One of the constant themes of 2019 has been to ask AMD employees about the future of its Threadripper line of products. Since the start of the year we’ve seen AMD advertise for a new head of workstation products, we’ve seen AMD accidentally use an old roadmap slide which didn’t have Threadripper listed (leading to speculation it was canceled), and during August I was promised that we would hear more this year. Today that time has come, with AMD launching its 3rd Generation Threadripper platform for the high-end desktop market. With two processors and 12+ motherboards available, AMD is going above and beyond the previous definition of high-end desktop.

Threadripper: Redefining HEDT Yet Again

AMD’s march on the high-end desktop market since the launch of the first generation of Ryzen has been somewhat brutal. In a market where we were barely moving up by an average of less than 2 cores a generation, in the last three years AMD has slapped 8-cores in the mainstream and 16 for HEDT, swiftly followed up by 32 in HEDT then moving mainstream up to 16, all while the competition rushed to get something up to 18 cores available. The first generations of products, on the Zen and Zen+ microarchitecture, were about AMD being aggressive in pricing and core counts in order to provide high parallel throughput machines. With the launch of Zen 2 for the Threadripper series today, AMD is now going after raw throughput, and combining that with almost double the number of cores that Intel can offer.

When Threadripper as a brand came to market, AMD promoted it as a product that could tackle any high-parallel throughput tasks. Thread + Ripper was a clever play on words: anything that had plenty of threads, the hardware was designed to ‘rip’ through the workload. The only downsides to this hardware was the lack of true AVX2 support (a key addition for some of these workloads), that the per-MHz performance was still a little behind, and that the way the hardware was arranged led to memory access variances that didn’t work great in all scenarios. With the third generation Threadripper being launched today, all of those issues go away: we get AVX2, we get better per-MHz performance, and a more unified memory solution. That’s on top of PCIe 4.0 support, more PCIe lanes, and faster DRAM. On paper alone, one has to ask what the flaws are.

Today’s launch covers two products: the 24-core TR 3960X and the 32-core TR 3970X. Both of these processors are built from four Zen 2 chiplets paired with a single I/O die, with each chiplet having 6 cores or 8 cores respectively. Both CPUs support 64 PCIe 4.0 lanes, four DDR4-3200 memory channels, and are built on a new sTRX4 socket with a new all-AMD TRX40 chipset.

AMD Threadripper 3960X and AMD Threadripper 3970X

AMD has also lifted the lid on an upcoming 64-core variant, called the TR 3990X. We’re covering that news in a separate post, but in a nutshell AMD is bringing its high-frequency variant of the 280 W EPYC 7H12 to the mass market in 2020, with potential room for a 48-core version as well. Just don’t ask how much that one will cost: the ‘slow’ 225W version of the 7H12 has an MSRP of $6950, so the Threadripper version is going to be at least 2x the 32-core $1999 price.

AnandTech Cores/
Third Generation Threadripper
TR 3970X 32 / 64 3.7 / 4.5 128 MB 4x3200 64 280 W $1999
TR 3960X 24 / 48 3.8 / 4.5 128 MB 4x3200 64 280 W $1399
Second Generation Threadripper
TR 2990WX 32 / 64 3.0 / 4.2 64 MB 4x2933 64 250 W $1799
TR 2970WX 24 / 48 3.0 / 4.2 64 MB 4x2933 64 250 W $1299
TR 2950X 16 / 32 3.5 / 4.4 32 MB 4x2933 64 180 W $899
TR 2920X 12 / 24 3.5 / 4.3 32 MB 4x2933 64 180 W $649
Ryzen 3000
Ryzen 9 3950X 16 / 32 3.5 / 4.7 32 MB 2x3200 24 105 W $749

Both of our new TR CPUs have a 280W TDP, which means they will require substantial cooling regardless of the system they are in. This is a step higher than the peak 250W TDP we saw with previous generation Threadripper processors, as we are probably approaching a realistic limit as to how high consumer processor power numbers should go without sticking them into a server. This means that the new TRX40 motherboards are built to be hard and tough, and also support overclocking.

AMD is pricing these two processors at $1399 and $1999, which also means that AMD’s high-end desktop processors start at a price (and a core count) above where Intel’s HEDT market finishes. Intel’s best chip in this market is the Core i9-10980XE, which has 18 cores and an OEM price of $979, which is a way below the TR 3960X with 24 cores and a retail price of $1399. For the first time in living memory, AMD and Intel are launching their CPUs on the same day, and you can catch our separate Core i9-10980XE review at AnandTech today.

New Socket: sTRX4

One of the key messaging when AMD launched its first Ryzen processors was set to be the longevity of its consumer platforms. Technically the mainstream Ryzen AM4 socket has now gone through four generations of products, and if it weren’t for some poor BIOS choices in the early days, every AM4 motherboard should have been able to support the oldest to the newest AM4 processor. But it does mean a single socket has scaled from a peak of 4 cores when it was first launched all the way to 16 cores.

With Threadripper, it has been a little different. The transition from PCIe 3.0 to PCIe 4.0 has been a tough one to manage, especially when trying to keep parity with sockets and chipset compatibility. The main issue has been PCIe 4.0 validation: supporting PCIe 4.0 with the traces on a motherboard is difficult to the point that the board has to be built with PCIe 4.0 in mind in order to adequately qualify. On top of that, AMD has seen an opportunity to usurp the competition, and has changed the CPU-to-chipset bandwidth link from PCIe 3.0 x4 to PCIe 4.0 x8, quadrupling the total amount of CPU-to-chipset bandwidth available. This is ultimately what breaks compatibility between the previous Threadripper motherboards and the new Threadripper motherboards.

In order to cater for Zen 2, there are also some pin-out changes, however AMD stated that they kept the physical socket the same. What was surprising is that AMD stated that they kept the keying, the little notches that make it easier to see if a CPU is/isn’t supported, the same as well. This means that you can physically fit a new TR CPU in an old motherboard and vice versa. When asked what would happen if you did, AMD said that the system will just refuse to boot. I won’t be the first one to try that, in case the magic smoke appears.

From our pre-briefings, we’ve identified 12 new sTRX4 motherboards bearing the TRX40 name for new TR3 users to get hold of. These are all pretty expensive, in order to both support the CPUs and have the latest technology, and we will have our overview report on these out later this week. Stay tuned for that.

Competition for 3rd Generation Threadripper

In each of these reviews, we try and take a look at what CPUs our new hardware is going to compete against. In this instance, AMD has zero competition from Intel without going into Intel’s enterprise range of hardware. When AMD starts at 24-cores and $1399, while Intel finishes at 18-cores and $979, there is no overlap here – the price difference is substantial enough for each side of the equation not to be involved with each other. If we started looking into the Xeon range from Intel, we’re adding in RDIMM support which TR3 doesn’t have, and the added cost of RAS features and vPro etc.

Intel vs AMD
AnandTech TR
18 / 36 Cores / Threads 24 / 48 32 / 64
3.0 GHz Base Frequency 3.8 GHz 3.5 GHz
4.6 / 4.8 GHz Turbo Frequency 4.5 GHz 4.7 GHz
18 MB L2 Cache 12 MB 16 MB
24.75 MB L3 Cache 128 MB 128 MB
256 GB DRAM Capacity 512 GB 512 GB
DDR4-2933 DRAM Frequency DDR4-3200 DDR4-3200
48 PCIe Lanes 64 64
165 W TDP 280 W 280 W
$979 (1ku) Price $1399 $1999

Technically I’m going to pull one CPU out here, the Xeon W-3175X. This is a 28-core unlocked processor that Intel launched last year to much fanfare, but with four less cores than the 3970X and another +50% in cost, well, the benchmarks speak for themselves.

CPU Pricing
(MSRP Pricing)
Cores AnandTech Cores Intel*
(OEM Pricing)
    $2000+ 28/56 Xeon W-3175X ($2999)
TR 3970X ($1999) 32/64 $1750-$1999    
TR 3960X ($1399) 24/48 $1250-$1499    
    $900-$999 18/36 Core i9-10980XE ($979)
Ryzen 9 3950X ($749) 16/32 $700-$799 14/28 Core i9-10940X ($784)
    $600-$699 12/24 Core i9-10920X ($689)
    $550-$599 10/20 Core i9-10900X ($590)
    $500-$549 8/16 Core i9-9900KS ($513)
Ryzen 9 3900X ($499) 12/24 $450-$499 8/16 Core i9-9900K/F ($488)
Ryzen 7 3800X ($399) 8/16 $350-$399 8/8 Core i7-9700K/F ($374)
Ryzen 7 3700X ($329) 8/16 $300-$349    
    $250-$299 6/6 Core i5-9600K ($262)
Ryzen 5 3600X ($249) 6/12 $200-$249    
Ryzen 5 3600 ($199) 6/12 Below $200 4/4 Core i3-9350K ($173)
*Intel quotes OEM/tray pricing. Retail pricing will sometimes be $20-$50 higher.

Ultimately AMD’s competition for the new Threadripper processors are the old Threadripper processors: the 32-core 3970X can compete against the 32-core 2990WX. But this isn’t so much of a competition as an evolution: the 3970X has a newer Zen 2 core for more IPC, a higher frequency, a unified memory system, and supports PCIe 4.0. On paper, you’d say that previous Threadripper processors pale in comparison. There’s going to be a lot of that in our following benchmarks.

Power Consumption: 6-13W Per Core
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  • Xyler94 - Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - link

    Gotta love the "But what about this" with you fanboys.

    Did AMD beat Intel to the X86-64 Race? Yes
    Did AMD beat Intel to the 1Ghz Race? Yes
    Did AMD beat Intel to the true dual-core arc? Yes
    Does AMD still continue to innovate and bring us better products, despite their peanut funding compared to Intel, while Intel just tries to weasel their way through the market? Of course. Do you honestly believe if TR3 wasn't so amazing, that Intel would have reduced their 18 core part to 1k out of the goodness of their heart? If you think that, you're more of a fanboy than I thought.

    It is still known as AMD-64 today, because AMD found the way to do both 32bit and 64bit X86 at the same time, and Intel has to license that tech from AMD. Without AMD, Intel would not be releasing 8 core CPUs today. The reason for their shortages isn't really due to high demand, it's due to varying demand of their products. the 6-8 core silicon is different from their 4 core ones, and they needed to manufacture separate LCC and HCC core i9/Xeons, further hogging their supply chain. And there's also the fact the 9900k is also a legitimately great CPU, so people want it, further hurting the supply chain. Intel did this to themselves due to years of complacency, so I don't feel bad at all.
  • blppt - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    "Did AMD beat Intel to the X86-64 Race? Yes"

    They didn't beat Intel to anything---Intel was going with IA64, never going with x64, Then AMD threw a MASSIVE wrench into those plans, lol. Intel was forced to then copy AMD64 with EMT64 when Itanium flopped.

    But make no mistake---if AMD didn't create x86-64, Intel wouldn't have either. We'd all be running Itaniums and Itanium clones.
  • Qasar - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    actually, for the most part, the industry didnt want ia 64, it would me a redo of most, if not all of the software just to use it, before they could even use it, with AMD64, you could keep using existing 32 bit software, and transition of 64 bit, when you can, or wanted to. amd just found a better, and quicker way to 64 bit then when intel was trying to cram down every ones throats.
    But make no mistake---if AMD didn't create x86-64, Intel wouldn't have either." and chances are, we could be still using 32 bit cpus, as i said above, most, if not all of the industry didnt want to have to re compile all of the software we used then. and wasnt itanium slower then x86 over all ?
    ahh yep.. it was slower : " By the time Itanium was released in June 2001, its performance was not superior to competing RISC and CISC processors. " from
  • Qasar - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    would me a redo of most = would mean a redo of most
  • blppt - Monday, December 2, 2019 - link

    One of the big reasons Itanium/IA-64 failed was that its "backwards compatibility" (i.e. x86 emulation) was much slower than the native x86 cpus out at the time.

    So, while they wouldn't need to redo all that x86 software, it wasn't exactly speedy while emulating.

    To take full advantage of the IA64 architecture, yes, they would need to rewrite a lot of software, but it would have *run* without a rewrite.

    And that's where x86-64 stepped in. 64 bit memory addressing, perfect x86-32 performance at a lower price.

    But Intel was never going to create x64 by themselves unless the new EPIC/VLIW IA64 hit some kind of performance brick wall, or people just kept coding to x86 anyways (which Itanium would run, but slowly).

    Bear in mind that part of the reason it was slow in 2001, x86 and Power had been extensively optimized compilers for a decade (or more for x86) and IA64 was in its nascent stages. Since it was never adopted by the mass public (include home users, etc), development of IA64 never came close to the level of development and optimization of x86.
  • Qasar - Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - link

    either way you look at it, it seems AMD is doing more to move the cpu farther, then intel does. AMD seems to be the one that innovates, while intel sleeps. i know some who is a fan of intel, will refute this, but think about it... AMD improves the cpu, and moves it forward, while intel stagnates and stifles it..
  • eva02langley - Monday, November 25, 2019 - link

    Desktop and HEDT is not Intel business anymore. Just a matter of time for server and laptop to eat the same bullet.
  • eek2121 - Monday, November 25, 2019 - link

    I wouldn't say that AMD fans are wrong. Look at AMD's revenue years ago vs today. Do you think the growth came out of thin air? No, AMD is eroding Intel's marketshare. It hasn't begun to show yet, because the last reported earnings did not include Zen 2 eating into things. More and more people are buying AMD, and as long as AMD continues to execute as they have (and even more so: they have to get into bed with OEMs), Intel will gradually begin to suffer. They already HAVE suffered. Drastic price reductions on their highest end parts.
  • eek2121 - Monday, November 25, 2019 - link

    Oh and I should add that Intel is in a lot more markets than AMD. In addition, Intel actually does a ton of fab work for other companies. Intel makes networking cards, storage, and much more. So in translation: Revenue is meaningless. Intel does not have endless amounts of cash to throw at creating new CPUs, GPUs (which are coming out in 2021), and chipsets. What matters is marketshare. For Intel, it's shrinking.
  • tygrus - Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - link

    AMD have taken market share from Intel but it's not uniform across all markets. Fancy brand names, servers and ultra notebooks are still dominated by Intel and where the end-user isn't making a choice. Enthusiasts using a local store to select parts & assemble are a small market that have swung to AMD.

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