AMD THREAD-RIPPER 3960X
AMD takes the HEDT crown.
“Forget about 10 cores being high end, or even 16. The entry level Threadripper 3960X CPU, is a 24-core beast. ”
The launch of Ryzen 3 has proven to be a great news story for AMD. It continues to produce products with more cores and performance and with the Threadripper 3 series, the HEDT takes another massive step forward. Forget about 10 cores being high end, or even 16. Now, the entry level Threadripper 3960X CPU, which we’re reviewing here, is a 24-core beast. It doesn’t stop there. AMD has announced the 3990X, a 64-core behemoth of a CPU that’s due to launch in 2020.
The 3960X, with its 24 cores and 48 threads effectively makes Intel’s competing X299 platform redundant where pure multi-threaded performance is concerned. At $2,249, plus the high cost of TRX40 motherboards, there comes a jump up in price too.
The 3960X isn’t all about lots of ‘slow’ cores. Its single threaded performance should be as good as any other Ryzen 3rd-gen CPU thanks to its 4.5GHz boost clock, all that L3 cache and the other latency enhancing improvements introduced with the Zen 2 architecture. There’s also the improved 7nm manufacturing process which leads to better power efficiency. Power efficiency might not be immediately apparent as both the 3960X and 32-core 3970X have a 280W TDP – higher than the 250W of Threadripper 2 CPUs. The base clocks in particular have been substantially increased with Threadripper 3 meaning performance per watt is actually better despite the higher TDP.
The design topology of Threadripper 3, with its four chiplets connected to the central I/O die, is carried over from Threadripper 2. AMD have fixed perhaps the biggest bottleneck that hampered the likes of the 2790WX and 2990WX – the NUMA mode – leading to some performancehampering latency issues. This is no longer the case, with the 3960X’s chiplets having equal access to system memory, leading to better performance across a full range of workloads.
Threadripper 3 CPUs require a new socket and chipset, and hence a new
“If you’re one of those with the applications and workflow to
take advantage of it, then you’ll find nothing better outside of multi-socket enterprise options. ”
motherboard, some of which are very expensive indeed. They won’t work in X399 motherboards, and similarly, older generation CPUs won’t work in TRX40 motherboards. We’re sad to see AMD abandon its long running commitment to supporting a socket across multiple generations, but the company says it was forced to change the pin arrangement to allow for more bandwidth between the CPU and chipset. At least coolers designed for X399 motherboards will remain compatible with TRX40.
If you’re going to drop the best part of $3,000 on a CPU and motherboard alone you’ll want it to perform like a beast, and the 3960X does exactly that. The Intel 10980XE is simply obliterated. The 3960X is in another league when it comes to multithreaded workloads. That isn’t to say the 10980XE is a dud as Intel remains strong in lightly threaded workloads. That’s not why you should be buying a 2019 HEDT though, especially when the mainstream desktop CPU platforms offer a better balance of performance when outright multi threading grunt isn’t required.
A look at temperatures and power consumption didn’t throw up any surprises. A CPU with a 280W TDP is always going to require very good cooling. A load temperature with a Nzxt 280mm cooler of 81c was about the limit of where we’d be totally comfortable. If you’re planning to overclock, it appears that a full custom water loop is a requirement. Power consumption testing revealed a 268W reading when fully loaded vs 43W at idle. This compares to a 10980XE at 229W under load, and a 3950X at an impressive 131W.
AMD now utterly dominates the HEDT space, an unthinkable statement a couple of years ago. Threadripper 3 offers more cores, a better performance balance, a more feature-rich platform and better performance per watt and per core than Intel. A heavy multi-tasker, content creator or workstation user has no real alternative right now. Gamers should stick to the mainstream platforms which offer an equally good, if not better gaming experience for far less money. TR3 will game well enough of course, but that should not be its primary purpose.
The 3960X, along with its 32- and still-to-come 64-core siblings represents another reinvention of the high end desktop. Consumer level software developers have some work to do to take advantage of all that grunt after so many years of quad core hegemony. For most of us, it’s complete overkill, but if you’re one of those with the applications and workflow to take advantage of it, then you’ll find nothing better outside of multi-socket enterprise options. The 3960X and TRX40 platform is expensive, but there’s nothing like it on the market. If you’re tired of waiting for your jobs to finish, you’ll love Threadripper 3 and the 3960X.
AMD’s Threadripper 3960X obliterates Intel’s entire HEDT lineup, and it’s only the entry level CPU!
AMD’s chiplet architecture allows easier scalability across the Ryzen and TR family of products.