Earlier this year we set out to address a question many of you were asking at the time: should you buy the Ryzen 5 2600X or the non-X 2600? Not for nothing these couple of AMD processors have been our picks for the best all-round value since they drop-in replaced the 1600 series. They're also among the best selling CPUs on Amazon.

At launch, these two CPUs were only apart by $30 and yet they were well differentiated with the X model getting the upper hand for a number of reasons. Fast forward to today, the gap has widened because the Ryzen 5 2600 is more affordable than before, coming in at just $166, while the Ryzen 5 2600X is $220, only dropping $10 since launch versus $35 for the vanilla version.

TL;DR

Having extensively tested both models this is how we look at it:

  • For most people, the Ryzen 5 2600 at $166 is too great to pass up.
  • If you're on a budget or you plan to overclock and get an aftermarket cooler anyway, the 2600 is your best bet.
  • The 2600 and 2600X are both unlocked CPUs and can be overclocked on inexpensive B350/B450 motherboards.
  • If you’re not planning on overclocking and want an amazing performer out of the box, the 2600X is a sensible option, too.
  • At stock the 2600X is ~7% faster and you get a better cooler, but that's not enough to justify the $50+ price difference.

Read on for more details and some performance benchmarks...

  Ryzen 7 2700X Ryzen 7 2700 Ryzen 5 2600X Ryzen 5 2600
MSRP $320 $290 $220 $166
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

Just like we did a year prior with the first generation Ryzen processors, they occupied a similar $200-250 price range. 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 with no cooler at all. In short, the Ryzen 5 1600 (non-X model) was a much better value option.

For the second generation AMD has 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.

This time around the X-models are more appealing. The Ryzen 5 2600X is currently selling for $220 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. As I see it this time around both models make sense and depending on your wants and needs, there may be justifications for buying either.

Benchmarks

If you plan on overclocking as was the case with the first-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 $50 you save 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.

For ~$205 we’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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