Intel i5 7600K vs AMD Ryzen 1600 For Gaming

Both the Intel i5 7600K and AMD Ryzen 1600 CPUs are popular choices for gaming PCs but which one is better and why? Is there a clear winner? In this article we will dive a little deeper into this question by analyzing benchmarks from reviewers to help shine further light on this debate.

CPU Intel i5 7600K AMD Ryzen 1600
Cores 4 6
Threads 4 12
Base Clock 3.8GHz 3.2GHz
Turbo 4.2GHz 3.6GHz
Overclockable? Yes (Z series chipset required) Yes
Stock cooler included? No Yes

The review I will be looking at is from DigitalFoundry. What’s great about these benchmarks is the clear realtime FPS and frametime graphs which help us visualize where a CPU struggles. In most games the 7600K and 1600 perform similarly, trading blows in average FPS depending on the game being benchmarked.

What is interesting about these results is how the Intel 7600K has occasional dips in FPS. This could be because CPU utilization reaches 100% in intensive scenes, potentially resulting in a stuttering feel. Despite this, the FPS still remains well above 60FPS so the dips would primarily be noticed if you’re using a 144Hz monitor.

The frametime graph is perhaps the most telling result here. In these tests the 7600K has large and frequent frametime spikes in some CPU intensive games which can cause noticeable stuttering. This will be particularly prevalent in games like Battlefield 1 which is notorious for pushing quad core CPUs to 100% utilization in multiplayer matches. The stuttering could be worsened by background applications which could compete with the game for CPU resources.

Turning our attention to the 1600 reveals that both the framerate and frametime is more consistent. This is likely attributed to the additional cores which not only offers more resources for the game (if it can take advantage of these threads) but also for background applications. The 1600 doesn’t always score the highest but the consistent results contribute to the overall smoothness. If the frametime is erratic then a game can feel unresponsive and just generally unpleasant.

A concern for many is just how this will change in the future. If an i5 7600K is suffering from these effects in some games now, what will it be like in 3 years time? Unfortunately I do not have a crystal ball to hand but it is reasonable to assume that games will continue to better utilize more threads due to the increasingly common DX12/Vulkan API, higher core count processors becoming more affordable and advancement of consoles which use 8 core CPUs.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the i5 7600K here though. It still performs well and if you’re aiming for 60FPS then either processor would be almost indistinguishable from each other. The 7600K has the added bonus of having a little faster single core performance, allowing it to clearly outperform Ryzen in games such as ARMA.

On a side note these tests were performed at 1080p using a Titan X Pascal. A high end GPU is used to minimize the chances of being GPU limited however, if you’re using a mid range GPU such as the RX 580 or GTX 1060 then it’s unlikely that either the i5 7600K or Ryzen 1600 would be the limiting factor in most games.

Lastly a review from Techspot placed the 1600 against the 7700K in a 30 game average. They found that, once overclocked to 4GHz, the 1600 was only around 9% slower than the 7700K at 4.9GHz despite being around £100 cheaper.

Up until this point we have purely looked at these two processors from a gaming performance point of view and I feel it’s necessarily to briefly point out the cost. The overall platform cost for the 1600 is usually lower. Ryzen 1600 can overclock well on a budget B350 motherboards with the included stock cooler whereas on the Intel i5 7600K you need a Z270 motherboard and a 3rd party cooler.

In summary both CPUs perform well and trade blows depending on what game you are playing. The differences are usually only shown above 60FPS therefore either processor should be capable of pushing a 60Hz monitor. The 1600 offers more consistent frametimes, resulting in a smoother experience overall and usually has a cheaper overall platform cost. Games which rely heavily on a single thread, such as Far Cry: Primal or ARMA, show better performance when using a 7600K.

I don’t feel that, for gaming, there is necessarily a clear winner however I would give the edge to the Ryzen 1600. With more consistent frametimes, lower platform cost and potentially better longevity as games become more advanced, I feel that the Ryzen 1600 is certainly worth considering, especially if you also use your PC for other tasks which can take advantage of 12 threads. The 7600K still has it’s pros though, particularly as some games will clearly perform better due to the stronger single thread performance so it’s important to analyze benchmarks of the games you play to see if there is a clear champion.

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