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A Seriously Powerful Sub-$1000 CPU: 16-core AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Review

AMD Ryzen Chip Shot - Angled

Date: November 23, 2019
Author(s): Rob Williams

Following-up on our previous quick look at AMD’s sixteen-core Ryzen 9 3950X processor, and having (mostly) finished catching up on benchmarking, we now have a much fuller look at overall performance from AMD’s newest wonder chip on-hand. Join us as we explore all of what this chip is made of across many rendering, encoding, and gaming workloads.



AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Review

We’re not far off from the release of AMD’s new Ryzen Threadrippers or Intel’s new Core X-series chips, but we promised we’d get a full review up of the 3950X, and so, we’re doing it. Last week, we took a quick look at the chip in Windows, and followed-up with a more in-depth look at Linux performance. AMD then impeded this deluge of CPU launches with its Radeon Pro W5700 workstation graphics card, so to say we’ve been doing a lot of benchmarking around here would be an understatement.

We’ve already covered the 3950X to a good extent in the aforementioned articles, so we won’t bother repeating ourselves here. We do want to cover some basics, though, for anyone who’s stumbling on this chip for the first time (though it’d be hard to believe, given how hyped it’s been.)

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X

We first learned of the 3950X at Computex in June, alongside the big unveil of Zen 2 itself. We remember AMD’s launch event well. You could almost see the hype floating throughout the auditorium, and even some of AMD’s partners found themselves gushing on-stage. Zen 2 was a big launch for AMD, and given what we’re seeing in the market right now, it was a seriously important one, too.

It was only a little over two years ago when AMD launched its eight-core Ryzen chips, at a time when Intel’s Core i7-7700K had only four cores. Fast-forward to now, and we’re seeing sixteen cores in a “mainstream” chip. We use quotes, because $749 certainly doesn’t feel mainstream, but when the AM4 platform lacks a quad-channel memory controller, this 16-core wonder isn’t going to be a replacement for everyone. AMD would rather those customers look forward to the third-gen Ryzen chips, which will soon launch with 24- and 32-core models.

And speaking of models, here’s AMD’s current lineup:

AMD’s Ryzen & Ryzen Threadripper Lineup
CoresClock (Turbo)L2+L3MemoryTDPPrice
Threadripper WX-series
3970X32 (64T)3.7 GHz (4.5)144MBQuad280W$1999
3960X24 (48T)3.8 GHz (4.5)140MBQuad280W$1399
2990WX32 (64T)3.0 GHz (4.2)16+64MBQuad250W$1799
2970WX24 (48T)3.0 GHz (4.2)12+64MBQuad250W$1299
Threadripper X-series
2950X16 (32T)3.5 GHz (4.4)8+32MBQuad180W$899
2920X12 (24T)3.5 GHz (4.3)6+32MBQuad180W$649
Ryzen 9
R9 3950X16 (32T)3.5 GHz (4.7)72MBDual105W$749
R9 3900X12 (24T)3.8 GHz (4.6)70MBDual105W$499
Ryzen 7
R7 3800X8 (16T)3.9 GHz (4.5)36MBDual95W$399
R7 3700X8 (16T)3.6 GHz (4.4)36MBDual65W$329
Ryzen 5
R5 3600X6 (12T)3.8 GHz (4.4)35MBDual95W$249
R5 36006 (12T)3.6 GHz (4.2)35MBDual65W$199
Ryzen w/ Radeon Vega Graphics
R5 3400G4 (8T)3.7 GHz (4.2)0.5+4MBDual65W$149
R3 3200G4 (4T)3.6 GHz (4.0)0.5+4MBDual65W$99

We already know lots about Zen 2, but the question of how third-gen Threadripper will scale lingers. If those big chips scale as their price tags indicate, then AMD is going to be owning the high-end enthusiast platform for some time, since Intel’s not able to spin out more competitive products that quickly (or that we know of). We wish that wasn’t the case, because a more competitive market is a good market. At the same time, we’ve seen AMD accomplish an incredible comeback, and it’s been truly fun to watch.

Whether you’re a mainstream or enthusiast user, chances are good that your new PC, or forthcoming PC, is going to bundle many more cores than a rig you would have bought had AMD not struck back as it has done. It’s a good thing this entire ecosystem is getting drizzled in cores, because the interest in creator workflows has never been higher.

Before we get into testing, there are a couple of things we’ll mention from the get-go. First, we didn’t get to test as many CPUs for this article as we hoped, simply because our test suite takes so long to run (something we’ll fix at some point, but first, we preferred to make our tests actually good.) That results in the 2920X and 2970WX Threadrippers being left-out, as well as Intel’s Core i7-8700K in most tests. Neither of these will be tested further for the next round of CPU reviews, since there’s simply no time.

We will of course be publishing performance soon for AMD’s and Intel’s chips that are soon launching, but as we did with this 3950X review, we may kick things off with a Linux look, only because it’s so quick to clear in comparison to Windows. We’ll work on getting Windows performance up afterwards, stat.

Without further ado, let’s move onto a look at the test systems and methodologies; or, you can simply head to page 3 to get started with our performance look.

Test Methodology & Systems

Benchmarking a CPU may sound like a simple enough task, but in order to deliver accurate, repeatable results, strict guidelines need to be adhered to. This makes for rigorous, time-consuming testing, but we feel that the effort is worth it.

This page exists so that we can be open about how we test, and give those who care about testing procedures an opportunity to review our methodology before flaming us in the comments. Here, you can see a breakdown of all of our test machines, specifics about the tests themselves, and other general information that might be useful.

Let’s start with a look at the test platforms, for AMD’s TR4 (MSI’s MEG X399 Creation) and AM4 (Aorus X570 MASTER), along with Intel’s LGA2011-v3 (ASUS’ ROG STRIX X299-E GAMING), and LGA1151 (ASUS’ ROG STRIX Z390-E GAMING).

On our Intel platforms that use ASUS motherboards, we disable the “MultiCore Enhancement” feature, which effectively operates the CPU beyond stock speeds. The same feature doesn’t exist on our AMD platforms. We validated our configuration with AMD, Intel, and ASUS before settling on it.

On the mitigation front, nothing is explicitly done outside of having the most up-to-date EFI and chipset driver installed on every motherboard. Systems are effectively default, and whichever security mitigations are applied will be automatic ones applied by the motherboard firmware or driver vendor. All platforms are run with 32GB DDR4-3200 (14-14-14) memory configurations.

Here’s the full breakdown of the test rigs:

Techgage’s CPU Testing Platforms

AMD AM4 Test Platform
ProcessorsAMD Ryzen 9 3950X (3.5GHz, 16C/32T)
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X (3.8GHz, 12C/24T)
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X (3.6GHz, 8C/16T)
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X (3.8GHz, 6C/12T)
MotherboardAorus X570 MASTER
CPUs tested with BIOS F10c (November 8, 2019)
MemoryG.SKILL Flare X (F4-3200C14-8GFX) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.12)
StorageWD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Power SupplyEVGA Bronze 600B1 (600W)
ChassisFractal Design Define C
CoolingCorsair Hydro H115i PRO RGB (280mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (1903, Build 18362)

AMD TR4 Test Platform
ProcessorAMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX (3.0GHz, 32C/64T)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X (3.5 GHz, 16C/32T)
MotherboardMSI MEG X399 Creation
CPUs tested with BIOS 7B92v13 (April 11, 2019)
MemoryG.SKILL Flare X (F4-3200C14-8GFX) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.12)
StorageWD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Power SupplyCooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid (1300W)
ChassisCooler Master MasterCase H500P Mesh
CoolingEnermax LIQTECH TR4 240mm
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (1903, Build 18362)

Intel LGA1151 Test Platform
ProcessorsIntel Core i9-9900KS (4.0GHz, 8C/16T)
Intel Core i9-9900K (3.60GHz, 8C/16T)
Intel Core i7-8700K (3.70GHz, 8C/16T) (Only Some Tests)
MotherboardASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E GAMING
CPUs tested with BIOS 1302 (September 20, 2019)
MemoryG.SKILL Flare X (F4-3200C14-8GFX) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.12)
StorageWD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Power SupplyCorsair RM650X (1200W)
ChassisNZXT S340 Elite Mid-tower
CoolingCorsair Hydro H100i V2 AIO Liquid Cooler (240mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (1903, Build 18362)

Intel LGA2011-3 Test Platform
ProcessorsIntel Core i9-9980XE (3.0GHz, 18C/36T)
MotherboardASUS ROG STRIX X299-E GAMING
CPU tested with BIOS 2002 (October 4, 2019)
MemoryG.SKILL Flare X (F4-3200C14-8GFX) 8GB x 4
Operates at DDR4-3200 14-14-14 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.12)
StorageWD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Power SupplyCorsair Professional Series Gold AX1200 (1200W)
ChassisCorsair Carbide 600C
CoolingNZXT Kraken X62 AIO (280mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (1903, Build 18362)

Testing Considerations

For our testing, we use Windows 10 build 18362 (1903) with full updates. Version 1909 was released in the middle of our benchmarking, so we’ve stuck to 1903 here. For the sake of sanity checking, we cloned one of our test platform SSDs to upgrade to 1909, and couldn’t find any change to performance across ten or so benchmarks. In the grand scheme of Windows releases, 1909 is minor, but we’ll still upgrade next time we need to start from scratch.

Here are some basic guidelines we follow:


Encoding Tests

Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Encoding: Adobe Lightroom
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Encoding: Adobe Premiere Pro
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Encoding: Blackmagic RAW Speed Test
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Photogrammetry: Agisoft Metashape
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Music Encoding: LameXP
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)

Adobe Lightroom Classic
Adobe Premiere Pro
Agisoft Metashape
Blackmagic RAW Speed Test
HandBrake
LameXP

(You can click each name to go straight to that result.)


Rendering Tests

Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Autodesk Arnold in Maya
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Blender
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: Chaos Czech Corona Renderer in 3ds Max
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
dBpoweramp - Convert FLAC to MP3 dBpoweramp - Convert FLAC to MP3
Rendering: Chaos Group V-Ray Next in 3ds Max
dBpoweramp - Convert FLAC to MP3
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: MAXON Cinebench
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: MAXON Cinema 4D
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Rendering: POV-Ray
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Rendering: V-Ray Next Benchmark
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)


Arnold (Maya 2019) (Also relevant to: 3ds Max, C4D, Houdini, Katana, Softimage)
Blender
Cinebench
Cinema 4D
Corona (3ds Max 2019) (Also relevant to: C4D)
KeyShot (Also relevant to: 3ds Max, Maya, Creo, SketchUp, SolidWorks, NX, Rhino)
POV-Ray
V-Ray Next (3ds Max 2019) (Also relevant to: C4D, Houdini, Maya, Rhino, SketchUp)
V-Ray Benchmark
SiSoftware Sandra 2020

(You can click each name to go straight to that result.)


Gaming Tests

Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z) Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
Intel Core i7-6700K (CPU-Z & GPU-Z)
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Sony Ps4 Pro Angled View

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Far Cry 5
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
Total War: Three Kingdoms
UL 3DMark

(You can click each name to go straight to that result.)


If you think there’s some information lacking on this page, or you simply want clarification on anything in particular, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Encoding: Premiere Pro, Vegas Pro & Agisoft Metashape

We’re going to kick off this performance look with a handful of encode tests. Encoding is one of those scenarios that can be extremely hit-or-miss when it comes to taking good advantage of big CPUs. Sometimes, applications will give the impression that they’re making proper use of the CPU, but we’ve found more than once that some applications actually just use the entire CPU very poorly.

Fortunately, the situation is getting a lot better over time. As an example, for most of its life, Adobe’s Lightroom didn’t use more than a few cores and threads. Today, the application can use most of whatever CPU you can hand it.

The performance look on this page is going to tackle Adobe’s ever-popular Premiere Pro, as well as MAGIX’s Vegas Pro. That duo takes care of video encoding for this page, while Agisoft’s Metashape will help with a photogrammetry scenario.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC

Adobe Premiere Pro 2020
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 1080p YouTube CPU Encode (AVC) Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 4K YouTube CPU Encode (AVC) Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

It’s clear from the get-go that AMD’s 3950X is a super-strong contender, going head-to-head with Intel’s 18-core i9-9980XE. It’s interesting that despite both of these projects being similar in design, they’re still different enough to shake the results up between them. Between the 3950X and 9980XE, both camps win a round. For fun, let’s add a GPU:

Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 1080p YouTube CPU Encode (CUDA, AVC) Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 4K YouTube CPU Encode (CUDA, AVC) Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Adding a GPU throws even more spin to the cycle of these results, with things not looking too hot for the second-gen 32-core Threadripper 2990WX. Seeing results like these make us crazy anxious to see if the third-gen series will truly fix all of these anomalies. The 3950X has none of those, though – it soars to the top in both of these charts.

Let’s make time for a codec moment:

Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 4K60 AVC to 1080p HEVC Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 8K24 RED to 1080p HEVC Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 8K24 ProRes 422 to 1080p HEVC Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

When Zen originally launched in early 2017, Intel managed to retain the lead in a core-for-core battle, such as how the 8-core Core i7-6900K beat out the also 8-core Ryzen 7 1800X. Since then, things have changed, with more polish being added, largely by the architecture. Zen 2 packs in a lot of cache compared to what we’re used to, and it seems to be paying off handsomely in workloads like these.

MAGIX Vegas

MAGIX Vegas Pro 17 - Median FX Test
MAGIX Vegas Pro 17 - Median FX CPU Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
MAGIX Vegas Pro 17 - Median FX NVENC Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

With the CPU-only test, it seems that Intel has some strengths in Vegas, beating out the AMD competition core-for-core, with the 32-core 2990WX inching ahead of the 9980XE. Things change a bit when the GPU is introduced, pegging the 3950X to the top. It’s worth looking at the competitive results between the 3950X and last-gen 2950X, because the gains from one generation to the next are made clear there. Core-for-core, we’re seeing the current-gen mainstream platform beat out the last-gen enthusiast option.

Agisoft Metashape

Agisoft Metashape
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Dense Cloud (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Depth Maps (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Mesh (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Texture (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

As great as photogrammetry is, it’s honestly one of the toughest workloads to benchmark. A huge reason for that is that one overall process actually consists of many smaller processes, and each of those may scale differently than the others. We see examples of that here, with Intel’s 9900KS topping two charts, and the 3950X leading one. What’s not great for photogrammetry is the 32-core 2990WX, which yet again finds itself at the bottom.

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 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

We don’t really remember a time when AMD’s done particularly great at Adobe Lightroom tests, and we’ve often just chalked it up to being due to Intel’s generally strong multi-media performance. Well, Zen 2, with all of its cache in tow, is here to show Intel who’s boss. But… not without oddities.

For whatever reason, our Lightroom test generates a worse result on the 3950X than the 3900X, which is something we validated through repeated testing (although this can be seen as Adobe still favoring faster cores over more cores, at least to a point). We’ll of course continue to test as time goes on, and as new versions of Lightroom get released. To AMD’s favor, even with that performance oddity, it doesn’t hurt Zen 2’s overall ranking. All four of the non-Threadripper chips dominate the chart here.

Blackmagic RAW Speed Test

Blackmagic RAW Speed Test
Blackmagic RAW Speed Test (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

According to Blackmagic’s official RAW Speed Test, Intel rules the roost with this one. The 18-core 9980XE sits comfortably at the top, with AMD’s 16-core 3950X sitting just behind it. While AMD’s 3950X didn’t lead this test, it sure managed to obliterate the performance of the 2950X, also packing 16 cores.

HandBrake

HandBrake AVC Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
HandBrake HEVC Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

AMD is making this review pretty easy to write, because it winds up topping half of the charts. HandBrake is no exception – it appears that extra cache is being put to really good use here. Again compare the performance between the 3950X and 2950X. The generational gains are really impressive.

LameXP

LameXP
LameXP - FLAC to MP3 Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Music conversion is a workload that loves extra cores – as long as the tool chosen can support them. We use LameXP because it allows us to encode as many files at once as the software can manage, and not surprisingly, that leads AMD to have a strong lead here with its highly optimized 3950X. There’s only so much importance cores have here, though, as the 32-core once again proves. Despite having four fewer cores, the 2950X sits just behind it.

Rendering: Arnold, Blender, KeyShot, V-Ray Next

There are few things we find quite as satisfying as rendering: seeing a bunch of assets thrown into a viewport that turn into a beautiful scene. Rendering also happens to be one of the best possible examples of what can take advantage of as much PC hardware as you can throw at it. This is true both for CPUs and GPUs.

On this page and next, we’re tackling many different renderers, because not all renderers behave the same way. That will be proven in a few cases. If you don’t see a renderer that applies to you, it could to some degree in the future, should you decide to make a move to a different design suite or renderer. An example: V-Ray supports more than just 3ds Max; it also supports Cinema 4D, Maya, Rhino, SketchUp, and Houdini.

Autodesk Arnold

Autodesk Arnold in Maya 2019
Autodesk Arnold CPU Render Performance - Jaguar E-Type Scene (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Autodesk Arnold CPU Render Performance - Sophie Scene (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

We’ve been picking on the 2990WX a little bit in this article, only because it tends to fall to the back of the pack more than you’d expect a market-leading (core-count wise) desktop processor to. But because of rendering’s obscenely parallel design, that chip is put to great use here, boding good potential for the third-gen Threadripper to truly knock our socks off.

In both renders, the 3950X sat behind the 2990WX, which isn’t too bad at all considering the core-count difference. Or the fact that the 3950X is $750, and the 2990WX is $1700.

Blender

Blender 2.8
Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU Render Performance - BMW (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU Render Performance - Classroom (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Once again, the 32-core AMD chip leads, with the 3950X placing just behind it. With its two extra cores, the 18-core i9-9980XE can’t keep up to AMD’s newest competitor, and with the i9-10980XE set to cost about $250 more, it seems like Intel is in for a seriously strong fight in the rendering world. But we’ve seen before that adding a GPU can spice things up, so how does that change things here?

Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU+GPU Render Performance - BMW (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU+GPU Render Performance - Classroom (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

These GPU-infused results shake things up a bit, but they don’t exactly create interesting scaling. As we’ve covered before, Blender loves the GPU a lot, so if you design your project from the get-go with the GPU in mind (or even if not), you’re likely to see significant gains vs. the CPU. It is important to note that heterogeneous rendering in Blender isn’t always going to deliver strong gains in performance. In some cases, the GPU on its own will be more efficient; it may not render quite as fast, but it wouldn’t be pinning your CPU to 100% usage for minimal gain, either.

We’ll be upgrading to Blender 2.81 in our testing at some point, but based on our initial experimentation, the overall performance picture won’t change (although there are some improvements with Eevee). 2.81 does add NVIDIA OptiX support for GeForce RTX cards, though, as well as Intel Open Image Denoise for any CPU with SSE4.1. You can check out our in-depth look at regular rendering and viewport performance, as well as a look at RTX performance.

KeyShot

KeyShot 9
Luxion KeyShot 9 - Character Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Luxion KeyShot 9 - Room Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

We’ve upgraded to KeyShot 9 with our latest update, a new major version that, like Blender, adds support for NVIDIA’s OptiX ray tracing engine. Its inclusion should mean that scenes will render quicker on the GPU than the CPU, but we’ve been too inundated with benchmarking four different sets of test suites to be able to dig into comparisons – but it’s definitely in the “cards”.

For this article, we’re of course going to stick to the de facto rendering method for KeyShot: CPU. We again see the 2990WX lead the pack, followed directly by the 3950X, and then followed by Intel’s 18-core i9-9980XE. The performance at the top sure looks a lot better than the performance at the bottom here.

Chaos Group V-Ray Next

Chaos Group V-Ray in Autodesk 3ds Max 2019
Chaos Group V-Ray - Flowers CPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Chaos Group V-Ray - Teaset CPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

With our first V-Ray tests, the 3950X repeats a trend it set long ago, and helps occupy one of the top positions. Interestingly, the Teaset render behaved quite differently from the others, with the top Intel chip pulling away further than the 2990WX pulled away in the Flower test. This is another test we introduce the GPU for:

Chaos Group V-Ray - Flowers CPU+GPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Chaos Group V-Ray - Teaset CPU+GPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

We’re seeing similar patterns as the CPU-only renders, with the 2990WX and 9980XE again flip-flopping their leads. Overall, it if comes between using the CPU only or adding in your GPU, it definitely makes sense to go the heterogeneous route. That said, that assumes you’re using a CUDA-equipped card, since Radeons are unsupported.

Here’s the standalone V-Ray benchmark’s take on performance:

Chaos Group V-Ray Next Benchmark - CPU Render Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Chaos Group V-Ray Next Benchmark - CPU+GPU Render Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Even the standalone benchmark shows the 2990WX and 9980XE trading bows, depending on the mode used. Ultimately, if rendering is really important to you, you probably don’t want to skimp on either the CPU or GPU, but depending on your workflow, one can definitely be more important than the other.

Rendering: Cinebench, Cinema 4D, Corona, LuxMark, POV-Ray

We covered a handful of major renderers on the previous page, but we’re not done yet. On this page, we’re going to take a look at a few more, including some industry mainstays and newbies. That includes Corona Renderer, which we recently upgraded to version 5. We’re foregoing Adobe Dimension performance for this review, since we haven’t seen realistic scaling with the new version 3.0, and have not yet been able to investigate (typical Adobe new-release teething problems).

To give you an opportunity to test your own hardware against ours, we’re also including the ever-popular Cinebench standalone benchmark, which represents current R20 performance. This test, along with the latest version of POV-Ray, act as our only single-threaded angles in the article. For good measure, the performance on this page will be capped off the real Cinema 4D, to see how it agrees with CB.

Cinema 4D & Cinebench

Maxon Cinema 4D R21
Maxon Cinema 4D R21 - Candies Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Maxon Cinema 4D R21 - Interior Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

We’re going to be enhancing our Cinema 4D tests in the near-future, which primarily involves finding new projects to test with, and hopefully will include a viewport test. For now, we’re sticking to the same projects we’ve been using for a while. When you look at the real-world results above, and then the Cinebench ones below, we do see some slight disagreement in places.

More than anything, C4D loves cores, at least, if we’re rendering to the CPU (and not using the built-in ProRender or another solution that actually uses the GPU). In our simpler test, Candies, the 9980XE hits the top spot, while in the more complex interior scene (seen in the screenshot above), the 3950X knocks it out of the park. If this is how Zen 2 wants to scale, we’re definitely eager to see how Threadripper third-gen fares with these tests. Fortunately, it’s not too much longer before we can dig into that.

Maxon Cinebench R20 - Multi-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Maxon Cinebench R20 - Single-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Cinebench says that the 2990WX is the de facto rendering champ in our lineup, although that’s in disagreement with our real-world tests. The 2990WX performed well there as well, just not with as much of a lead as the standalone benchmark implies. We look forward to seeing how scaling will change once we have some more modern projects in place.

Corona Renderer

Corona 5 in 3ds Max
Chaos Czech Corona Renderer 5 Performance - Livingroom Scene (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Chaos Czech Corona Renderer 5 Performance - Sales Gallery Scene (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

The 2990WX didn’t rule as well as it probably should have in Cinema 4D, but it makes a rebound with Corona. Across both projects, that 32-core chip led the pack, while the 9980XE and 3950X battle over positions. Has it become clear yet that you don’t want a slow CPU if rendering is important to you? If not, we have two more attempts ahead of us:

LuxMark

LuxMark v4
LuxMark Food (C++) Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
LuxMark Hall Bench (C++) Render Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

We’ve published quite a few LuxMark results over the years, but interestingly, none of them have ever been CPU-related. With LuxMark 4’s release, we decided to bulk up our CPU suite and see if the results repeat what we’ve seen, or shakes things up. In this case, it definitely shakes them up, at least a little bit. Intel’s chips exhibit really strong performance here, especially with the 9980XE in the Hall Bench scene.

We’d be remiss to not mention that LuxMark uses Intel Embree for its CPU rendering, so it’s not a particular surprise that Intel’s chips are so strong here, though it’s nice that AMD’s can keep up. If this workload utilized AVX-512 to the same effect as Intel’s Open Image Denoise and OSPRay, we’d see even greater deltas.

POV-Ray

POV-Ray
POV-Ray 3.8 Multi-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
POV-Ray 3.8 Single-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Because the other seven sets of rendering results weren’t enough, we’re wrapping this page up with a look at POV-Ray. As has become tradition, Intel’s CPUs have a strong advantage in the single-thread test, but having a higher raw number of cores helps just as much as you’d hope in the multi-threaded test. Notably, the 3950X placed ahead of the 18-core i9-9980XE once again here.

System: SiSoftware Sandra

While this article has no lack of synthetic benchmarks, SiSoftware’s Sandra makes it very easy to get reliable performance information on key metrics, such as arithmetic, multimedia, cryptography, and memory. Sandra is designed in such a way that it takes the best advantage of any architecture it’s given, so each CPU always has its best chance to shine.

That means a couple of things. This is definitely the “best” possible performance outlook for any chip, and doesn’t necessary correlate with real-world performance in other tests. It’s best used as a gauge of what’s possible, and to see where one architecture obviously differs from another.

SiSoftware Sandra 2020

Multimedia

SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Multi-media Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Zen used to be about beating Intel with cores, but Zen 2 is so refined, that it actually goes toe-to-toe with Intel in many cases. Where Intel still has a strong advantage is with its AVX-512 instruction set, exclusive to Xeons and Core X-series chips. The 9980XE’s inclusion allows that chip to keep well ahead of the competition, although we can’t help but wonder where upcoming 32-core Threadripper will place. That’s especially so when we’re seeing the 16-core Zen 2 chip beat out the 32-core second-gen Threadripper.

Arithmetic

SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Arithmetic Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Whereas the multimedia test can utilize AVX-512, the arithmetic benchmark uses AVX2, leveling the playing field a bit. What becomes immediately clear with these results is that raw core count matters a lot, although the 3950X did manage to match the 18-core 9980XE, while at the same time leaping far ahead of the last-gen 2950X.

Cryptography

SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Cryptography (High) Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Cryptography (Higher) Performance (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Can you guess which of these results utilize AVX-512? In the regular security test, AMD’s 2990WX again takes the lead, but jumping to 512-bit SHA accelerates nicely with AVX-512. With the first set of results, the 2950X places ahead of the 3950X, leading us to believe that memory bandwidth is heavily favored here. Meanwhile, the 2950X falls a bit in the higher security test, with the 3950X sitting in second place, with nearly half of the overall crypto bandwidth as the 9980XE.

Memory Bandwidth

SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Memory Bandwidth (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

On the mainstream platform side of things, Intel’s chips sit behind AMD’s, but the enthusiast platforms change that, with Intel taking the definite lead. Clearly, if bandwidth is important to you, you should automatically disqualify mainstream platforms. At least until some vendor decides to bring four-channel controllers to affordable chips.

Gaming: CS: GO, Far Cry 5, R6 Siege & Three Kingdoms, 3DMark

In recent years, we haven’t had a huge gaming focus in our CPU reviews, simply because we’ve had so much other testing to take care of, some of which isn’t tackled many other places (if anywhere else on a regular basis). But, with such a massive focus on gaming with CPUs lately, we had to renew our focus, and thus, we have four games and a couple of synthetic benchmarks on-hand to help.

For our testing with real games, we’re sticking to testing with 1080p and 4K resolutions. If we’re going to benchmark games, it makes sense to us to run them at realistic resolutions, because a gain seen at 720p or lower quite literally doesn’t matter if there’s no differences seen at higher resolutions people actually play at.

With the four games here, we have two esports titles, as well as two bigger AAA titles that are actually designed to punish your system, rather than run as fast as possible without looking awful. Synthetics found at the end of the page will act as an easy second opinion.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Counter-Strike Global Offensive
Counter-Strike Global Offensive - 1080p Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Counter-Strike Global Offensive - 4K Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Judging on Intel’s 9900K and KS topping these charts, we can assume that CS: GO loves clock speeds quite a bit, and conversely isn’t a fan of Threadripper designs. Throughout this entire review, we’ve seen constant reminders of why we want to test third-gen Threadripper to see what improves, and this game is a perfect case for it. The 3950X performs great overall; it’s miles ahead of the 2950X.

Far Cry 5

Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 - 1080p Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Far Cry 5 - 4K Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

We’re seeing the poor performance delivered with Threadripper carry over to Far Cry 5. Admittedly, the 2950X would likely improve if Game Mode was used, but there is only so much time in the day to test everything. We’re not sure why the 9980XE managed a sudden burst to dominate the 4K timedemo, and while it was consistent at the time, it’s not a result we’ve been able to sanity check due to even more benchmarking that’s going on.

Nonetheless, Intel enjoys some seriously strong performance at 1080p here, especially the 5GHz clocked 9900K/KS. At 4K, all of the CPUs deliver similar performance, except for the 2990WX, which trips over itself.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege - 1080p Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Siege - 4K Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

At 4K, there’s a mere 5 FPS delta between the top and bottom, and when we’re dealing with ~150 FPS total, that’s pretty impressive. At lower resolutions, Intel continues to outperform AMD overall, even on the 9980XE (which we’ve seen before).

Total War: THREE KINGDOMS

Total War Three Kingdoms
Total War Three Kingdoms - 1080p Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
Total War Three Kingdoms - 4K Average FPS (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

Since we posted our last CPU review, of Intel’s 9900KS, we added Three Kingdoms in, in hopes that it might show some interesting scaling. We also use the same game in our gaming GPU test suite, and certainly see nice scaling there. Well, at 4K, the scaling is almost non-existent, but Intel’s 9900K CPUs manage to still take the lead. At 1080p, the framerates vary a fair bit, but with the only real detriment being to AMD’s Threadripper CPUs.

Synthetic Benchmarks

UL 3DMark - Fire Strike CPU Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
UL 3DMark - Fire Strike Overall Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
UL 3DMark - Time Spy CPU Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)
UL 3DMark - Time Spy Overall Score (AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16-core Processor)

To wrap our entire collection of results up, we enlist the help of 3DMark. Like most workloads in general, 3DMark’s various tests can behave quite differently on CPU to CPU or GPU to GPU. In the DirectX 11 Fire Strike test, the 3950X leads the pack by a massive margin. Shift to the DirectX 12 Time Spy, though, and the 3950X is seen trailing the 9980XE, albeit not to as striking a degree.

Final Thoughts

AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X is truly one of the easiest products to sum-up for a conclusion, and it’s not just because we already covered a quick-look in Windows, and an in-depth look in Linux. OK, maybe that does have something to do with it, but so too does the fact that we’ve already been using Zen 2 since the summer, so it’s not hard to get a read on similar chips with more cores.

The fact that this 16-core 3950X exists is this form is simply astounding. We’ve talked about this before, but it never ceases to impress us just how quickly we’ve moved to a generation where eight-core processors don’t seem like a luxury, and even bigger processors are within reach of more people than ever. Intel’s 10-core i9-7900X cost $999 in 2017, and today, AMD’s dramatically quicker 3950X is $750.

Of course, we can’t look at a CPU from such a general standpoint: workloads matter, and as we’ve seen time and time again, not all workloads behave the same from CPU to CPU. While AMD’s Zen 2 has helped the company catch up to Intel in numerous ways, Intel still does have some strengths in specific workloads, and not just those utilizing AVX-512.

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Processor Packaging

As always, you need to know what your workload actually needs, and then choose the best processor (or graphics card) based on that. With some solutions, like Agisoft’s Metashape, it’s hard to decide on certain gear when different processes use the hardware differently, but generally, it’s not hard to find the most important strengths to you.

That all said, it’s easy to sum up the 3950X as being an amazing processor, and not just because of its completely reasonable price. We saw the 3950X go against the last-gen Threadripper 2950X in every one of the tests here, and rarely did the Threadripper ever come ahead – and when it did, it likely had the quad-channel controller to thank.

Over and over, we saw the 3950X seriously impress us with its gen-over-gen performance gains. In a single generation, AMD went from falling a bit behind in Lightroom to completely overtaking Intel’s crown, thanks hugely to the mass amounts of cache AMD has decided to bless this generation with.

In gaming, Intel is still king with its 9900K series chips, and its i9-9980XE happens to perform quite well, too. In some cases, the performance advantage is noticeable, but only really at 1080p, which means that Intel’s got the esports market locked down with those who truly care about the highest frame rates possible – we’re talking folks who think 144Hz is weak. In many cases, the 3950X performed very well, usually sitting behind only the 9900KS chips.

What struck us as most interesting was the fact that this 16-core processor doesn’t perform worse in gaming than any of the other 3000-series chips. It outperformed even the 3700X, which really highlights the fact that the Zen 2 internal design is a lot more efficient than the original.

Clearly, AMD has a winner with its Ryzen 9 3950X. Whether you need such a big processor should be your main concern. If you’re a creator with heavy CPU needs, you likely already know that you want one. If your workloads are more GPU-focused, you need to evaluate whether that’s where your money should be going – if it comes down to either / or. If you’re still not sure, hit up the comments!

This is one of the most exciting processors we’ve tested in a while, so it easily earns our Editor’s Choice award.

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Processor - Techgage Editor's Choice
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Processor

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