Almost exactly a year after its first Ryzen Threadripper processors burst into the somewhat stagnant market for high-performance desktop (HEDT) consumer CPUs, AMD is poised to give gamers, multimedia pros, and other bleeding edge-dwellers four new Threadripper chips with even better potential performance—and higher price tags on the peak models.
The top-of-the-line silicon in this new batch of four is the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, which boasts a gaudy 32 cores, 64 threads, and a 3GHz base clock frequency with boost potential of up to 4.2GHz. It will head up a new line of two “WX”-series processors in the line, distinct from the lesser “X” models. (The original Threadrippers, headed by the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, were all classed as X chips.)
The 2990WX will set you back a cool $1,799, nearly double the price of the previous-generation 1950X flagship.
For all that extra cash, you get so much potential compute power that the Threadripper 2990WX is overkill for pretty much anyone other than people who need heaps and heaps of multi-threaded performance from their CPU. The comparison with the eponymous Tesla performance mode here is apt because you really will never use the 2990WX’s full potential unless you are running software that eats up threads and cores; think 3D rendering, CAD design apps, pro design packages, and the like. It’s definitely overkill for even the most demanding of PC games; if it’s like 2017’s Threadrippers, you will have to switch off a swath of the cores, in some cases, for optimal performance with some games.
The only consumer-grade CPU that comes close to the Threadripper 2990WX’s capabilities on paper is Intel’s Core i9-7980XE Extreme Edition. That’s a $1,999 chip with 18 cores and 36 threads.
AMD claims this new top-end Threadripper chip can offer more than 50 percent better performance on multi-threaded workloads than that Extreme Edition CPU. If that’s true, it will continue the trend the company started with its mainstream Ryzen chips of offering similar or slightly better performance than Intel’s comparably positioned chips at lower—sometimes much lower—prices.
More Natty Threads: Versions With 24, 16, and 12 Cores
AMD plans to start shipping the Threadripper 2990WX on Aug. 13. In October, the company will also release a dialed-down “little” brother called the Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX, with 24 cores, 48 threads, and the same boost and clock speeds. The 2970WX will retail for $1,299.
While the new WX-series Threadripper chips aim to squeeze every last bit of performance out of their dizzying number of cores and threads, the most direct replacement for the first-generation Threadripper is the 16-core, 32-thread, 3.5GHz Ryzen Threadripper 2950X. This $899 chip is the main attraction for gamers and enthusiasts who like to build their own PCs, and for whom the new 2990WX is overkill.
Intel’s comparable offering to the 2950X is the $999 Core i9-7900X. It’s got 10 cores, 20 threads, and a 3.3GHz clock, offering excellent single-threaded performance of the type that’s critical to running many demanding games at maximum frame rates. Interestingly, AMD ran a series of 11 games on PCs powered by both chips, and found that the system with the Core i9-7900X offered about 6 percent higher frame rates on average than the Threadripper-powered one did. That would be closing the deficit with last year’s models.
Part of the performance difference depends on how the game harnesses CPU power, as well as whether you’re running it in 1080p or 4K. We’re eager to put all of this to the test to verify AMD’s preliminary results in our forthcoming full review of the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X, which AMD plans to start shipping on Aug. 31.
In addition to the Threadripper 2950X, AMD is also releasing a cheaper Ryzen Threadripper 2920X in October, with 12 cores and 24 threads, for $649.
Cooling, Software, and Mobos: More of the Same (and That’s a Good Thing)
All four of the second-generation Threadripper chips are based on the existing Zen architecture, which also is the foundation for AMD’s mainstream Ryzen chips and its server and enterprise-class EPYC CPUs. All of the Threadripper chips also use the existing TR4 motherboard socket, which means they’ll fit into any existing X399-chipset Threadripper motherboard on the market with a BIOS update. (All of these boards, according to AMD, should be flash-upgradable, so having an existing Threadripper chip should not be necessary to perform the BIOS update.) Existing coolers and power supplies will work as well, AMD said.
However, if you are planning on overclocking your new Threadripper (like all of AMD’s Ryzen chips, they’re all unlocked and practically begging to run faster), you might want to invest in new PC guts to go along with it, because overclocking a 32-core chip will generate immense amounts of heat and consume heaps of power. The WX chips are designed for 250 watts, up from 180 watts for the first-gen Threadripper chips. The new X chips continue to consume 180 watts. Existing boards should be able to handle the load of the new WX chips, however.
Unlike AMD’s mainstream Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 chips, the second-generation Threadripper CPUs do not include coolers in their boxes. They do include many of the other features introduced with the second-gen mainstream Ryzen chips, however, including compatibility with the StoreMI hard drive firmware, which automatically assigns data to an SSD or hard disk drive assuming your PC has both.
Look out for more Threadripper coverage soon as we put the 16-core 2950X version to the test in the coming days.