AMD’s first-gen Ryzen chips continue to sell as budget alternatives to the newer generations and the Ryzen 5 1600/2600 products in particular are very attractive for budget builds. Today we’re checking out the 12nm version of the Ryzen 5 1600 that despite the name, is a new CPU that’s only been on the market for a few months.

To quickly recap, the Ryzen 5 1600 was released in April 2017 for $220, based on the original 14nm Zen architecture. It’s a 6-core, 12-thread part clocked at 3.2 GHz for the base with an all-core boost clock of 3.4 GHz and cooled using the Wraith Spire.

About a year later, AMD replaced it with the Ryzen 5 2600 at $200. It was also a 6-core processor, but featuring updated 12nm Zen+ cores. It ran at a base clock of 3.4 GHz with an all-core of 3.7 GHz. Because the more refined process was more efficient, AMD downgraded the cooler to the Wraith Stealth.

After one more year, we got the current generation Zen 2 processors. Here the replacement was the Ryzen 5 3600, another (incredibly good) $200 part.

But what is this Ryzen 5 1600 AF?

Late last year a mysterious Ryzen 5 1600 refresh made it to market. Bizarrely, AMD released a really cheap version of the Ryzen 5 2600, but just called it the Ryzen 5 1600. Known as the “Ryzen 5 1600 AF” because of the box identification, it’s very different to the original Ryzen 5 1600 AE model.

Forget about the name, this is a 2nd-gen Ryzen part. Essentially it’s an R5 2600 with a slight decrease in clock speed. Apparently AMD didn’t have enough 14nm wafers available to keep producing the R5 1600, so they simply shifted it to the 12nm process and now they’re making a version of the R5 2600 that they call the R5 1600.

At this point you may be asking yourself, why do I care that AMD is making new products and selling them under old names? Seems counterproductive, but the reason you should care is price. These underclocked Ryzen 5 2600 CPUs cost a mere $85. That’s a Zen+ 6-core, 12-thread part for just $85 brand new.

The original 14nm Ryzen 5 1600 was a great deal at a little over $100 and the Ryzen 5 2600 was killer at $120, but the Ryzen 5 1600 AF blows them both out of the water at just $85. That is, as long as you can get it. The CPU seems to be readily available in the United States, but it’s not sold everywhere.

Before we get into the blue bar graphs, here’s a look at how the 1600 AF clocks compared to the original 1600 AE model, as well as the 2600: running a heavy Blender workload, the original 1600 operates at 3.4 GHz, the new AF model maintained 3.7 GHz and the 2600 runs at 3.8 GHz.

From this test alone, it would appear like the 1600 AF could be up to 3% slower than the 2600 out of the box, but it’s way cheaper. Armed with that information, let’s jump into our tests which we’ll power through as the results aren’t surprising and don’t require much explanation.

For testing we’re using the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master with 16GB of G.Skill’s FlareX DDR4-3200 memory and a RTX 2080 Ti GPU.

Benchmarks

First up we have the Cinebench R20 multi-core performance and here the 1600 AF basically matched the 2600, less than a 1% margin in it. This means out of the box the AF was 12% faster than the original 1600.

For single core performance the 2600 was 1.5% faster than the 1600 AF and that makes the new 12nm 1600 is 10% faster than the original.

Running 7-zip we see identical compression performance. Again, the AF is about 10% faster than the original 1600. For the decompression test the 2600 was 1.5% faster than the 1600 AF which was 9% faster than the original 1600.

The last application we bothered to run was Blender, here the 1600 AF was about a 1% slower than the 2600. No surprises here.

Gaming Benchmarks

Time for some gaming benchmarks and first up we have Assassin’s Creed Odyssey AND… the 1600 AF delivers basically the same performance as the R5 2600, making it a little faster than the original 1600. As expected the margins are very similar at 1440p.

Performance in Battlefield V is very similar between the original 1600, the 1600 AF and the 2600. Of course, it’s the same story at 1440p, so with a lesser graphics card you can expect to see no difference at all.

The 1600 AF matched the 2600 with identical performance in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, making it a few frames faster than the original model and we see basically identical margins at 1440p.

We see identical gaming performance from the 1600 AF when compared to the 2600 once again, this time when testing with The Division 2.

The results at 1440p are no different and here we see more evidence that the 1600 and 1600 AF will deliver the same gaming experience with a lower tier GPU.

Next up we have Far Cry New Dawn and yes…. this is a familiar sight.

The 1600A basically matching the 2600 making it a little faster than the original, the true 1600. 1440p doesn’t offer up any surprises, more of the same here.

We see a nice 13% boost to the 1% low performance for the 1600 AF over the 1600 in Hitman 2 at 1080p and the refreshed 1600 was able to basically match the 2600. The 1% low margin extends to 16% at 1440p, but overall the margins are much the same.

The 1600 AF also shows good 1% low improvements in Total War Three Kingdoms, beating the 1600 by a 16% margin at 1080p to coming in 1-2 fps behind the 2600. The margins are reduced slightly at 1440p, but overall a similar story.

Wrap Up: Incredible Budget CPU

That was our quick look at how the Ryzen 5 1600 AF performs and the results were as positive as we expected. It’s a Ryzen 5 2600 with very minor reduction in clock speed. Speaking of which, you can of course overclock the 1600 AF as it’s fully unlocked. Our chip — which we bought from retail — hit 4.2 GHz using 1.4v and that’s the same overclock achieved by the R5 2600 retail part we have on hand.

Some chips might only do 4 GHz depending on silicon quality, some or rather few might exceed 4.2 GHz, but based on reports we’ve seen 4.2 GHz seems like the upper end of the overclocking results. Our original R5 1600 chip also does 4 GHz and that seems to be about as good as you can realistically hope for with the older processor.

In other words, the Ryzen 5 1600 AF is not only cheaper than the original 1600 and faster out of the box, but it should also overclock better. Power consumption is inline with the 2600, with a slight advantage out of the box due to the minor decrease in clock speed, though this can vary depending on silicon quality.

For budget builders with access to the 1600 AF at $85, there is simply no better choice. As we said earlier, the Ryzen 5 2600 was already amazing value at $120. Thus, the 1600 AF which is basically the same CPU for a further discount is just an insane deal.

AMD is putting the hurt on Intel with parts like this. Right now the Core i5-9600K costs $240 and the locked i5-9400F comes in at $165 (check out this performance comparison). We expect both of these 6-core/6-thread processors to be slower than the 1600 AF for gaming within a few years. If the 1600 AF is not selling in your country, you can still buy the R5 2600 for less than any modern Core i5 processor, which is why we had picked it as the best budget CPU you can buy, well, until now.

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