If you are buying into the high-end desktop (HEDT) segment over the next few months, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X is the pinnacle, albeit at $1999. The CPU itself costs more than most modern corporate IT notebooks. It is a tool designed not for the masses, instead, it is designed for a well-defined market segment that needs enormous desktop compute resources. In our review, we are going to discuss what has changed compared to the previous version and how this chip fits in the ecosystem of hardware that is available in the market. We are getting more ambitious and will also show Windows and Linux performance numbers to help those who may have users utilizing both OSes.
Key stats for the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X: 32 cores / 64 threads with a 3.7GHz base clock and 4.5GHz turbo boost. There is 128MB of onboard last-level cache. The CPU features a 280W TDP. These are $1999 list price parts.
Here is what the lscpu output looks like for an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X:
AMD is claiming 144MB of cache but it is important to remember this is really L2 + L3 cache. Still, if you compare the 128MB of L3 cache here in 8x 16MB segments, you get vastly more cache than top-end Intel SKUs like the Intel Xeon W-3275 28-core halo product which has only 38.5MB of L3 cache.
Since the 3rd generation, Ryzen Threadripper is using the AMD EPYC 7002 series “Rome” package as a base, it has features such as PCIe Gen4 and DDR4-3200 support. To give you a visual on how to think of 3rd gen Threadripper, consider it as a HEDT part with the ghost of EPYC 7002 series infused.
With the 3rd gen Threadripper platform, AMD has taken the leading socketed server part and unleashed it for desktops destined for creative professionals. At 32 cores, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X has more cores than the top commercially available socketed Intel Xeon CPU.
AMD TRX40 Platform
With the 3rd generation AMD Ryzen Threadripper family we get a new TRX40 platform. The TRX40 brings with it PCIe Gen4. That is a feature Intel lacks in this generation. The CPU to TRX40 interface has gone from a Gen3 x4 link to a Gen4 x8 link effectively quadrupling bandwidth to the chipset.
Realistically, while the platform’s quad-channel memory is more similar to Intel’s X299 chipset, the I/O capabilities are more like an upgraded version of the Xeon W-3200 series platforms like we saw in our Supermicro X11SPA-T motherboard review. PCIe Gen4 gives AMD a higher I/O bandwidth platform while the LGA3647 Intel chipset has additional memory channels and capacity.
Many commented on our previous articles, in our forums, and on the Internet, lamenting that the 3rd Generation Threadripper family needed new motherboards. Two points to address this concern. First, PCIe Gen4 requires higher-quality PCB materials, and that makes the transition a logical point to upgrade platforms. Second, the volume in this market buys a PC for office work, then upgrades it on an IT refresh cadence. They are not swapping CPUs into old systems. Given the choice between backward compatibility and game-changing new features, we take new features and moving the market forward.
Major Topology Overhaul
AMD has offered 32-core workstation parts before, specifically with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX. Essentially based on the AMD EPYC 7001 “Naples” generation, the 2990WX is a four die/ NUMA node design. As you can see, the 2990WX has four NUMA nodes but only two have direct access to memory while the other two have to hop over Infinity Fabric to memory attached to a different die.
This topology worked, however, it probably would have been better if each die had access to a single memory channel in a 1+1+1+1 rather than a 2+0+2+0 quad-channel configuration. Some things were less than straightforward with this former topology.
With the new AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X, we see a more AMD EPYC 7002 “Rome” series-like topology. You can compare the below to our AMD EPYC 7502P Review as an example.
With the new I/O die configuration, more or less taken from the EPYC side, one gets four DDR4 channels that connect to the I/O die. The I/O die also has PCIe lanes and the x86 core dies attached to it. As a result, we get something that most OSes see as a single NUMA node. PCIe roots for CPU attached lanes all terminate at the same I/O die as well.
We are releasing a Core i9-10980XE review at the same time as this review. On the Intel side, pictures like the above have been the company’s standard. AMD is back to this design which is helping it garner wins in the server space because it minimizes some of the strange behavior we saw with chips like the first and second-generation Threadripper parts.
Here is the test configuration we used for the Ryzen Threadripper 3970X:
- Motherboard: MSI Creator TRX40
- CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X 32-core
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 SUPER
- Cooling: Noctua NH-U14S TR4-SP3
- RAM: 4x Corsair 16GB DDR4-3200 UDIMM (64GB Total)
- SSD: Samsung PM961 1TB
- OS: Windows 10 Pro Workstation
As a quick note here. The retail packaging comes with a case badge which is nice, but two more important bits. First, one gets a torque driver that helps one secure the chip into the socket. Second, one gets a water-cooling adapter ring.
The new 3rd Generation AMD Ryzen Threadripper family shares a lot with the AMD EPYC so if you use the Threadripper tool it will work on EPYC sockets as well. While the sockets are different, the physical latching mechanism is very similar.
For our CPU we will be using an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X (32 core/64 thread) that you can see in the CPU-Z shot here:
The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X is a very capable CPU, with turbo speeds that can reach up to 4.5GHz.
Let us continue with Windows performance testing.