Intel's seemingly-endless delay in transitioning to the 10nm node for the desktop, not to mention a new architecture beyond Skylake, has left the industry ripe for disruption. As a result, AMD's new Threadripper 3000 processors march into the upper segment of the HEDT market uncontested.
Intel does have its workstation-focused Xeon W series, but the company's expensive pricing model for those chips, not to mention the supporting platforms, is now under serious attack. It wouldn't be surprising to see AMD's forthcoming 64-core 128-thread Threadripper 3990X debut at lower pricing than Intel's flagship $4,449 Xeon W-3275 that only comes with 28 cores. That means you can expect deep price cuts from Intel in that segment, too, to match the price cuts it made as it moved forward to its Cascade Lake-X processors.
Threadripper 3970X and 3960X mark a significant step forward in nearly every way, either reducing or eliminating many of the vagaries of the first- and second-gen Threadripper processors. Unlike the previous-gen chips, there were no errant results that would give us pause in making a universal recommendation.
The Zen 2 architecture provides a tangible bump in instruction per cycle (IPC) throughput. Pairing that advance with AMD's clever combination of software, firmware, and hardware to target the fastest cores with lightly-threaded tasks yields a big advance in overall per-core performance. AMD spreads that performance out over multiple cores with a more uniform design that eliminates many of the odd performance issues that prevented Threadripper from enjoying broader uptake in the professional segment. Not to mention that the new design allows AMD to utilize more efficient manufacturing techniques that enable paradigm-shifting changes to the pricing landscape.
AMD has bumped up pricing for the Threadripper 3000 processors, and a quality TRX40 motherboard isn't going to come cheap. You'll also need a capable cooler to dissipate heat from the beefy 32-core chips to extract the most performance from the silicon, along with a quality power supply. These are expected accommodations for a processor of this class, and given the performance we saw throughout our test suite, AMD's per-core asking price is very competitive.
The Threadripper 3970X and 3960X delivered devastating threaded performance in their respective price ranges, often trouncing Intel's most exotic silicon. Intel's Xeon W-3175X is ill-suited to take on the comparatively power-sipping Threadripper processors on a power efficiency basis, not to mention pricing. Just for comparison's sake – the overclocked W-3175X pulled 768 watts under load, while the overclocked Threadripper 3970X peaked at 356 watts while often providing more performance in threaded workloads. That math is easy.
Threadripper 3000 also brings a solid gain on the single-threaded performance front, too. As a general observation, both Threadripper 3970X and 3960X offered surprising snappiness in general desktop use, which is a first for any Threadripper processor we've tested.
Finally, AMD's forward-thinking adoption of the PCIe 4.0 interface is another attraction that will help win over the semi-professional crowd. While the faster interface isn't as useful on the mainstream desktop, the ability to stack up throughput-craving devices behind the chipset without the radical throughput restrictions we see with Intel's DMI is a win.
Intel has cut the pricing of its Cascade Lake-X processors in anticipation of Threadripper 3000, which promises to shake up the value proposition at lower price ranges. We'll analyze that in detail in our coming review.
For now, the highest tiers of the HEDT market belong to AMD's Threadripper 3000 processors. If you're looking for a chip that is incredibly powerful for brute-force parallelized workloads, but still agile enough for some entertainment, the Threadripper 3970X is the perfect solution.
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