This time last year we set out to address a question many of you were asking at the time: should you buy the Ryzen 5 1600X or the non-X 1600? The 1600X was selling for $250 at the time, while the vanilla 1600 could be had for a tad less at just $220.

The R5 1600 came clocked ~10% lower out of the box, but because it was an unlocked part, overclocking was an option and pushing past 1600X performance was possible. The 1600 also came stock with the Wraith Stealth cooler, while AMD tried a move from Intel’s playbook and sold the 1600X without a cooler at all.

In short the Ryzen 5 1600, the non-X model, was a much better value option and looking back at buying trends and your commens, it seems like most of you agreed.

For the second generation AMD seems to have learned their lesson. Only Intel can get away with bending over enthusiasts and make them excited about having to buy their own cooler, but also delid their chip so the cooler can do its job.

So fast forward to today, and this time around the X-models are much more appealing. The Ryzen 5 2600X is 15% more at $230 but for that extra investment you get a bigger and better box cooler, better out of the box performance thanks to an up to 8% increase in clock speeds and a possible binning process, and lead to better memory support.

  Ryzen 7 2700X Ryzen 7 2700 Ryzen 5 2600X Ryzen 5 2600
MSRP $330 $300 $230 $200
Cores / Threads 8 / 16 8 / 16 6 / 12 6 / 12
Base Frequency 3.7 GHz 3.2 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.4 GHz
Boost Frequency 4.3 GHz 4.1 GHz 4.2 GHz 3.9 GHz
L2 Cache 4MB 4MB 3MB 3MB
L3 Cache 16MB 16MB 16MB 16MB
Memory Config Dual-Channel
Max Mem Support DDR4-2933
TDP 105 W 65 W 95 W 65 W
Box cooler AMD Prism RGB AMD Spire RGB AMD Spire AMD Stealth

As I see it this time around both models make sense and depending on your wants and needs, there are justifications for buying either.

Having extensively tested both models this is how I look at it. If for whatever reason you’re not planning on overclocking then the 2600X is a sensible option. Out of the box it’s ~7% faster and while the CPU itself does cost more, if you simply factor in a cheap B350 motherboard and 8GB of DDR4 memory, then the bundle cost for the 2600X comes out just 8% more expensive, so the cost to performance ratio is much the same, you just get a bit more oomph and a better cooler. In that scenario I feel the extra $30 for the X is well spent.

However if you plan on overclocking as was the case with the 1st-gen Ryzen CPUs, I feel like the non-X model represents better value. When reviewing the Ryzen 5 2600 I found it overclocked just as well as the X model. Overclocking headroom should be similar with both models and this means the $30 you save by buying the non-X version can go towards an upgraded cooler.

Both the 2600 and 2600X will require you to upgrade the cooler if you hope to achieve 4.2 GHz. For under $30 the Deepcool Gammaxx 300 is a nice option, as is the Arctic Freeze 33 eSports One and there are loads more options to choose from.

Personally for $230 I’d rather go with the Ryzen 5 2600 + Arctic Freeze 33 eSports One combo than a 2600X with the Wraith Spire. Those willing to overclock will be rewarded, at 4.2 GHz the overclocked R5 2600 was up to 8% faster than the 2600X, it was also up to 11% faster than the R5 1600 maxed out at 4 GHz.

If you’re really on a budget it’s possible to push the 2600 to an all-core frequency of 4 GHz using the Wraith Stealth box cooler, here it’s still faster than any 1600 and is likely a better option, even when taking recent discounts into consideration.

Finally if you’ve never overclocked before I recommend you give it a shot, it’s safe and extremely easy with most motherboards, just keep the voltage below 1.4v and you’ll be fine. There’s also loads of overclocking guides on offer and typically you’ll be able to find a guide tailored specifically for your motherboard.

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