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AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 7 5800X: the Digital Foundry verdict

AMD has finally done it.

It's taken four attempts, but AMD has finally cracked it: Ryzen is now effectively as strong as Intel when it comes to gaming performance. While some games remain friendlier to Intel processors, the differences are small enough that we're happy to recommend Ryzen 5000 processors as the default choice for most people - as long as you've got a B550 or X570 motherboard, as Ryzen 5000 support for B450 boards will arrive in beta form early next year. Outside of games, the boost to single-core speeds has also resulted in significantly better content creation performance, with the ($549) 5900X coming within a few percentage points of the (originally $749) 3950X in some workloads.

Given this turn of events, it's hard to consider Intel the same strong choice it once was. After all, even for games where Intel retains a small lead, you've got to also consider AMD's better value motherboards (which include PCIe 4.0 support and memory overclocking even on budget B550 models) and Ryzen's generally stronger performance at a given price point in heavily-threaded tasks like rendering or media encoding. On balance, these new 4th-gen Ryzen processors feel like the better choice - and that's a massive coup for Team Red.

Ryzen 5000 may prove to be an even more tantalising prospect for anyone planning to pick up a Ryzen RX 6000 graphics card and B550 or X570 motherboard, with AMD claiming that users will see in-game frame-rate boosts of up to 10 per cent by enabling a feature called AMD Smart Access Memory. This technology, known more generically as PCI Express Resizable BAR, allows Ryzen 5000 processors direct access to GPU memory, bypassing the traditional 256MB I/O region bottleneck. It will be fascinating to see if this extra firepower advantage allows an all-AMD system to compete at the very highest level against its Intel/Nvidia competition.

For budget-oriented buyers interested in mixed workloads - eg gaming plus streaming, media encoding or other content creation tasks - the existing 3rd-gen Ryzen processors likely remain the best overall value, including the Ryzen 5 3600 which was the centrepiece of our recommended RTX 3070/3080 build. These processors have seen sharp reductions in price over the last few months, and once Ryzen 5000 CPUs are released we expect that to continue for a short period before available stock dries up. We may also see a similar price drop phenomenon with Intel 9th and 10th-gen processors, so if you are only interested in gaming performance then it's worth checking the price of models like the 9700K, 9900K and 10600K.

With the supply issues constraining recent graphics card and console launches, it will also be interesting to see how much stock of Ryzen 5000 processors is available at launch. If our strong impressions of these new CPUs are shared by other users and publications, then we could well see poor availability into the new year.

As always, we'd encourage you to read widely before committing to a purchase, as you'll get a more balanced picture of real performance from a range of workloads and test methodologies. For example, we haven't investigated how well Ryzen 5000 overclocks, or whether you can see even bigger gains from Infinity Fabric overclocking than we saw on Ryzen 3000 processors. AMD has claimed that fabric clocks up to 2000MHz should be possible for many setups, up from the 1900MHz on Ryzen 3000 designs, but the BIOS we're using for testing wasn't able to achieve this. If either avenue provides further performance gains, then Ryzen 5000 could become even better.

Regardless, from our perspective Ryzen 5000 has already done enough. AMD has effectively eliminated the largest single advantage enjoyed by its closest competitor, and that's an achievement well worth celebrating. It will be fascinating to see how the Ryzen 5000 lineup expands over time - a hypothetical Ryzen 5 5600 could be an absolute value monster - and to see whether Intel is able to muster any kind of a response.

Looking to upgrade? Here's where you can order one in the US and UK.

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 7 5800X analysis

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