Un­prece­dented lev­els of desk­top com­put­ing power.

APC Australia - - Contents - Chris Szewczyk

AMD came roar­ing back into the HEDT market with the re­lease of first gen­er­a­tion Thread­rip­per pro­ces­sors in mid-2017, topped by the 16 core 1950X. 16 cores was just a tease though as the 1950X used only two of the four dies present. This de­sign left open the pos­si­bil­ity that we’d even­tu­ally get a full 32 core op­tion, which is ex­actly what we got with the re­lease of the 2990WX a cou­ple of months back.

Now we have the fi­nal two sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Thread­rip­per mod­els mak­ing their de­but. The 2970WX is a 24 core/48 thread CPU. It’s joined by the 12 core/24 thread 2920X, which prom­ises a good blend of sin­gle and multi-threaded grunt and is more ac­com­mo­dat­ing of 2018 con­sumer-level soft­ware and Win­dows sched­ul­ing. In many ways Thread­rip­per is ahead of its time. Apps with the ap­pro­pri­ate thread­ing sup­port sim­ply thrive, but the prob­lem re­mains; many apps just can’t make use of all the mul­ti­thread­ing power on hand.


Sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Ryzen pro­ces­sors carry all the im­prove­ments in­tro­duced with sec­ond gen­er­a­tion Ryzen ear­lier in 2018. The im­proved 12nm process leads to bet­ter power ef­fi­ciency and in­creased fre­quen­cies. Add in lower cache la­ten­cies and im­proved mem­ory sup­port and we also get bet­ter per­for­mance clock for clock. The max­i­mum of­fi­cial mem­ory sup­port has been in­creased to DDR4-2933.

Thread­rip­per 2 is sup­ported by all ex­ist­ing X399 moth­er­boards af­ter a BIOS up­date, negat­ing the need for an ad­di­tional moth­er­board pur­chase. X399 moth­er­boards pack in a great set of fea­tures, per­haps most note­wor­thy be­ing the avail­abil­ity of 64 PCIe 3.0 lanes. This means there’s enough band­width on hand to han­dle multi GPU sys­tems or com­plex SSD ar­rays with­out hav­ing to con­sult the moth­er­board man­ual to see what works if you add this or in­stall that.


Ryzen Mas­ter is AMD’s con­trol app. It closely re­sem­bles the Radeon driver con­trol panel. It packs in a heap of tweak­able set­tings and mon­i­tor­ing in­for­ma­tion. Most users will still use the BIOS for se­ri­ous tweak­ing, but Ryzen Mas­ter has a par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant tog­gle that you should use if you are gam­ing: Game Mode. As many game en­gines sim­ply can­not han­dle very high core counts, Game Mode, or Legacy Com­pat­i­bil­ity Mode, dis­ables ½ or ¾ of the avail­able cores. To get the best gam­ing per­for­mance out of Thread­rip­per, you re­ally should en­able Legacy Com­pat­i­bil­ity Mode as even 16 cores can present some prob­lems for game en­gines.


As we ex­pected, Thread­rip­per CPUs dom­i­nate heav­ily threaded bench­marks. The WX mod­els in par­tic­u­lar laugh off even the mighty In­tel i97980XE. Apps that sup­port very high core counts per­form mag­nif­i­cently. As we see though, many apps just can­not deal with high core counts. We tested a new bench­mark called

“Un­der load, the 2970WX never even hit 70° with all 24 cores and 48 threads at 100% load. The 2920X was even bet­ter, barely crack­ing 60°. ”

Cin­egy Ci­nescore. It too fails to scale over 16c/32t.

Gam­ing is a real mixed bag. Ini­tial testing gave some very strange re­sults with the WX mod­els in par­tic­u­lar, show­ing that some game en­gines all but break with very high core count CPUs. To counter this, we en­abled the Legacy Game Mode in the Ryzen Mas­ter soft­ware. Do­ing this mostly brought the WX mod­els into line with the 2700X. Out­right gam­ing per­for­mance still favours In­tel, but re­mem­ber the gap is ba­si­cally noth­ing at high res­o­lu­tion and image qual­ity set­tings where the load switches back to the GPU.

Thread­rip­per CPUs run re­mark­ably cool, stay­ing in the low 30’s when at idle. Un­der load, the 2970WX never even hit 70° with all 24 cores and 48 threads at 100% load. The 2920X was even bet­ter, barely crack­ing 60°. It’s clear that Thread­rip­per’s in­di­vid­ual dies, sol­dered heat­spread­ers and large cool­ing con­tact ar­eas make a huge dif­fer­ence.


The 2970WX is an ab­so­lute mon­ster just like its big brother 2990WX, but only if you use soft­ware that can take ad­van­tage of all the par­al­lel power on hand. If you don’t use ap­pli­ca­tions that sup­port highly multithreaded work­loads, then the WX se­ries CPUs are very much overkill.

The 2920X with its 12 cores of­fers a good blend of multi-core power, but in a more 2018 con­sumer friendly pack­age. If you find your­self do­ing a fre­quent mix of tasks, then it’s a ter­rific CPU. Reg­u­lar users and gamers are still bet­ter off with the main­stream plat­forms though. Not that they’re aimed at reg­u­lar users. Thread­rip­per is all about pro­vid­ing un­prece­dented lev­els of desk­top com­put­ing power. If you can make use of that power, they be­come very com­pelling op­tions in­deed.

CPU 2920X $999, 2970WX $1,999 | WWW.AMD.COM

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