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

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Rendering

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If ever there were a perfect use case for a copious number of cores and threads, rendering is it. The Ryzen 9 3950X is a great fit for applications hungry for parallelism. It takes a lot of firepower to outperform the Ryzen 9 3950X in the multi-threaded Cinebench test: only the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX and the heavily-overclocked Core i9-9980XE can pull off the feat. Surprisingly, the Ryzen 9 3950X also takes the crown in the single-threaded Cinebench test.

LuxMark, POV-Ray, and Blender exhibit much the same trend: Only the heftiest chips can challenge the 3950X, and the Intel Core i9-9980XE needs a significant boost via overclocking to join the 3950X at the top of the chart. Conversly, Corona and v-ray are a bright spot for the stock -9980XE as it wrests the lead from the 3950X. 

In case you've forgotten, the Core i9-9980XE currently retails for ~$2,000, while the Ryzen 9 3950X weighs in at only $749. That's quite the value considering its solid performance. 

The 3950X is also impressive in the highly-threaded NAMD benchmark, but the Threadripper 2990WX faced issues running the Windows version of the benchmark. We're troubleshooting that issue, but considering the results we've seen with Linux NAMD testing, the 2990WX should lead this chart easily. 

Taken in context, it's incredibly impressive to see the 16-core 3950X outweighing the 32-core 2990WX in many of these rendering tests. Those wins really highlight the massive gains that AMD has made with the new architecture, which assures equal memory access to all cores. That corrects the problem faced by the current Threadripper lineup, which consists of two die (of four) that don't have direct access to memory controllers. Threadripper 3000, which debuts later this month, features the same Zen 2 architecture (albeit with modifications), which bodes well for the type of performance we can expect. 

Encoding

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The 3950X is also competitive in the lightly-threaded FLAC audio encoding test but trails the Intel -9900K and -9700K in the single-threaded LAME benchmark.

The Ryzen 9 3950X is much more impressive in the HandBrake x264 test, where it outperforms the rest of the test pool, and in the AVX-heavy x265 version of that same benchmark, where it only trails the overclocked 18-core -9980XE. Yet again, the Threadripper 2990WX shows its bipolar nature as it lags in this test due to its reduced memory throughput, but the Threadripper 2950X is more competitive. However, it isn't as fast as the 3950X. 

Compression, Decompression, Encryption, AVX

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The 7zip and Zlib compression/decompression benchmarks rely heavily upon threading and work directly from system memory, thus avoiding the traditional storage bottleneck in these types of tasks. Ryzen dominates these tests without storage throughput restrictions, but you also have access to the PCIe 4.0 interface with AMD's X570 platform. That extra throughput means these tremendous gains will largely transfer over to real-world application performance when you pair the Ryzen chips with a speedy PCIe 4.0 SSD.  

It's impossible to beat the Threadripper 2900WX in decompression performance with today's desktop processors, but the Ryzen 9 3950X comes close with surprisingly strong performance. However, as impressive as the 2990WX is, it inexplicably suffers in some workloads, like compression. Meanwhile, the Ryzen 9 3950X offers a more balanced profile that is competitive in both types of workloads. 

The heavily-threaded y-cruncher benchmark, which computes pi using the demanding AVX instruction set, finds the Ryzen 9 3950X in the middle of the pack as it falls behind the other Threadripper models and the Core i9-9980XE in the threaded tests. The 3950X trails even its 12-core sibling, the Ryzen 9 3900X, in the single-threaded y-cruncher benchmark. This is likely due to less available memory throughput on a per-core basis. 

Office and Productivity

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Microsoft's office suite runs via PCMark 10's new application test. This benchmark tests with real Microsoft Office applications. The 3950X takes third in the overall score, but much of that comes on the strength of its performance in Excel. The 3950X is competitive in the remainder of the Office suite, but the Intel chips are more agile at these types of applications. 

The application start-up metric measures load time snappiness in word processors, GIMP, and Web browsers. Other platform-level considerations affect this test as well, including the storage subsystem. The Ryzen 9 3950X is very competitive in this benchmark, rivaling the -9900K in a test that it traditionally dominates. Adding a PCIe 4.0 SSD to our Ryzen test system would swing this benchmark in favor of the Ryzen 3000-series processors.

The 3950X is in rarefied air in the LLVM compilation benchmark as it trades blows with the Threadripper 2990WX and Core i9-9980XE. We see muted gains from overclocking in the heavily-threaded LLVM compile benchmark.

Web Browser

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Browsers tend to be impacted more by the recent security mitigations than other types of applications, so Intel has generally taken a haircut in these benchmarks of fully-patched systems, though that handicap doesn't stop the company from sweeping the AMD competition. These tests are extremely sensitive to clock rates due to their lightly-threaded nature, and the 3950X falls behind itself after overclocking. That indicates that PBO can have an impact on lightly-threaded work. 


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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