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

Editor's Choice

VRMark, 3DMark & AotS: Escalation

Test Notes

AMD designed Threadripper 2990WX for prosumer-class applications. Unlike the previous-gen Threadripper models, its WX-series models come with a Game Mode preset in the Ryzen Master software that disables three of the four available dies (1/4). AMD tells us this offers the best average performance in a wide range of titles. But the company also provides toggles that allow experimentation with two- and four-die configurations.

Unlike the first-gen Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, AMD aims its 2950X at enthusiasts and gamers. For this review, we tested Threadripper 2950X using AMD's Game Mode setting. But in our dedicated review of that chip, we'll go into more depth on the available combinations of settings and their impact on performance.

We tested across our gaming suite using a 1920x1080 resolution, minimizing graphics bottlenecks. Of course, as you step up to 2560x1440 or 3840x2160, the difference between processors shrinks. Just bear in mind that, beyond the average frame rates we report, Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX and 2950X are also well-suited to gaming while multi-tasking and streaming due to their high core counts.

VRMark, 3DMark

We aren't big fans of using synthetic benchmarks to measure game performance, but 3DMark's DX11 and DX12 CPU tests provide useful insight into the amount of horsepower available to game engines.

Moreover, UL's VRMark test lets you gauge your system's suitability for use with the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, even if you don't currently own an HMD. UL defines a passing score as anything above 109 FPS.

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Tests that are sensitive to clock rate and IPC throughput, such as VRMark, were a challenge for AMD's first-gen Threadripper processors. But we saw a big improvement from Threadripper 2950X compared to the previous-gen 1950X, which was expected due to the more aggressive multi-core turbo bins.

The 2990WX's Game Mode reduces overall core count, but it also keeps bandwidth-starved cores from hurting performance. Nevertheless, Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX fell to the bottom of our chart due to lower per-core performance. Enabling PBO helped push it up to the middle of our test field.

3DMark typically scales well with higher core/thread counts. But the Threadripper processors, including the 32C/64T 2990WX, lagged Intel's line-up. The 2950X did enjoy a nice speed-up compared to AMD's older Threadripper 1950X. However, the 2990WX was hobbled by its Game Mode setting that turned it into an 8C/16C CPU. Both Threadripper 2 models realized solid gains from enabling Precision Boost Overdrive.

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation is a computationally intense title that scales well with thread count.

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Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX lagged the rest of our test pool at its stock settings, but matched an overclocked 1950X with PBO enabled.

Meanwhile, the 2950X scored another solid victory against AMD's previous-gen 1950X. But neither model comes close to matching Intel's highest-end processors.

This is one of the best examples of a game that scales well with host processing resources. However, the fact that Ryzen 7 2700X outperformed most of the test pool at a significantly lower price is telling. It's best to stick with mainstream desktop CPUs if gaming is your primary goal.

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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.