AMD takes the HEDT crown.

APC Australia - - Contents - Chris Szewczyk

“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.

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