Inexpensive. High core count and clock speed. Overclockable.
No integrated GPU.
- Bottom Line
The Ryzen 5 2600X is an incremental improvement over first-generation Ryzen chips, but it's still a good choice for mainstream enthusiast builds.
For more than a decade, most mainstream desktop CPUs had two or four cores and clock speeds that hovered around 2GHz. AMD's return to the market last year changed all of that, with its Ryzen CPUs boasting higher clock speeds and more cores at lower prices than the Intel competition. Now, the company's second generation Ryzen chips have arrived, including the Ryzen 5 2600X ($229) destined for mainstream desktops and all-in-ones.
A Small Step Forward
This CPU is an incremental improvement, to be sure. It has six cores, 12 threads, and runs at a base 3.6GHz clock speed that's boostable to 4.2GHz. As with the more powerful second-generation Ryzen 7 lineup, it's based on an evolution of the Zen architecture rather than a complete overhaul. The biggest improvement is a new 12nm production process, which could enable a more efficient design with reduced latency. We don't know for sure, since we haven't yet tested the new 2600X at PC Labs.
If you're planning on using the new Ryzen 5 2600X in a mainstream system build that doesn't need to handle heavy workloads, perhaps the best news is that AMD has included a Wraith Spire cooling system in the box for no additional cost. Even better, the price itself is roughly comparable with last year's CPU lineup, so that could mean significant savings. If you don't mind a slightly lower clock speed and want to save even more, AMD also announced the Ryzen 5 2600, with identical specs except for a base clock speed that's 200MHz slower and a $199 price.
On the other hand, one of the main advantages of a Ryzen processor is that all of them are overclockable, and models with an "X" at the end of their name can clock even higher than the top boost-clock speed (3.2GHz in this case) assuming you've got an adequate cooling system. That said, if you are planning on building a PC with screaming performance, you'll probably want to step up to the Ryzen 7 2700X instead, which has eight cores and a slightly higher maximum clock speed for an additional $100.
The new CPU also comes with a new AMD X470 chipset, although it's also backward-compatible with motherboards that support the first-generation Ryzen lineup. Other than enabling new motherboard designs, perhaps the most intriguing feature of the X470 is AMD's new StoreMI technology, which lets you combine multiple SSDs and conventional hard drives into a single virtual volume and automatically assign files based on their storage speed requirements. In AMD's internal testing with StoreMI enabled on a combination of a HDD and NVMe SSD, app loading was nearly three times as fast, suggesting that it offers similar benefits to Apple's Fusion Drive.
Like its predecessors, the 2600X has no integrated graphics processor, which means you'll have to install your own discrete GPU alongside it. That won't be much of a problem for most enthusiasts, who typically need extra graphics horsepower for gaming or content creation, but it does needlessly increase the price and complicaton of a simple build not intended for heavy graphics use. If you're looking for an AMD chip with integrated graphics, you'll instead want to check out a Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 3 model with Vega GPUs included.
We'll have a full review of the Ryzen 5 2600X soon, so check back for performance benchmark results and our recommendations.
About the Author
As a hardware analyst, Tom tests and reviews laptops, peripherals, and much more at PC Labs in New York City. He previously covered the consumer tech beat as a news reporter for PCMag in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, where he rode in several self-driving cars and witnessed the rise and fall of many startups. Before that, he worked for PCMag's s… See Full Bio
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