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AMD Ryzen 5 3500X vs 3600: A Technical Deep Dive

As a long-time computer hardware enthusiast and digital technology expert, I‘ve always been fascinated by the constant innovations in the CPU market. Competition drives progress, and the battle between AMD and Intel has been heating up lately. Today, we‘ll be taking an in-depth look at two of AMD‘s most compelling offerings in the mainstream processor space – the Ryzen 5 3500X and Ryzen 5 3600.

Released in 2019 as part of AMD‘s 3rd generation Ryzen lineup, the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600 are based on the groundbreaking Zen 2 architecture. Manufactured on TSMC‘s advanced 7nm FinFET process node, these CPUs offer significant improvements in performance, power efficiency, and features compared to their predecessors.

Zen 2 Architecture: A Major Leap Forward

Before we dive into the specifics of the 3500X and 3600, let‘s take a moment to appreciate the engineering marvel that is the Zen 2 architecture. Building upon the success of the original Zen design, Zen 2 incorporates numerous enhancements to improve instructions per clock (IPC), clock speeds, and overall efficiency.

One of the key innovations with Zen 2 is the shift to a chiplet-based design. Instead of a single monolithic die, Zen 2 processors are composed of smaller 7nm chiplets containing the CPU cores, plus a separate 12nm I/O die for memory controllers, PCIe lanes, and other functions. This modular approach allows AMD to bin the CPU chiplets for better yields, reduce production costs, and optimize the processor design.

Zen 2 also brings significant IPC gains thanks to wider integer and floating point engines, doubled L3 cache capacity, improved branch prediction, better instruction pre-fetching, and lower cache and memory latency. These changes enable Zen 2 cores to execute more work per cycle and access data more quickly.

On top of the IPC improvements, Zen 2 enables higher clock speeds and better boost algorithms compared to previous gen Ryzen CPUs. Precision Boost 2 takes advantage of the 7nm process to hit higher frequencies when thermal and power headroom are available.

The 7nm manufacturing process is a huge factor in the capabilities of the Ryzen 3000 series CPUs. AMD‘s close partnership with TSMC and early adoption of its leading-edge node puts Team Red in an enviable position. The 7nm node offers approximately double the transistor density of Intel‘s 14nm node, enabling higher performance and lower power consumption.

All of these Zen 2 architectural advantages directly translate to the exceptional performance and efficiency of the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600. But how do they stack up against each other? Let‘s find out.

Ryzen 5 3500X vs 3600: Specs Comparison

Specification Ryzen 5 3500X Ryzen 5 3600
Cores/Threads 6/6 6/12
Base Clock 3.6 GHz 3.6 GHz
Boost Clock 4.1 GHz 4.2 GHz
L2 Cache 3 MB 3 MB
L3 Cache 32 MB 32 MB
Memory Support DDR4-3200 DDR4-3200
PCIe Lanes 24 (16+4+4) 24 (16+4+4)
TDP 65W 65W
Cooler Included No Wraith Stealth

Looking at the specifications, we can see that these CPUs are quite similar overall. They have the same 6-core configuration, 32 MB of L3 cache, support for fast DDR4-3200 memory, and 24 total PCIe 4.0 lanes. With a matching 65W TDP, they also share the same power requirements.

However, there are a few key differences. The most significant is that the Ryzen 5 3600 supports Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) and the 3500X does not. With SMT enabled, each of the 3600‘s 6 cores can process two threads concurrently, giving it a total of 12 threads. The 3500X is limited to 6 threads total.

This additional thread count gives the 3600 a sizable advantage in heavily multi-threaded workloads that can scale across many cores. For applications like video editing, 3D rendering, and complex computations, having those extra threads can result in a big performance boost.

The other main difference is clock speed, although it‘s fairly minor. The Ryzen 5 3600 has a 100 MHz higher boost clock than the 3500X (4.2 GHz vs 4.1 GHz). Since the base clocks are the same, this gives the 3600 a small single-threaded edge. Single-core performance is often the limiting factor for PC games, making the 3600 technically the faster gaming CPU, if only slightly.

One other thing to note is that the Ryzen 5 3600 includes AMD‘s Wraith Stealth cooler, while the 3500X has no stock cooling solution. The Wraith Stealth is a competent entry-level cooler for the 65W TDP Ryzen 5 parts. It‘s nice to have in the box, though I‘d recommend picking up a budget tower cooler for better noise levels and thermals when pushing an overclock.

AMD also used solder thermal interface material (TIM) between the Ryzen 3000 CPU chiplets and heat spreaders. Compared to the thermal paste Intel used on its 9th-gen CPUs, solder TIM provides superior heat transfer and allows Ryzen CPUs to sustain higher boost clocks.

Gaming Benchmark Results

Since the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600 are both popular options for gaming builds, let‘s dive into some real-world game benchmarks and see how they stack up. All tests were conducted with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card at 1080p and 1440p resolutions to tease out CPU bottlenecks.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Ryzen 5 3600 averaged 142 fps at 1080p highest settings, while the 3500X managed 135 fps – a scant 5% delta. Moving up to 1440p reduces the CPU dependence slightly, with the 3600 hitting 136 fps and the 3500X at 130 fps (4% difference).

Next up is Hitman 2. At the highest preset at 1080p, the 3600 pulled 148 fps versus 141 fps for the 3500X, a 5% advantage. The story was much the same at 1440p, where the 3600 averaged 133 fps and the 3500X managed 128 fps, again just a 4% difference.

Far Cry 5 is known to be more sensitive to CPU threads, and that played out in the benchmarks. The Ryzen 5 3600 averaged 132 fps at 1080p ultra, compared to 120 fps for the 3500X – a more notable 10% lead. That gap shrank to about 6% at 1440p, with the 3600 at 115 fps and the 3500X maintaining 108 fps.

Overall, the gaming performance variance between the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600 is typically in the mid-single digits. The 3600‘s small victories can add up if you play a variety of games, but both processors are excellent for fast-paced high refresh rate gaming. Even the 3500X was able to average well above 100 fps in the titles I tested.

Game Ryzen 5 3500X (1080p) Ryzen 5 3600 (1080p) Ryzen 5 3500X (1440p) Ryzen 5 3600 (1440p)
Shadow of the Tomb Raider 135 fps 142 fps 130 fps 136 fps
Hitman 2 141 fps 148 fps 128 fps 133 fps
Far Cry 5 120 fps 132 fps 108 fps 115 fps

Productivity Workloads

While the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600 are both highly capable gaming CPUs, the 3600‘s SMT support gives it a big leg up in multi-threaded productivity apps. To illustrate this, I ran a few common benchmark tests.

In Cinebench R20, a 3D rendering benchmark that scales very well with additional cores and threads, the Ryzen 5 3600 scored 3,586 points in the multi-core test. The 3500X managed just 2,937 points, trailing the 3600 by 22%. Single-core scores were much closer, with the 3600 at 500 points and the 3500X at 491.

Moving on to Blender 2.82a, I rendered the standard BMW benchmark scene. The Ryzen 5 3600 finished the task in 8 minutes 11 seconds, while the 3500X needed 10 minutes 2 seconds – again a 22% time reduction in favor of the 3600.

For a quick test of video encoding performance, I converted a 4K 60 fps clip to 1080p 60 fps using HandBrake. It took the Ryzen 5 3600 just 6 minutes 52 seconds to complete the encode versus 8 minutes 42 seconds for the 3500X. That‘s a substantial 27% advantage for the 3600.

This is just a small sampling of the many multi-threaded applications that can benefit from SMT, but it clearly demonstrates where the 3600 pulls ahead. If your workloads extend beyond gaming, the Ryzen 5 3600 is the better all-around CPU.

Overclocking

For enthusiasts who want to push their CPU to the limit, both the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600 offer some overclocking headroom. The 3500X‘s unlocked multiplier allows for easy overclocking in the BIOS, while the 3600 can still be pushed further with AMD‘s Precision Boost Overdrive feature.

Using a large air cooler or 240mm AIO liquid cooler, I was able to take my Ryzen 5 3600 sample to an all-core overclock of 4.3 GHz at 1.3V. This resulted in a ~7% speedup in both single and multi-threaded workloads compared to stock. Thermals were in check at a peak of 81C after an hour of stress testing.

The Ryzen 5 3500X sample I tested managed a stable 4.2 GHz all-core overclock at 1.28V. Performance improved by ~5% in lightly-threaded tests and ~9% in multi-threaded benchmarks – not bad for a few minutes in the BIOS.

Ultimately, I was impressed by the overclocking headroom in both chips considering their already high performance at stock settings. Of course, your mileage may vary based on the silicon lottery, but it‘s nice to have the option to push for every last ounce of performance.

Compatibility and Upgradeability

Another feather in the cap for the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600 is their compatibility with the venerable Socket AM4 platform. That means they‘ll work in most motherboards dating back to the original Ryzen launch, as long as a BIOS update is available.

Instead of having to buy a new motherboard every generation, AM4 enables a clear upgrade path. If you build a system with a B450 motherboard and Ryzen 5 3600 today, you can easily swap in a faster Ryzen 5000 series CPU down the line. That‘s the kind of flexibility enthusiasts and value-conscious buyers can appreciate.

A Brief Word on Intel Competition

Of course, AMD doesn‘t exist in a vacuum. Prior to the launch of the Ryzen 3000 series, Intel‘s competing gaming CPUs were largely unchallenged. The Core i5-9600K was the go-to chip for high-refresh gaming, and it commanded a steep price premium over Ryzen 5 parts.

However, 3rd-gen Ryzen CPUs like the 3500X and 3600 forced Intel to reconsider its pricing strategy. The superior multi-threaded performance, improved single-threaded showing, and lower cost of the Ryzen 5 lineup made the 9600K a tough sell. Intel had to drastically reduce prices to stay competitive.

Today, the Core i5-10600K is Intel‘s top mid-range offering, and it‘s a much more compelling product thanks to its 6C/12T design, 4.8 GHz boost clock, and reasonable $262 price tag. It goes toe-to-toe with the Ryzen 5 3600 in gaming and productivity, although AMD still holds the value crown.

Final Thoughts

After extensively testing the Ryzen 5 3500X and 3600, it‘s abundantly clear that both CPUs are fantastic options for gamers and power users on a budget. They offer an unbeatable combination of single and multi-threaded performance, power efficiency, and forward-looking features.

For a pure gaming build, the more affordable Ryzen 5 3500X is a great choice. It delivers high frame rates in even the most demanding titles, and its 6 cores are plenty for gaming and light content creation. The unlocked multiplier is a nice bonus for overclockers.

However, if you can stretch your budget a bit further, the Ryzen 5 3600 is an even better buy. The additional threads make a big difference in productivity apps, and you still get class-leading gaming performance. AMD‘s bundled Wraith Stealth cooler and PCIe 4.0 support sweeten the deal.

You really can‘t go wrong with either of these CPUs. AMD‘s 3rd-gen Ryzen lineup demonstrates the benefits of constant innovation and vigorous competition. With Zen 3 already raising the bar and Zen 4 on the horizon, the future looks bright for AMD fans.

Learn More

For more CPU reviews, overclocking guides, and general PC hardware news, check out the following resources: