Ryzen 5 1600X: Building a versatile work and play PC with AMD's 6-core CPU champion

With 6 cores and 12 threads, AMD's Ryzen 5 1600X is perfect for affordable work AND play.



The Ryzen 5 1600X is here, and AMD’s affordable processor is just as disruptive as the high-end Ryzen 7 CPUs. Hell, maybe even more so.

While the 8-core-equipped Ryzen 7 series traded blows with Intel’s $1,000 Core i7-6900K for as little as a third of the price, it lagged significantly behind the quad-core Core i7-7700K in many pure gaming workloads. The Ryzen 5 1600X’s value proposition is much clearer. With 6 overclockable cores and 12 threads, its competitor would be the $420 Core i7-6800K in a vacuum—but we don’t live in a vacuum. Here in the real world, the 1600X’s $250 price tag puts it toe-to-toe with Intel’s Core i5-7600K, a ferocious gaming chip but one limited to just 4 cores without any hyperthreading.

Sure, the 1600X still isn’t quite as fast as the 7600K in some games, but Ryzen still games like a champ when paired with a decent graphics card. And with three times as many threads as its rival, AMD’s processor absolutely burns the Core i5 to the ground in multi-threaded applications. Seriously. It’s a massacre.

You’ll need to read PCWorld’s comprehensive Ryzen 5 1600X review for the detailed scoop on its performance. Here, we’re going to build one hell of an all-around system that basks in the Ryzen 5 1600X’s status as the jack—nay, the king—of all trades as the best mainstream CPU powerhouse you can buy.

What's inside the Ryzen 1600X PC

While our Ryzen 7 1800X build celebrating the apex of all-AMD power contained several indulgences (the closed-loop cooler and premium power supply alone cost over $500) this build’s a bit more restrained. Don’t get me wrong: At a hair over $1,500, this isn’t a cheap PC. But it’s one designed to offer damned fine (though not best-in-class) performance in all computing areas—gaming, streaming, audio/video editing, programming, you name it—with a price-to-performance ratio that isn’t outrageous.

Got it? Good. Let’s dig in.

ryzen 5 9 Gordon Mah Ung

The Ryzen 5 1600X.

Processor: The $250 Ryzen 5 1600X, duh. Haven’t you been paying attention? The 1600X’s 6 cores and 12 threads hum along between 3.6GHz and 4GHz, and since it’s rocking an “X” designation, AMD’s eXtended Frequency Range technology can up that top speed by another 100MHz if you’re rocking a particularly beefy CPU cooler.

CPU cooler: …which we’re not. Instead, this build utilizes the Wraith Max, the most potent (and RGB-laden) member of AMD’s Wraith cooler lineup, which the company sent along for us to test. Intel’s stock coolers don’t hold a candle to this.

ryzen 1600x build 17 Brad Chacos

Spoiler alert: AMD's Wraith Max in action.

But the Ryzen 5 1600X doesn’t include a CPU cooler in the box so you’ll need to pick one up. The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo ($30 on Amazon) is our go-to recommendation for folks looking to pick up a solid CPU cooler without breaking the bank, and Cooler Master will send you an AMD AM4 motherboard bracket if you ask. If you want to push the fastest overclocks possible, the superb Noctua NH-D15 air cooler offers a AM4-specific variant for $90 on Newegg, while Corsair—like Cooler Master—will send you AM4 mounting hardware for the popular Hydro H100i v2 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon) if you ask for it.

amd ryzen 1800x build 6 Brad Chacos

The Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard.

Motherboard: After careful consideration, I decided to go with the same Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard ($195 on Amazon and Newegg, though often sold out) used in PCWorld’s previous Ryzen 7 1800X build. As explained in PCWorld’s Ryzen motherboard breakdown, the X370 and B350 chipsets for AM4 motherboards are largely similar, but the little extras found in high-end X370 boards make sense in a versatile build like this. Compared to a B350 board, X370 offers two extra SATA connections, two additional PCI-E lanes, four more USB 3 ports, and CrossFire/SLI support for systems with multiple graphics cards.

Next page: Parts, continued.

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Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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