AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X Power Consumption
Power consumption can vary a significant amount depending on processors used and the number of HDDs/SSDs/Expansion cards used. Here we test just a primary system. We test with the same graphics card and NVMe SSD in all our tests. Power is measured at the wall and the graphics card and SSD were not stress tested.
For our tests, we use the AIDA64 Stress test which allows us to stress all aspects of the system. As you can see, we are getting similar power readings between the 3970X and 3960X. This is somewhat like we saw with the AMD EPYC 7642 48-core part and some of the 64-core parts. More cores usually help, but there are practical packaging and silicon-level constraints for AMD still.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X Market Positioning
Thes chips are not released in a vacuum instead, they have competition on both the Intel and AMD sides. When you purchase a server and select a CPU, it is important to see the value of a platform versus its competitors.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X v. AMD Alternatives
This is perhaps going to be one of the more controversial sections we have on STH. The Threadripper 3960X sits in a position between the Ryzen 3950, a 16-core part, and the Threadripper 3970X, a 32-core part in AMD’s stack. AMD has other CPUs, however, at this end of the market, realistically those are the main competitors.
The Ryzen Threadripper 3970X has more cores and costs around $600 more. If you have an application that can utilize 32 cores and 64 threads, then it is likely worthwhile. The platform is otherwise the same, so this comes down to whether those extra eight cores can be used and are worth $600 to the user. If those conditions are met, the 3970X is the way to go. If not, the 3960X is a lot of CPU.
If you have a per-core licensed software in your mix, then the 3960X can offer more performance on a per-core basis. $600 for the hardware can cost tens of thousands on the software side. As we saw, the 3970X gets power limited which means the 3960X tends to do a bit better on a per-core metric even if it is not as fast on a nominal basis.
The controversial part is that in this market, the Ryzen 3950X is not really a competitor. In 1DPC mode for the fastest memory access, one can only get 64GB of RAM in that platform (or 128GB in 4x 32GB) which can be very limiting. The Ryzen 3950X also provides a significantly less robust platform in terms of PCIe Gen4 connectivity. This is not to say that the Ryzen 3950X is not a great platform for many. Instead, it is in a market that historically stems from single and dual Xeon workstations, Threadripper is a more suitable alternative.
Those that need more PCIe connectivity will see Threadripper’s additional lanes as a binary suitable/ not suitable factor. Those that need more than 128GB (or even at 128GB) of RAM will see the Threadripper as the only viable alternative. This is a controversial opinion in many circles, but if you need the PCIe connectivity, more cores, more memory bandwidth, and capacity, then the Threadripper 3960X has features that allow it to enter solutions the 3950X simply does not have the specs for.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X v. Intel Alternatives
The Threadripper 3960X v. Intel is a more nuanced story. There are two, or three alternatives that are squarely competitive, but the features lack direct alignment.
First, the Intel Core i9-10980XE is an 18-core part that is great in its own way. It lacks the same PCIe connectivity as Threadripper and lacks the core count. What it does have is Intel’s newer features like AVX-512. It still has quad-channel memory. One other aspect is that X299 is a mature platform and the motherboards can be less expensive. Combine that with the $400 lower price tag and one can make a strong argument that it is priced correctly as a part below the Threadripper 3960X.
There is a Xeon W-2295 which is very similar to the i9-10980XE except it has ECC RDIMM support. That allows up to 1TB of memory or around 4x what the Threadripper platform can handle. If one needs more than 256GB of memory, then Intel has a more suitable platform.
The other major competitor is the Intel Xeon W-3275. That seems a bit strange since it is a $4449 part or over $3000 more expensive. Key differentiators again are the Intel instruction set with AVX-512 and VNNI along with ECC RDIMM support for higher memory capacities. In contrast, the Threadripper 3960X is less expensive and offers PCIe Gen4 connectivity.
Looking at the Threadripper 3960X compared to older dual Xeon E5 V1 to V4 systems, this is an enormous jump forward. PCIe Gen4 enables faster devices. New platforms for Threadripper that support newer USB 3 and Type-C connectivity feel more modern than older systems. For example, most modern mirrorless/ DSLR cameras are utilizing USB Type-C connectivity which the Threadripper platforms all support. Likewise, newer platforms we have reviewed have features like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi 6. On the Core i9 side and even with the Xeon W-3275 one can see these features. On the Xeon E5 series platforms, USB 3 connectivity and Wi-Fi/ Bluetooth were not as prevalent. Threadripper platforms feel like a modern platform from a user experience perspective. While dual Xeon E5 platforms use twice as many NUMA nodes to get to 24 cores, they also have more memory channels and capacity so there are tradeoffs to be made.
If AMD supported ECC RDIMMs on Threadripper, and 1TB memory capacities, Intel’s advantage would be very small. You can read Patrick’s Analysis of Our Q4 2019 HEDT Processor Reviews where he goes into this more.
This is a $1400 CPU, but frankly, that is fine. These are not CPUs designed to be paired with 16GB of memory a 128GB SSD, and a low-end GPU. Instead, these are chips designed for systems that will cost more than $3000. Even a single NVIDIA Titan RTX costs significantly more. If the Threadripper 3960X supported ECC RDIMMs, undoubtedly the average system price would rise. That is a feature we are missing.
Performance-wise, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X is excellent. The top-tier performance is certainly something that users in this market want to see and will see with the new AMD chip. The story goes beyond just the CPU performance. If you see our platform reviews such as the ASUS ROG Zenith II Extreme Review and MSI Creator TRX40 Review you will see the impacts of plenty of PCIe lanes, DIMM channels, and PCIe Gen4. Next-generation PCIe Gen4, in solid quantity, is something that Intel simply cannot offer today and that is important if you want to use Gen4 storage and networking.
Overall, we think that the AMD Ryzen Threadrupper 3960X strikes a great balance between providing plenty of cores along with great single-core and real-world performance at a relatively reasonable price.