AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X
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The results show that the 3960X is much more balanced across a variety of workloads than its predecessor, the 2970WX. While youíd expect a 24 core CPU to fly when presented with an appropriate workload, the 2970WX really hit some hurdles with its NUMA architecture. The 3970X addresses this with performance that in some cases makes a mockery of the 2970WX. Itís clear the new memory subsystem and cache hierarchy, more so than the Zen+ to Zen 2 improvements, is really responsible for most of the performance improvement between 2nd and 3rd generation Threadripper.
Then thereís the comparison to the Intel 10980XE. 24 cores vs 18 is never going to be a fair fight, but then Intelís single threaded strength often comes to the fore, particularly when gaming. Some games scale better than others, but in general, the 10980XE is the better gaming processor. Not too much weight can be given to gaming on these processors though when the likes of a 9900K or 9700K is faster and cheaper as well.
It remains the case that Threadripper simply owns multithreaded workloads. Itís easy to recommend it over the 10980XE as long as you have the software to take advantage of all that grunt. It will do OK at gaming but then but that should never be the primary reason to buy a Threadripper system.
TEMPERATURES AND POWER CONSUMPTION
AMD provided an NZXT Kraken 280mm cooler for testing. With a 280W TDP we expected the 3960X to push the limits of this cooler but surprisingly temperatures werenít too bad. We saw a peak temperature under a sustained all core load of 81c. Thatís about as high as youíd want to go really. Idle temperature was 33c. Nothing wrong with that. Overclocking saw temperatures move into the 90ís at 4.2GHz. If youíre thinking of running stress tests for a long time, youíll need very good cooling with a large baseplate contact area. The large 3960X package with its individual dies, soldered heatspreaders and large cooling contact area make a difference, but itís obvious that a 280W processor working hard is going to need some serious cooling.
Power consumption was about where we expected it to be, with a whole package reading of 268W, vs 43W at idle. AMD is known to adhere to its TDP specification more closely than Intel, though it will be interesting to test the higher core count 3970X and 3990X to see if they breach the 280W specification. Thereís no doubt that 280W is very high for a desktop processor, and an indicator that AMD is pushing its silicon hard to establish HEDT dominance. A 180W 3960X would have really shaken things up.
For reference, the 10980XE consumed 229W under load at stock and a hefty 381W at 4.7GHz with 1.2v, with a 94c load temperature no less! A 16 core Ryzen 3950X consumes a relatively thrifty 131W at stock.
AMD has further cemented its position as the HEDT frontrunner. As a result it is now in the position to be the company that charges a premium, with the 3960X coming at a higher price compared to the Intel competition. As was the case with Threadripper 2, for many users, it is total overkill. But for those who can make use of the massive multithreaded grunt, a 24 core CPU (that happens to be the entry level model!) will fly through your workloads with power that Intel can only dream of.
The 3960X addresses a significant weakness of its predecessor, being a much better balanced processor under a range of workloads, essentially reaching IPC parity with Ryzen 3 AM4 models. Though some software code still doesnít like high core counts, the situation will have to change as CPUs with up to 16 cores start to become mainstream.
Threadripper is designed for professionals, workstations, content creators and heavy multi-tasking enthusiasts. You shouldnít buy one for gaming, though it will do the job well enough if itís not your primary PC task. Users who do a bit of everything including transcoding, rendering, streaming, or multitasking a million things and, yes, a bit of gaming at the same time will be very happy indeed. If youíre purely gaming, then there is simply no need for this many cores and an AM4 or Intel 1151 CPU will do the job just as well, or better, for cheaper. Single threaded performance still matters, and Intel is still ahead there, but mostly due to its frequency advantage.
The CPU is just one part of the platform. A TRX40 motherboard has to be considered along with all the goodies it brings, including those 72 PCIe 4.0 lanes for class leading connectivity and expandability options. With all those lanes, thereís no need to worry about what happens to X slot if Y slot is populated. The words Ďfuture proofí are dirty in the PC world, but with PCIe 4.0, itís not likely that youíll be wanting for bandwidth in the near future.
With its HEDT dominant position, AMD can charge whatever they like for Threadripper 3, and while the price has risen to $2249 for the 3960X and $3199 for the 3970X, remember weíre talking about very impressive 24 and 32 core CPUs. Until recently, Intelís 18 Core 9980XE cost $2799. Competition is great! No one will ever call a $2249 CPU and $1000+ motherboard cheap, but time is money as they say and if your tasks require the grunt on offer, thereís nothing better outside of shelling out wads for much more expensive enterprise options.
The 3960X should only be considered an option for those who really need it, and can make use of it. If youíre one of those users, it has no equal. Regular users and gamers are still better off with the mainstream platforms. Threadripper isnít for regular users though. If you need the grunt, thereís nothing better on the market. Now, about that 64 core 3990X.. Coming in 2020..
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X: 9/10
Class leading multi-threading grunt
Performance per watt
Feature rich platform
Much better performance balance than TR2
Inter-generational price increase
Lack of socket backwards-compatability
Cost of compatible motherboards
280W is a big TDP
Feel free to discuss this review in this thread!
Page 1: Introduction, Ryzen Rebuilt, A New Socket
Page 2: System Benchmarks, Gaming Benchmarks
Page 3: Performance Summary, Heat and Power, Conclusions
All original content copyright James Rolfe.
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