AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X Review: Striking The Balance

AMD's 32-core, 64-thread Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX gives high-end desktop users access to the most compute horsepower available from a single CPU socket. But while it may be on many enthusiasts' wish lists, the processor's unique architecture causes poor performance in many common desktop applications. Moreover, an $1800 price tag makes the flagship Threadripper a niche product, even among professionals accustomed to paying a premium for workstation hardware.

The Ryzen Threadripper 2950X is unquestionably a better value proposition for the masses, offering 16 cores and 32 threads at a $900 price point. AMD's only real problem is that its own previous-gen Threadripper chips sell for less: the 16C/32T Threadripper 1950X can be found for $700, while the 12C/24T is available for under $500.

So, should you spring for the 2950X and its 12nm transistors, lower memory/cache latency, higher clock rates, and enhanced multi-core Precision Boost, or compromise a bit by buying an older Threadripper chip before they disappear for good? The 2950X's features do deliver tangible performance improvements over previous-gen Threadripper models, meaning you do get a lot of bang for your buck.

Ryzen Threadripper X-Series

AMD split its Threadripper family up into the WX and X series. The former mows through intense multitasking, software development, video/audio production, and content creation. The latter is aimed at gamers and prosumers.


Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX
Ryzen Threadripper 2950X
Socket
TR4
TR4
Cores / Threads
32 / 64
16 / 32
Base Frequency
3.0 GHz
3.5 GHz
Boost Frequency
4.2 GHz
4.4 GHz
Memory Speed
DDR4-2933 (Varies)
DDR4-2933 (Varies)
Memory Controller
Quad-Channel
Quad-Channel
Unlocked Multiplier
Yes
Yes
PCIe Lanes
64 (Four to the chipset)
64 (Four to the chipset)
Integrated Graphics
No
No
Cache (L2 / L3)
80MB
40MB
Architecture
Zen+
Zen+
Process
12nm LP GloFo
12nm LP GloFo
TDP
250W
180W

Although the $900 Threadripper 2950X "only" offers 16 cores and 32 threads, it serves up much higher clock rates than the 64-thread 2990WX. The 2950X starts with a base frequency of 3.5 GHz and boosts up to 4.4 GHz (a slight step up from the previous-gen Threadripper 1950X's 3.4/4.2 GHz). Moreover, the Zen+ architectural enhancements serve up much better benchmark results across a range of workloads compared to AMD's earliest Threadripper models.

All of the 2000-series Threadripper processors are backward-compatible with existing X399 motherboards. That's good news given the high prices on those platforms. While older Socket TR4-equipped boards may struggle under the power requirements of AMD's 250W Threadripper 2990WX and 2970WX, particularly if you try to overclock, those same motherboards were designed to accommodate (and overclock) the older Threadripper 1950X flagship. As a result, existing X399 platforms should have enough headroom to enable most of the 2950X's Precision Boost Overdrive capabilities for higher frequencies when they're needed.


Cores /
Threads
Base /
Boost (GHz)
L3 Cache
(MB)
PCIe 3.0
DRAM
TDP
MSRP
Price
Per Core
TR 2990WX
32 / 64
3.0 / 4.2
64
64 (4 to PCH)
Quad DDR4-2933
250W
$1799$56
TR 2970WX
24 / 48
3.0 / 3.2
64
64 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933250W
$1299
$54
Core i9-7980XE
18 / 36
2.6 / 4.4
24.75
44
Quad DDR4-2666
140W
$1999
$111
TR 2950X
16 / 32
3.5 / 4.4
32
64 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933180W
$899
$56
TR 1950X
16 / 32
3.4 / 4.4
64
64 (4 to PCH)
Quad DDR4-2667
180W
$750
$47
Core i9-7960X
16 / 32
2.8 / 4.4
22
44
Quad DDR4-2666
140W
$1699
$106
TR 2920X
12 / 24
3.5 / 4.3
32
64 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933180W
$649
$54
TR 1920X
12 / 24
3.5 / 4.2
64
64 (4 to PCH)
Quad DDR4-2667
180W
$399
$33
Core i9-7920X
12 /24
2.9 / 4.4
16.50
44
Quad DDR4-2666
140W
$1199
$100
Core i9-7900X
10 / 20
3.3 / 4.3
13.75
44
Quad DDR4-2666
140W
$999
$99
Core i7-8700K
6 / 12
3.7 / 4.7
12
16
Dual DDR4-2666
95W
$359
$60
Ryzen 7 2700X
8 / 16
3.7 / 4.3
16
16
Dual DDR4-2933
105W
$329
$41

We detailed the second-gen Threadripper architecture in our review of the 2990WX. In short, though, Ryzen Threadripper 2950X mirrors the layout of AMD's first-gen Threadripper chips: two Zeppelin dies are connected via another layer of the Infinity Fabric. AMD flanks them with a pair of dummy dies that serve as non-functional fillers, ensuring the heat spreader's structural integrity and consistent mating with the socket's pins. This configuration demonstrates the same eccentricities as AMD's previous models, which are largely borne of the multi-chip design. Fortunately, the company's architectural improvements do soften the impact in workloads that were more severely affected last generation.

AMD ships all Threadripper CPUs with an Asetek bracket that provides partial coverage of the massive heat spreader using certain closed-loop liquid coolers. According to AMD, this partial coverage is fine for stock operation. But we found that full-coverage coolers work better. AMD also collaborated with Cooler Master to develop the Wraith Ripper heat sink/fan combo for its Socket TR4 interface. It's sold separately, though.

As per usual, AMD uses Indium solder between its dies and heat spreader to improve thermal transfer. In contrast, Intel employs thermal grease on its highest-end processors. Intel also recommends liquid cooling for its Skylake-X processors. AMD says that's not necessary for Threadripper. 

DIMM Config
Memory Ranks
Official Supported Transfer Rate (MT/s)
4 of 4
Single
DDR4-2933
4 of 8
DDR4-2667
8 of 8
DDR4-2133
4 of 4
Dual
DDR4-2933
4 of 8
DDR4-2667
8 of 8
DDR4-1866

All of the new Threadripper chips come equipped with the hallmarks of AMD's Ryzen value proposition, such as unlocked ratio multipliers for overclocking and 60 lanes of third-gen PCI Express (plus four lanes attached to the supporting chipset). Copious connectivity could come in handy for multiple add-in graphics cards, but it's also useful for high-performance storage and networking.

Threadripper CPUs feature independent dual-channel memory controllers located on two dies, which combine to provide quad-channel support with varying data transfer rates based upon your configuration. With the second-gen Threadripper processors, AMD bumps its maximum specification to DDR4-2933 (up from DDR4-2666).

The platform supports ECC memory and up to 256GB of capacity, but it can accommodate up to 2TB as density increases. We've already seen new, denser DRAM coming from the likes of Samsung, making support for more capacious memory configurations a future-looking feature.

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPUs Content

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  • Peter Martin
    nice
  • djerinich
    see what are they not telling you is that you can actually run 2 maybe even 3 heavy tasks while getting no performance hit and still use your PC for gaming or whatever, now that's where the time savings and true potential of TR is! basically it replaces 3-4 computers that otherwise you'd need for same tasks. now that's a value.
  • Peter Martin
    yeah, that is a very powerful processor. agreed.
  • Hupiscratch
    Would love to see a high quality streaming test. With so many streaming channels nowadays, there is definitely people considering using these HEDT platforms for this.
  • ElectrO_90
    So we all know what this CPU can do and know its ground breaking, and do some really great things. Even the verdict says its great but expensive?
    Anyway then it gets 4.5/10

    Another weird review with bias' throughout and a conclusion that doesn't make much sense.

    I know, I'm going to buy a F1 race car and compare it to a pickup truck just to prove that the F1 car is shit, because it can't carry my shopping.
  • PaulAlcorn
    Anonymous said:
    So we all know what this CPU can do and know its ground breaking, and do some really great things. Even the verdict says its great but expensive?
    Anyway then it gets 4.5/10

    Another weird review with bias' throughout and a conclusion that doesn't make much sense.

    I know, I'm going to buy a F1 race car and compare it to a pickup truck just to prove that the F1 car is shit, because it can't carry my shopping.


    Hey electrO_90, thanks for sounding off. The rating is actually a 4.5 out of 5 (nearly perfect). Perhaps it isn't displaying correctly in your region, but I see the rating correctly here. Are you reading on the US site?
  • ElectrO_90
    If its 4.5/5 then forgive my rant - but it clearly says here
    https://www.tomshardware.co.uk/amd-ryzen-threadripper-2950x-2990wx-cpu,review-34562.html
    4.5/10 which is why I don't understand the answer.

    And under https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-ryzen-threadripper-2950x-2990wx-cpu,5797.html
    it shows 4.5/5
  • PaulAlcorn
    Anonymous said:
    If its 4.5/5 then forgive my rant - but it clearly says here
    https://www.tomshardware.co.uk/amd-ryzen-threadripper-2950x-2990wx-cpu,review-34562.html
    4.5/10 which is why I don't understand the answer.

    And under https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-ryzen-threadripper-2950x-2990wx-cpu,5797.html
    it shows 4.5/5



    Thanks for the heads-up, I'll report that to the relevant people.
  • michael_732
    Anonymous said:
    Ryzen Threadripper 2950X builds on all of the goodness offered by AMD's first-gen Threadripper processors. If you're looking to upgrade to an all-around crowd pleaser, Threadripper 2950X does not disappoint.

    AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X Review: Striking The Balance : Read more



    great review, on point and mirrors my experience. what i love about the 2950x is the fact you now have smaller boards (mATX) with TR4 and beefy vrms. it still isn't cheaper (by much) but you really have to look at each x399 mobo independently, regardless of your inclination, just because the vrm temps vary so widely across all models...even at the very top of the market..
  • newsonline5000000
    ThreadRipper needs a ~$200 Motherboard to totally take the market from intel. X299 Motherboards can be found starting from $189
  • justin.m.beauvais
    So, people are sounding off a lot about the cost of the motherboards, but you are saving hundreds of dollars on the CPUs vs Intel, so over all you are still coming out saving money. I'm not exactly sure what the problem here is. Yes, the motherboards are expensive compared to x299, but who is only buying a motherboard for their build? Replacing a motherboard would be costly, but that doesn't happen very often. In the end you pay $350 for the motherboard, $900 for the CPU (comparing the 16 more models here) for a cost of $1250 where a competing Intel setup would be $200 for the board and $1700 for the CPU for a cost of $1900. You are still $650 better off. That is a significant amount of money. I'm not seeing the issue here.
  • bbestomp
    MSI X399 SLI Plus mobo - $309.99 on Amazon. Works great.
  • robert3892
    I don't know you listed as a 'con' the price is expensive. An 18 core Intel CPU costs 2000 dollars. That is my definition of expensive.
  • spikey in tn
    Actually I'd be happy with either of them if I could afford it.

    Something I've always wondered about is alluded to in your article, namely such-and-such a CPU, RAM, or whatever, has specs that are 1% better than a competitors, which can be proven by appropriate testing.

    But, really, is the average computer user able to tell the difference in most situations?
  • Lasselundberg
    1080p gaming test...ok that res shows off the cpu and not gpu...but who gets a 900$ cpu and sits behind a 1080P monitor ? people with money for this kind of cpu are gonna be behind 2-5K monitors....how about doing something different from the hundreds of other sites, and actually show off gaming at 4K
  • Gam3r01
    Anonymous said:
    1080p gaming test...ok that res shows off the cpu and not gpu...but who gets a 900$ cpu and sits behind a 1080P monitor ? people with money for this kind of cpu are gonna be behind 2-5K monitors....how about doing something different from the hundreds of other sites, and actually show off gaming at 4K


    Maybe, just maybe, because this is not a gaming processor?
  • ElectrO_90
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    If its 4.5/5 then forgive my rant - but it clearly says here
    https://www.tomshardware.co.uk/amd-ryzen-threadripper-2950x-2990wx-cpu,review-34562.html
    4.5/10 which is why I don't understand the answer.

    And under https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-ryzen-threadripper-2950x-2990wx-cpu,5797.html
    it shows 4.5/5



    Thanks for the heads-up, I'll report that to the relevant people.




    Still not fixed....
  • none12345
    "Unfortunately, the X399 platform remains prohibitively expensive"

    I don't see how anyone could say this. Unless you are speaking to mainstream desktop users....this platform is NOT for the mainstream, nor is the x299 competition. Its like saying a SUV is prohibitively expensive compared to a sedan, if you need a SUV instead of a sedan, it doesn't matter that a sedan costs less.

    The x399 platform is cheaper then the intel x299 equivalent. You spend more on the mobo, but far less on the cpu. Overall it's the same power, for less money, or more power for the same money. Which is anything but providently expensive in the HEDT market segment.

    An extra 100-200 spent on a motherboard is nothing for a build that is likely going to be $3000-$4000+. Especially when you already saved 600 on the cpu...that's still saving 400 after the mobo cost diff.

    Complaining about having to pay more for ram is also a red herring. If you spec a system for a specific amount of ram, there will be no material cost difference between splitting it into 4 dimms for the x399 platform vs 3 dimms for the x299 platform. 32 or 64 gigs of ram would cost the same on either platform. Of course non standard memory sizes could be easier on either platform. Industry standard is power of 2 increases to ram, and its easier to do power of 2 increases on x399 then x299, 3 dimms is non standard.

    x399 being prohibitively expensive is only true for users who have no business buying HEDT in the first place. Those people should be buying mainstream platforms. If you need high end power, you pay high end prices....that's why its called high end desktop. In x399's case, its more high end power overall for less high end price.


    There are of course specific workloads that will favor either platform. Neither is better in all workloads. You should tailor any hardware you buy to your workload.
  • mischon123
    @Djernich> This is the correct use scenario of a many cores pc. There is no replacement for displacement and Ryzen and TR also Rev. Running FEA, encoding 4k, mail, txt, browse, 3d cad, slicing 3d models, gaming in 4k ultra and streaming music to two audio interfaces with convolution going and the system still has 80% headroom and responsivness is like nothing is running concurrently. Good times.
  • newsonline5000000
    Anonymous said:
    So, people are sounding off a lot about the cost of the motherboards, but you are saving hundreds of dollars on the CPUs vs Intel, so over all you are still coming out saving money. I'm not exactly sure what the problem here is. Yes, the motherboards are expensive compared to x299, but who is only buying a motherboard for their build? Replacing a motherboard would be costly, but that doesn't happen very often. In the end you pay $350 for the motherboard, $900 for the CPU (comparing the 16 more models here) for a cost of $1250 where a competing Intel setup would be $200 for the board and $1700 for the CPU for a cost of $1900. You are still $650 better off. That is a significant amount of money. I'm not seeing the issue here.


    A motherboard Price is a Motherboard price and not CPU price.

    You cant take the Total and say the total is less to justify the lack of cheaper Threadripper Motherboard.

    Asus , MSI , and others can do it . but it seems AMD is not allowing them to make cheaper motherboards for some reason.

    and it is not about saving money VS intel offerings , it is about people with tight budget who want 16 cores CPU. and AMD is losing these customers and they are ALOT.

    Half the options on AMD Threadripper expensive motherboard will not be used any ways . they should make minimum options motherboards for ~200 ..

    That is , 4 slots only (4x16=64 lanes) , 4 Dimms in 4 channel mode not 8 dimms , cheaper onbopard sound instead of ALC1220 , one LAN , and one M2 only instead of 3 or 2 , and no leds .. etc.