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OUR VERDICT

The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X is a solid chip for its target market and would make a nice addition for a collector, but enthusiasts should stick with AMD’s retail models for the best mix of price and performance.

FOR

  • Faster than comparable Ryzen models in some games
  • PCIe 4.0
  • Lower power consumption

AGAINST

  • ‘Limited’ to OEM and SI markets
  • Reduced performance in threaded applications
  • High pricing in grey market

Today we have AMD’s Ryzen 5 3500X, a processor that AMD designed specifically for the Chinese OEM and system integrator (SI) market, in for testing to determine if it can compete with the best CPUs for gaming or best CPUs for desktop applications. With six cores and threads, the Ryzen 5 3500X stands out among AMD’s third-gen Ryzen stack as the only model without simultaneous multi-threading (SMT).

Like the Ryzen 9 3900 we took for a spin, this processor isn’t intended for retail. Most customers will encounter this chip in pre-built systems, but you won’t find these desktops competing against the best gaming PCs, because they are only available in China. However, various resellers offer the chip for stand-alone sales in Asia and India even though AMD lists it as China-only.

It isn’t easy to keep unique chips out of enthusiast’s hands, and you can score one if you’re determined and patient enough through eBay for ~$190, though several sellers also carry the processor for ~$240. We even found these grey-market chips bundled with the Wraith Stealth cooler.

AMD’s third-gen Ryzen series has proven to be a potent force in the retail market with its healthy serving of cores and threads, and the modular design affords opportunities for specialized designs to tackle various market segments. That makes lopping off SMT an easy option to tackle Intel’s advantage in OEM markets, but pricing and access to integrated graphics are typically key to securing lucrative high-volume orders.

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The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X comes without an integrated graphics engine, meaning its market is limited to systems with a discrete graphics card. That makes Intel’s new graphics-less F-series processors its natural competitor. Even with a similar number of cores and threads, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X offers better overall performance in both gaming and productivity apps than Intel’s Core i5-9400F. However, we could say the same about AMD’s other Ryzen 3000 series models that come with threading and offer a higher amount of performance. Unless you’re looking for a neat collector’s item, AMD’s existing retail chips, or the looming Ryzen 3 series processors, are almost certainly the better option.

MSRP Cores / Threads Base / Boost GHz TDP L3 Cache PCIe
Ryzen 9 3950X $749 16 / 32 3.5 / 4.7 105W 64MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 9 3900X $499 12 / 24 3.8 / 4.6 105W 64MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 9 3900 N/A 12 / 24 3.1 / 4.3 65W 64MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 7 3800X $339 8 / 16 3.9 / 4.5 105W 32MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 7 3700X $329 8 / 16 3.6 / 4.4 65W 32MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 5 3600X $249 6 / 12 3.8 / 4.4 95W 32MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 5 3600 $199 6 / 12 3.6 / 4.2 65W 32MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 5 3500X ~$190 6 / 6 3.6 / 4.1 65W 35MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 3 3300X $120 4 / 8 3.8 / 4.3 65W 16MB 16+4 Gen4
Ryzen 3 3100 $99 4 / 8 3.8 / 3.9 65W 16MB 16+4 Gen4

AMD Ryzen 5 3500X Specifications

Model Cores / Threads Base Clock Boost Clock L3 Cache TDP PCIe Memory Support MSRP
AMD Ryzen 5 3600 6 / 12 3.6 GHz 4.2 GHz 32MB 65W 16+4 Gen4 Dual DDR4-3200 $199
AMD Ryzen 5 3500X 6 / 6 3.6 GHz 4.1 GHz 32MB 65W 16+4 Gen4 Dual DDR4-3200 ~$190
Intel Core i5-9400F 6 / 6 2.9 GHz 4.1 GHz 9MB 65W 16 Gen3 Dual DDR4-2666 $157

The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X slots in against the Intel Core i5-9400F, matching it core-for-core and thread-for-thread with its six-core design. However, as we noted in our Intel Core i5-9400F review, that CPU ticks at a 2.9 GHz base clock and . But the Ryzen 5 3500X comes with a higher 3.6 GHz base frequency. That should help offset Intel’s per-core advantage in threaded workloads, and both chips come with a 4.1 GHz boost clock. That’s the lowest boost speed of the Ryzen 3000 series lineup, and, as we’ll cover below, that means you should treat overclocking a bit differently.

Like the other Ryzen 3000 chips, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X comes with a 7nm compute die (with two disabled physical cores) paired with a 12nm I/O die. These two components come together into a single package that fits inside a 65W TDP envelope, making the chip physically identical to the 95W Ryzen 5 3600X. As such, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X also looks nearly identical to the upstream Ryzen 5 3600, except it only comes with six threads operating across the six-core design. As we’ve often seen, processors without hyper-threading tend to perform better in some lightly-threaded workloads, so the lack of threading could help the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X in some tasks, like gaming.

The AMD Ryzen 5 3500X comes with all of the trimmings we expect from the Ryzen 3000 series of processors, like support for the PCIe 4.0 interface that provides twice the I/O bandwidth of the PCIe 3.0 interface supported on Intel’s chips. The chip also carries the same 65W TDP as the Core i5-9400F, but these values aren’t directly comparable due to how the companies measure the value.

Like its Ryzen counterparts, the AMD Ryzen 5 3500X shares the same Zen 2 design that’s etched into the 7nm process, so the feature set is largely the same. The chip comes with a fully unlocked ratio multiplier, meaning overclocking the CPU and memory is on the menu, support for dual-channel DDR4-3200 memory (varies based on DIMM population), and it drops into socket AM4 motherboards (support may vary by vendor). For now, you’ll have to pair the chip with either an X570 motherboard that carries a higher price than we’d recommend for this class of chip, or discard PCIe 4.0 support in favor of a cheaper B450 or X470 motherboard. AMD has its B460 lineup coming soon that will slot in as a PCIe 4.0-capable value alternative. That class of board would make a better home for the 3500X.

 

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