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AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X Review: Striking The Balance

Editor's Choice

Our Verdict

Ryzen Threadripper 2950X builds on all of the goodness offered by AMD's first-gen Ryzen Threadripper processors, addressing some of our concerns in the process. If you're looking to upgrade from an older CPU to an all-around crowd pleaser, Threadripper 2950X does not disappoint.

For

  • Reasonable price per core
  • Lots of horsepower packed into 16C/32T configuration
  • Solid generational performance improvement
  • Indium solder between heat spreader and dies
  • Unlocked multiplier for overclocking

Against

  • Expensive platform

The Refreshing Refresh

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.

One of the best CPUS for desktop applications, 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 2990WXRyzen Threadripper 2950X
SocketTR4TR4
Cores / Threads32 / 6416 / 32
Base Frequency3.0 GHz3.5 GHz
Boost Frequency4.2 GHz4.4 GHz
Memory SpeedDDR4-2933 (Varies)DDR4-2933 (Varies)
Memory ControllerQuad-ChannelQuad-Channel
Unlocked MultiplierYesYes
PCIe Lanes64 (Four to the chipset)64 (Four to the chipset)
Integrated GraphicsNoNo
Cache (L2 / L3)80MB40MB
ArchitectureZen+Zen+
Process12nm LP GloFo12nm LP GloFo
TDP 250W180W

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 /ThreadsBase / Boost (GHz)L3 Cache (MB)PCIe 3.0DRAMTDPMSRPPrice Per Core
TR 2990WX32 / 643.0 / 4.26464 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933250W$1799$56
TR 2970WX24 / 483.0 / 3.26464 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933250W$1299$54
Core i9-7980XE18 / 362.6 / 4.424.7544Quad DDR4-2666140W$1999$111
TR 2950X16 / 323.5 / 4.43264 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933180W$899$56
TR 1950X16 / 323.4 / 4.46464 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2667180W$750$47
Core i9-7960X16 / 322.8 / 4.42244Quad DDR4-2666140W$1699$106
TR 2920X12 / 243.5 / 4.33264 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933180W$649$54
TR 1920X12 / 243.5 / 4.26464 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2667180W$399$33
Core i9-7920X12 /242.9 / 4.416.5044Quad DDR4-2666140W$1199$100
Core i9-7900X10 / 203.3 / 4.313.7544Quad DDR4-2666140W$999$99
Core i7-8700K6 / 123.7 / 4.71216Dual DDR4-266695W$359$60
Ryzen 7 2700X8 / 163.7 / 4.31616Dual DDR4-2933105W$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 ConfigMemory RanksOfficial Supported Transfer Rate (MT/s)
4 of 4SingleDDR4-2933
4 of 8DDR4-2667
8 of 8DDR4-2133
4 of 4DualDDR4-2933
4 of 8DDR4-2667
8 of 8DDR4-1866

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

  • Peter Martin
    nice
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Peter Martin
    yeah, that is a very powerful processor. agreed.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    21358431 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?

    Reply
  • 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

    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    21358450 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.

    Reply
  • michael_732
    21358096 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..
    Reply
  • newsonline5000000
    ThreadRipper needs a ~$200 Motherboard to totally take the market from intel. X299 Motherboards can be found starting from $189

    Reply