The Ryzen 5800X3D is a final celebration of AM4’s upgradability

Five years ago, you would have been considered an early adopter if you bought the humble Ryzen 1600X and placed it into your AM4 socket. Little did any of us know just how successful AMD’s Ryzen line of processors would become, culminating in the newly released Ryzen 7 5800X3D.

But this final chip is more than just another powerful AMD processor or an innovative piece of technology. It’s also a fitting swan song for the AM4 socket, the platform that has represented AMD’s resurgence in the high-end CPU space, and a chip that could well see AM4 finish its run on top of the gaming performance pile. More than that, coming from an older Ryzen chip, you’ll need to do little more than update the BIOS and plop this in your board to get it running.

That’s an almost-unheard-of level of upgradability, and a stark reminder of just how far AM4 and Ryzen have come in a few short years.

The long road to V-Cache

AMD 3D VCache 5800X3D chip design.
AMD

When AMD first introduced its AM4 socket in 2017, the CPU landscape was drastically different from what it is today. AMD hadn’t had a top-tier gaming processor in over a decade, and Intel was still pushing quad cores as the best solution for gamers. The first generation of Ryzen blew the doors off the industry, offering a huge 52% increase in IPC over the best Bulldozer AMD FX chips, with up to eight cores for its high-end models, incredibly affordable six-core options, and impressive efficiency across the board.

AMD wasn’t quite ready to steal the gaming crown just yet, but it offered core counts that Intel didn’t, at power demands that Intel couldn’t, and impressive automated overclocking functions that made sure everyone could get the most performance out of their CPU right out of the box — without the need to pay for the privilege in dollars or overclocking expertise.

AMD architecture roadmap.

Ryzen took full advantage of Intel’s lack of ambition and struggles to shrink down to more efficient process nodes, and came back with a vengeance; And that’s only continued in the years that followed.

Over several die shrinks, a move to a chiplet core design, and some architectural improvements and clock speed enhancements, AMD has made enormous leaps in gaming and productivity performance, to the point where Ryzen 5000 eventually became the fastest CPUs at just about anything. Better yet, it forced incredible responses from Intel, which remained at least somewhat relevant with its aging 14nm process right up until the release of Alder Lake in 2021, where it then became the disrupter in turn.

While AMD is unlikely to do that in such dramatic fashion until Zen 4 and AM5 later this year, the 5800X3D could be an incredibly exciting stopgap that stands the test of time.

Halos can last forever, even if they usually don’t

A pair of hands holding an Intel Core i9-9900KS CPU in the box.
The Intel Core i9-9900KS was a true halo, where the 5800X3D may be a lot more than that.

The 5800X3D has all the markings of a halo product, so called because they aren’t really designed to be purchased en masse, but are but are more of a showcase about what the company is working on. The 5800X3D isn’t some mid-generation refresh — it’s a single product run designed to give AMD a credible competitor to Intel’s top Alder Lake gaming CPUs while we wait for Zen 4 later this year.

It’s AMD’s answer to the Core i9-9900KS (or perhaps more aptly, the new 12900KS) — a CPU to show that, hey, while AMD might not have a whole new range of hardware to launch, it’s still doing some cool things behind the scenes.

But the 5800X3D isn’t your typical halo product. AMD confirmed to that it has every intention to supply “significant quantities” of the CPU near release, with no plan to “limit it to a thin slice of our enthusiast community.”

That’s great news for those wanting to buy the 5800X3D when it debuts, as there is likely to be significant interest in what is set to be one of — if not the — best gaming CPUs you can buy — especially at its $450 launch price. But it’s just as important for the lasting legacy of the 5800X3D and AM4, which could well be incredibly long.

When it hits store shelves, the 5800X3D will be the best AM4 processor ever made, especially for gaming. Unless AMD has any more surprises up its sleeve, that’s not going to change any time soon, either. All of this means that next year, when Zen 4 is the new and exciting platform for early adopters, the 5800X3D will still be the best AM4 CPU. In five years, when AMD moves on to AM6, or whatever it has planned, the 5800X3D will still be the best AM4 CPU you can buy.

It might cost you, though. Even then.

Because even with AMD’s plans for “significant quantities” of 5800X3D CPUs, if there’s one thing that’s consistent with the best CPU of any generation of motherboards, especially if those motherboards span multiple generations of processor, it’s that they are harder to find and hold their value. The Intel 4790K is almost eight years old and is easily beaten by just about any CPU from the past couple of years, and yet it still commands a second price of well over $100. That’s because if you have an aging PC running an Intel 4000-series CPU and want to upgrade it, the 4790K is the best chip you can buy without replacing just about everything else, too.

That’s where the 5800X3D will be in a few years’ time. Anyone with a Ryzen-based gaming PC, be it a Ryzen 1000, 2000, 3000, or even 5000 CPU, would be able to see a big performance benefit from upgrading to a 5800X3D. It’ll be super simple, too. They’ll can just drop it straight into their gaming PC and see an immediate uplift in performance. No new generation memory to purchase, no motherboard to replace, not even a new operating system to install.

That will make it a tantalizing upgrade for anyone for a long time to come, and it’ll be a common scenario as AM4 gaming PCs begin to flood the secondhand market in the years to come.

That could be even more true if this kind of additional L3 cache becomes commonplace in future CPUs from both AMD and Intel. Game developers will better optimize for it, and though the 5800X3D might one day seem antiquated with only eight cores, that’s not likely to happen until a new generation of consoles comes along. In the relevant near-term, if cache becomes king, the 5800X3D will have a worthy crown far longer than the more core-heavy chips of the Ryzen 5000 generation, like the 5900X and 5950X.

Zen 4 looms, but it doesn’t really matter

AMD CEO Lisa Su holding a Zen 4 CPU.
AMD

There are a lot of exciting options for new CPUs in 2022, from Alder Lake, to the 5800X3D, to the new-generation chips from both AMD and Intel that are just over the horizon: The looming Zen 4 and Raptor Lake.

As exciting as the 5800X3D is, there’s a big argument to be made for holding off your upgrade for just a few more months. If you can wait, Zen 4 and Raptor Lake will almost certainly offer the best performance of all four of those options, and there are the new features promised by Alder Lake right now: improved multi-threaded performance in productivity, as well as PCIe 5 and DDR5 support, which are nothing to sniff at. There’s also no denying that the 5800X3D has a real Radeon VII vibe about it: It’s a test-run for future V-cache CPUs that can also enjoy higher clock speeds, and have more games optimized for this sort of cache size to better take advantage of its strengths.

But none of that really matters, because the 5800X3D’s greatest strength is that it’s already old. It will slot right into AM4 motherboards from years ago and offer cutting-edge gaming performance for the next six months and excellent CPU performance for the next couple of years. Beyond that, it will still give AM4 platforms a useful upgrade path to far greater performance than could have been expected when any of those earlier Ryzen generations were released, and far beyond anything first-, second-, or third-generation secondhand Ryzen PCs can offer.

The Ryzen 7 5800X3D is the last of a great series of processors that have seen AMD return to competition in a way that has pushed the envelope, and better yet, pushed Intel to respond in kind. The 5800X3D will see off an AM4 platform that is in a drastically different place than it was when it launched, and it will do so in grand style by fighting for the gaming crown.

The 5800X3D will see AM4 go out on top, or near enough to it. That’s a fitting end to one of the most important platforms in AMD’s history.

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