Ryzen 5 1600X: Building a versatile work-and-play PC with AMD's 6-core CPU champion

With 6 cores and 12 threads, AMD's Ryzen 5 1600X is perfect for affordable work AND play.

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Brad Chacos

The Ryzen 5 1600X is here, and AMD’s affordable processor is just as disruptive as the high-end Ryzen 7 CPUs. Hell, maybe even more so.

While the 8-core-equipped Ryzen 7 series trades blows with Intel’s $1,000 Core i7-6900K for as little as a third of the price, it lags significantly behind the quad-core Core i7-7700K in many pure gaming workloads. The Ryzen 5 1600X’s value proposition is much clearer. With 6 overclockable cores and 12 threads, its competitor would be the $420 Core i7-6800K, in a vacuum—but we don’t live in a vacuum. Here in the real world, the 1600X’s $250 price tag puts it toe-to-toe with Intel’s Core i5-7600K, a ferocious gaming chip but one limited to just four cores without any hyperthreading.

Sure, the 1600X still isn’t quite as fast as the 7600K in some games, but Ryzen nevertheless games like a champ when paired with a decent graphics card. And with three times as many threads as its rival, AMD’s processor absolutely burns the Core i5 to the ground in multithreaded applications. Seriously. It’s a massacre.

You’ll need to read PCWorld’s comprehensive Ryzen 5 1600X review for the detailed scoop on its performance. Here, we’re going to build one hell of an all-around system that basks in the Ryzen 5 1600X’s status as the jack—nay, the king—of all trades, and the best mainstream CPU powerhouse you can buy.

What's inside the Ryzen 1600X PC

While our Ryzen 7 1800X build celebrating the apex of all-AMD power contained several indulgences (the closed-loop cooler and premium power supply alone cost over $500), this build’s a bit more restrained. Don’t get me wrong: At a hair over $1,500, this isn’t a cheap PC. But it’s one designed to offer damned fine (though not best-in-class) performance in all computing areas—gaming, streaming, audio/video editing, programming, you name it—with a price-to-performance ratio that isn’t outrageous.

Got it? Good. Let’s dig in.

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The Ryzen 5 1600X.

Processor: The $250 Ryzen 5 1600X, duh. Haven’t you been paying attention? The 1600X’s 6 cores and 12 threads hum along between 3.6GHz and 4GHz, and since it’s rocking an “X” designation, AMD’s eXtended Frequency Range technology can up that top speed by another 100MHz if you’re rocking a particularly beefy CPU cooler.

CPU cooler: …which we’re not. Instead, this build utilizes the Wraith Max, the most potent (and RGB-laden) member of AMD’s Wraith cooler lineup, which the company sent us for testing. Intel stock coolers can't hold a candle to this thing. Note, however, that while the Wraith Max will ship with select Ryzen models, it does not come bundled with the 1600X at this time. 

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couSpoiler alert: AMD's Wraith Max in action.

Since you'll need to pick up your own cooler for the Ryzen 5 1600X, we have a few recommendations: The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo ($30 on Amazon) is our go-to for folks who want a solid CPU cooler without breaking the bank, and Cooler Master will send you an AMD AM4 motherboard bracket if you ask. If you want to push the fastest overclocks possible, the superb Noctua NH-D15 air cooler offers an AM4-specific variant for $90 on Newegg, while Corsair—like Cooler Master—will send you AM4 mounting hardware for the popular Hydro H100i v2 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon) if you ask for it.

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The Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard.

Motherboard: After careful consideration, I decided to go with the same Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard ($195 on Amazon and Newegg, though often sold out) used in PCWorld’s previous Ryzen 7 1800X build. As I explained in PCWorld’s Ryzen motherboard breakdown, the X370 and B350 chipsets for AM4 motherboards are largely similar, but the little extras found in high-end X370 boards make sense in a versatile build like this. Compared to a B350 board, X370 offers two extra SATA connections, two additional PCIe lanes, four more USB 3 ports, and CrossFire/SLI support for systems with multiple graphics cards.

Next page: Parts, continued.

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