In April, AMD launched one of the most peculiar desktop processors the company’s offered to upgraders and PC builders in recent years—and we don’t mean the 3D V-Cache-based Ryzen 7 5800X3D. The Ryzen 5 4500 ($129) is a new CPU that uses an outdated architecture. It’s also one of only two consumer-oriented desktop processors in AMD’s Ryzen 4000 series. And to make the chip even more of an outlier, it’s based on one of AMD’s Accelerated Processing Units (APUs, chips equipped with on-chip graphics) but lacks the APU’s integrated graphics. With all that taken together, the Ryzen 5 4500 is quite the oddball in AMD’s product line. But if your budget is ultra-tight, if could have appeal if you already have a decent graphics card.
The Curious Origins of the Ryzen 5 4500
Since 2020, AMD’s desktop processors have been built around the company’s “Zen 3” microarchitecture, a fairly significant evolution of the earlier “Zen 2” design that brought improved performance in a wide range of tasks. You can learn more about Zen 3 from our AMD Ryzen 9 5900X review if you’re interested. Suffice it to say here: It beats Zen 2 but isn’t better in every way. Also, the two architectures are identical in one respect, that they were designed for and built with TSMC’s 7-nanometer FinFet process.
With this in mind, AMD’s reasoning for creating the Ryzen 5 4500 with Zen 2 becomes hard to understand. You might think it was a way to get more chips on the market as silicon shortages have been widely reported, but that would only make sense if the 4500’s CPU die was made on a separate manufacturing process. Since it’s built on the same 7nm process as AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series, creating new Ryzen 5 4500 chips from scratch would take up space on the fab that could otherwise have been used for crafting 5000 series processors.
Knowing this, it’s doubtful that AMD would dedicate many resources to producing Ryzen 5 4500 CPUs. Instead, it’s likely that most of the Ryzen 5 4500 chips have already been created or would be initially created as other parts. As we explained in our Ryzen 5 5500 review, creating chips is an imperfect process. Slightly defective chips are common and are often detuned, with their flawed portions permanently disabled and the rest sold as a lower-performance part.
This is very likely what AMD’s doing with the Ryzen 5 4500, but what’s unusual is that the new CPU was originally designed to be an APU, probably the Radeon Graphics-equipped Ryzen 5 4600G (which we haven’t yet had an opportunity to test). That is, the chip was built with both a CPU and an integrated graphics processor (IGP); the only part that appears to have been defective and disabled is the Radeon RX IGP. If the company has been creating APUs with a significant number that flunked quality control, rather than letting these chips sit unused, it makes more sense for AMD to push them out as budget-oriented CPUs without integrated graphics.
It’s worth mentioning that the Ryzen 5 4500 is also AMD’s only consumer-oriented Ryzen 5 4000-series desktop processor that’s not an APU. (The other Ryzen 4000-series chips AMD is bringing to retail are the aforementioned Ryzen 5 4600G APU and an announced Ryzen 3 4100, which, like the 4500, will not have an IGP.) In years past, some OEM-only desktop CPUs in the 4000 series were produced, and they surfaced in pre-built PCs from some major manufacturers. But none of those OEM chips was officially offered to consumers before these three, and the rest of the Ryzen 4000 series consists of mobile CPUs.
The Design: Are You a Dialed-Down APU?
Now that we know how the Ryzen 5 4500 came to be, we should talk over its price and hardware specs. Both look less impressive on paper than the chip’s real-world performance might suggest. Priced at $129, the processor has six CPU cores with a base clock of 3.6GHz and boost clock of 4.1GHz. Each core supports simultaneous multithreading (SMT) technology that lets each handle two software threads at a time, resulting in a total of 12 addressable threads.
As a Zen 2 part, the Ryzen 5 4500 has just 8MB of L3 cache, which is only half as much as the similar Zen 3-based Ryzen 5 5500 and only a quarter as much as many Ryzen 5000 series processors like the Ryzen 5 5600X. Even more concerning, it’s only half the L3 cache of AMD’s Ryzen 3 3100, which is priced lower at $99 (if you can find it).
(Photo: Michael Justin Allen Sexton)
Had AMD kept some portion of the IGP enabled, it would have given people more incentive to buy the Ryzen 5 4500, as they wouldn’t need to purchase a separate graphics card. This would be technically possible even if most of the IGP was defective, but since it didn’t happen, the chip’s main attraction is its six CPU cores. Most competing alternatives have just four cores. But the performance benefits of this aren’t as significant as you’d expect.
Testing the Ryzen 5 4500: I’ve Got Your Six
For benchmark purposes, we paired the Ryzen 5 4500 with our MSI MEG X570S Ace Max testbed and a 240mm water cooler. (The CPU comes with an AMD Wraith Stealth cooler, but we used the liquid cooler for consistency with our other Ryzen tests.) The system was also equipped with 16GB of DDR4 RAM clocked at 3,000MHz.
(Photo: Chris Stobing)
The Ryzen 5 4500’s main competition comes from more affordable processors like the Ryzen 3 3100 and the Intel Core i3-10105. Both of those chips have just four CPU cores supporting eight simultaneous threads, but they cost less than the Ryzen 5 4500 and have other advantages of their own—the Ryzen 3 3100 has double the L3 cache of the Ryzen 5 4500, while the Core i3-10105 actually has less L3 cache but a higher clock speed.
The Ryzen 5 4500’s lower price keeps it from competing directly with other Ryzen 5 processors. But if you have the extra money in your wallet, newer CPUs like the Ryzen 5 5500 soundly beat it in every way.
Looking at our benchmark results, the Ryzen 5 4500’s limited Level 3 cache is clearly a bottleneck. HandBrake typically favors processors with more and higher-clocked cores, so we’d expect the 4500 to do well in that test, but it actually lost to the Ryzen 3 3100. It did manage to top the Core i3-10105 by a large margin, however.
In most of our productivity and content creation tests, the Ryzen 5 4500 was able to leverage its extra cores to hold an edge over the Ryzen 3 3100. The Core i3-10105 wasn’t close in most of these tests.
The Ryzen 5 4500 performed exceptionally well in Cinebench R23, coming in just slightly behind the pricier Ryzen 5 5500, but in every other test it trailed the Ryzen 5 5500 significantly. This shows the performance advantage associated with AMD’s Zen 3 architecture over the older Zen 2, as well as the benefit of significantly larger cache.
Next, we ran our gaming and graphics tests. As noted, the Ryzen 5 4500 lacks an IGP, so there is no integrated graphics testing here, only testing with a discrete video card. These tests below were conducted with our usual Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti graphics card running at Founders Edition clocks.
In these benchmarks, the Ryzen 5 4500’s shortage of L3 cache really starts to become apparent. Though the new chip was able to stay competitive with the Core i3-10105, it trailed the Ryzen 3 3100 in Rainbow Six Siege. It also lost to all the other CPUs in the group, including its fellow Ryzen 5s without IGPs.
Verdict: A Pure AM4 Price Play
It’s difficult to judge CPUs like the Ryzen 5 4500 based simply on price and specifications, but thankfully that’s why we have benchmark tests. Though the Ryzen 5 4500 features an outdated architecture and an undersized L3 cache, its performance is notably better than that of competing chips like the Ryzen 3 3100 and the Core i3-10105. In turn, it’s thrashed by the likes of its big brother the Ryzen 5 5500. It ends up being a classic case of getting what you paid for.
(Photo: Michael Justin Allen Sexton)
If you can afford it, the Ryzen 5 5500 at $159 is a much better option than the Ryzen 5 4500. If the $30 difference is a deal-breaker, you can either settle for the 4500 at $129 or save even more with the Ryzen 3 3100, though we’ve seen issues with finding the latter chip in stock at times.
The only clear loser in today’s contest is the Intel Core i3-10105, but it’s only fair to say that it’s an older chip and Intel has new “Alder Lake” Core i3s at comparable prices that we haven’t had a chance to test yet. Until we do, we can’t make an informed recommendation for (or against) them. But for now, we see no reason not to endorse the Ryzen 5 4500, but only if it’s the best you can afford and you already own a decent graphics card.
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