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AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Review: 16 Cores Muscles Into the Mainstream

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Editor's Choice
(Image: © AMD)

Test Notes

All Ryzen entries with "PBO" indicate an auto-overclocked configuration with memory configured to DDR4-3600. Intel's overclocked configurations also use DDR4-3600. Except where noted, we tested the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX and 2950X in game mode for all gaming tests, and in Creator mode for application tests. 

VRMark and 3DMark

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The 3DMark DX12 and DX11 tests measure the amount of raw horsepower exposed by the processor to game engines, but most game engines don't scale as linearly with additional compute resources. 

As expected, the Ryzen 9 3950X is exceedingly powerful when the game engine can take advantage of its 16 cores and 32 threads, and paired with its solid per-core performance, it even outperforms the stock Core i9-9980XE, although that processor flips the tables after overclocking.  The Core i9-9900K can't compete here due to its eight cores. We ran the Threadripper processors in Creator Mode for these tests, but the extra cores don't equate to extra performance due to the memory architecture. 

VRMark responds well to high clock rates, giving the Intel processors a big advantage in this test. 

Civilization VI AI and Stockfish

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The Civilization VI AI test measures AI performance in a turn-based strategy game and is heavily influenced by high clock rates and instruction per cycle (IPC) throughput.

The top of these charts used to be Intel-only territory, but AMD has made amazing gains in per-core performance (a mixture of IPC and frequency) with the Zen 2 microarchitecture. The stock Ryzen 9 3950X beats the other Ryzen models while trailing the Intel Core i9-9900K, but overclocking propels it near the top of the chart. The result reflects that the Ryzen 9 3950X is boosting well and that the game engines' execution threads are correctly steered to the faster cores. Meanwhile, the stock -9980XE trails, but tuning pushes it up the chart. 

The open-source Stockfish chess engine is the polar opposite of the Civilization VI engine. This engine is designed specifically for many-core chips and scales well up to 512 cores. The Ryzen 9 3950X shows its agility and matches the stock -9980XE step for step, but Intel's overclocking advantage hands the -9980XE the lead. As expected, the 32-core 64-thread Threadripper 2990WX takes the top of the chart, but you'll notice the Threadripper 2950X in Creator Mode falls far behind the 3950X. 

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation

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Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation responds well to extra cores and threads, which benefits the Ryzen lineup. The Ryzen 9 3950X leads the AMD pack, but the Ryzen 7 3700X is plenty impressive after overclocking. The -9980XE is impressive in stock and overclocked trim. As you can see at the bottom of the chart, the second-gen Threadripper chips aren't the best solution for gaming due to the eccentricities of their multi-die design. We expect that to change radically with the arrival of the Threadripper 3000 chips and their EPYC Rome-based architecture. 

Civilization VI Graphics Test

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The Civilization VI graphics test finds the stock Ryzen 9 3950X delivering excellent performance. In fact, it actually outpaces the auto-overclocked 3950X configuration. We've become accustomed to these inversions with AMD's PBO feature, but they usually occur in our application testing. We ran this test several times to confirm the result. 

In either case, the Ryzen 9 3950X beats the stock Intel processors handily in this benchmark, which is quite the feat. 

Dawn of War III

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The Core i9-9900K and -9700K take their traditional spots at the top of the Dawn of War III pecking order, a byproduct of their clock speed advantage. The Ryzen 9 3950X and Core i9-9980XE land within range of each other on the lower portion of the chart, but that still represents a big improvement over the Threadripper models. 

Ryzen 7 3700X is very competitive with the much higher-priced models, reminding us that the majority of gamers are well-served by more modest accommodations.  

Far Cry 5

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Intel's mainstream chips convincingly lead the pack. The divide between the Core i9-9980XE at stock and overclocked settings is massive, highlighting the advantage of dialing up its clock speed. Intel plans to bring overclocked-like performance at stock settings with its Cascade Lake-X chips, which will certainly make the competition with the Ryzen 9 3950X more interesting. 

Final Fantasy XV

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We run this test with the standard quality preset to sidestep the impact of a bug that causes the game engine to render off-screen objects with the higher-resolution setting.

The Ryzen 9 3950X is competitive with Intel's stock Core i9-9900K and i7-9700K, but the -9980XE separates itself from the rest of the test pool. 

Grand Theft Auto V

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Grand Theft Auto V continues to be popular six long years after its release. This title favors Intel architectures and, more generally, multi-core designs with high clock rates. Intel's overclocked Core i9-9900K and Core i7-9700K push us to a graphics bottleneck in this test, but the middle of the test pool is very competitive with slight deltas separating the various models.  

Hitman 2

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The 3950X matches the stock Core i9-9900K and -9980XE step for step in this benchmark, but overclocking Intel's processors bottlenecks the graphics card. 

Project Cars 2

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Project Cars 2 is optimized for threading, but high clock rates pay off. That naturally results in a win for the Intel -9900K and -9700K processors. 

The Core i9-9980XE shines in some benchmarks, but like the Threadripper chips, it has a unique architecture that can result in reduced performance with some existing software. Intel's mesh architecture is designed to increase scalability, much like AMD's Infinity Fabric, thus yielding higher core-count chips. But here we see the impact of the design. 

World of Tanks enCore 

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World of Tanks finds another odd inversion with the auto-overclocked 3950X lagging behind the stock configuration. The delta between the two configurations weighs in at 2.4 fps, but it's repeatable. 


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  • jimmysmitty
    Page 4s top says "Insert Heading".

    So its about as expected with better boost rates but requires much better cooling due to the amount of cores.
    Reply
  • TheSecondPower
    "As a result, the 3950X doesn't come with a bundled cooler, a first for AMD's mainstream Ryzen chips." Actually none of the X processors from the Ryzen 1000 generation came with a cooler.
    Reply
  • slash3
    The Geekbench section states the score as 52,626 points in multi-core, but the graph shows 56,626.
    Reply
  • Soaptrail
    Please include PCI-E 4 SSD in your comparison against the Intel HEDT cpu's when those arrive.
    Reply
  • Integr8d
    From the value perspective, it seems like the 3900x is super compelling. Thoughts?
    Reply
  • joeblowsmynose
    in the compression section ...

    " ... 2900WX ..." should be 2990WX

    Also, does power consumption not equate to cooling requirements? Why do we seem to have the 3950x drawing vastly less power than a 9900k @5.0ghz, (by about 50%) and about roughly the same as the 3900x, but the sentiment seems to be that this chip is very hard to cool, but that sentiment isn't raised with the other chips? Why this disparity?

    With the 9900k @5.0 drawing 50% more power, is it 50% more difficult to keep cool at that OC or is there some magic happening here that just causes the 3950x to output more heat, despite the power consumption? (I don't have a 9900k so I have no personal experience with its cooling requirements)

    And thank you for using a cooler people would actually buy for the testing purposes (outside the manual OC results). I think this is important. The more exotic cooling results are nice to see, but only as a supplement to real-world expectations, IMHO.
    Reply
  • joeblowsmynose
    Integr8d said:
    From the value perspective, it seems like the 3900x is super compelling. Thoughts?

    That's the one I will be getting - best bang for buck for what I need my CPU to do. I'll be waiting a little bit longer though to ensure the supply issue is 100% gone. The reason for this is that I think the 3900x became mired in the "boost clock" issue much more so than the other chips was that they may have slightly lowered their binning specs with the 3900x to be able to produce more useable chips against the very high demand for them.

    I have no evidence other than the boost clock issues with the 3900x, but I just want to be sure I'm getting the silicon exactly as it was initially intended. I could be wrong, but its just a precaution I am taking. Besides, we might see some deals popping up on them soon as well.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    joeblowsmynose said:
    in the compression section ...

    " ... 2900WX ..." should be 2990WX

    Also, does power consumption not equate to cooling requirements? Why do we seem to have the 3950x drawing vastly less power than a 9900k @5.0ghz, (by about 50%) and about roughly the same as the 3900x, but the sentiment seems to be that this chip is very hard to cool, but that sentiment isn't raised with the other chips? Why this disparity?

    With the 9900k @5.0 drawing 50% more power, is it 50% more difficult to keep cool at that OC or is there some magic happening here that just causes the 3950x to output more heat, despite the power consumption? (I don't have a 9900k so I have no personal experience with its cooling requirements)

    And thank you for using a cooler people would actually buy for the testing purposes (outside the manual OC results). I think this is important. The more exotic cooling results are nice to see, but only as a supplement to real-world expectations, IMHO.

    Cooling a CPU is not always related to power use.

    And they have been using the H115i for most tests, only using the more exotic setups for high end overclocking.
    Reply
  • Phaaze88
    "Limited overclocking headroom"
    Okay, should this REALLY be a con for this cpu considering its use case(affordable professional level cpu, sans the extra pcie lanes)?
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    Phaaze88 said:
    "Limited overclocking headroom"
    Okay, should this REALLY be a con for this cpu considering its use case(affordable professional level cpu, sans the extra pcie lanes)?

    Considering it is an enthusiast CPU, yes. Overclocking is a core of the enthusiast platform. Hell it used to be one of AMDs biggest points was that all their CPUs could overclock on all boards. But with Ryzen its been limited due to the CPUs being clocked to the upper limit.
    Reply