Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX marches onto the HEDT scene with 24 cores and 48 threads. That's more cores than any competing Intel processor. But not all cores are created equal. Intel still gets more work done per clock cycle with its ninth-gen Core CPUs than AMD does with second-gen Ryzen. What's more, the 2970WX exhibits the same idiosyncrasies as the flagship Ryzen Threadripper 2900WX. It's an impressive performer in heavily-threaded workloads that aren't memory-bound, but it struggles in some applications that don't scale well based on core count (particularly if they're sensitive to available memory bandwidth).
More mainstream Ryzen and Core CPUs offer better value to gamers. Even the X-series Threadripper processors are smarter purchases than the halo WX models if you're an enthusiast. AMD's less expensive Threadrippers promise a better experience in the lightly-threaded apps that Intel continues to dominate.
But maybe Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX serves as a less expensive entry point for professionals able to exploit its copious core count in workstation-class software. The $1800 Threadripper 2990WX doesn’t always scale well, particularly in AVX-heavy tasks like HandBrake. If you're going to have to make compromises like that, you might as well save some money on the $1300 2970WX and get similar performance in the apps able to utilize its quad-die design effectively.
The X399 platform is expensive, and while drop-in compatibility with existing motherboards is a big advantage for AMD, you need a board with robust power circuitry. You also want a power supply with two EPS connectors. Cooling is a little easier on AMD's HEDT CPUs than Intel's competing Skylake-X chips, largely due to the Indium solder that AMD uses between its dies and heat spreader. But a beefy water cooler is still almost mandatory if you plan on overclocking.
AMD’s Dynamic Local Mode feature attempts to circumvent the performance issues endemic to its quad-die topology. Unfortunately, the mode is not as effective as we hoped it'd be. Some games do register big benefits. However, they still mostly trail the performance you get by flipping the CPU into Game mode via Ryzen Master, disabling 75% of the 2970WX's cores. AMD claims Dynamic Local Mode's background service will improve over time as the company characterizes more applications. Still, we see this as a bandage for the inconvenience of having to change modes and reboot your PC.
The competition isn't sitting still. Intel continues to get more competitive as it tries winning back the hearts and minds of enthusiasts. Its Basin Falls/Skylake-X Refresh processors should arrive next month. They'll still top out at 18 cores and 36 threads, and undoubtedly bear the company's notoriously high prices. But they are also rumored to employ Indium solder for improved thermal dissipation. That could make the new CPUs more attractive to tuners. It'd also be nice to see higher multi-core Turbo Boost bins that bolster performance in lightly-threaded workloads. Intel is also eschewing the practice of disabling PCIe lanes on less expensive HEDT processors, which is obviously a response to AMD’s practice of exposing all 60 PCIe lanes on every Threadripper model.
For now, AMD's Ryzen Threadripper 2950X, and as an extension the 2920X, offer the best value for high-end desktop PCs. Much like the Threadripper 2990WX, the 2970WX we tested today is a niche product for professionals seeking very specific capabilities. The competitive landscape is changing though, so we'd recommend waiting this one out.
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