Recently we compared the 5-year-old Ryzen 5 1600 to the new Ryzen 5 5600 on an old B350 motherboard to see just how much of an upgrade the Zen 3 processor is -- and spoiler -- it's a massive upgrade that's well worth it for anyone who jumped on the AM4 platform early. A no brainer, with the 5600 now down to just $175.
But what if you have the Ryzen 5 3600? This is the question many have asked us after seeing the above results, so we went back to the test bench to go for it. For those that missed the previous review, we've got a 25 game benchmark at 1080p and 1440p using the Radeon RX 6950 XT and the more mid-range 6600 XT, with SAM enabled.
The motherboard used for testing is the old MSI B350 Tomahawk using the latest BIOS revision based on the AGESA 126.96.36.199 microcode, which enables Resizable BAR support along with support for Ryzen 5000 series processors. Then we have 32GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 dual-rank dual-channel memory, and this same configuration was used for testing all Ryzen processors.
With those details out of the way, let's go over about a dozen of the games tested and then we'll take a look at the 25 game average.
Starting with Fortnite we see that although the Ryzen 5 3600 is plenty fast, the 5600 is much faster, boosting performance with the 6950 XT at 1080p by a whopping 56% at 1080p.
Even with the 6600 XT, the R5 5600 was 47% faster than the 3600 at 1080p, though that margin was reduced to 16% at 1440p. Still, for Fortnite players it looks like Zen 2 is fast enough, pushing frame rates well over 250 fps on average with 1% lows of over 160 fps.
Next up we have Assetto Corsa Competizione and here the 3600 performs really well, boosting average frame rate performance over the original 1600 by up to 52%. Moreover, it was just 15% slower than the 5600 when paired with the 6950 XT at 1080p.
Big gains for Zen 2 over Zen here, while Zen 3 was up to 18% faster which admittedly is still a reasonable performance advantage, but might not warrant the $175 investment in the 5600.
The Ryzen 3600 performed even better in Cyberpunk 2077 relative to the 5600, typically trailing by a 7% margin. That means it was significantly faster than the 1600 when more CPU-limited with the 6950 XT. Another impressive result that shouldn't see 3600 owners in need of a 5600 upgrade.
As we've found previously Dying Light 2 isn't a heavy CPU user and as a result even the Ryzen 5 1600 does well here. That said, the 3600 was better when paired with high-end GPUs as it was able to match the 5600 at both 1440p and 1080p using the 6950 XT.
Moving on, we have F1 2021 and this is a game that despite running at much lower frame rates with the Ryzen 5 1600, it was very playable with well over 100 fps at all times. That being the case, 3600 owners who predominantly play F1 2021 won't feel the need to upgrade given performance here has been boosted by up to 37% over the 1600. The fact that it's still 32% slower than the 5600 is of no consequence given we're talking about average frame rates in excess of 200 fps.
The Far Cry 6 results are interesting as they become GPU bound quickly using the high quality preset, yet there's no performance difference between the 3600 and 5600, which is odd, but the performance of Far Cry games has always been a bit strange and don't utilize CPUs very well. But when compared to the 1600, the Ryzen 3600 is up to 57% faster, which is a sizable improvement.
The Forza Horizon 5 results are more typical. Using the 6950 XT at 1080p, the 3600 was 46% faster than the 1600 and 16% slower than the 5600. That margin is reduced to just 11% at 1440p and although that still makes the 5600 a good bit faster, the 3600 is still averaging over 200 fps which is plenty fast.
Then with the 6600 XT, the Ryzen 3600 and 5600 are evenly matched due to the GPU limitation, though at 1080p the 3600 was 26% faster than the 1600. For those wanting to push over 144 fps, the 3600 is more than capable of that in Forza.
Moving on to Hitman 3, we find that the Ryzen 3600 is able to match the 5600 for the most part, with the exception of the 1080p data with the 6950 XT where it was 13% faster. For most playing Hitman 3 the performance difference between the 3600 and 5600 will be minimal, but from the 1600 to the 3600, well, that's a huge upgrade netting players up to 53% more performance.
The Riftbreaker was a game that really broke the Ryzen 5 1600, leading to stuttery gameplay that wasn't at all enjoyable. The Ryzen 5 3600 is a big step up with far fewer frame pacing issues but the up to 36% better 1% low performance you'll receive from the 5600 was noticeable. The Zen 3 part delivered perfectly smooth performance so this is an example where the upgrade from the 3600 to the 5600 would be worth it.
Next we have Rainbow Six Extraction and here the Ryzen 5 1600 had no issue providing smooth playable performance, with at least 170 fps on average when paired with a high-end GPU. Needless to say, the 3600 was fine, generally matching the 5600 with the biggest margin seen at 1080p with the 6950 XT where the Zen 2 part was 8% slower.
The last game we're going to look at the individual results for is Watch Dogs Legion. This is a CPU demanding game that tended to overwhelm the Ryzen 5 1600. The Ryzen 3600 had no issue though, keeping frame rates above 60 fps when performance was CPU limited and was never more than 12% slower than the 5600.
25 Game Average
The 5600 was only 19% faster than the 3600 though, and while that is a notable improvement, we often found little to no difference between the two in gaming tasks as even in this scenario some titles were GPU limited using dialed down quality settings.
We're sure many of you could easily justify a CPU upgrade for ~19% more performance on average, given for years multiple new CPU generations lead to maybe a 5% performance increase.
Now, for those gaming with a slower GPU, something along the lines of the mid-range Radeon 6600 XT, the Ryzen 3600 was on average 23% faster than the 1600 at 1080p, while the 5600 was 14% faster than the 3600. At 1440p we're looking at single-digit margins as performance was generally heavily GPU limited.
Here's a look at the 1% low margins seen across all 25 games when comparing the 5600 to the 3600 with the 6950 XT at 1080p. On average the Ryzen 5600 was just 17% faster, though we did find 7 instances where the margin exceeded 20%, with gains as high as 59%, seen in Fortnite.
Primarily, for those playing competitive multiplayer games the upgrade to the 5600 from the 3600 will probably be worth it. But if you're playing single player titles such as Far Cry 6 and Dying Light 2 to cite two examples, it'll make sense to stick with the 3600.
Using the 6600 XT at 1080p, we find that the margins for the 1% lows are reduced further and now the 5600 was on average just 12% faster. Titles such as Fortnite using competitive quality settings will still greatly benefit from the faster CPU, but around half of the games tested saw little to no performance improvement.
Zen 2 vs. Zen 3 Gaming: Upgrade or Not?
It's pretty clear that anyone running a Zen or Zen+ processor on an old 300 series motherboard should look into snagging a new affordable Ryzen 5 5600 or Ryzen 7 5700X processor. No real surprises here based on what we've seen from previous testing, but it was still cool to compare the new Ryzen 5 5600 on an old B350 motherboard with the R5 1600 and 3600.
For Zen 2 owners running something like the Ryzen 5 3600, it's less obvious what you should do though, and in many instances the upgrade for the 5600 isn't worth it. But again, that will depend on the games you're playing and how you play them, so that will be for you to work out.
Assuming your games are often heavily CPU limited, then the upgrade to the 5600 will deliver big performance gains, and if you're looking to boost performance outside of just gaming then the Ryzen 7 5700X for just $300 is a great way of doing that.
Otherwise for truly massive gaming performance gains you'd be looking more at the 5800X3D and at the time of making this video it is available at the $450 MSRP, but that's a serious investment, especially for those using older motherboards. Granted, it does work well as we've already shown and tested, but when talking about larger investments we feel it may also be worth waiting for AM5 to arrive and assess your options then.