The Big Gun: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X Workstation Performance Review

AMD Third-gen Ryzen Threadripper Packaging
by Rob Williams on February 7, 2020 in Processors

AMD’s newest Ryzen Threadripper processor is an absolute beast, and because of that, it’s not for everyone. If you’ve got an insatiable need for more cores than even the 24- or 32-core Threadrippers can offer, then the 64-core 3990X may be right up your alley. Let’s see how it fares across our usual range of workstation workloads.

Page 4 – Encoding: Adobe Lightroom, BRAW Speed Test, HandBrake & LameXP

On this page, we’re going to be tackling a few additional encoding-type projects. Since the beginning of its life, we’ve benchmarked with Adobe’s Lightroom, but dropped it for about a year or two because it wouldn’t reliably scale. Over time, things changed, and now the application seems pretty efficient on multi-core CPUs.

In addition to Lightroom, we’ve also added Blackmagic RAW Speed Test, which acts as a simple way to see how a CPU can handle playback of BRAW footage at different compression levels. In time, we’ll be adding a much fuller Resolve test to the suite, but this BRAW test fills in for now. Finally, we’re also testing with LameXP, an open-source music encoder that can take advantage of many-core CPUs, as well as the super-popular HandBrake transcoder.

Adobe Lightroom Classic

Adobe Lightroom Classic
Adobe Lightroom Classic - RAW to JPEG Export Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Given the fact that we’ve seen the 24-core 3960X outperform the 32-core 3970X in Adobe’s Lightroom in the past, we weren’t quite sure what to expect out of the 3990X. As it turns out, it ends up placing behind both of them, presumably because Lightroom can’t take advantage of so many threads. There was once a time when 500 RAW source photos seemed like overkill, but with the 3990X, that’s a meager four images per thread!

We’ll continue to monitor scaling improvements as time goes on. It’s worth noting that in our Threadripper third-gen launch review, the entire set of Ryzen 3000 CPUs placed ahead of Intel, but with the move from Lightroom 9.0 to 9.1, the scaling has changed a bit. For whatever reason dictates this scaling, the 3960X comes out the winner. Soon, we’ll expand our LR testing to include newer, higher-res images.

Blackmagic RAW Speed Test

Blackmagic RAW Speed Test
Blackmagic RAW Speed Test (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Blackmagic’s RAW takes good advantage of either the CPU or GPU, but despite its 128 threads, the 3990X hasn’t managed to topple its 3970X sibling. We’re not sure at this point if this scaling would be improved with more memory, but we hope to find that out soon enough. As it stands with this benchmark, it looks like the 3990X is not the ideal choice right now.


HandBrake AVC Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
HandBrake HEVC Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

In our Linux testing, we saw HandBrake give the edge to 3990X in the x264 test, but swap places with the 3970X in the x265 test. The opposite is true here, for whatever reason. What’s really clear, though, is that the 3990X is not being taken proper advantage of, something we hope to see change in a future version of these codecs.


LameXP - FLAC to MP3 Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

We’re on a depressing path so far, but we swear: there’s better scaling ahead. We simply didn’t want to gloss over every lackluster result, because we didn’t want to make it seem as though this CPU was a massive improvement in all cases. That’s not the case, especially in a market where even the OS doesn’t like going above 64 threads. It will take time for software to catch up to the realities of these massive CPUs.

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Rob Williams

Rob founded Techgage in 2005 to be an 'Advocate of the consumer', focusing on fair reviews and keeping people apprised of news in the tech world. Catering to both enthusiasts and businesses alike; from desktop gaming to professional workstations, and all the supporting software.

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