AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X review

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AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X (64c/128t)

The year is 2020 and today we are reviewing a new processor, a processor that reaches biblical proportions as, when it's fully utilized, it offers so much raw performance there is literally nothing comparable on the market, from any competitor. We review the all-new AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, the behemoth of processors has actually made it to the home office and pro-consumer market at prices that will baffle Intel. This mega-core processor has 64 physical processor cores and 128 logical cores, all powered by ZEN2 architecture. This review is about to shock, awe and then some.

Yes, it is rare that I feel a bit, well, nervous is not the word I am looking for, but feeling some sort of positive tension to test a product. In just three years time AMD climbed up from six, eight to twelve, sixteen, twenty-four, thirty-two... and now a processor with sixty-four processor cores. It is both shocking and baffling at the same time, the bounds forward that AMD has made are just astounding. Weirdly enough, it's becoming a little common already, I mean reviewing CPUs with 24 to even 32 processor cores.

Today we again double that up and, albeit we are a consumer-oriented website and have a matching audience, AMD granted us the opportunity to review that 64-core beast. And truth be told, that is going to be a challenge, our software suite is mainly consumer-oriented; I mean finding software that can manage 16 or more cores is a challenge, let alone 64 cores and 128 threads. Obviously it is not a processor to game on (but you can), it is not a setup to 7-zip compress a few files (but you can). No, this is a processor that needs to sink its teeth into matching workloads, like a home virtual server platform, a transcode marvel, a product for video editing and streaming at the same time. The possibilities, while versatile, are of course limited. But all that doesn't matter, as the one message that AMD is relaying with the release of Threadripper 3990X is the simple fact that they can do stuff like this, no matter how small the install base is going to be.

AMD unleashed their 3rd generation of Threadripper processors aka codename Castle Peak in 2019, we already reviewed the Ryzen Threadripper 3960X and 3970X, both stunning processors within their product segments and range. With the move towards the ZEN2 architecture accompanied by a chipset design, nobody was left disappointed. For many months it remained a bit of a question mark, would AMD also release new Threadripper processors, as the Ryzen 9 3950X already has 16 cores and 32 threads. Is there a point for AMD to invest in even more cores in what is a very narrow market? Well, it's AMD, of course, they would do just that for fun, kicks, and giggles to show CPU muscle. But certainly, there is also a business model at hand here, as there are SOHO companies out there that can work miracles out of 64 processor cores. 

The mega-core processors make relatively little sense for your avid PC gamer, these can be very compelling products to developers, content creators, and video editors. But there simply is no slowing down AMD as they are back at it with their core wars against Intel as they release the Threadripper Gen3. They started in 2019 with the 3960X & 3970X respectively holding 24 and 32 active ZEN2 processor cores. For Threadripper 3000 AMD performs gauntlet sorting of the dies, Threadripper Gen3 uses (binned) the best top 2% of dies. You know my lingo, eight is fine, sixteen is sweet and anything above that core count, spectacular. 


Threadripper 3990X

The initial launch of the 3rd gen Threadripper was based on the release of two SKUs, 24c/48t and 32c/64t core processors with prices at 1399 USD and 1999 USD respectively. This brings the price per core to around the 60 USD marker. The Ryzen Threadripper 3990X with its 64-cores has been priced much like its name, 3990 USD, so pricing per core remains at that very same level. A lot of money for sure, but remember, if you want something similar from the competition, well... there isn't any unless you look at the Xeon platform, then go dual-processor and then double to quadruple the price. So despite that 3990 USD price marker (which is a lot of money) the 3990X still screams value. 

As I carefully tried to inform you throughout the first page of the review, these many cores are intended for professional workloads like virtualization, raytracing, video editing, rendering and, sure, bragging rights for some. It is a complicated processor, as spawning so many threads requires a lot of memory bandwidth, but also creates a lot of IO on your storage system. Thank the silicon gawds for fast M.2 SSDs these days. Let me quickly add that drop-in compatibility with TRX40 is not an issue, that platform will support this 64-core processor, you'll likely need a BIOS update though.

Threadripper 3000 processors are different from their predecessors mainly for reasons including PCI-Express 4.0 and further future-proofing of the platform for upcoming generations - forcing AMD to introduce a new motherboard platform and chipset. The new Socket sTRX4 / TRX40 looks identical to the Socket TR4 of the first two generations of Threadrippers, but is not compatible; cooling solutions for existing Threadripper CPUs are also suitable for the new models. We'll discuss the TRX40 (T-Rex) we've already reviewed in detail the past couple of months.

But yeah, let's start off this 64-core processor review. Oh my, how times have changed. 



A screenshot of the task manager trying to keep up with 128 threads, well that and that 'holy bejeezus' moment.

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