A Real HEDT CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X & 3970X Workstation Performance Review

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Chip Shot Thumbnail
by Rob Williams on November 29, 2019 in Processors

We’ve already put AMD’s newest Ryzen Threadripper chips through our Linux test gauntlet, so it’s now time to shift our focus back to Windows, where we have an even more daunting number of tests to cover. It won’t take long to notice a trend: AMD’s 24-core 3960X and 32-core 3970X are ridiculously fast processors.

Page 8 – Final Thoughts

This is one of those articles where words are not even needed, because the results really do speak for themselves. We often talk about how important it is to “know your workload”, but if you equip yourself with one of these new Threadrippers, you can be pretty much assured that it’d be hard to hit a workload that isn’t going to run great on it.

The last-gen Threadripper knocked our socks off at the time. The 24- and 32-core models were simply jaw-dropping at the time of their release, especially as Intel was (and still is) locked to 18 cores for its Core X line. The biggest caveat, though, was that those chips had a memory design which didn’t jive well with all workloads, so whether they were worth purchasing really required understanding your workload.

After seeing what was possible with the first Zen 2 chips, especially the 3950X, we remained reserved about what we’d actually see from these new Threadripper chips. Would the odd threading issues finally be gone? Based on our testing, we can definitely say that they seem to be. There are occasions where behavior remains unexpected, but we usually attribute those to the software itself, since the overwhelming number of tests scale fine.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Third-gen Close-up

With rendering, the last-gen top-end Threadrippers were fantastic, but encoding tasks could choke the CPUs up, allowing technically slower CPUs to storm ahead. We were really satisfied then, to see that both of these Threadrippers scale great in Adobe Premiere Pro, MAGIX Vegas Pro, HandBrake, and even Blackmagic RAW.

We were further amused by the fact that the rendering tests exhibited even greater gains with Threadripper third-gen than we expected. With the last-gen being so good for the task, we just didn’t know there was so much more room to push ahead in a single generation leap.

Ahead of launch, some questioned why AMD raised the price of its new 24-core 3960X ($1,399 USD) and 32-core 3970X ($1,999 USD), and after seeing the test results, the reason seems obvious. This is a very different chip design that scales significantly better than the previous gen, with a lot more cache, redesigned memory architecture, and a new dedicated I/O chip. It’s not just with our Windows benchmarking that can attest to the performance of these new chips; we tackled Linux performance in-depth earlier this week, and found more of the same. Where AVX-512 is involved, Intel has some really strong performance, but if you have more cores with Threadripper, you are likely to leap ahead.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Third-gen Packaging and Intel Core i9-10980XE Engineering Sample

There is something to be said about how expensive the new Threadripper platform is in comparison to Intel’s Core X-series, which recently saw its flagship 18-core model drop to the $1,000 price point. In the span of three generations, we’ve seen AMD go from being the underdog, with hopes of a truly deserving top-end chip seeming unlikely, to it striking back hard with Zen, to finally twisting the knife with the full Zen 2 rollout.

As amazing as Threadripper is, it is indeed expensive, with the 24-core priced at $1,399, and the 32-core priced at $1,999. The motherboards are also expensive, with $500 being an expected starting point. It wasn’t actually until we sat down to begin writing that we realized the motherboard we did our testing with (ASUS ROG Zenith II Extreme) costs $849. That’s as much as a high-end graphics card! But, a top-end platform doesn’t come cheap.

One thing worth highlighting, since we haven’t yet, is the fact that AMD’s TRX40 platform supports PCIe 4.0, which Intel doesn’t, even with its just-launched Core X-series refresh. The faster 4.0 bus will largely impact storage devices more than other add-in cards, but it would not be unexpected if the next wave of top-end GPUs might benefit from it.

So, you might have to take a deep breath as you hit that order button, but our results have proven that the new Threadripper is seriously fast, and unmatched in performance on the desktop. We also did a bunch of gaming testing, but due to a memory error with the original suite run of the 3970X (the correct settings were not applied like we thought – doh) , we effectively lost our chance to include it. We may explore gaming more later, but clearly, the newest Threadrippers are squarely targeted at creators who demand the most powerful desktops possible.

And to think a 64-core is coming in the new year. We hope we’ve saved enough superlatives for that review.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X & 3960X - Techgage Editor's Choice
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X & 3960X

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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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