Every so often there comes a processor that captures the market. It ends up being that right combination of price, cores, frequency, performance, features and compatibility when added to the right sort of motherboard that makes it fly off the shelves. The main CPU this cycle seems to be the Ryzen 5 3600, offering six high-performance Zen 2 cores and 24 lanes of PCIe 4.0 for only $199. It currently sits at #1 on the Amazon best seller list, so we put one through the paces just to see if the hype was actually real.

At $199, the AMD Ryzen 5 3600 has been one the cheapest way to get ahold of AMD’s latest Zen2 microarchitecture. In our reviews of the lead generation Ryzen products, as well as Zen2 on Threadripper, Zen2 in EPYC, and Zen2 in Renoir, this microarchitecture is pushing new performance boundaries clock-for-clock against Intel’s other desktop offerings. In fact, until the latest launch of the Ryzen 3 line of processors, the Ryzen 5 was the cheapest Zen 2 processor on the market.

(On 5/18, Amazon's price was down to $189. Newegg was $172, but sold out).



With six cores and twelve threads, the comparative Intel options vary between something like the Core i7-9600KF with six cores and no hyperthreading, or to the i7-9700KF with eight cores and no hyperthreading. The downside is that both of these processors are more expensive: where the Ryzen 5 3600 is $199, the i5-9600KF is $263 and the i7-9700KF is $385. Frequencies between the three are competitive, however the AMD has a TDP of 65 W, compared to 95 W, and it comes with DDR4-3200 support with 24 lanes of PCIe 4.0, rather than DDR4-2666 and 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 vs Overclockable Intel Equivalents
Ryzen 5 3600
AnandTech Intel Core
Intel Core
$199 / $189 Price $263 $385
Zen 2 Architecture Coffee Lake-R
Coffee Lake-R
6C / 12T Cores 6C / 6T 8C / 8T
3600 MHz Base Freq 3700 MHz 3600 MHz
4200 MHz Turbo Freq 4600 MHz 4900 MHz
65 W TDP 95 W 95 W
2 x DDR4-3200 DDR4 2x DDR4-2666 2x DDR4-2666
PCIe 4.0 x24 PCIe PCIe 3.0 x16 PCIe 3.0 x16

Just by going with these on-paper specifications, it’s not hard to see why the Ryzen 5 3600 has been so popular. Even at the $199 price point, the i5-9400F is a $182 processor with the same memory/PCIe downsides, as well as being lower in frequency, despite matching the power rating. The Ryzen 5 3600 is also an unlocked processor, for anyone that wants to overclock.

Intel has announced its newest 10th Generation processor line, however the official launch date of the processors has not been officially announced yet. Out of the processor lineup however, the closest match would be the Core i5-10500.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 vs Intel 10th Gen
at ~$200
Ryzen 5 3600
AnandTech Intel Core
Intel Core
$199 / $189 Price $192 $213
Zen 2 Architecture Comet Lake
Comet Lake
6 C / 12 T Cores 6 C / 12 T 6 C / 12 T
3600 MHz Base Freq 3100 MHz 3300 MHz
4200 MHz Turbo Freq 4500 MHz 4800 MHz
65 W TDP 65 W 65 W
2x DDR4-3200 DDR4 2x DDR4-2666 2x DDR4-2666
PCIe 4.0 x24 PCIe PCIe 3.0 x16 PCIe 3.0 x16
Yes Overclockable No No
No iGPU Yes Yes

This processor matches the six cores and twelve threads, is near in price, doesn’t quite match the base frequency but does exceed in the turbo. It is 65 W, the same as AMD, and on the plus side it does have integrated graphics. But again, it is only DDR4-2666 and only has 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, compared to AMD’s DDR4-3200 and 24 PCIe 4.0 lanes.


Not only this, but our recent trips to brick-and-mortar stores (before the lockdown) looking for Intel mid-range 9th processors have been relatively fruitless. Intel is still facing increased demand for its high-end silicon, and is still focusing on making those parts that command the highest margins, like the Xeons. We also understand that Intel might be staggering the exact release of some of this hardware, focusing on the 10th Gen K processors first, so it might be a while before we see the mid-range CPUs at retail.

The AMD Ryzen 3 3300X and 3100 CPU Review: A Budget Gaming Bonanza

The third angle in the competition for the Ryzen 5 3600 will be with AMD’s own hardware. Having recently launched the Ryzen 3 3300X for only $120, users will have to decide if the extra $80 is worth the two extra cores in the processor. The Ryzen 5 3600 may only be popular because of it being the cheapest Zen 2 processor on the market, and if that is the case then the Ryzen 3 3300X could easily fill that role (or the Ryzen 3 3100, at $99). We tested the Ryzen 3 3300X and Ryzen 3 3100 very recently, and that review is well worth a read.

Ryzen 5 3600
AnandTech AMD
Ryzen 3 3300X
$199 / $189 Price $120
Zen 2 Microarchitecture Zen 2
6 C / 12 T Cores 4 C / 8 T
3600 MHz Base Freq 3800 MHz
4200 MHz Turbo Freq 4300 MHz
65 W TDP 65 W
2 x DDR4-3200 DDR4 2 x DDR4-3200
PCIe 4.0 x24 PCIe PCIe 4.0 x24

This is one area where the Ryzen 5 3600 is in a bit of an awkward position, especially with the recent announcement relating to B550.

The Ryzen 5 3600 is a popular mid-range processor, meaning that it should be paired with a good mid-range motherboard. For the longest time, that was the B450 motherboard line, with an expectation of a possible upgrade to Ryzen 4000 later this year or next year. Unfortuantely AMD has stated that it will be locking the possible CPUs on B450 to Ryzen 3000 and below, meaning that the highest processor that a B450 owner can use is the Ryzen 9 3950X.

As is perhaps understandable, B450 owners with mid-range CPUs looking for an upgrade path are not too happy. With the announcement of B550 offering an upgrade path, there will be a lot of potential mid-range customers now waiting for the B550 motherboards to come to market.

The AMD X570 Motherboard Overview: Over 35+ Motherboards Analyzed

For those that have some money burning a hole in the pocket, X570 is always an option, with the cheapest boards available being around $150. We have performed a large round-up of all the X570 boards in the market, with specific one-off reviews for some of the more impressive models. I suspect however that potential Ryzen 5 3600 customers might be waiting for a good $120 B550 board, should one come to market.

This Review

At the request of a number of our readers, we sourced the Ryzen 5 3600 to put it through its paces in our updated test suite. Based on the responses on social media, it looks like potential Ryzen 5 3600 customers are into gaming and/or workflow on reasonably priced systems, so we’ll tackle both areas.

In our review, there are two key comparisons to look out for:

  • Ryzen 5 3600 vs Ryzen 3 3300X
  • Ryzen 5 3600 vs Core i5-8400 / 9400

Unfortunately we don’t have an i5-9400F for comparison, however the i5-8400 is basically the same chip by 100 MHz, with the same memory support and microarchitecture design. To make the graphs easier to understand, we've listed the results as 8400/9400. If we get a 9400 or 9400F in for testing, we will update the graphs as necessary.

Turbo, Power, and Latency
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  • edzieba - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    The "faster ram" columns always get a good laugh: anyone here running their DIMMs and /not/ using the XMP profiles?
  • WaltC - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Right! What would be the point of that?...;) Intel isn't yet equal to AMD in architecture--still needs a bunch of vulnerability mitigation, and is still cranking out 14nm like there's no tomorrow...;) Intel's "high end" is in great demand, says Ian. Hmmm...I'll bet AMD's high end is even under higher demand--since Intel has very little if anything that can catch it. Zen 3 is going to fire another shot across Intel's bow...! Good times!
  • PeachNCream - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Yeah, but how many desktop CPUs are getting sold directly to consumers versus the numbers going into more portable form factors or to OEMs for mass market Optiplexes and ProDesks? Those admittedly yawn-fest systems are where the volume sales are landing, not here with Gamer Billy's RGB LED-sled full ATX tower where though there are higher margins on a per-unit basis, the numbers just aren't significant.
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    Yeah, I’m not sure why they have a delusional disclaimer saying folks don’t use XML. Last time I checked this was a site for enthusiasts. Would really like them to test at stock and with a reasonable upgrade stick. A wider suite of benchmarks would be nice too.
  • PeachNCream - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    While the 3600 is currently the best selling desktop CPU on Amazon and it is great to see a competitive CPU landscape right now, occupying that number 1 slot is not representative of the wider PC market as a whole. A vanishingly small number of people elect to operate a desktop PC of any sort these days and of those people the majority do not build their own systems from individual components. Most of the world uses a mobile phone or a laptop to accomplish day-to-day compute tasks and get whatever CPU happens to be included in that system. I'm happy to see 4000-series APUs becoming more available so there is competition FINALLY in the price segments that see large sales volumes. It would be great if Anandtech could get hands on more practical and common hardware that the average person puts to use so the next time I go out to grab a sub-$500 laptop, I know if the cooling is sufficient or if it has dual channel memory. Maybe find out if there is something quirky about the touchpad. I have to drop in at notebookcheck.net most of the time for information that is relevant to me and their reviews are not usually as complete at AT, but AT appears to be very much out of the mobile hardware review business except for halo gamer hardware that relevant to a pretty small audience.
  • WaltC - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Maybe it's just the difference in English, but why title the article "Why is the 3600 AMZN's best-selling CPU?" Almost sounds like Ian doesn't think it should be--but then the article itself corrects that misapprehension. Probably a better title would have been, "Here's why the 3600 is AMZN's best-selling CPU." Small change comment--nit picking, for sure...;) IMO, articles should never be titled as questions--a good article should inform, instead of leave unanswered questions. I was always taught that titling with questions instead of statements was second rate. A good article should include the answers--so instead of asking a question you let the reader know, "Herein lies the answer," etc.
  • GreenReaper - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    It doesn't meet the expectation that any news piece titled with a question can be answered "no", either!
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - link

    One title is click bait, one is not. This is the world we live in
  • flyingpants265 - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Hello. 3600 is still too expensive. $290 CAD when I paid only $100 CAD for my used 2600. So for me to upgrade, I'd be paying an extra $200.
  • 1_rick - Monday, May 18, 2020 - link

    Comparing used prices to new isn't very useful.

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