. It technically shows improvement over its predecessors (in every test except Handbrake), and it can also give the Intel Core i5-10600K a run for its money in that kind of work.
Once gaming and raw frame rates are the focus, however, you’ve got the Ryzen 3 3300X to contend with. The original Ryzen 3 3600X has been flat-trounced by the 3300X when you factor in their respective prices (the Ryzen 5 costs more than twice as much on an MSRP basis), and so now the Ryzen 5 3600XT has a tough job: make a value argument against a member of its own stack.
The Ryzen 5 3600XT regains any ground the Ryzen 5 3600X lost with the introduction of the Ryzen 3 3300X, but once again, perhaps not enough to justify the value proposition in the eyes of gamers playing at 1080p. It depends on the games they play and the resolution of the monitor they own. (See our guide to the best CPUs for gaming for much more on this.)
Unexpectedly, where it might find a place to shine is in the hearts of gamers wedded to 4K play. The Ryzen 5 3600XT consistently returned faster 4K results than the Ryzen 3 3300X, and although most of the games were won by only a few frames per second, when you’re talking about demanding 4K, every extra frame you can eke out makes a difference. Those frames don’t come nearly as easily as at 1080p.
Intel continues to prove that its approach to chip design, if you’re talking about game frames, is consistently the faster option versus AMD when you look at similarly priced chips. However, the gulf isn’t nearly as large as it used to be, as evidenced by the Core i5-10600K’s and the Ryzen 5 3600XT’s results above. Given the $249 MSRP for the Ryzen 5 3600XT, the Core i5-10600K no longer sits in the midrange as the no-doubter option for 1080p gamers who might also run entry-level content creation tasks on the same machine. The 12-thread Hyper-Threading feature, brought back by Intel, came just in the nick of time to keep the Core i5-10600K from being written off altogether as any kind of value for creative types.
Overclocking and Thermals
The third-generation Ryzen line has not been known for its overclocking headroom. While we were able to get a trace amount of added performance out of the Ryzen 5 3600XT, we can’t infer that the 3600XT has much more to give than the original Ryzen 5 3600X we tested did. Samples can differ, but this one didn’t show much more potential.
Using AMD’s Ryzen Master utility, overall we saw a gain of 1.5 percent in gaming, while content creation crested at about a 3.5 percent improvement before the system blue-screened. Going into the overclock, I was expecting an opposite result–that is, more gains in 1080p gaming but a lowered ceiling for content creation. So it’s a surprise to see those expectations reversed in the case of the 3600XT.
On thermals, the Ryzen 5 3600XT performed better than the Ryzen 9 3900XT in standard workloads and during our overclock, where it peaked at 65 degrees C and 71 degrees C, respectively. That’s to be expected, as this is a 95-watt versus a 105-watt TDP chip.
Stuck in the Middle With You (Is Not a Bad Place)
While the Ryzen 5 3600XT offers clearer and more substantial gains over its 3600X predecessor than the Ryzen 9 3900XT did over its 3900X kin, the 3600XT finds itself in a tricky position. It’s now a little bit of overkill for budget and mainstream gamers, given that the Ryzen 3 3300X exists. But it’s still not flat-out powerful enough to make it a compelling option for serious content creators, like the Ryzen 7 3700X would be.
But if you’re doing both gaming and semi-serious content creation, and on a strict budget? Va-va-va-voom. You’ve got a great balance for $249 here. Where the chip does shine is in its gaming gains over the original Ryzen 5 3600X. This is the clear and obvious choice for anyone who plays the majority of their games at 1080p, and also wants a decent midrange content-creation workhorse that can handle lighter workloads, like 3D rendering or audio production.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of video rendering, the Ryzen 7 3700X might be the better call. But outside of that anomalous Handbrake result, the Ryzen 5 3600XT proves that something good can happen, and not just for gamers, when you crank up the boost clock and refresh your silicon just right.
AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT Specs
|Base Clock Frequency||3.8 GHz|
|Maximum Boost Clock||4.5 GHz|
|Socket Compatibility||AMD AM4|
|L3 Cache Amount||32 MB|
|Thermal Design Power (TDP) Rating||95 watts|
|Bundled Cooler||AMD Wraith Spire|