When AMD announced it would add support for the Ryzen 5000 family to the old 300 series motherboard chipsets it raised interesting questions about how these chips would perform when plugged in as upgrades. We suspected CPUs like the Ryzen 7 5800X3D might prove to be unusually strong upgrade options thanks to the large amount of onboard L3 cache.
Now that we’ve spent some time evaluating the question, we can confirm it: Any enthusiast gamer still running a Ryzen 7 1800X or below should seriously consider either the Ryzen 7 5800X or the Ryzen 7 5800X3D as an upgrade option. The 5800X3D is a particularly good choice if you are stuck with slower RAM clocked at DDR4-2667 or below. Performance improvements of 1.5x – 2x are possible at 1080p with an appropriately powerful GPU.
Why the 5800X3D Shines on AMD’s X370 Motherboard Platform
When Ryzen launched, the Ryzen 7 1800X’s formal memory clock support topped out at DDR4-2667. Faster was possible, but 3.2GHz DDR4 still commanded a premium over the 2.67GHz flavor back in 2017 and plenty of OEMs stick to officially supported clocks. This limited Ryzen’s performance in gaming and other latency-sensitive applications. Today, DDR4-3600 is pretty standard for a Ryzen system.
One consistent characteristic of AMD’s Ryzen CPUs over the past five years is that they benefit from higher memory bandwidth more than Intel chips typically do. This is especially true on an older chip like the Zen 1-based Ryzen 7 1800X, which offered each CPU core a relatively small slice of L3 before leaning on main memory. As AMD evolved Zen 2 and Zen 3, it made various improvements to the cache structure of the architecture. Zen 2 doubled up on L3 compared to Zen 1, while Zen 3 debuted Ryzen’s first unified L3 cache. The 5800X3D takes this strategy and turbo charges it by bumping the on-die L3 cache up to 96MB. As it turns out, dropping an extra 64MB of cache on-chip is a great way to obviate the performance hit Ryzen 1 takes when paired with DDR4-2667.
DRAM isn’t terribly expensive these days — it still costs less to buy a Ryzen 7 5800X + 32GB of DDR4-3600 than it does to buy just the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, for example — but the Ryzen 7 5800X3D has its own persuasive performance argument to make.
To Upgrade or Buy New?
The hypothetical gamer with our testbed system configuration built a Ryzen 7 1800X when the platform was new, likely pairing it with a GTX 1080 or 1080 Ti. The system has already been upgraded once, with an RTX 3080. System benchmarks now show (as we’ll see) that the Ryzen 7 1800X is bottlenecking game performance in 1080p and even some 1440p games. Is it worth upgrading this older system with a new CPU, or is it better to wait for Socket AM5?
After spending some time with these systems, we’re pretty firmly on Team Upgrade. The performance improvement from plugging a Ryzen 7 5800X3D or Ryzen 7 5800X into an old X370 board is damned impressive. Enthusiasts who want more than eight cores have options like the 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X. That CPU offers all of the single-threaded improvements in the Zen 3 family, plus twice the maximum number of cores AMD was selling in a consumer socket back in 2017. While we focus on gaming here, a quick look at application performance suggests the Ryzen 7 5800X and 5800X3D are 1.5x – 2x faster than the Ryzen 7 1800X in both single-threaded and multi-threaded applications.
Note: The fact that our Ryzen 7 1800X testbed has already been upgraded to an RTX 3080 has a lot to do with why these numbers look the way they do. The trends in this data are likely to hold true for the RTX 3060 Ti, RTX 3070, and RTX 3080 as well as higher-end RDNA2 cards in the Radeon 67xx and 68xx families. High-end Turing cards like the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080 would still show the same trends, but to a smaller degree.
Our trusty Asus Crosshair VI Hero came out of retirement for this testing. We updated to the AGESA 18.104.22.168b UEFI (v.8503) available on the Asus website. While Ryzen 5000 support isn’t formally set to arrive until AGESA 22.214.171.124, we were told that the AGESA 126.96.36.199b version should still support the CPUs, though possibly with some limitations. After testing the board, we’re confident enough in these numbers to release them. The AGESA 188.8.131.52 update may improve compatibility and further boost performance, but the performance improvement available today is more than enough to justify the upgrade.
We had no crashes or stability problems when testing the Ryzen 7 5800X and 5800X3D, but we did observe one issue: While the 5800X had no problem with a DDR4-3600 memory clock, the 5800X3D was consistently a bit slower when tested at DDR4-3600 as opposed to DDR4-2667. After talking to Asus, we’re chalking this up to the early UEFI version.
While it would’ve been nice to have the DDR4-3600 numbers for the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, the DDR4-2667 numbers are good enough to run on their own. Since we don’t have DDR4-3600 numbers for the 5800X3D on X370, we pulled in the data set we used for our 5800X3D review on an MSI X570 motherboard back in April. Using that data is a handy way to highlight the performance differences between the X370 and X570 chipsets. Resizable Bar is not supported on the Asus Crosshair VI Hero and was not enabled on that platform. Our X570 tests do include Resizable Bar support.
Normally we include a fair number of application tests, but we kept this review focused on gaming. First, that’s the market AMD is explicitly targeting with the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. Second, CPU gaming performance is notoriously difficult to improve compared to other workloads, and gaming is the area where the Ryzen 7 1800X was weakest at launch. Third, we wanted to measure the impact of AMD’s large L3 cache in a low memory bandwidth scenario and gauge the performance difference between the 5800X3D and 5800X.
Borderlands 3: Tested in Badass Mode.
Hitman 3: Dartmoor, Dubai: Tested in Ultra detail mode, with Motion Blur off.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: Tested in “High” graphics mode with SMAAT2x enabled.
Far Cry 6: Tested in Ultra detail with HD textures enabled.
Horizon Zero Dawn: Tested in Ultra detail.
Warhammer III: Tested in Ultra detail with screen space reflections enabled.
Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla: Tested in Ultra Detail mode.
Our results are quite different depending on the resolution you target.
At 1080p, the Ryzen 7 5800X is 1.35x faster than the Ryzen 7 1800X when both are equipped with DDR4-2667 RAM. The 1800X’s performance improves by 1.14x when its paired with faster RAM, while the 5800X picks up just 1.09x from the same upgrade. When both systems are equipped with DDR4-3600, the 5800X is 1.28x faster than the 1800X at 1080p.
The Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the star of this particular show. It’s no less than 1.6x faster than the 1800X when both are equipped with DDR4-2667, and it’s still 1.09x faster than the 5800X when the latter has the advantage of DDR4-3600. Only the X570-based 5800X3D system is a measly 5 percent faster, and we’re chalking at least some of those gains up to the X570 chipset’s Resizable Bar support.
Gamers with 1080p and 1440p monitors have particular reason to eye the 5800X and/or the 5800X3D. At 1440p we expect to see resolution and detail settings hit the GPU hard enough to dampen the CPU’s relative contribution to system performance. Despite this, the 5800X3D still manages to be 1.37x faster than the Ryzen 7 1800X at 1440p and 1.12x faster than the 5800X. Once again, the X570 platform is the overall leader, but only by 5 percent.
The 4K Question
When the Ryzen 7 1800X launched, there were concerns over whether or not it would be capable of driving modern GPUs at 4K. AMD insisted at the time that the Ryzen 7 1800X could hang with top-end CPUs at the highest resolutions. Five years later, that’s still (mostly) true. While it falls well behind the competition in 1440p and 1080p, 4K at high detail levels still stresses the GPU much more than the CPU. Better UEFI support for the Ryzen 7 5800X3D might have improved performance a little, but the gap between X370 and X570 is only 4 percent.
The 1.13x gap between the Ryzen 7 1800X and the 5800X3D at 4K is skewed by Ashes of the Singularity. Remove it from the average and there’s only a 7 percent gap between the Ryzen 7 1800X and the Ryzen 7 5800X3D. Below this resolution, the 1800X gets pummeled pretty badly, though it still drives every game at eminently playable frame rates.
The Ryzen 7 5800X and 5800X3D are interesting upgrade options for early Ryzen adopters, especially early adopters who don’t have high-speed DRAM and who primarily game in 1080p. A Ryzen 7 5800X3D equipped with DDR4-2667 is roughly 10 percent faster than a Ryzen 7 5800X + DDR4-3600. If we assume an $80 price point for new DRAM (including shipping) and borrow Newegg’s price for both CPUs as of 6/5/2022, the cost comes out to $394 for the 5800X + DDR4-3600 versus $470 for the Ryzen 7 5800X3D alone. That makes the 5900X3D an average of 1.09x faster in 1080p, while costing 1.19x more. That’s not the best price/performance ratio on Earth, but high-end chips from Intel, AMD, and Nvidia all carry premiums.
While this story doesn’t consider Zen+ CPUs on the X470 chipset, there’s no reason those systems wouldn’t benefit similarly. The absolute degree of improvement between the Zen+ and Zen 3 CPU cores would be smaller, but still significant. Zen+ was only about 1.1x – 1.15x faster than Zen, best-case.
The Ballad of AM4, Part 2: Hail to the King
When evaluating the value of an upgrade versus buying an all-new system, it can be helpful to consider how much performance you could buy in a new machine for the same amount of money. Customers with higher-end GPUs and first-generation Ryzen CPUs are the lucky winners here. A Ryzen 5800X, 5800X3D, or 5950X will improve the performance of an existent X370 system far more than the new PC you could buy for the same cost as the chip.
Folks with lower-end cards still have some decisions to make. While it’s true that AM5 will launch later this year, the new platform will inevitably carry a premium. DDR5-4800 is much more expensive than DDR4 and the performance benefit from DDR5-4800 versus DDR4-3600 is going to be marginal in most applications. Chips like the 5800X3D muddy that comparison more, since the enormous cache can compensate for slower RAM clocks to a degree.
Whether it makes sense to upgrade a PC always comes down to the specifics of one’s individual situation, how much money you are trying to save (or spend), and what your own individual needs are. What tests like this show is that there’s more than enough life in AM4 to make it a competitive platform for years to come. A five year-old motherboard can still power a top-end system. A current AMD user with a Ryzen 7 1800X or below can expect meaningful performance improvements from a CPU swap. When new 4000-series GPUs arrive from Nvidia and AMD launches RDNA3, X370 owners with upgraded CPUs will still be able to take full advantage of these cards.
Kudos to AMD for sending AM4 out on such a high note. When the company announced it would support AM4 for years back in 2017, it specifically said “Socket AM4” as opposed to “X370 motherboards.” Companies make statements like that so they can sunset older products without breaking such promises. In this case, however, AMD didn’t just live up to the letter of their claim — they fulfilled the spirit of it. The combination of Ryzen 7 5800X + X370 or Ryzen 7 5800X3D + X370 is the best upgrade platform we’ve ever tested.