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

Editor's Choice

Final Analysis

Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX continues AMD's assault on Intel's market dominance with 32 cores and the ability to work on 64 threads concurrently. But AMD's new flagship has its issues, too. There's no denying the allure of such a powerful processor. But as we've seen from other high-core-count CPUs, power delivery and thermals can conspire to hinder performance.

While drop-in compatibility with existing X399 motherboards is a big selling point favoring AMD, not every board's power delivery subsystem is up to the job of facilitating maximum performance from the 2990WX (particularly if you plan to overclock). You really need a high-end motherboard, a high-end power supply, and high-end cooling to extract the utmost performance from your investment.

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Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX is nothing short of phenomenal in workloads that can utilize its arsenal of execution cores. Rendering is a good example. But it doesn't scale well in other applications. The distributed architecture leaves half of the processor's compute resources stranded from the memory and I/O controllers, which can drastically reduce performance in applications sensitive to bandwidth or PCIe traffic. Unless you have a very specific workload that can't get enough parallelism, you're better off with Threadripper 2950X.

Threadripper 2950X is much more appealing to the enthusiast audience. Its dual-die design once seemed exotic, but now proves nimble in a wide variety of applications. Moreover, higher Precision Boost frequencies make the 2950X competitive against well-established Intel Core processors in lightly-threaded metrics.

Precision Boost Overdrive offers an easy path to overclocking both new Threadrippers if your supporting hardware can handle the stress. Just be aware that any gains you might see vary based on your system's capabilities. We're sure we can tease even more performance out via manual overclocking when we circle back for the dedicated review, but the automated overclocking feature is plenty capable for most users, and you retain the benefit of a beastly 4.4 GHz quad-core boost frequency. The Threadripper 2950X brings a lot more power for a lower price than the first-gen Threadripper did at launch, but we wouldn't recommend a direct upgrade from the 1950X. If you're looking to upgrade from an older CPU to an all-around crowd pleaser, Threadripper 2950X does not disappoint.

Considering the raw horsepower on offer, AMD's pricing is extremely competitive. Ryzen Threadripper 2950X kept pace with the $1700 Core i9-7960X in many of our tests, but sells for almost half of its price. Both Intel and AMD HEDT platforms are expensive, but X399 motherboards are particularly pricey, which you'll have to consider when weighing your options. Populating all four memory channels will also be expensive in these trying times, but that extra cost applies to both high end platforms.

While we still recommend the mainstream Ryzen 7 2700X or Core i7-8700K for gaming, they clearly can't keep pace with Threadripper in productivity-oriented applications. Intel's Skylake-X processors are still brutally competitive on the performance front, but the company needs to be adjust its pricing.

If you're after the utmost in threaded performance for the dollar, the Ryzen Threadripper 2 series delivers. AMD clearly takes the lead with the most raw computing power on the desktop PC market, and at ultra-competitive pricing. We can't wait to see Intel's response. 

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