AMD Ryzen 5 3600X vs AMD Ryzen 5 2600X: Which CPU should you buy?

AMD Ryzen 5 2600
AMD Ryzen 5 2600 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Both the Ryzen 5 2600X and Ryzen 5 3600X are similar CPUs, but the latter comes out on top for being the newer processor with a smaller manufacturing process of 7nm, improved efficiency and performance, and competing against Intel counterparts in tests. The 2600X is a great deal if you're looking to save some money and don't fancy the PCIe 4.0 support for future-proofing your PC build.

AMD Ryzen 5 3600X vs AMD Ryzen 5 2600X specs

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Header Cell - Column 0 Ryzen 5 3600XRyzen 5 2600X
Clock speed3.8 GHz3.6 GHz
Boost speed4.4 GHz4.2 GHz
CacheL2: 3 MB
L3: 32 MB
L2: 3 MB
L3 16 MB
RAM3200 MHz2667 MHz
TDP95 W95 W

What 3rd-gen Ryzen brings

Ryzen 5 2600

AMD Ryzen (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

The Ryzen 5 3600X wins outright on the specs sheet. While it has the same core and thread count as the 2600X, it sports faster clock speeds, double the amount of L3 cache, and comes with support for PCIe 4.0 — the latter of which will future-proof your build. Interestingly, both processors have a TDP rating of 95W, which showcases the drop to 7nm manufacturing for AMD, bringing efficiency enhancements. It's a win-win for the processor, so long as you can afford the slight price hike compared to the 2600X.

The only drawback to the Ryzen 5 3600X — aside from the price — is the fact you'll need an AM4 motherboard that's up-to-date and supports the latest 3000 Ryzen processors. There's also the fact these newer CPUs from AMD work better with faster RAM, so you'll need to look at overclocking your modules or buying new ones to hit 3200 MHz and above. It's not the end of the day if you simply can't meet those speeds, however.

Ryzen 5 3600X is the choice for those seeking the best

The Ryzen 5 3600X takes what made the 2600X good and further enhances everything with a smaller manufacturing processor, better efficiency, thermals, and improved performance. AMD did such a job with the 3600X that it competes against Intel's Intel Core i5 9600K even in single-core tests.

Go with the Ryzen 5 2600X if you want to save money

You can spend around $160 and enjoy a six-core processor with 12 threads ready to power through any game or productivity task you throw at it. While it's not as good as the 3600X on paper, nor does it match Intel Core-i5 counterparts, for the price it simply cannot be beaten.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.