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

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Ryzen Master, Motherboards & Test Setup

Ryzen Master

AMD's second-gen Threadripper processors communicate with the platform to modulate performance based on what the motherboard's power delivery subsystem can do, which is the key enabler for Precision Boost Overdrive.

The processor monitors Package Power Tracking (PPT) and Thermal Design Current (TDC) variables, measuring available margin to the motherboard's maximum power output and current, respectively. Electrical Design Current (EDC) also indicates the maximum current possible from the VRMs during peak/transient conditions. A control loop feeds real-time telemetry data back to the Infinity Fabric, which then allows the processor to affect performance based on thermal and power conditions dynamically. AMD exposes some of these monitoring features with its updated Ryzen Master overclocking software.

Each motherboard vendor defines its own maximum amperage for PBO based on the power delivery subsystem's capabilities. As you can see in the Ryzen Master screenshot below, MSI has its own custom variables assigned for EDC, TDC, and PPT limits in the MEG X399 Creation motherboard. Due to different settings on different motherboards, PBO performance will vary.

You can also use Ryzen Master to switch the X-series processors into Game or Creator Mode, and toggle the WX-series chips into various legacy compatibility modes. AMD's software now supports per-CCX overclocking as well, and includes a built-in stress test. Again, the three-year warranty does not cover damage caused by overclocking, so exercise caution.

X399 Motherboards

Threadripper 2 is compatible with the X399 chipset, and AMD guarantees that all existing motherboards support stock operation. You do need an updated BIOS. However, all X399-based motherboards have an out-of-band BIOS update mechanism, so you won't need one of AMD's Boot Kits. Here's the rub: while all X399 motherboards support PBO (it's baked into the CPU), many existing platforms have limited power delivery subsystems that weren't designed to accommodate the 32C/64T 2990WX. Ultimately, they'll limit overclocking headroom. If you plan to overclock a second-gen Threadripper or enable PBO, it would be wise to verify the capacity of your motherboard's power circuitry first.

If you're building a first Threadripper-based PC, MSI has a new MEG X399 Creation. Moreover, Gigabyte recently introduced its X399 Aorus Xtreme. Both boards feature capable voltage regulation subsystems and robust cooling. Asus also introduced a cooling kit for its existing ROG X399 Zenith Extreme, which should bring that board up to par with the WX family's greater power consumption.

To recap, the X399 chipset supports two USB 3.1 Gen2 and six USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, along with six USB 2.0 connections. Two PCIe 3.0 lanes allow motherboard vendors to add more storage connectivity (four SATA or two SATA Express), and the eight general-purpose PCIe 2.0 lanes accommodate other controllers, such as Ethernet or WLAN/Bluetooth. Eight SATA ports round out the chipset's connectivity options, and you can leverage several RAID configurations with the attached SATA devices.

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The Threadripper processor provides an additional eight USB 3.1 Gen1 ports and four SATA connections (hardware RAID supported). The 60 remaining PCIe lanes support up to seven PCIe devices. Threadripper 2 CPUs also benefit from an improved SensMI suite, including StorMI Technology. That's a software-based tiering solution able to meld the low price and high capacity of hard drives with the speed of SSDs, 3D XPoint (including Intel's Optane parts), or even up to 2GB of RAM. For more information, check out AMD and Enmotus Expand FuzeDrive Offerings.

Comparison Products

Test Setup

You naturally need a capable power supply to support Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX. After a moderate 3.8 GHz overclock, we observed as much as 38A of current draw during a threaded Cinebench test. Even in its stock configuration, the CPU can pull more than 20A in that benchmark. And if you enable PBO, current draw jumps to a similar level as if you were overclocking manually.

We tested the Threadripper 2 models with MSI's MEG X399 Creation motherboard. Due to cooling and power delivery constraints, we ran through our full test suite at stock settings and with PBO activated, rather than using an all-core overclock. Our PBO-enabled configurations did benefit from higher memory transfer rates, as detailed in the table below.

Test System & Configuration
HardwareGermany AMD Socket AM4 (400-Series)AMD Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC 2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667, DDR4-3466AMD Socket SP3 (TR4)Threadripper 2MSI MEG X399 Creation 4x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 RGBIntel LGA 1151 (Z370): Intel Core i7-8700K MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC 2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667, DDR4-3466Intel LGA 2066 Intel Core i7, Core i9 MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC 4x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2666All SystemsGeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition (Gaming) Nvidia Quadro P6000 (Workstation)1x 1TB Toshiba OCZ RD400 (M.2, System SSD) 4x 1TB Crucial MX300 (Storage, Images)be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11, 850W Windows 10 Pro (All Updates)U.S. AMD Socket SP3 (TR4)Threadripper Gen 1 & 2MSI MEG X399 Creation 4x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2933, DDR4-3200Intel LGA 2066Intel Core i9-7960X, -7980XE, -7900XMSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC4x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2666, DDR4-3200AMD Socket AM4 (400-Series)AMD Ryzen 7 2700X MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2933Intel LGA 1151 (Z370)Intel Core i7-8086K, Core i7-8700K, Core i5-8600K, Core i5-8400, Core i7-8700MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC2x 8GB G.Skill FlareX DDR4-3200 @ DDR4-2667All EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 FE 1TB Samsung PM863SilverStone ST1500-TI, 1500WWindows 10 Pro (All Updates)
CoolingGermanyAMD Wraith RipperAlphacool Ice Block XPXEnermax LiqTech 240 TR4Thermal Grizzly KryonautU.S.Wraith RipperCorsair H115iEnermax Liqtech 240 TR4 II
Power Consumption MeasurementContact-free DC Measurement at PCIe Slot (Using a Riser Card) Contact-free DC Measurement at External Auxiliary Power Supply Cable Direct Voltage Measurement at Power Supply 2x Rohde & Schwarz HMO 3054, 500 MHz Digital Multi-Channel Oscilloscope with Storage Function4x Rohde & Schwarz HZO50 Current Probe (1mA - 30A, 100 kHz, DC) 4x Rohde & Schwarz HZ355 (10:1 Probes, 500 MHz) 1x Rohde & Schwarz HMC 8012 Digital Multimeter with Storage Function
Thermal Measurement1x Optris PI640 80 Hz Infrared Camera + PI Connect Real-Time Infrared Monitoring and Recording
Acoustic MeasurementNTI Audio M2211 (with Calibration File, Low Cut at 50Hz) Steinberg UR12 (with Phantom Power for Microphones)Creative X7, Smaart v.7 Custom-Made Proprietary Measurement Chamber, 3.5 x 1.8 x 2.2m (L x D x H) Perpendicular to Center of Noise Source(s), Measurement Distance of 50cm Noise Level in dB(A) (Slow), Real-time Frequency Analyzer (RTA) Graphical Frequency Spectrum of Noise

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Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.