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Ryzen Threadripper 2 (2990WX and 2950X) Review: AMD Unleashes 32 Cores

Editor's Choice

Cooling, Clock Rates & Power Limits

At first, we were amused by AMD's suggestion that these new Ryzen Threadripper CPUs could be cooled effectively with heat sinks and fans. But wouldn't it be something if the company's representatives were correct and we could cover the 2990WX with a beefy-enough sink to keep it running at full speed under load, without throttling issues? After all, we've already seen Intel's flagship stagger under the limitations of thermal grease between its heat spreader and die. Might AMD's use of Indium solder pay off during such an experiment?

Air Cooling And Its Limits

As it turns out, you really can cool the 180W Ryzen Threadripper 2950X and the 250W Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX using a heat sink and fan. It's even possible to leave PBO turned on with Threadripper 2950X, though noise starts becoming an issue under loads where power consumption peaks around 250W.

Although the Cooler Master-supplied heat sink is plenty capable, we have to imagine anyone willing to air-cool such an expensive CPU probably wants a potent Noctua sink with a quieter fan instead. What annoyed us most about AMD's provided cooler was the sleeved cable coming out the side facing your first PCIe add-in card. If you put a thick, high-end board in that first slot, then the cooler's USB port is completely covered and no longer usable. Additionally, a graphics card with a backplate touches the sink, which shouldn't happen.

At this point, we're switching to water cooling, and once the thermal limit of these processors is reached, we'll use an even more powerful chiller system.

Of course, if you're hoping to realize the maximum benefit of XFR2 and PBO, it's important to use the right cooler, and to back it with a high-end power supply. After taking the 2990WX to its limits, we hooked up the chiller and measured more than 42A of current on the motherboard's EPS connectors. Under LN2 cooling, current draw exceeded 50A and we had to circumvent the motherboard's 500W limit.

Both models appear to use a new temperature detection and reporting mechanism compared to the previous generation. Although we do see a 27°C-higher Tctl value, it only exists for backward compatibility on functions like the fan control circuit. Otherwise, both Threadripper models have an upper Tdie limit of 68°C, which would yield a Tctl value of 95°C. Tctl is therefore no longer a measured variable.

The curves for Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX appear in the graph below. With the heat sink/fan and closed-loop liquid cooler, this 32-core beast doesn't get very far under a taxing load.

It's easy to applaud Ryzen Threadripper 2950X's performance, since you don't have to put as much effort into cooling it. Whereas the 2990WX quickly ran out of steam under air or a closed-loop liquid-cooling setup, this model behaves well even if you top it with an all-in-one setup.

While a tuned Ryzen Threadripper 2950X can be cooled at just over 250W using a heat sink and fan (and still operate properly), you really want a liquid-cooler of some sort to get the best performance from it. But without PBO enabled, air cooling is effective enough, even up to 180W.

When it comes to Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX without PBO turned on, it's possible to hit that same 250W threshold and achieve sufficient cooling performance with a heat sink and fan. If you want to overclock much further, invest in a more capable thermal solution.

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPUs Content

  • Rdslw
    first table is broken 32/64 cores/threads :)
    Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX
    Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
    Socket
    TR4
    TR4
    Cores / Threads
    16 / 32
    16 / 32
    Reply
  • bilazaurus
    AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2. Your first choice for encoding!*

    *And nothing else.
    Reply
  • philipemaciel
    Wow, while the 2990WX is a bit of a letdown, the 2950X is a nice surprise. Plenty of bang for your buck!
    Reply
  • TEAMSWITCHER
    Avoid the flagship, buy the $900 part. Sounds a lot like Intel.
    Reply
  • alves.mvc
    Why does Tom's Hardware stopped using the HPC benchmark? It was the most interesting measurement for me that work daily with finite differences and finite elements. Can you return to that?
    Reply
  • totaldarknessincar
    Seems to me the best of both worlds continue to be Intel's 7900x which sells for $699 at microcenter. You get great gaming performance, and great multithreaded performance, and it's not 12-1800 bucks as some of these mega-threaded cards are.

    Despite all the fan-fare, it seems the 7980xe actually remains the best processor when overclocked overall.

    Lastly for gaming, it's still 8700K or 8086 as best, with the 2700x from AMD being the best when you factor gaming and some multi-threaded stuff, while being very competitive price wise.
    Reply
  • feelinfroggy777
    Very surprising performance from the 2950x. Almost enough to consider parting ways with my 1950x. Maybe when the pricing comes down some from the 2950x in a few months I will consider.

    The 2990wx on the other hand is a slight let down. Too bad they could not get the scaling down between the dies like they did with Threadripper 1. But I have read that was going to be an issue. Maybe AMD did not want the 2990wx to cannibalize their Epyc market.

    With that being said, the 2990wx is still a modern marvel of technology, even more so when you consider the price. Only couple of years ago a CPU with less than a third of the cores cost just as much.

    Competition sure is grand!
    Reply
  • basil.thomas
    Looks like Intel has an opportunity to bite AMD when they release their 28-core processor. I have a threadripper 2/x399 system but if I upgrade to the 2990wx, I will also upgrade the motherboard and the power supply as well. I think I may wait until the Intel 28 core comes out and see what kind of performance it delivers as I too notice running custom AI apps on the threadripper is barely faster than my old x99/6850 motherboard overclocked @ 4.3Ghz. I want max performance if I am going to pay over $1800 for the flagship which means core wars is just starting...

    MOD EDIT: watch your profanity
    Reply
  • ffleader1
    21228046 said:
    Seems to me the best of both worlds continue to be Intel's 7900x which sells for $699 at microcenter. You get great gaming performance, and great multithreaded performance, and it's not 12-1800 bucks as some of these mega-threaded cards are.

    Despite all the fan-fare, it seems the 7980xe actually remains the best processor when overclocked overall.

    Lastly for gaming, it's still 8700K or 8086 as best, with the 2700x from AMD being the best when you factor gaming and some multi-threaded stuff, while being very competitive price wise.
    Seem to me that you are mistaking best of both work with jack of all trade. No one who takes rendering seriously would want to sacrifice the performance for gaming. For that price, they may as well grab a 1950X. Sure you lose in gaming, but gain a huge jump in rendering. Also, I don't know about Microcenterbut it's still 1k on Amazon while 1950X is $850. 7900X is like a really really bad choice lol.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Wow, 32 cores for $1,000? I have to say very impressive. Your move, Intel!
    Reply