AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF Market Positioning
Thes chips are not released in a vacuum instead, they have competition on both the Intel and AMD sides. When you purchase a server and select a CPU, it is important to see the value of a platform versus its competitors.
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF v. AMD
As part of the process, we wanted to look at the “previous-gen” Ryzen 5 1600 as well as the current-gen Ryzen 5 3600.
On the previous-gen Ryzen 5 1600 side, one can see a fairly substantial and consistent delta between the older 14nm version and the newer 12nm version. At $85 for the 12nm AF version, it is very difficult to recommend the original. We wish that AMD just called this a Ryzen 5 2599 or something like that to differentiate the SKU. It is too confusing to have this “AF” distinction.
The AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF is clearly no match for the newer Ryzen 5 3600 part. AMD has done a lot to differentiate its newest generation. When we look at the server platform that we are testing on, an AMD X470 solution, things are different than on the desktop side. One does not benefit from the X570’s PCIe Gen4 support nor the higher boost power levels consumer boards tend to use. ASRock Rack has an X570 version of this Ryzen server platform coming, but the chipset uses much more power. The X470 is a better match for the Ryzen 5 1600 AF price/ performance mix.
In our formal ASRock Rack X470 motherboard reviews, we are going to go into more detail on this, but the fact that one cannot buy a Ryzen server from Dell, HPE, Inspur, Lenovo, Supermicro, Cisco, Huawei, Quanta, Wiwynn, and other major vendors means that the support is very limited for an AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF server solution. AMD has competitive parts, but it lacks the market focus.
AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF v. Intel
The AMD Ryzen 5 1600 AF is actually an important case study in the market. It is a great example of where the silicon has relative feature parity (ECC UDIMM support) with the Intel Xeon E-2100 and Xeon E-2200 series. At the same time, almost every major manufacturer has multiple Xeon E solutions while almost none have Ryzen systems.
In our benchmarking section, we saw that the Ryzen 5 1600 AF performs very well. In the motherboard reviews, we will show the power consumption, but it is perhaps better than the Xeon E series on a performance per watt basis. At $85, it is simply faster than the Intel competition with the Intel Core i3-9100F even at a higher price. The issue with the Ryzen 5 1600 AF is not performance.
When major OEMs design servers, they expect a level of support from the vendor. When enterprise software customers purchase servers they expect that their servers are supported by the software vendor. For the Ryzen alternatives on the market right now, AMD’s lack of push to provide the server support in the Ryzen segment means few OEMs design servers for them, and none of the larger players at this point. Without servers from major partners such as Dell EMC, HPE, Inspur, and Lenovo, the software vendor communities do not expend resources to support Ryzen servers.
While AMD has the performance to compete with Intel, it is not investing in this Ryzen server ecosystem. If AMD ever did this, especially with Ryzen Pro, then Intel will have to get into the same competitive mode it is in the desktop and mainstream server markets.
If you want a low-cost Linux box, then the Ryzen 5 1600 AF is truly a unique and interesting option. One can purchase the motherboard, and CPU with a heatsink for just over $300. Software vendor support may not be the best, but one can build a complete and usable server for under $500 which means potentially more performance at a lower cost than the HPE ProLiant MicroServer Gen10 Plus. One trades a smaller form factor with the HPE unit for more expandability and lower cost which many may find attractive as well.
From a performance perspective, in the $85 realm, this is a great value. The six cores and twelve threads with desktop-class clock speeds are great. We can see some highly cost-sensitive markets seeing this as the perfect solution.