Techgage logo

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

AMD Third-gen Ryzen Threadripper Packaging

Date: February 7, 2020
Author(s): Rob Williams

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.



Introduction

If you’re interested in Linux performance, you may want to take a look at our experiences with the 3990X here.

In our look at AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper 3990X in Linux, we saw many occasions where the monstrous 64-core chip rose to the occasion, and delivered compelling scaling. It did quickly become clear, though, that much of the software industry hasn’t caught onto the idea of CPUs having so many threads. We can hope that AMD’s latest offering will encourage more developers to take many-core chips into greater consideration going forward.

Not all workloads require as many threads as the 3990X provides, and that’s important to acknowledge. In some cases, having so many threads could act as a detriment to performance in workloads that won’t scale so high. If you’re a gamer, this chip is almost certainly not for you. If you’re a workstation user whose workload can use as many threads as you can throw at it, then you will see a benefit.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X - Installed In Socket

You can’t mention “core counts” without hearing someone shout “rendering!”, so that’s of course a big focus of AMD’s for a chip like this. We remember at its EPYC 2 launch event last year, AMD had shown Blender rendering taking place on a dual-EPYC 256-thread machine, which highlighted the fact pretty well that it’s not only servers that can take good advantage of a huge number of threads.

For video encoding, scaling to such large CPUs has been challenging for a while, and not a great deal has improved since the release of the 2990WX in late 2018. As we’ll see in our Premiere Pro tests later, though, codec choices do make a difference. As for other workloads, we’ll be tackling those as well.

With its niche focus for the market’s biggest performance hounds, it should come as no surprise that the Threadripper 3990X carries a price-premium versus the other Threadrippers, coming in at $3,990 USD. Expensive, yes, but not when compared to the Intel competition. It was only a few years ago when Intel charged nearly $2K for an 18-core – and today we have a 64-core for $4K.

Despite being such a bleeding-edge processor, there’s nothing special a user needs to do for the 3990X that they wouldn’t have to do for the 3960X or 3970X. The officially max supported DRAM speed is 3200MHz for 128GB of memory if four DIMMs are used, and 2666MHz if eight are. We tested 64GB at 3600MHz, so the answer is “yes, you can go higher”. Of course, your mileage will vary.

Here’s AMD’s current Ryzen lineup for reference:

AMD’s Ryzen & Ryzen Threadripper Lineup
CoresClock (Turbo)L2+L3MemoryTDPPrice
Ryzen Threadripper
3990X64 (128T)2.9 GHz (4.3)288MBQuad280W$3990
3970X32 (64T)3.7 GHz (4.5)144MBQuad280W$1999
3960X24 (48T)3.8 GHz (4.5)140MBQuad280W$1399
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

Although we tested the 3990X with just 64GB of memory, AMD suggests that 128GB should be considered a minimum, and for the biggest workloads, 256GB is even better. Naturally, you will have to scale your configuration according to your needs, but if you are buying a CPU like the 3990X, then it’s safe to say that 128GB+ should be the target.

Thanks to the fact that the Zen 2 architecture is a lot more accommodating to high-frequency memory than the original Zen, you may want to consider going for a DDR4-3600 kit, as long as it’s been validated to work in this platform. The safe choice is 3200, since that’s officially supported – but remember, four sticks are better than eight.

We often receive reference performance numbers when we tackle a new CPU for review, and in the case of the 3990X, we haven’t quite been able to match what AMD has shown. Even after swapping motherboards, we haven’t been able to catch up to AMD, but as always, we’ll continue to test after-the-fact, and see what improves as software or firmware updates come out. It’s worth noting that we sanity checked with a few reviewer friends, and none of them are experiencing the same under-performing results as us. For now, we shall blame gremlins.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X - 3.6GHz Unstable Overclock
A fun, but unstable 3.6GHz all-core 3990X overclock

Because we ended up spending so much time tweaking our system to try to catch up to AMD’s reported numbers, we decided to spend some time overclocking, and were left surprised by the potential overall. We’re still exploring what’s stable, but we can say that you can easily gain a few hundred MHz to reach some impressive scores (+10% to Cinebench, for example). The shot above is of a 3.6GHz overclock, but to be clear, that was just to reach high scores. It is not at all stable for general operation.

On the next page, you can peruse our test systems and methodologies; or jump straight to the tests on page three.

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 TRX40 (ASUS Zenith II Extreme), 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 64GB DDR4-3600 (16-18-18) 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 F11 (December 6, 2019)
MemoryCorsair VENGEANCE (CMT64GX4M4Z3600C16) 16GB x4
Operates at DDR4-3600 16-18-18 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.66)
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 (1909, Build 18363)

AMD TRX40 Test Platform
ProcessorAMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X (2.9GHz, 64C/128T)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X (3.7GHz, 24C/48T)
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X (3.8GHz, 32C/64T)
MotherboardASUS Zenith II Extreme
3970X/3960X tested with BIOS 0702 (December 12, 2019)
3990X tested with BIOS 0021 beta (December 30, 2019)
MemoryCorsair VENGEANCE (CMT64GX4M4Z3600C16) 16GB x4
Operates at DDR4-3600 16-18-18 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.66)
StorageWD Blue 3D NAND 1TB (SATA 6Gbps)
Power SupplyCooler Master Silent Pro Hybrid (1300W)
ChassisCooler Master MasterCase H500P Mesh
CoolingNZXT Kraken X62 AIO (280mm)
Et ceteraWindows 10 Pro (1909, Build 18363)

Intel LGA1151 Test Platform
ProcessorsIntel Core i9-9900KS (4.0GHz, 8C/16T)
Intel Core i7-8700K (3.70GHz, 8C/16T)
MotherboardASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E GAMING
CPUs tested with BIOS 1401 (November 26, 2019)
MemoryCorsair VENGEANCE (CMT64GX4M4Z3600C16) 16GB x4
Operates at DDR4-3600 16-18-18 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.66)
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 (1909, Build 18363)

Intel LGA2011-3 Test Platform
ProcessorsIntel Core i9-10980XE (3.0GHz, 18C/36T)
MotherboardASUS ROG STRIX X299-E GAMING
CPU tested with BIOS 2002 (September 25, 2019)
MemoryCorsair VENGEANCE (CMT64GX4M4Z3600C16) 16GB x4
Operates at DDR4-3600 16-18-18 (1.35V)
GraphicsNVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti (12GB; GeForce 441.66)
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 (1909, Build 18363)

Testing Considerations

For our testing, we use Windows 10 build 18363 (1909) with full updates. 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
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.)


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 – CPU

Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 1080p YouTube CPU Encode (AVC) Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 4K YouTube CPU Encode (AVC) Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Kicking things off, we… don’t see much of an improvement at all! Don’t worry, it’ll get better than this. In fact, we’re honestly surprised that there was an improvement at all with the 3990X, based on scaling we’ve seen in the past. There’s obviously room for improvement, so hopefully that improvement will come along sooner than later.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC – Codec Comparisons

Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 4K60 AVC to 1080p AVC Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 8K24 RED to 1080p AVC Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 8K24 ProRes 422 to 1080p AVC Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

When we use either RED or ProRes footage as a source, the scaling of the 3990X becomes more attractive than it was with our YouTube project encodes, and also the simple AVC encode above. For this kind of work, we’d quicker suggest a chip like the 3950X or Intel equivalent over the 3990X, unless you are certain your workflow will make better use of it than ours has.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC – CPU + GPU

Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 4K60 AVC to 1080p AVC (CUDA) Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 8K24 RED to 1080p AVC (CUDA) Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 - 8K24 ProRes 422 to 1080p AVC (CUDA) Encode Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

When the GPU is involved in an encode, the scaling is really hard to predict. In some cases, it seems some CPUs offer a better blend of cores and frequencies than others, but pin-pointing the perfect combination is tough. As mentioned above, the 3990X probably isn’t your ideal Premiere Pro CPU. But future software updates could change that.

MAGIX Vegas

MAGIX Vegas Pro 17 - Median FX Test
MAGIX Vegas Pro 17 - Median FX CPU Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
MAGIX Vegas Pro 17 - Median FX NVENC Encode Performance - (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

With Vegas, the 3990X doesn’t fare too well when it’s on its own, but adding a GPU to the mix helps propel it to the top of the list, but by no definitive lead. In fact, the detriment in the primary encode is enough to decide that another CPU should be opted for instead. This could be another example of AMD releasing high core count CPUs quicker than developers can support them.

Agisoft Metashape

Agisoft Metashape
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Dense Cloud (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Depth Maps (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Mesh (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Agisoft Metashape Photogrammetry Performance - Build Texture (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

As has become the norm with photogrammetry, it’s really difficult to see great scaling for a single CPU across-the-board, because certain processes will use the CPU and GPU to different effect. This is one test where we leave the GPU enabled, because a user would be crazy to leave it disabled, given how much extra time would be added to the entire process. We care more about evaluating real workloads than “benchmarks”, so we keep Metashape to its expected configuration here.

Ultimately, Metashape is hard to predict performance for, but on the high-end, both the 3950X and 10980XE seem well-placed overall for their respective SRPs. It’s worth noting that we tested a more recent version of Metashape (1.6.1) on the 3990X, but the performance picture didn’t change.

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

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

LameXP
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.

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 Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Autodesk Arnold CPU Render Performance - Sophie Scene (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

It just takes a little rendering to understand the benefits of such a massive processor. In Autodesk’s Arnold, the renderer has no issue using more than 64 threads, nor should it have issue using even more than that. With both of our renders, the 3990X manages to soar ahead of the rest of the pack.

Blender – CPU

Blender 2.8
Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU Render Performance - BMW (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU Render Performance - Classroom (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

In Blender, we’re not seeing quite as stark gains as we did in Arnold, but it’s not far off. The BMW render in CPU is being handled as fast as a high-end GPU could render it, and saying that, we’d be remiss to say that we’d suggest a CPU like this for Blender unless CPU only is your target. A GPU is going to more often than not deliver better performance for the cost over this CPU, and unlike a solution like KeyShot, you can’t run two instances of Blender at the same time, one with CPU and one with GPU, and continually render in one instance while editing in the other (unless they are different projects, of course).

That said, this bigger CPU could see benefits elsewhere, such as with animation, but we’ve not yet explored that too deeply (yet). From our own testing, a lot of Blender’s physics and baking calculations are at most, two or four threads, which limits scaling; however, we have not looked too deep into compositing. If you use Blender in such a way that the CPU performance is key even though you have a GPU installed, please let us know how you’re using the software!

Blender – CPU + GPU

Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU+GPU Render Performance - BMW (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Blender 2.80 Cycles CPU+GPU Render Performance - Classroom (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

When you add a GPU into the rendering mix, the 3990X still manages to place on top. The ultimate gains from introducing the GPU isn’t extreme here, but it’s still notable, dropping the Classroom render from 74 to 60 seconds. What those results ultimately prove, though, is that a bigger GPU is still weighed heavier than a bigger CPU, at least in our particular tests.

KeyShot

KeyShot 9
Luxion KeyShot 9 - Microphone Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Luxion KeyShot 9 - Room Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

KeyShot was made for big CPUs, especially since until just a few months ago, the software had revolved entirely around CPU rendering. As we discovered in our dedicated look at KeyShot 9, we found that among our five tested projects, all of them scale virtually the same. There is some slight variation in the charts above, but overall, we think the 3990X is strutting its stuff pretty well. It’s really easy to talk about a product when it pegs the top of a chart!

Chaos Group V-Ray Next – CPU

Chaos Group V-Ray in Autodesk 3ds Max 2019
Chaos Group V-Ray - Flowers CPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Chaos Group V-Ray - Teaset CPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Interestingly, Chaos Group’s V-Ray becomes one of the rarer renderers to not take proper advantage of the 3990X, at least in all tests. In the Flowers render, gains were seen, but not to the extent that we saw in the other tests. In the more complex Teaset test, the 3990X performed the same as the 3970X. While a V-Ray plugin one version newer is available, we don’t anticipate it improves anything here, based on its patch notes.

Feb 7 Addendum: As it turns out, our projects are a little old, which impacts the scaling a bit. We received an updated Flowers project from Chaos Group, which we quickly tested on the 10980XE and 3990X. We saw better scaling with it than we did with the projects above (257 seconds for 10980XE, and 129 seconds for 3990X). We’ll update the project for our next round of testing.

Let’s see how things fare once a GPU is added in:

Chaos Group V-Ray Next – CPU + GPU

Chaos Group V-Ray - Flowers CPU+GPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Chaos Group V-Ray - Teaset CPU+GPU Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

This feels like an odd result, but it’s not unlike what we’ve seen before our of V-Ray. With heterogeneous rendering, the 3990X actually manages to work quite a bit better on the render, and ultimately, the gains seen in CPU+GPU are more impressive than most of the other CPU+GPU we’ve looked at, but it helps when the CPU-only render isn’t scaling as we’d expect.

V-Ray Next Benchmark

Chaos Group V-Ray Next Benchmark - CPU Render Score (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Chaos Group V-Ray Next Benchmark - CPU+GPU Render Score (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

What’s intriguing with the result of the standalone V-Ray Bench is that it disagrees with our real-world testing. If we went by this benchmark alone, we’d expect mammoth improvements in render times, but that’s not actually the case, and a reminder as to why real-world benchmarks are important. This is far from the last time we’ll be testing the 3990X, so we’ll continue to monitor software upgrades as they come out, and see what might change.

Rendering: Cinebench, 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.

Cinebench R20

Cinebench R20
Maxon Cinebench R20 - Multi-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Maxon Cinebench R20 - Single-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Ever since the original Ryzen released, AMD has loved talking about Cinebench. At this past CES, company CEO Lisa Su comically spanned the 3990X’s Cinebench score across three screens, driving the point home that this is one monster of a CPU. At CES, the reported score was around 25,300, whereas we get 24,245. We’ve talked to other reviewers, and one received a score higher than AMD’s reported, so as covered in the intro, our performance seems to be degraded just a bit (despite a lot of troubleshooting to get it up to par with AMD’s reported scores).

We’d ordinarily include Cinema 4D here to compare against, but our license ran out in the middle of testing, so we’ll tackle that another time.

Corona Renderer

Corona 5 in 3ds Max
Chaos Czech Corona Renderer 5 Performance - Livingroom Scene (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
Chaos Czech Corona Renderer 5 Performance - Sales Gallery Scene (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Whereas the advantages with the 3990X were a bit tepid with Chaos Group’s V-Ray, Corona fares a lot better, especially in our livingroom render. Not all projects are built alike, so scaling strengths will change from project to project, but overall, it’s safe to say the 3990X will be heavily utilized during a render. As these many-core CPUs surge the market, this should only get better over time. Unlike many of the renderers in our collection, Corona is one of the rare ones that remain CPU-only.

LuxMark

LuxMark v4
LuxMark Food (C++) Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
LuxMark Hall Bench (C++) Render Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

As is probably obvious from the get-go here, LuxMark is not taking full advantage of the 3990X. We monitored it and saw that it was using only half of the cores, which is a little interesting since LuxMark uses Intel Embree, which we found in our Linux testing can definitely go above 64 threads no problem. Yet again more proof of some software needing to catch up more than others.

POV-Ray

POV-Ray 3.8 Multi-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
POV-Ray 3.8 Single-threaded Score (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

The version of POV-Ray you can go and download right now does not utilize more than 64 threads, something that is not even improved with the 3.8 beta. In order for us to see improved scaling, AMD had to recompile the software itself with the fix that allows more than 64 threads to be used. AMD said that its code was contributed to the project, so we hope to see the next release include the patch.

That all said, we can see why AMD decided to put the effort into this test, since it shows really well what a massive CPU like the 3990X can do – when utilized effectively.

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 Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Many tests in Sandra are designed to eke as much juice out of a processor as possible, and when more cores are involved, it’s almost guaranteed that tests like multimedia and arithmetic will see obvious benefits. That’s the case here with the multimedia test, with the 64-core monster flying 60% ahead of the 32-core. This is one test where AVX-512 can come into play, which helps Intel not fall further behind than it is. Now imagine if team blue had a 64 core!

Arithmetic

SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Arithmetic Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

We’ve gone from a 60% improvement in the multimedia test to a 75% one in this arithmetic test. AVX-512 is not involved here, so the 3990X has less of a fight to battle. Clearly, if you need quality CPU compute performance, you’re not going to get it from a smaller chip.

Cryptography

SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Cryptography (High) Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)
SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Cryptography (Higher) Performance (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Synthetic tests tend to push hardware really well, but this cryptography test is an exception where the 3990X is concerned. AMD’s top chip performs a bit better with the higher security test, but with Intel’s AVX-512 being utilized across the board, it doesn’t look as impressive as it could be. That bodes well for Intel’s 18-core competitor.

Memory Bandwidth

SiSoftware Sandra 2020 - Memory Bandwidth (AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor)

Memory bandwidth across AMD’s and Intel’s quad-channel platforms is pretty similar across-the-board, although we monitored less bandwidth overall with the 3990X than the other Threadrippers. It still comes far ahead of the dual-channel platforms. 40GB/s+ is really great to see there, thanks to the fast memory we’re able to reliably use nowadays.

Final Thoughts

After poring over the results from our Windows and Linux testing, there’s a lot to cover with the $3,990 3990X. As mentioned in the intro, we can’t be more clear about the fact that this CPU is not for everyone. There’s always someone with deep pockets who simply purchases the biggest components they can buy, but doing that with this chip means that you may be detrimentally impacting the workloads that are actually important to you.

This is not a chip for gamers, that much should be clear. Smaller CPUs with higher clock speeds will be much more ideal for that use. For gamers who also create, the Ryzen 3900X or 3950X would make for great choices. Intel’s CPUs still have strengths over AMD in places, but we’ve posted close to 80 performance charts, so hopefully one of them will help steer you in the right direction.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X Closeup

Most who build a rig around the 3990X are going to opt for a minimum of 128GB of memory, which, given the workloads the chip targets, is probably a given. Those with the most complex work will want to opt for 256GB, even if it means sacrificing the frequency a little bit.

We assume that 32GBx4 DDR4-3200 kits will be most common for this platform, as DDR4-3600 kits at that density are a little rarer (and a lot more pricey). We can’t yet confirm whether DDR4-3600 should be considered guaranteed for that size kit, but since the max official supported speed sits at DDR4-3200, that’s where you should set your expectations.

We ultimately saw better scaling in Linux than in Windows, which was largely to be expected. Whereas Linux has had many-core CPUs in mind for ages, it almost feels like an afterthought with Windows, especially since its inherit design doesn’t like to break out of 64-thread groups. So, it’s not too surprising that we had a harder time finding great scalability in that OS than Linux.

There were even some occasions where we expected to see great scaling, but did not. One notable example was with our real V-Ray test. While the standalone benchmark scaled without issue, we didn’t see the same sort of gains with our real-world renders. We’ll continue to test over time, and see if anything changes. Once we get 128GB of memory plugged in there, we’ll also retest to see if anything changes by moving up from 64GB (even though our tests should not ever require it – Premiere Pro might be an exception.)

A CPU like the 3990X is so bleeding-edge, the market needs to catch up, which is both a cool and unfortunate thing. It’s going to take a while for more solutions to take advantage of such huge CPUs, and while not every workload needs such capacity, if you can take advantage of a 32-core, that same software should technically be able to scale higher. The ultimate goal is huge parallelization to get a job done quicker, and in many of our tests, many of the cores just go unused. That ignores the potential of doing more than just a single thing on your machine, though. More cores means more virtual machines and in general, better multi-tasking.

And speaking of virtual machines, while AMD has been pricing its Threadripper and EPYC processors at competitive prices, VMware has recently decided that for some of its products, a CPU with greater than 32 cores will require a 2-CPU license. That instantly makes a CPU like a 48 core seem less attractive, because 96 cores from two of those would cost the same in licenses as 128 cores from dual 64-core chips. We’re not sure how great this move is for anyone but VMware, but it’s an odd caveat to be aware of if you purchase such licenses. Fortunately, VMware seems to have a grace period for this license change, but many customers are going to be miffed having to pay for two licenses for one CPU.

AMD Threadripper 3990X Overclock Temp Preview
A preview of our overclocking attempts as things get hot under the cover.

On the performance front, it always pays to know your workload, but that’s especially true with the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X. It’s not a chip for everyone, but if your workloads actually take advantage of as many cores as you can give them, then you’re likely to see great scaling here. Just don’t pull the purchase trigger until you can validate for sure (namely if we don’t cover the solution you use).

We did some initial testing with overclocking and were getting some interesting results, although not entirely stable. We even managed a thermal shutdown at around 101C. We’ll be releasing a follow-up later on once we manage to sort out some of the stability issues.

Overall, despite the fact that it doesn’t scale well all over, the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X is a phenomenal processor. The fact that it doesn’t scale well in every case appears to us to be more the fault of software not being designed for it, rather than be a fault of the product itself. At the second-gen Threadripper launch, the situation was bad enough, as 32-core CPUs finally hit the desktop. Now we’re seeing a doubling of cores once again – that’s going to take some time to properly support.

If any area truly needs love, it’s really video encoding, and possibly image manipulation. Lightroom should scale better than it does on these massive CPUs, especially given how much cache is on-hand. It’d also be great to see better scaling out of Premiere Pro. Perhaps since these big CPUs are a reality now, we may see Adobe and others work towards better supporting them.

While the scaling situations could be better all-around, it doesn’t diminish the fact that this is an incredibly impressive CPU. You just need the right workloads to take full advantage of it – and chances are you already know if you have them or not.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor - Techgage Editor's Choice
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X 64-core Processor

Pros

Cons

Copyright © 2005-2020 Techgage Networks Inc. - All Rights Reserved.