Third-Gen Threadripper Lands: AMD Threadripper 3970X & 3960X Evaluation

The latest 32-core and 24-core high-end desktop parts from AMD have now landed. We've known the specs for a while, so we waste little time talking about what we already knew on paper and get the ball rolling with the actual performance data. Yes, we put these new processors to the test.

The Ryzen Threadripper 3970X is a 32-core processor with 64 threads and a massive 128 MB L3 cache. It runs at a base frequency of 3.7 GHz and a boost frequency of 4.5 GHz. At $ 2,000, AMD is the most expensive desktop CPU ever. It is also the most expensive desktop CPU on the market right now.

If that's a little too large, the Ryzen 3960X Threadripper, which costs $ 1,400, may be worth more: the 24-core CPU with 48 threads has the same 128 MB L3 cache and clocks between 3.8 GHz and 4.5 GHz.

To test third generation thread rippers, we have lined up the Gigabyte TRX40 Aorus Xtreme. Comparisons are made with other product lines, including the Ryzen 9 3950X, 3900X and Ryzen 7 3800X, all of which have been tested with the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Xtreme. Then we have the MSI X399 Creator for the 2nd generation Threadripper 2990WX, 2950X and 2920X.

All motherboards were up to date with the latest BIOS version and were tested with 32 GB Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4-3200 CL14 memory and the Corsair HydroX loop with a 360 mm cooler. We are aware that performance may be higher in some workloads with DDR4-3600 CL16 memory. However, to make this an apple-to-apple test, all platforms used the same specification store. AMD has tested a 64GB kit with Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4-3600 memory that we want to use for future reviews.

The Cascade Lake-X Core i9-10980XE and the Skylake-X Core i9-9920X were tested on the Gigabyte X299 Aorus Gaming 9 on the Intel front. Then the 8th and 9th generation Intel Core processors were compared on the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra, but cooled with the Corsair Hydro H115i 280mm AIO cooler. Please note that the Intel CPUs are not limited to TDP. Therefore, we show the best scenario for an out-of-the-box performance. The graphics card of choice was the MSI RTX 2080 Ti Trio. In this context, let's look at the benchmark results.

Benchmarks

Starting with Cinebench R20, wow, just wow. The 3960X Threadripper scored 13711 points, an increase of 22% over AMD's earlier 32-core Threadripper part and a whopping 56% faster than the Core i9-10980XE. We see again why Intel has continuously tried to downplay the relevance of Cinebench, a benchmark based on a real rendering application.

Remember that the 3960X has 33% more cores than the 10980XE and is still over 50% faster in this test. But what's really amazing is the 3970X's 17000 point score. It is not only 24% faster than the 24-core model, but also 94% faster than the 10980XE, although it costs twice as much.

Cinebench was one of the few Windows applications where the 2990WX destroyed it, but we're seeing a 52% increase in performance with the 3970X, incredible stuff.

Conversely, single-core performance is an area where the Threadripper 2990WX sucked and the 2920X and 2950X weren't much better. The new 3rd generation models correct this considerably. The 3970X and 3960X both scored 520 points, slightly ahead of the Ryzen 9 3900X and the Core i9-9900K. They are also way ahead of the Core i9-10980XE, which positively indicates decent gaming performance (we'll find out in a minute or two).

In the 7-Zip file manager test, compression performance wasn't particularly good for AMD, but the 3970X and 3960X destroyed it. The 24-core 3960X was almost 40% faster than the 10980XE and the 3970X was about 50% faster. Here's how much better the 32-core 3rd generation model is compared to the 2990WX 2nd generation, which can be found in the graphic below.

In 7-Zip decompression, where AMD has had good results in the past, the 2990WX jumps from the bottom of the diagram to third place behind the new 3rd generation Threadripper chips.

The 3970X costs twice as much as the 10980XE, but is 126% faster even with this workload, even the 3960X was 80% faster than the best from Intel. You may have noticed that the Ryzen 9 3950X also outperforms the 10980XE, which is not a great achievement for Intel here.

Here is our new Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2020 test with an updated project that uses a lot of effects and layers compared to the previous project we used for testing. The Ryzen 9 3950X took 506 seconds to do this, 10 seconds faster than the Core i9-10980XE.

The Threadripper 2990WX was a terrible disappointment in Premiere and that's why we chose our Threadripper 2950X for our video editing rig. The plan was to switch to the AM4 platform with the 3950X, but after seeing these results, we'll use a TRX40 part instead.

The 3960X reduced the render time by 16% compared to the 3950X. This does not correspond to the price increase of 87% only for the processor, but if time is money, a double-digit performance gain is worthwhile. The 3970X is not fully used by Premiere, so the additional cores were not used much.

If you want to compare the coding performance of your system with Premiere, you can do so using the Puget Systems benchmark. When running the standard export test, the 3970X scored 115 points, 34% faster than the 3950X. This is a lot more latitude than our workload.

The standard Puget export test contains 8K red footage. As a result, Premiere will likely make better use of the core-heavy Threadripper CPUs. Compared to the Core i9-10980XE, the 3970X was 57% faster and the 3960X was 50% faster.

The Puget test also includes "live playback," and you can see again that the 3970X and 3960X are class-leading when it comes to playing footage in Premiere. These results also show the difference between the Core i9-9900K and Ryzen 9 3900X when machining is minimal.

V-Ray is an application benchmark where the 2990WX performed reasonably well. For example, it was 20% faster than the 2950X with 16 cores, but the Core i9-10980X was 11% faster than the 2nd generation 32-core processor despite its offering.

Third generation Threadripper increases the use, here the 3970X has exceeded the 45,000 mark and exceeded the 10980XE by a whopping 62% and the 2990WX by AMD by 81%. The 3960X was also 32% faster than the 1090XE and 40% faster than the Ryzen 9 3950X.

The Threadripper 2990WX also performed well in Corona and clearly beat the best of Intel. The new 3960X reduced completion time by 16% compared to the 2990WX, while the 3970X reduced it by 23%. These margins don't justify the price premium, but if time is money, it won't be difficult to justify the cost.

Blender Open Data's results are similar to those we just saw at Corona and V-Ray. Here the 3970X was 42% faster than the 2990WX and reduced the render time by almost 30%.

The 3970X was also 101% faster than the best Intel, the Core i9-10980XE. AMD's high-end desktop processor is now 100% faster than Intel in a popular real-world application. Just think about what the 64-core 3990X will do early next year when it releases. There is also enough credit on AMD to calculate these prices.

power consumption

As energy efficient as the 7nm Zen 2 is, a 100% increase in performance over the 10980XE requires serious power consumption. Both models have increased overall system utilization to around 430-440 watts, which explains why every TRX40 motherboard has a massive VRM.

However, a performance increase of around 20% compared to the 2990WX is not bad when you consider how much faster these 3rd generation Threadripper parts are. Overall system consumption has increased almost 40% higher than the Core i9-10980XE, but this seems justified for 100% more performance in this particular test.

Gaming benchmarks

Starting with Battlefield V, both 3rd generation Threadripper models were able to easily overcome the Core i9-9900K, at least at the average frame rate.

Usually this isn't what you see from workstation-level CPUs – I mean, just look at the 2990WX – but single-core performance is obviously an area that AMD has been using with every Ryzen in recent years – Iteration has worked hard to optimize it. When switching from the Ryzen 9 3950X to the Threadripper 3970X, we see a 1% increase in performance by 9%.

Another title that third generation Threadripper comes from the park is Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Both CPUs were faster than 3rd generation Ryzen AM4 models. A 20% increase over the 3950X doesn't seem to make sense. I personally expected the 3970X to roughly match the 3950X. After re-testing the 3970X and 3900X three times, the results were consistent. At first we clocked the 3970X and its numerous "better" cores higher, that could be a factor, but that's all, the jump from 4.2 GHz to 4.5 GHz, for example, is only a 7% frequency increase. A 20% increase in performance cannot therefore be achieved solely through frequency.

After monitoring both CPUs side by side, the operating frequency of the 3970X at 4375 MHz was only 1% higher than that of the 3900X at 4275 MHz. Perhaps it is memory bandwidth or cache capacity that gives the new thread ripper such a big advantage in this title.

This time in Division 2, both the 3970X and 3960X managed to outperform the 9900K's 1% low power while delivering the same 157 fps on average. This means that they are roughly on par with the 3950X and 3900X.

The experience with the Core i9-10980XE was similar as the 3970X only increased the average frame rate performance by 5%. Compared to the 2990WX, it is remarkable how good these 3rd generation Threadripper CPUs are.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint isn't the most CPU-demanding game, but it's good to see that the 3970X and 3960X models perform well in this DX11 title.

This time the Ryzen 9 3950X gave the best result when tested with F1 2019, but the 3rd generation thread ripper was right there, at most 3 fps down. Both parts were also faster than the 10980XE, though I doubt you'll notice the difference between an average of 167 fps and 176 fps.

Oddly, the performance in Borderlands 3 is slightly lower than in the Ryzen 9 parts. The CPUs are still within the range almost equal to the margin or error of the 9900K. This is a good result for these 3rd generation Threadripper CPUs.

With Fortnite in the new DirectX 12 mode, Threadripper was slightly behind the Ryzen 9 parts, this time up to 6% slower on average. The Core i9-9900K was also much faster in this popular title.

Overclocking and temperatures

Activating PBO increases performance by a slim 3-4%. By manually overclocking at 1.35 V, we were able to equip all cores with 4.2 GHz. We could start Windows at 1.4 V, but the system was not 100% stable.

At 4.2 GHz you can expect a performance increase of 7% with a high workload. However, since the CPU clocks at around 4.3 GHz when gaming, lighter tasks will experience a slight drop in performance.

As far as operating temperatures are concerned, the 3970X is relatively easy to cool, as these 32 cores consume a lot of power when fully loaded. After an hour of blending, the Wraith Ripper air cooler reached a maximum of 83 ° C in a 21 C room, which is pretty good.

The DeepCool Castle 360EX lowered the temperature to just 73 ° C, although we had to manually cover the entire base of the cooler with paste. With the factory paste, it reached 80 ° C.

Then we have the Corsair HydroX with its larger cooling plate, with which the peak load temperature could be reduced by a further 3 degrees. The 3960X ran 5 to 6 degrees cooler, so with a decent AIO, you'll have no problem keeping the 24C processor cool even after long periods of heavy use.

Cache performance

Here you can see the cache performance by comparing the Threadripper 3970X with the Ryzen 9 3900X. I wonder if that's why the latest Threadripper CPUs in games like Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider do so well compared to the Ryzen 9 parts. Oddly enough, the L3 read performance of the 3900X is significantly lower, but we see a 171% increase in write performance.

We also see a 165% increase in L2 read performance and 177% more bandwidth in writing. For the L1 cache, Threadripper then has 152% more bandwidth for reading and 165% more for writing. As a result, L1 and L2 cache performance has been improved from 152% to 177% compared to the mainstream 12-core 3900X, and so has the 16-core 3950X.

Price versus performance

Based on data from the Puget standard export benchmark in Adobe Premiere. Compared to 2nd generation Threadripper and 3rd generation AM4 Ryzen processors, you are sure to pay a high premium for the new 3rd generation Threadripper performance.

Compared to the Intel Cascade Lake-X update, this isn't bad at all. Even with the heavily reduced price of $ 1,000, the Core i9-10980XE struggles to assert itself. Here the 3960X offers more value. The 3970X offers a remarkable premium, although it is miles better than the 2990WX.

The margins displayed in Cinebench R20 were very similar to those in V-Ray, Blender and Corona, so they represent a good representation of the price-performance ratio that you can expect in these programs.

Amazingly, the 3960X offers the same value or price-performance ratio as the Core i9-9900K, though it has a premium of around 40% over 3rd generation Ryzen AM4 parts. The 3970X is on par with the Core i9-10980XE and is therefore 31% cheaper than the 2990WX.

Brand new high end desktop beasts

The new 3rd generation Threadripper CPUs are incredible high-end desktop beasts. Unlike previous versions, we don't see any weaknesses with excellent single-core performance. If you have 24 or 32 of them, this leads to breathtaking multi-core performance.

With solid performance across the board, only the price remains. It's no surprise that AMD wants to charge $ 1,400 for the 24-core model and $ 2,000 for the 32-core version. The only reason why 1st and 2nd generation Threadripper CPUs were so competitive that AMD massively undercut Intel was because they were inferior in some situations.

In this test we have shown you some examples. The 10980XE, an updated 9980XE, an updated 7980XE, was faster than Threadripper 2950X and 2990WX in the 7-Zip compression test, Cinebench R20 single core, Premiere coding, Puget playback test, V-Ray and all other areas of gaming.

However, AMD appealed to many power users with affordable HEDT prices. The TR 2950X initially cost $ 900 and has now dropped to $ 680 about a year after its release. The Intel 9980XE costs nearly $ 2,200, and even the new 10980XE is said to be listed for $ 1,000. So AMD clearly offered better value for money. As far as we can tell, AMD will not delete the 2nd generation Threadripper yet, and they will continue to exist alongside the newer and more expensive 3rd Generation Threadripper parts for the foreseeable future.

"A new extreme high-end desktop is born"

In our opinion, AMD is cutting off a new category with third generation Threadripper that goes beyond what second generation Cascade Lake-X and Intel Cascade Lake-X offer. These are more of your traditional HEDT parts. A new extreme high-end desktop is born, and this is especially true for the announcement of the Threadripper 3990X, the 64-core processor with 128 threads, which will be launched next year with 288 MB cache.

The third generation TR topology ensures the same PCIe and DRAM access for all cores as well as some other optimizations, which means that the 32-core 3970X does not suffer the same fate as the 2990WX, in which the part of the second generation has some has destroyed tests, but others are destroyed by CPUs with fewer cores. While it may not be game-focused CPUs, it doesn't mean that many people want to play with them. If you want a thread ripper machine for video editing and then a separate rig for games, you can now push the game system aside and do it all with the 3960X or 3970X.

AMD's full line of CPUs now looks like this: Ryzen 5 3000 series for mainstream computing and gaming, Ryzen 7 for high-end gaming and Ryzen 9 for high-end gaming and productivity. The 2nd generation Threadripper parts become their valuable HEDT option, although the Ryzen 9 3950X for $ 750 is an incredibly powerful 16-core processor that is arguably the best choice for content creators. Especially for those using Premiere, it was only 16% slower than the latest thread ripper and still costs almost 50% less.

The Ryzen 9 3950X also makes the Intel Cascade Lake-X pointless. The 16-core AM4 processor is almost always faster than the more expensive Core i9-10980XE, and if it's slower, the scope is slim. The 3950X is also the more durable player. For those who need more PCIe lanes, the 2950X appears to be the obvious choice as it is cheaper than the 3950X.

One last word to mention that we have had access to a number of impressive looking TRX40 motherboards. We used the Gigabyte TRX40 Aorus Xtreme for testing, but we also have the Aorus Master and the TRX40 Creator from MSI on hand. Asus sent in their ROG Zenith Extreme, another truly incredible looking motherboard, and they also shipped the Strix TRX40-E and Prime TRX40-Pro. We are about to receive the Asrock TRX40 Taichi and will probably soon be testing all of them in a VRM thermal summary. Well, if only AMD confirmed what they meant by "long term" TRX40 socket support.

Purchasing links:
  • AMD Threadripper 3970X at Amazon
  • AMD Threadripper 3960X at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 3950X at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900X at Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 7 3700X on Amazon
  • AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon
  • Intel Core i9-9900KS at Amazon
  • Intel Core i9-9900K at Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2080 Ti on Amazon
  • GeForce RTX 2070 Super on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT on Amazon
  • AMD Radeon RX 5700 on Amazon

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