AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X and 3960X Review

Written by Antony Leather

November 25, 2019 | 14:00

Tags: #3rd-gen-ryzen #3rd-gen-threadripper #7nm #socket-trx4 #threadripper #trx40 #x399 #x570 #zen-2

Companies: #amd

Manufacturer: AMD

Ryzen Threadripper 3970X

UK price (as reviewed): MSRP £1,899.99 (inc. VAT)

US price (as reviewed): MSRP $1,999 (exc. tax) 

Ryzen Threadripper 3960X

UK price (as reviewed): MSRP £1,349.99 (inc. VAT)

US price (as reviewed): MSRP $1,399 (exc. tax) 

There are some very good reasons to be excited by the HEDT market this month. Intel has slashed prices with its new Cascade Lake-X CPUs with the Core i9-10980XE offering decent performance for the cash and plenty of overclocking headroom. AMD has also released the Ryzen 9 3950X - a stunning 16-core CPU that brings HEDT-level performance to the mainstream. It's time to put all that to one side, though, as we gear up for the third instalment of Threadripper - that sneaky, unexpected HEDT CPU that forced Intel to massively boost its HEDT core counts and now comes wielding 24 and 32 cores along with the 7nm Zen 2 architecture, which we know is a bit of a good performer. The question is, are we really looking at a Ryzen 9 3950X but with more cache and more cores, or are we going to be slightly disappointed, as we were with the WX-series last year?

The specifications are bigger and better nearly across the board. There's a 300MHz hike in the peak frequency boost from 4.2GHz to 4.5GHz and a significant increase in the base frequency, rising by 800MHz and 700MHz for the 24- and 32-core parts respectively. Part of the reason for the move to a new CPU socket is for great scaling and better power delivery too, but a quick look at the all-core stock speed boost reveals just as impressive increases in the real world too. The Threadripper 3960X, for example, hit 4.1GHz in multi-threaded applications. The Threadripper 2970WX would hit 3.6-3.7GHz at most, so even without the benefits of of the Zen 2 architecture, things are looking up here.

Ryzen Threadripper 3970X Ryzen Threadripper 3960X Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX
Cores/Threads 32/64 24/48 32/64 24/48
Base Clock 3.7GHz 3.8GHz 3.0GHz 3.0GHz
Boost Clock 4.5GHz 4.5GHz 4.2GHz 4.2GHz
Total Cache 144MB 140MB 80MB 76MB
TDP 250W 250W 250W 250W
MSRP $1,999 $1,399 $1,799 $1,299

On a per CCD-basis, you're not getting any more cache than the Ryzen 9 3950X. You get 4MB L3 cache and 512KB L2 cache per core, with four cores per CCX and two of those on every CCD. That gives totals of 128MB L3 cache and 16MB L2 cache - double that in the Ryzen 9 CPU at 144MB total. The exception is the 24-core Threadripper 3960X, which dips down by 4MB to 140MB total cache thanks to one core per CCX being disabled (8 x 512KB L2 cache = 4MB). These are also massive increases compared to the WX-Series, which had half the L3 cache, albeit the same 512KB L2 cache per core, and this can only serve to boost performance and cut latency.

We'll reiterate some of the essentials here too for those that didn't see our initial announcement article. Pricing is set at $1,999 for the Threadripper 3970X and $1,399 for the 3960X, but sadly, these will not be compatible with X399 motherboards. The new TRX40 chipset boards have a different pinout designed to offer more scaling, and we can also now reveal that there will be a 64-core Threadripper in the new year too, so scaling isn't just an excuse - there are real products in the pipeline. While this does mean that owners of X399 boards have had their upgrade path cut short (you also can't use 1st or 2nd Gen CPUs in the new boards either), we're sure you'll agree once you get to the end of this article that AMD has done the right thing. Thankfully, the CPU socket is otherwise identical, so you will be able to transplant your cooler into your new system.

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