AMD Ryzen 5 5500 Review: Yea orNay?

AMD Ryzen 5 5500 Review: Yea orNay? ...

Today we get our first look at the Ryzen 5 5500. Surprisingly enough, this CPU was released about three months ago, and it's the cheapest Ryzen 5000 series part you can get, so you'd expect us to be all over it, but for a few reasons we've missed out on that coverage.

The R5 5500 was quietly released back in April, and AMD did not sample media in time for a day-one review, rather we got our sample a week after they arrived on the shelves. At that point, it was pretty old news, and we moved on to other things.

Many people asked for a comparison with the 5500 after seeing the Ryzen 5 3600 and 5600 recently, because it's only $40 cheaper than the Ryzen 5 5600... and that's what makes the 5500 a stealth move by AMD.

The Ryzen 5 5500 and the 5600 are two entirely different machines. Surely, they are Zen 3 based 6-core/12-thread processors, but they're both based on different designs. The 5600 uses the APU design codenamed Cezanne. In short, the 5500 is a 5600G with the iGPU removed, and that means when compared to the 5600 you're getting half the L3 cache at 16MB, but only PCIe 3.0 support.

The L3 cache downgrade alone is a significant one, as we've seen it result in poor gaming performance for the 5600G and 5700G when compared to full-fledged Zen 3 components. Many of you who have older Ryzen 5 parts want to know if the 5500 is a worthwhile upgrade, or should you just choose the 5600 or higher, so today we're going to investigate.

For this one we've got a 21-game benchmark at 1080p and 1440p with both Radeon RX 6950 XT and 6600 XT SAM enabled. The old MSI B350 Tomahawk motherboard is powered by the latest BIOS revision based on the AGESA microcode, which supports Resizable BAR as well as Ryzen 5000 processor support. Finally, we have 32GB of DDR4-3200 CL14 dual-rank dual-channel

Let's go over a few of the games, and then we'll look at the average 21 game.


Starting with ACC, the 5500 is slightly slower than the previous 3600, depending on the configuration, and that means the 5600 is up to 35% faster, seen when using the Radeon 6600 XT, which is a bit strange as the CPU bottleneck was larger than what we saw with the 6950 XT.

The 5500 isn't unusual because it's slower than the 3600 in this title. From previous testing with the 5800X3D, we know that ACC is extremely sensitive to cache capacity, and with the 3600 having a 32MB L3 cache, it has a real advantage over the 5500, which has a total of 16MB.

The 5500 seems to be more competent in Battlefield V, outperforming the older 3600 by around an 8% margin with the 6950 XT. However, it was the 1% lows that presented as the biggest issue for the cutdown Zen 3 part, which dropped by almost 30% when compared to the 5600.

Even with the dialed down high quality preset, Cyberpunk 2077 is mostly GPU limited. Although the 5500 was able to just edge out the 3600, all three CPUs lead to a similar gaming experience here due to graphics card performance being the primary frame rate limitation.

Next up we have Rainbow Six Extraction, and we see that for the most part any one of these CPUs will deliver a first class experience as we're not running into a CPU bound scenario until frame rates reach 250 fps, but it's the 5500 that's the first CPU to hit the wall, seen when using the Radeon 6950 XT at 1080p, so that'll be disappointing news for 3600 owners looking for a low-cost upgrade.

The 3600 and the 5500 are identical in performance in F1 2021. This time the budget Zen 3 model is a little faster, but that's only about an 8.8 percent improvement for the average frame rate, with little to no change to the 1% lows. In most CPU limited testing, the 5600 is almost 40% faster, which is weird given how similar the 5500 and 5600 sound.

In our most CPU-bound testing for this title, the 5500 is delivering 3600-like performance. This means that the 5500 is 20% slower than the 5600.

Another example of the 5500 delivering 3600-like performance, though in our most CPU limited testing it was a bit slower. For this game however, over 100 frames per second is perfectly acceptable.

The Riftbreaker CPU benchmark is much more demanding than Hitman, so here the 1% lows will matter, and thankfully the 5500 is faster than the 3600, even if by an8% margin. The 5600 was up to 15% faster, and managed to keep the 1% lows above 60 fps with the 6950 XT at 1080p.

Dying Light 2 is a good example of a typical modern single-player game in the sense that it's heavily GPU bound, using current generation processors. Basically, no matter which of these CPUs you use for this sort of game, you'll always be limited by your graphics cards.

The 5500 is shown once again in Watch Dogs Legion, which isn't a huge difference from the 5600. However, Zen 2 owners are unlikely to be interested in the 5500.

Average of 21 games

Looking at our 21-game average, we see that the Ryzen 5 5500 is capable of providing 3600-style performance, in fact quite impressively the two were identical for all test configurations. It is not a huge leap, but nonetheless significant considering how little impact the 5600 would have on gaming tasks.

Here's a per-game comparison with the 5600, since the 5500 and 3600 are basically identical, using the 6950 XT data. The 5500 was 14% slower on average at 1080p, and we see four instances where the margin exceeded 20%, and one where it reached as much as 32%.

Still, there were those heavily GPU limited titles like Dying Light 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 that showed little to no difference between the 5500 and 5600, and this will happen in a lot of games, particularly single-player titles where gamers usually prioritize visuals over frame rates.

The difference between the Radeon 6600 XT and the Ryzen 5 5500 was reduced on average, only 7%. So for those who will not be running every game with competitive quality settings, the R5 5500 will be fine, but ultimately you should spend a little extra on the 5600.

What We Learned From Budget Zen 3

The Ryzen 5 5500 is an excellent processor, but if you want to stay on a budget while still enjoying good performance, this CPU should be avoided even at $140. At that price, the R5 5500 is about 20% cheaper, and we found it to be 14% slower in extreme conditions, but we're also talking about $40, and there are other considerations as well.

Add a $100 motherboard to the equation, reduces the cost of the 5500 to 14%, increase the memory and whatever else you need, and you'll make a tiny reduction.

The 5500 may seem attractive to those who are already using the AM4 processor, given that it is a very affordable Zen 3 processor. Again, this should be considered more as a Ryzen 5 3600 and you can often get them for under $100 on eBay.

This leads me to the question: what kind of CPU do you need to have in order for the Ryzen 5 5500 to function as an upgrade, because it is certainly not the 3600, and it is certainly not the 2600 owners either, so you wouldn't want to buy the Ryzen 3 3100 or 3300X as a result of limited stock?

The Ryzen 5 5500 isn't likely to make much sense in this situation, but even then, we'd recommend you extend your budget for the 5600.

The Ryzen 5 5500 is a tough pass if you're considering upgrading to a higher-end gaming PC like the MSI B660M Bazooka for $140.

The Core i3-12100F will at the very least support PCIe 4.0 devices on budget boards and has the capability to utilize PCIe 5.0 as well as DDR5 memory, so it is both faster for gaming and cheaper, and it supports newer technologies.

The Ryzen 5 5600 for those who are already on the AM4 platform and looking for an inexpensive Zen 3 processor is the better option. And, as noted throughout this review, the 5500 is a shame because they're very different parts due to the fact (or lack thereof) that huge 32MB L3 cache.

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