Perf per Dollar, Pricing, Conclusions

Performance Per Dollar

In consumer processors, performance per dollar is consider the king of all KPIs (key performance indicators). For the workstation and prosumer market it has slightly reduced value as consumers in this space are often will to pay more for the additional performance relative to the lower priced product stack. Still, part of AMD’s story for Threadripper is offering more performance at the same price (1950X), or matching performance at a lower price (1920X). Did it live up to it?

For single threaded workloads, the value of Threadripper and Skylake-X just isn’t there. Audacity and the CBR15 1t result give the edge to Intel’s mainstream processors by a wide margin. With similar or better performance than any of the HEDT solutions, and prices at one-third the cost (or lower), that should be assumed.

Fully multi-threaded workloads are where the story gets more interesting. Cinebench, Blender, POV-Ray, and Handbrake all have noticeably improved value propositions for discerning buyers compared to the Core i9-7900X. With a shared price of $999, the 1950X and the 7900X essentially differ by the level of performance delta between them, ranging from 20% to 37% in our graphs above. The Threadripper 1920X offers better performance per dollar than the 1950X in all the multi-threaded results as well, though clearly the performance of the 1950X is going to be faster. (The close proximity of perf/dollar for the 1950X and 1920X showcases the linear pricing model that AMD has adopted.) Note that though the likes of the 7700K competes with the 1950X in these performance-per-dollar graphs, the performance advantage of the 1950X will offset the price delta for content creators.

Pricing and Availability

AMD Ryzen Threadripper processors have been available for preorder, along with X399 motherboards, since July 30th.

Though it should go without saying, Threadripper isn’t cheap. Though it offers a great value compared to the current Intel Skylake-X solutions on the market like the $999 Core i9-7900X, $799 and $999 for a PC processor is a steep price to pay for any consumer, content creator or not. The HEDT market is a higher margin, higher priced segment, and one that AMD is happy to be entering for the first time. It does so by following the same principles as it did with Ryzen at the start: acknowledge the areas that are weakest and strongest, and double down on value in the areas of strength. The Threadripper 1950X and 1920X do exactly that, targeting the content creators with performance per dollar that Intel can’t match. At least not today.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully you’ve been paying attention these last many pages, as the launch of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper processor and X399 platform is not a simple read-the-last-page kind of release. From a technology and architecture stand point, what might at first appear to be a simple design with two identical die on the same substrate, doubling cores, threads, cache, memory controllers, etc. turns out to be much more complex. The intricacies of the Zen memory controller and cache hierarchy, tied to the performance and capability of Infinity Fabric, mean that workloads we previously felt were completely understood and known quantities take on a new light. We saw that with the first Ryzen 7 launch and it remains the case today. AMD’s Zen design is a phenomenal CPU architecture and was able to revive the once down-trodden giant into relevance, but it does so with complexities that will require a long-term outlook to for software development to address.

The platform side of Threadripper, including both the 64 lanes of PCIe 3.0 from the processor and the X399 motherboards that partners are building for this new socket, is win for AMD. That many I/O lanes means that MB vendors and consumers have a lot of flexibility for building the system they need. Want as many PCIe lanes as possible for high GPU counts? It can be done. Do you want high speed networking along with PCIe attached storage for a specific bottleneck you have? Threadripper can enable it. Obviously, the boards and platforms need to be tailored for them, but the first rounds of motherboards we have seen details on from ASUS, MSI, Gigabyte, and others are a solid start. AMD will once again have the flagship motherboards for its platform, exceeding the capability (with much less confusion around PCIe division, etc.) of Intel’s X299.

Performance for Threadripper falls into two categories: lightly threaded and highly thread. Lightly threaded and single threaded workloads will run faster on the Core i9-7900X and even the mainstream Core i7 family of processors that feature higher IPC and higher clock rates, generally. Games still fall into this category, so even though many enthusiasts are drooling over what Threadripper will bring, peak gaming performance at lower resolutions isn’t it. If you are gaming at 4K, or even 2560×1440 for the most part, Threadripper is quite capable of running within 8% of the performance available on the 7900X or 7700K.

For prosumers that often utilize software that can take advantage of high thread counts, the 32-thread 1950X will likely over a sizeable performance advantage over the best Intel has to offer. Cinebench and POV-Ray, for example, run 37% and 30% (respectively) on the 1950X compared to the Core i9-7900X. Handbrake, Blender, and our H.264 encode tests show slightly lower, but still noticeable, performance advantages too. The 12-core Threadripper 1920X often matches the performance of the 7900X as well even with a $200 price advantage. If you can take advantage of high core counts in your daily workloads, be it for video, rendering, ray tracing, analytics, etc., you are going to find the AMD Ryzen Threadripper to be a fantastic product.

Should you buy it? In general, the answer is going to be “no” for anyone when asked if they need a thousand-dollar processor. Even when Intel has the market to itself with the Extreme Editions that repeatedly found their way to store shelves at $999, we always knew it was for the most extreme of enthusiasts and the content creators that could justify the price to performance ratios. Threadripper falls into that same category, but it offers an improved enough outlook in on performance per dollar for highly threaded workloads that I see it stretching down to other consumers as well. Anyone itching to speed some coin to support AMD’s return to flagship status will be impressed by what the purchase. I am eager to get my hands on the Threadripper 1900X later this month – a $549 8-core offering that will have familiar workload performance but allows for the same connectivity support that the higher priced CPUs.

If you content creation is your livelihood or your passion, Ryzen Threadripper is targeted directly to you and is provides a competitive solution that AMD has been unable to offer in over a decade. Threadripper puts AMD back in the driver seat, offering the highest performance, highest core-count CPU for the high-end market today.

The only question that remains is how Intel’s remaining Skylake-X platform might change the story this summer and fall. We know that prices will be higher, but are the recently announced clock speeds enough to jump performance up and replace the Core i9 family as the king of the hill?

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Processor

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