To some of you, it may feel like it's only been a few months since AMD took the HEDT market by storm. That's because it was only a few months ago when AMD took the performance crown with the launch of their Threadripper 3000 series processors. Apparently having the fastest HEDT processor wasn't good enough for AMD, and the lack of competition in this market meant they had to become their own competitor. Enter the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, AMD's proof that you can solve all of your problems by throwing more cores at it!
In this review, we will be going over the various features of the new Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, how it performs against AMD's last generation flagship and it's performance relative to the current consumer processing kings on both the Red & Blue teams. Feel free to use the hyperlinks below to skip to various sections of this review. Without further ado, let's get this show started!
3000 Series Pricing & Specifications
AMD Ryzen™ Threadripper™ 3960X
AMD Ryzen™ Threadripper™ 3970X
AMD Ryzen™ Threadripper™ 3990X
3.8GHz / 4.5GHz
3.7GHz / 4.5GHz
2.9GHz / 4.3GHz
12MB L2 Cache
128MB L3 Cache
16MB L2 Cache
32MB L2 Cache
256MB L3 Cache
4x 6-core CCDs
4x 8-core CCDs
8x 8-core CCDs
~3.9 billion per CCD
~8.34 billion for IOD
74mm² per CCD
416mm² per IOD
7nm for CCDs (TSMC)
12nm for IOD (GloFo)
Socket sTRX4 (LGA 4094)
AMD TRX40 (15W peak TDP / 14nm GloFo)
AMD Zen 2
CPPC2 Fastest Cores
2x in CCD4
Socket Power Infrastructure
280W PPT, 300A EDC, 215A TDC
This review will focus specifically on the Threadripper
3990X, however it’s important to understand exactly where it sits in the rest
of the Threadripper 3000 product stack. AMD is offering a 24 core, 48 thread
3960X as the entry level processor for this platform. Next, we have the 32 core, 64 thread 3970X which sits in the middle
of the stack. Prior to the launch of the 3990X, it was the king of HEDT and
still offers insane performance for its asking price. Lastly, we have the main
event, the Threadripper 3990X. Boasting 64 cores, 128 threads and a massive
256MB cache, it’s unlike anything on the market.
Zen 2 Architecture Overview
Looking at the numbers on paper, it’s easy to see why the 3rd
generation Threadripper CPU’s are dominating the HEDT market, but it’s
important to understand exactly why, and how AMD managed to pull it off. One of
the key areas to their success was the topology of their 3rd
generation Ryzen processors. As with the previous Ryzen generations, AMD is
using an MCM or Multi-Chip Module design over the single, more traditional
monolithic die. The biggest difference with this generation of Ryzen processors
is that AMD has moved their central IO functions off the processor die, and on
to its own I/O die.
Image courtesy of AMD
As you can see in the image above, there are multiple CCD’s
or Core Chiplet Die’s that contain the Zen 2 CPU cores and their respective L3
caches. All of this is connected to a central I/O die that is responsible for
providing each CCD access to PCIe lanes and system memory. You will likely
notice that there are multiple memory controllers on this I/O die, and that
everything is weaved together by small blocks marked with the infinity symbol ∞. This symbol represents
AMD’s Infinity Fabric, a high-speed interconnect through which all these dies
are woven together. This unique design also allows AMD to scale their
processors in a very dynamic manner as they can simply pick and choose each CCD
configuration for their processors. It also allows AMD to improve their yield
rates and reduce waste by using the dies that didn’t perform to their original
standards in a different capacity.
The current 3rd generation Threadripper product
stack is a great example of this in effect. For an example, let’s say AMD
designed a 32 core Threadripper with a 4x 8-core CCD configuration. Let’s also
say that in the process of picking out the best 8-core dies, they noticed that
some of the cores were unable to meet the standards that they designated for
this 32-core processor. Instead of throwing the dies away and wasting silicon,
AMD can modify the dies and design a 4x 6-core CCD configuration to create a 24
core Threadripper. The improved yields and waste reduction aside, this also
plays an important role in filling a void in a market. Without this practice,
you may end up with a wider product stack with a wider gap of prices and
nothing to fit in between, making it difficult for consumers to find the best
product for their budget. This is also true for the 3990X, which is made up of the very same dies used in AMD's EPYC server lineup of processors.
TRX-40 Chipset Features
Now that we’ve covered the history of the Ryzen
architectures and the internal design of the new Threadripper processors, it’s
time to discuss the platform. Even the best processors in the world can be
detrimental to your workflow and user experience without a strong, feature-rich
chipset to make use of the processing power. Luckily the TRX40 chipset offers
some of best cutting-edge features on the market.
AMD was the first to bring PCIe 4.0 to consumers with the
launch of the Ryzen 3000 series processors, and they made sure to provide
plenty of PCIe 4.0 lanes with their Threadripper CPU’s and TRX40 chipset. With
the CPU boasting 64 PCIe 4.0 lanes and the TRX40 chipset offering up to 24,
that is a combined total of up to 88 PCIe 4.0 lanes, 72 of which is usable.
It’s important to keep in mind that these lanes offer twice as much
bandwidth as PCIe 3.0. For larger render farms requiring multiple PCIe x16
GPU’s or massive high-speed data centers that require a large array of NVMe
drives, this platform has you covered.
PCIe 4.0 Lanes
AMD TRX40 Chipset
Up to 8
Up to 4
Up to 12
3rd Gen Threadripper
Total Platform I/O
Up to 20
Now that we understand the platform features, it’s time to
move on to our testing.
Configuration & Testing Methodology
The primary goal of this review is to illustrate the
performance of the Threadripper 3990X in the areas that it was designed to be
used in. With that in mind, we understand that we will get the inevitable “Can
it run Minesweeper!?” question and believe me, we intend to answer that
question and more. For that reason alone, we will be adding additional systems to
our test suites to represent both AMD’s best consumer CPU, Intel’s best
consumer CPU and AMD’s previous flagship. The test systems and their
configurations are listed below. For pricing and availability of each
component, click their respective hyperlinks.
System 1 (TR 3990X)
System 2 (R9 3950X)
System 3 (i9 9900K)
System 4 (TR 2990WX)
ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha TRX40
Z390 Phantom Gaming 6
ROG Strix X399-E Gaming
DDR4 3200 C16 (4x32GB)
32GB DDR4 3200 C16 (2x16GB)
DDR4 3200 C16 (2x8GB)
DDR4 3600 C16 (4x16GB)
SuperNOVA 1600W Titanium
850W Gold PSX850GFM
ToughPower 850W Gold
Li O11 Dynamic XL ROG Edition
Vybe RGB Tempered Glass
Thermaltake Versa H21
Custom Loop w/ Distribution Plate
Custom Loop w/ Distribution Plate
RTX 2080 Ti FTW3 Ultra Gaming
RTX 2080 Ti Black
Zotac RTX 2080 Ti AMP!
RTX 2080 ti Turbo
970 EVO+ 1TB NVMe SSD (2x1TB)
Performance 1TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe
660P 1TB NVMe SSD
Windows 10 Pro 1909
Graphics Driver Ver.
Overclock… Or not? That is the question…
The answer to this question is likely “No”, thanks in part
to AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive. This feature will allow the processor to
automatically sense its thermal and power overhead and adjust its clock speeds
and voltage requirements accordingly to perform best in its current workload.
If you look back at our benchmark results, you can see that there are hefty
gains when enabling PBO for multi-threaded workloads.
The biggest constraint when overclocking is going to be
thermals. PBO already increases thermals substantially over stock clocks,
something we will touch upon in the next section, however overclocking takes
that even further. Simply dialing in 1.3v and 4.1ghz, we managed to hit 93C
during a Cinebench C20 run on a custom loop with dual 360mm radiators. To make
matters worse, the overclocked performance was not far off from what PBO delivered,
and the overclocked results consumed much more power. If you are going to be
doing any kind of overclocking, I would advise sticking to memory overclocking
and letting PBO handle the rest. Do keep in mind that ANY form of
overclocking will void your warranty, so proceed at your own risk.
& Final Thoughts
I think AMD hit the nail on the head here. While you
technically can game on this processor, it’s not a gaming processor.
This processor is designed with real intense work in mind. VFX studios, data
centers that need copious amounts of PCIe lanes, even large VM farms that can
utilize the many cores that the 3990X has to offer. If you are looking for a
gaming processor, the Ryzen 9 3950X and Core i9 9900K are better suited for
If work is your primary concern, and you spend several hours
or even days waiting for computational tasks to complete, then the 3990X might
just be the right processor for your needs.
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