AMD Threadripper 3970X & 3960X Review With Full Benchmarks – ITS EPIC!
Well it’s finally here, we can finally talk about third-generation ThreadRipper’s performance, and honestly of all the launches this year this is by far the most exciting.
Now the other recent processors from AMD have also been pretty ground-breaking, the Ryzen 9 3950X was launched less than two weeks ago and it is an amazing processor. I’m actually thinking of putting that into my ITX workstation PC, so definitely stay tuned for that. And if you are interested in our full review of that CPU, you can check it out right over here. But these two CPUs – the ThreadRipper 3960X and ThreadRipper 3970X – are pretty important processors as well, because they provide really amazing performance for creators like myself and Dmitry.
Cracking It Open
Now we’ve already seen the impressive performance improvement between 2nd and 3rd Gen Ryzen processors, and now those improvements are being rolled into high-core-count ThreadRipper CPUs. Not only that, but with the Zen 2 architecture and a bunch of other changes, AMD set out to fix some of the performance issues we had with their previous 24- and 32-core WX series. And imagine when AMD rolls out their upcoming 64-core monster, things could get absolutely bonkers, but that’s a video for another day. And after that little tease, let’s move on.
Specs & Price
Now I’m sure you’re familiar with the specs of these processors, but if you’re not here they are. With 32 cores and 64 threads, the 3970X will be the flagship of AMD’s desktop lineup until the 64-core 3990X launches next year. It will retail for $2,000 USD and it will replace the 2990WX, which had the same number of cores. The 3960X has 24 cores and 48 threads, and will be available for $1,400 USD, which is still a good $400 more than the Intel’s top-end Cascade Lake X i9-10980XE. However, that CPU isn’t even in the same performance class.
AMD’s current Ryzen lineup is pretty full, but you can see it actually makes a lot of sense. The ThreadRipper 3970X and 3960X are focused on professionals who tackle massively parallel workloads and need to save as much time as possible. Meanwhile, the second generation ThreadRipper processors and the X399 motherboards will stick around, but at lower price points. That means the X399 platform will remain for early adopters who want to upgrade, and still need ThreadRipper for its memory bandwidth and massive number of processing threads and PCIe lanes. Under that comes all of the regular Ryzen processors, from the Ryzen 9 all the way down to recently launched Athlon 3000G. However, what about Intel? Well AMD is hitting them where it hurts the most. These ThreadRipper CPUs are being launched like nuclear missiles at high priced CPUs like the Xeon W-3175X. That 28-core chip will run you over $3,000 USD, so while the new ThreadRipper processors might look expensive they are actually priced lower than the competition.
I also mentioned that AMD loaded a bunch of improvements into this version of ThreadRipper, and those are what I’m excited about. You see the 2970WX and the 2990WX face some serious issues with Windows due to their unique chiplet design and memory layout. Also AMD’s CPPC, which optimized frequencies for different load patterns was broken until Microsoft released updates. So what is AMD doing now? Well, first of all, they worked with Microsoft to build what’s called CPPC2. The OS is more aware of Zen 2’s topology and it can react accordingly, that should mean higher clock speeds sustained over a longer period of time and much better performance in many workloads. AMD has also modified their architecture so that all the individual CPU dies get equal access to the DRAM and PCIe bandwidth. They are hoping this will lead to less problems in programs that had issues recognizing how the previous gen architecture handled memory requests.
Memory Speeds & Motherboards
Speaking of memory, the controllers have been completely revised, so third-gen ThreadRipper will support higher maximum memory speeds at increased capacities. For example, AMD says their sweet spot is DDR4-3600 with 64GB and DDR4-3200 with 128GB of RAM. That’s a big improvement over the previous gen, which sometimes struggle to hit DDR4-3000 with 64GB installed. Another thing that should be brought up is that AMD technically supports ECC memory, but it is ultimately up to motherboard manufacturers to implement it. Now this could be another messy situation again, since a few times X399 boards did support ECC memory, but it had to be pulled back later on with bios updates.
As for those motherboards, well things are going to be interesting. These new ThreadRipper CPUs require a new TRX4 socket and TRX40 motherboards, and those won’t be cheap. However, take not that your previous TR4 coolers will be compatible with TRX4 provided they support 250 watt CPUs. This MSI TRX40 Creator will be listed for about $700 USD and that isn’t even their highest end model. Another example is the ASUS ROG Zenith II Extreme, which we are told will hit store shelves for $850 USD. motherboard. That’s a ridiculous amount of money, you can build a PC for that price, but that’s the way it goes in the high-end space.
Now this extreme pricing does come attached to some amazing capabilities. There’s 40 PCIe 4.0 lanes dedicated to add-in cards and 8 PCIe 4.0 lanes for the chipset link. Add to that two sets of configurable ports that can each be set to deliver either 4 more PCIe lanes, 4 PCIe 4.0 NVMe lanes or 4 outputs. Then there’s also a hub for four USB 3.2 Gen2 connections. The TRX40 chipset comes into this with another 8 USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, 4 SATA 6Gbps, and another 8 general PCIe 4.0 lanes that can be used for other devices. Finally, there are two more flexible hubs that can either accommodate PCIe capacity or SATA 6Gbps.
So how does that all translate into an actual motherboard? Well looking over the MSI TRX40 Creator, it is just nuts for people who need a lot of fast storage and a lot of capability that comes from all of those PCIe lanes. Basically, there are three PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 slots on the motherboard, and another four on an add-in card that looks like a small graphics cards. It doesn’t have I/O, but it does have a 6-pin connector, and it’s got a fan to cool all those drives.
Moving on to the Zenith II Extreme, and ASUS has gone about things a bit differently. First of all, they are using dual 8-pin and a single 6-pin CPU power connectors. The I/O area is also packed with additional USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, and also a USB 3.2 2×2 port that provides up to 20Gbps of bandwidth for external storage devices.
Our test systems have remained pretty much identical to the 3950X review, other than the addition of the ASUS TRX40 Zenith II Extreme as it is the motherboard we are using third-gen ThreadRipper. As usual, All motherboard performance enhancements were disabled, so things like multi-core enhancement for Intel are turned off.
Starting with Cinebench, and straight off these are by far the two fastest processors we’ve ever seen. The most incredible thing about these results is that they’re almost 50% faster than the 2990WX and 2970WX. AMD is absolutely dominating our Cinebench charts, and it doesn’t stop here since in Blender 3rd Gen ThreadRipper just continues with whipping pretty much every other CPU we have on hand. I mean the 3960X is hands down beating the 2990WX even though it has a lot less processing threads. MetaShape is also pretty interesting since it uses both multi-core and also lightly threaded workloads depending on the task. That’s why the ThreadRipper CPUs don’t perform quite as well when compared to purely multi-threaded situations. However, to be honest, their improvement versus previous generation CPUs is massive. In Reality Capture, you can clearly see where the WX series CPUs just straight up fail to play nice with the Windows ecosystem. These new processors are very different, but at least for this program there are far better options out there for less money.
After a few disappointing results, we are back to absolute domination in Mozilla Compile. Seeing this test finish in under 10 minutes is just pretty nuts. Moving onto handbrake, here is a transcode job and once again ThreadRipper is leading again. Now this lead isn’t all that massive simply because handbrake isn’t fully able to load all cores. Now we’ve come to the results that are the most important for us: Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve. Starting with Adobe Premiere Pro, the 3970X and 3960X provide huge performance uplifts versus the WX series, and they’re the fastest things in our charts. However, their numbers are still comparable to what the i9-9900K can achieve with its IGP enabled to accelerate rendering performance. However, I do want to make something very clear, the input is based on what we’re shooting with, which is MP4 files. If you’re using a different format like REDCODE RAW (.R3D) the numbers might be a little different. The Adobe Medial Encoder is a new test for us where we take 174 RAW 4K video project files, and transcode them from MP4 to ProRes. Seeing how fast this is actually makes me want to use a 3970X to transcode all of our footage from here on out. It’s really that fast. Another thing that was odd in this test was neither WX processor was able to complete the task. It happened multiple times and no matter what we did it would just freeze the system.
Moving onto our DaVinci Resolve test, we need to be very honest here. It’s possible that our overclocked RTX 2080 Ti was a bottleneck for the fastest CPUs on this chart. We noticed the GPU was pegged at 100% utilization, while some cores on the 3950X, the i9-10980XE and the new ThreadRipper CPUs remained idle. We are going to have to look into this a bit closer, but it goes to show how amazingly fast these things are. The last real world test is a render in AutoDesk Maya, and this is what absolute domination looks like. There is no other way to describe it.
And now it’s time to take a look at gaming performance. And then before you start raging in the comments, I’m completely aware that these processors are not meant for that task, but it will be interesting to see what kind of performance improvements AMD has implemented with these new processors. Starting things off with Far Cry 5, and we immediately have a problem. This game has some scheduling issues with the new ThreadRipper CPUs, but let me tell you this was the only issue we encountered through testing. Luckily enabling Game Mode and the BIOS improved things by quite a lot. Moving on and it looks like AMD really did improve gaming performance along with everything else. While neither of these ThreadRipper processors lead the charts, their performance is more than decent and a huge improvement over the previous generation. I actually just thought of a marketing point for AMD ThreadRipper: Finish your work faster, more time for gaming.
Now at this point, do we really care about power consumption? I mean if you really do, here you go. And yes, we ran these tests multiple times and the results were always the same. Our 3970X and 3960X actually consume only a bit more power than the WX series processors despite kicking their butts across every benchmark. This also shows how far AMD is ahead of Intel. They are offering 50% better performance in some apps with only about 20% higher power consumption.
All right, so I think I’m going to wrap this up quickly, because the benchmarks have conveyed the whole story. What AMD has been able to accomplish over these last three years is just staggering. And third-generation Ryzen ThreadRipper feels like a combination of every improvement rolled into one incredible family of processors. But there is one negative and that is platform cost. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, the 3960X any 3970X are affordable compared to Intel’s alternatives. However, AMD is pushing these CPUs way past their second-generation prices. The motherboards are also seeing pretty big price hikes, but in the right hands and in the right situations the investments will absolutely be worth every penny. Time is money for professionals, so if you spend a few thousand bucks you end up saving a few hours of run times over the course of a week, that could ultimately become an advantage for someone like a content creator or a professional who works with AutoDesk or other rendering programs. At this time, I’m going to ask for another opinion from someone who has been in industry for a long time, and that is none other than Mike.
Mike: I actually had open an emotional response when benchmarking this thing, because I’ve been in this industry for a good 14 years now and it’s the largest generational increase I’ve ever seen. It’s not your typical 5-10%. I really needed to ask myself is that just because the WX series didn’t perform up to my expectations? But then you look back and you look at this versus Intel, and you look at it versus some of the other Ryzen processors, and it’s unbelievable. It used to be that AMD had to rely on core counts in order to beat Intel, but now they have core accounts, frequencies, and IPC, and they’re just demolishing everything in their path. So for me, these processors are the icing on the cake for AMD. It is the culmination of all their hard work in their last three years. And man, it’s fricking amazing.
Just imagine what they will do next. Oh, I know, right? If they say, if they say Zen, then three is coming out next year, it’s, Intel’s going to be in a little bit of hurt until 7nm. I’m going to conclude this like, like Eber usually does a, I’m Mike with hardware Canucks. I’m not going to be as deep and monotone is him. But, uh, there’s other videos here that you can check out. You can subscribe over here, a boot sequence or other channels. Some are down here and, uh, I’m out of here. I hope you saw my hands. See it. We will see you in the next one. We will, uh, the camera man says bye bye.