AMD Ryzen 9 3900X vs AMD Ryzen 5 3600X: Which CPU should you buy?

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (Image credit: AMD)

It's not often you'll be considering between a Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 9 processor — especially since Ryzen 7 would be a better solution as an intermediate — but if you are deciding between the two, you'll want to go with the more affordable Ryzen 5 3600X unless you truly need all the cores that come with the Ryzen 9 3900X.

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X or Ryzen 5 3600X specs

Specifications are always going to favor the Ryzen 9 3900X since it's a more expensive high-end SKU. Still, it's good to compare the specifications to see just how powerful the Ryzen 5 3600X is on its own. Both processors offer amazing levels of performance.

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AMD Ryzen 9 3900XAMD Ryzen 5 3600X
ArchitectureZen 2Zen 2
SocketAM4AM4
Cores126
Threads2412
Base clock3.8GHz3.8GHz
Boost clock4.6GHz4.4GHz
Cache6MB
64MB
3MB
32MB
GPU--
RAM3200MHz3200MHz
TDP105W95W
Price$500 (opens in new tab)$240 (opens in new tab)

Both processors work well with RAM that's clocked at 3200MHz, support AM4 chipsets, are built on the 7nm Zen 2 architecture, and even work with PCIe 4.0 hardware. At just 95W and 105W for the two Ryzen CPUs, you'll also be able to enjoy a slightly cooler and more efficient running PC.

Amazing Ryzen performance across the board

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (Image credit: Rich Edmonds / Windows Central)

The Ryzen 5 3900X may win outright on the specs sheet with faster clock speeds and double the amount of cache, but both processors are able to take full advantage of what Zen 2 brings to the table, though you will have to make sure you have a compatible motherboard if you plan on upgrading to a Ryzen 3000 CPU.

The Ryzen 9 3900X may win outright, but the Ryzen 5 3600X is no slouch.

With the Ryzen 9 3900X installed, it's possible to decimate CPU-focused benchmarks and even take the fight to Intel's own counterpart CPUs. Games are an interesting story, especially if you fire up a title that doesn't quite take advantage of 12 cores. The Ryzen 5 3600X may make a bit more sense with that regard.

While it does have half the cores and threads of the Ryzen 9 3900X, it's still capable of handling even the more demanding games of today (though both CPUs do lag behind the competition in some tests), and you'll be more than satisfied with productivity results. It's all down to the price and whether you can afford the $500 tag for the Rzyen 9 3900X.

The good news is the more expensive and powerful CPU also supports AM4, making it an upgrade option further down the road.

Save some money by installing the Ryzen 5 3600X

The Ryzen 5 3600X isn't slow by any standards. In fact, it's actually a very good processor for gaming and intense workloads, but compared to the sheer brute force of the Ryzen 9 3900X it's in a whole league of its own. What makes the Ryzen 5 3600X worth considering is the value on offer for the price.

Go with the Ryzen 9 3900X for maximum performance

AMD did something crazy with the Ryzen 9 3900X. The company brought Threadripper performance to the AM4 socket, allowing mainstream gamers and PC owners the chance to splash out and boast to all their friends about what their machine could do. This thing has 12 cores and enough threads to weave a Windows Central hoodie.

But ask yourself this: Do you really need the Ryzen 9 3900X?

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.