Who is this for, anyway?
We have the full review of AMD’s new flagship HEDT processor for you.
Today is a critically important day for AMD. With the launch of reviews and the on-sale date for its new Ryzen Threadripper processor family, AMD is reentering the world of high-end consumer processors that it has been absent from for a decade, if not longer. Intel has dominated this high priced, but high margin, area of the market since the release of the Core i7-900 series of Nehalem CPUs in 2008, bringing workstation and server class hardware down to the content creator and enthusiast markets. Even at that point AMD had no competitive answer, with only the Phenom X4 in our comparison charts. It didn’t end well.
AMD has made no attempt of stealth with the release of Ryzen Threadripper, instead adopting the “tease and repeat” campaign style that Radeon has utilized in recent years for this release. The result of which is an already-knowledgeable group of pre-order ready consumers; not a coincidence. Today I will summarize the data we already know for those of you just joining us and dive into the importance of the new information we can provide today. That includes interesting technical details on the multi-die implementation and latency, overclocking, thermals, why AMD has a NUMA/UMA issue, gaming performance and of course, general system and workload benchmarks.
A Summary of Threadripper
AMD has been pumping up interest and excitement for Ryzen Threadripper since May, with an announcement of the parts at the company’s financial analyst day. It teased 16 cores and 32 threads of performance for a single consumer socket, something that we had never seen before. At Computex, Jim Anderson got on stage and told us that each Threadripper processor would have access to 64 lanes of PCI Express, exceeding the 40 lanes of Intel’s top HEDT platforms and going well above the 28 lanes that the lower end of its family offers.
In mid-July the official announcement of the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X occurred, with CEO Lisa Su and CVP John Taylor having the honors. This announcement broke with most of the important information including core count, clock speeds, pricing, and a single performance benchmark (Cinebench). On July 24th we started to see pictures of the Threadripper packaging show up on AMD social media accounts, getting way more attention than anyone expected a box for a CPU could round up. At the end of July AMD announced a third Threadripper processor (due in late August). Finally, on August 3rd, I was allowed to share an unboxing of the review kit and the CPU itself as well as demonstrate the new installation method for this sled-based processor.
It’s been a busy summer.
Who is Threadripper really for?
Before we dive into the specifications table and go over the characteristics that make it unique, I think it’s important to discuss who this new platform is really for. AMD itself will tell you that the target for Threadripper and its 12/16 cores of processing is the prosumer and content creation markets. These professionals or amateurs-with-aspiration utilize software and application workloads that differ quite a bit from the majority of the PC market, taking advantage of compute hardware and its capabilities. Things like video editing, photo effects, software development, rendering, ray tracing, and analysis take a lot of work to complete and much of that work can be highly threaded to take advantage of multi-core processors. For these buyers, a Threadripper processor and platform promises more performance and faster completion times for projects, increasing productivity.
Enthusiasts are also a target for HEDT platforms like Threadripper and Skylake-X (from Intel). Enthusiasts like hardware for hardware’s sake, and Threadripper will surely give them an avenue of discussion with friends and fellow users. Enthusiast workloads will vary from video transcoding, to gaming, to overclocking. Threadripper will provide different amounts of usability for these segments, though gaming is an interesting one. Video transcoding will blaze on this platform, and there is interesting work on the overclocking side, but for gaming, Threadripper isn’t going to be the best choice. It’s still a good choice, but not the pinnacle. More on that later.
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X – $999 – Amazon.com
- AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1920X – $799 – Amazon.com
- ASUS Zenith Extreme X399 MB – $549 – Amazon.com
- Other X399 Motherboards – Amazon.com
If you are a “mega-tasker”, a term that we first heard Intel create a few years back as it was trying to sell the need for 8-core and 10-core processors, you are going to love what Ryzen Threadripper can offer. With 32-threads available to you, you’ll be able to play a game while a render occurs in the background, or handle encoding, gaming and streaming without a hiccup. The question will be whether or not we can utilize this capability without the need for manually setting CPU affinity for tasks, a painful procedure that most people do through Task Manager in Windows. Better access to tools and an easier ability to quickly map/unmap affinity would be a great addition to AMD’s Ryzen Master tool.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper Specifications
We have already discussed in detail the specifications of Threadripper and how it compares to the current Intel HEDT lineup as well as the Ryzen 7 family. Let’s revisit.
|i9-7980XE||i9-7960X||i9-7940X||i9-7920X||i9-7900X||i7-7820X||i7-7800X||TR 1950X||TR 1920X||TR 1900X|
|Base Clock||2.6 GHz||2.8 GHz||3.1 GHz||2.9 GHz||3.3 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.4 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.8 GHz|
|Turbo Boost 2.0||4.2 GHz||4.2 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz|
|Turbo Boost Max 3.0||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.5 GHz||4.5 GHz||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Memory Support||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666
|DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel|
|TDP||165 watts||165 watts||165 watts||140 watts||140 watts||140 watts||140 watts||180 watts||180 watts||180 watts?|
|TR 1950X||TR 1920X||TR 1900X||Ryzen 7 1800X||Ryzen 7 1700X||Ryzen 7 1700||Ryzen 5 1600X||Ryzen 5 1600||Ryzen 5 1500X||Ryzen 5 1400|
|Base Clock||3.4 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.8 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.4 GHz||3.0 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.2 GHz||3.5 GHz||3.2 GHz|
|Turbo/Boost Clock||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.0 GHz||3.8 GHz||3.7 GHz||4.0 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.7 GHz||3.4 GHz|
|DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2666 Quad Channel||DDR4-2400
|TDP||180 watts||180 watts||180 watts?||95 watts||95 watts||65 watts||95 watts||65 watts||65 watts||65 watts|
Comparing the Threadripper 1950X and 1920X to the Core i9-7900X, Intel current flagship HEDT processor, AMD has some advantages right off the bat. With 16-cores and 32-threads, the 1950X should be able to best the 10-core 7900X in most multi-threaded workloads that are heavily loading down the CPU. Clock speeds of the 1950X start at 3.4 GHz but will boost to 4.0 GHz at Turbo. AMD says we should see as much as 200 MHz of additional clock speed with XFR, as long as you have the right cooling configuration setup. In our testing I did see spikes up to 4.2 GHz on occasion, but it wasn’t as reliable as I had hoped. (This behavior seems identical to how XFR functioned on the Ryzen line.) The Core i9-7900X will retain its clock speed advantage over the 1950X, and coupled with the known higher IPC performance of Skylake compared to Zen, will keep single threaded performance crowns with Intel. It also means that some lightly threaded applications will still find preference on the 10-core 7900X over the 16-core 1950X.
AMD’s 1920X processor is a 12-core/24-thread CPU with 100 MHz base clock and 38MB of cache, but otherwise has identical specifications and properties. Even though it has two more cores than the 7900X from Intel, I would expect it to come in tied or slightly behind the Intel flagship across the board.
The TDP of the 1950X and 1920X is set at 180 watts, 40 watts higher than the rating of the 7900X from Intel. To be fair, the TDP of the Core i9-7900X was basically a flat out lie – in no way when fully loaded did the 7900X only draw 140 watts nor was it comparable to Intel’s own previous generation of processors rated at 140 watts. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Ryzen Threadripper stands in this metric – the Ryzen 7 1800X, for example, also used well over its 95 watt TDP rating.
From a pricing standpoint, the Threadripper parts are here to make an immediate impact. At $999, the 1950X will bring new levels of performance to market that Intel has been accused of ignoring and exploiting until very recently. Remember than the 10-core Broadwell-E based Core i7-6950X was priced at $1700, and it wasn’t until AMD made its plans for Threadripper known that Intel released the 10-core Core i9-7900X came in $700 lower. While I’m sure AMD would love to still be competing with a $1700 CPU today, Threadripper should still offer an improvement in performance per dollar metrics. The 1920X will sell for $799; if it can offer 7900X levels of multi-threaded performance for $200 less, that’s a win for AMD.
Intel has other processors coming, sooner rather than later. Though clock speeds still haven’t been confirmed, with 12/14/16/18-core options coming this year, it would seem likely that Intel will eventually retake the crown for raw performance for the enthusiast and content creation user. But it will do so with a significantly higher price point. How AMD reacts to this, and how well it can stay positioned on performance per dollar, will be the determining factor for Threadripper’s long term state.
Comparing Threadripper to the rest of the Ryzen family, the 1950X is essentially 2x the Ryzen 7 1800X, though with a lower base clock (by 200 MHz). Interestingly, you can actually pick up the 1800X on Amazon.com for just $419, making it just 42% of the cost of its bigger brother. With the move to the HEDT platform you get the advantages in PCIe lanes and quad-channel memory but you are more limited on your motherboard selection (they are going to be priced higher) and you’ll need a beefier cooling solution to keep that 180 watt rating in check.
I’m incredibly interested in the value of the Ryzen Threadripper 1900X when it becomes available at just $549.
AMD’s Threadripper processors use the same die as the Ryzen 7/5/3 CPUs, but in a package resembling the AMD EPYC data center processors announced this summer. When we talked with AMD at its tech day in July about this, they confirmed that while all Threadripper processors have four pieces of silicon under the heat spreader, only two have transistors on them, making the other two dummy-dies used only for thermal balancing and providing structure to the heat spreader itself.