ProsThe Ryzen 5 3600 offers tremendous value; Zen 2 matches Intel's Skylake; RAM compatibility is much improved
ConsThe 3600X doesn't justify its higher price; X570 motherboards that support the 3000 series are too expensive
The next six benchmarks use commercial game titles, which we ran at 2560 x 1440, as this is the optimal setting for our GTX 1080 video card, which while a previous generation card, represents the performance you'll get from a $350-$400 card today, i.e., one that you'd likely want to pair with a $200-$250 CPU. We take issue with reviewers that run their benchmarks on high-end video cards at 720p or 1080p, because it doesn't represent how a balanced PC will run a game. If you want to test an upper-midrange system, you should test it at settings that users will want to use. Could we have tossed our RTX 2080 Ti into these system and run all the benchmarks at 1080p? Sure we could, and you'd see completely CPU-limited numbers that didn't translate at all to reality. As you'll see, some of our benchmarks are CPU-limited, some are GPU-limited, but all will reveal important aspects of the performancde of our CPUs.
So, with that as background, on to our benchmarks!
Rise of the Tomb Raider
We're using the second installment in the impressive reboot of the Tomb Raider series to show you how a game performs when it's primarily GPU limited. The Tomb Raider games have never demanded much from CPUs, and in this case, we we see all of the CPUs performing at around the same level. Our hunch is that this game engine cannot utilize more than four cores.
The results in DOOM are similar at first glance to Tomb Raider, but look more closely and you'll see definite patterns. The Zen+ CPUs and APUs really struggle with regard to minimums, despite putting up fairly-competitive averages. In particular, the Ryzen 7 2700X falls far behind the newer 3600 twins, which actually pull ahead of even the 9900K in terms of minimums, while essentially matching its average.
OK, so if you didn't like the GPU-limited games above, how about a framerate-limited game like Rocket League?!? This represents a typical low-intensity eSports title, and it shows that for the most part, you don't need a ton of CPU power to max out these games.
All right, all right, we'll get into some CPU games already! As with many driving simulators, Dirt Rally is highly dependent on CPUs for physics calculations, and the 3600 series gets a huge win here, even besting the 9900K. Note, however, that the 3600 beats the "faster" 3600X, which calls into question how different these CPUs really are! Also note that the Zen+ architecture just couldn't stetch its legs in this game - the 2700X is only on par with the 3200G and 3400G, despite four times and two times the number of threads, respectively. This is why we never recommended Zen+ CPUs in anything other than budget-oriented gaming machines. They just didn't have a design that catered to gaming.
Now into one of our favorite games ever, Battlefield 4. Having been released in 2013, it's by far the oldest game in our benchmark suite, but that means its multi-player mode is a particularly good test of CPU power. You see, multi-player matches are notoriously hard on CPUs, and in the past we've found that Intel's CPUs crater in this benchmark when they aren't boosted by Intel's Hyperthreading. With that said, even with Hyperthreading, Intel is a mess in this benchmark. The 6700K is being bested by a $100 APU, while the 9900K performed terribly in this benchmark, as it has since the day we installed it. We even tossed our RTX 2080 Ti into the system to make sure something hadn't gone wrong with our GTX 1080, and alas, it still under-performed the AMD CPUs. Our guess is that the older Frostbite game engine has some sort of imcompatibility with Intel CPUs at such high core counts.
Interestingly, the fastest CPU in this test was the Ryzen 7 2700X, which suggests that this old title doesn't have problems with eight-cores generally - just Intel's!
OK, here's another take on the multi-player benchmark, Battlefield V, released in 2018. You can see that this game is much more GPU-limited (halving the framerates at the same resolution and quality level), which means CPUs are less important. The only CPU to distinguish itself here is the 9900K, which is still the undisputed gaming champ for modern titles. With that said, we did have one issue with the benchmark run on the 9900K: we simply could not find a full server to run the Devastation map on after running that map on all our other CPUs. Indeed, we were shocked at how desolate the game lobby was for this game, and we are afraid it's a sign that the Battlefield series has run its course. To our chagrin, we're nearly certain EA/DICE will not release any new Battlefield titles in the future.