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AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X (16C32T) & 1920X (12C24T) CPU Review

AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper processors are unequivocally fast computational powerhouses. For the first time in many, many years, AMD can justifiably claim to offer the highest performance consumer processor on the planet in the 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 1950X. And in many cases, the chip vendor can also claim to offer the second-highest performance consumer processor on the planet in the 12-core Ryzen Threadripper 1920X.

Such statements would have been unthinkable less than a year ago. Even today, many people will still be in shock that AMD – who barely had a foot in the mainstream market six months ago, not to mention the HEDT segment – has dethroned Intel as the company offering the highest performance consumer processor available. Usually there’s an asterisk to accompany such a statement but in this case, that asterisk only extends to gaming scenarios or lightly-threaded tasks. Anything that is heavily multi-threading in nature is highly likely to show AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper 1950X as the fastest consumer CPU on the planet.

As already highlighted, multi-threaded performance from both Ryzen Threadripper processors is highly impressive. The 16-core 1950X had so much computational power that our high bit rate 4K conversion using Handbrake could only push the 32 threads to around 80% utilisation. That leaves enough performance spare for the system to still be used for other relatively demanding tasks such as photo editing. File archival and decompressing performance hit new heights, as did multi-threaded rendering results in Cinebench R15.

There are some instances where clock speed advantages for Intel’s Core i9-7900X still prove useful, such as some 1080p x265 encoding tasks. Single-threaded performance from Ryzen Threadripper is solid and is competitive against Broadwell-E. But compared to Skylake-X with its higher IPC and faster clocks, the Skylake-based chips are better in single- or lightly-threaded tasks.

Gaming performance certainly isn’t the domain of a 12- or 16-core CPU. Ryzen Threadripper offers comparable gaming performance to Ryzen 7 thanks to its similar clock speeds. However, Intel’s Core i7 Kaby Lake and Core i9 Skylake-X CPUs are generally higher-performance gaming options. These differences are only realistically noticeable past 60 FPS, so with the resolution increased to a point where the GPU is the limiting factor in going past 60 FPS, Ryzen Threadripper is perfectly capable.

What Threadripper does offer gamers, however, is significant spare CPU resources that can be used for streaming or transcoding or other multi-tasking whilst gaming. For example, Ghost Recon Wildlands rarely used more than 25% of the 1950X’s CPU horsepower. That leaves plenty of resources available to high bit-rate streaming and transcoding in real-time.

Power draw is extremely high from both the 12-core 1920X and 16-core 1950X. Even compared to Intel’s hungry Core i9-7900X, the Ryzen Threadripper chips demand a substantial amount of electricity. You will push past 300W system-wide usage from the wall when either chip is loaded with Cinebench. Overclocking using 1.4V will push the 16-core well past 500W with the 12-core going deep into the 400W range. With that said, performance per Watt for the Ryzen Threadripper CPUs (as measured using Cinebench R15) is quite impressive. I thought a 760W Seasonic PSU would be enough for any CPU I put in my processor test system alongside a single GTX 1080 Ti. Ryzen Threadripper 1950X has made me re-think my decision.

Ryzen Threadripper temperatures are very impressive when taking performance into consideration. Using a 360mm Asetek AIO cooler, we rarely saw either CPU pushing past 80°C when overclocked (though they were close). AMD is clearly rewarding users for investing in high-performance cooling solutions as the soldered heatspreader does a stellar job at transferring thermal energy away from the CPU dies. Intel’s Core i9-7900X uses over 100W less power than the 1950X when overclocked but still runs hotter (even accounting for differences in the AIO coolers used). If you plan to push past 1.4V when overclocking or simply want better temperatures, custom liquid cooling is advisable. AMD’s effective thermal packaging for Ryzen Threadripper should allow custom water-cooling to be used to its full potential.

AMD’s X399 HEDT platform approach is noticeably different to the approach that Intel has taken with its X299 HEDT platform. Instead of locking certain features to certain CPUs, AMD has chosen to give all Ryzen Threadripper chips the full whack of 64 PCIe 3.0 lanes (60 usable) and quad-channel memory support. AMD tends to leverage from-CPU connectivity for devices such as PCIe SSDs and USB whereas Intel prefers the from-chipset approach afforded by its feature-rich X299 PCH. One clear advantage for Intel is its ability to offer PCIe NVMe SSD RAID through the 200-series chipset or after (begrudgingly) purchasing the VROC key and using CPU lanes. On the other hand, the sheer capacity for PCIe expansion using 60 CPU-based PCIe 3.0 lanes is a clear benefit for AMD. Is 60 lanes from AMD too many for most people? Probably. Is 44 lanes from Intel enough for everybody? Unlikely.

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The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X will be available for $999 USD MSRP (currently just under £1000 on Overclockers UK). The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1920X will be available for $799 USD MSRP (currently £799.99 on Overclockers UK).

With Ryzen Threadripper, AMD has done the unthinkable and stolen the HEDT performance crown from Intel. There are scenarios where Threadripper doesn’t do as well as Skylake-X but they are limited primarily to high refresh rate gaming. For computationally-intensive tasks that demand plenty of threads, AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper CPUs are currently the best options on the market.

It doesn’t look like that will change until the end of September at the earliest. And depending on the clock speeds that Intel’s 18-core i9-7980XE actually hits, AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper 1950X may be in a strong position to maintain its place on the HEDT processor throne. Either way, the all-out performance and performance against cost for AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X processors is absolutely superb.

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Pros:

  • Superb multi-threaded performance.
  • 1950X is the highest-performance consumer CPU available and the 1920X is generally second-fastest.
  • Excellent price versus performance even compared to Ryzen 7.
  • Quad-channel memory support with high bandwidth results and high-capacity ECC compatibility.
  • Performance-per-Watt based on Cinebench is very good for the 1950X and good for the 1920X.
  • Good thermal performance given the power draw thanks to the well-designed, soldered heatspreader.
  • Plenty of PCIe 3.0 connectivity from the CPU’s 60+4 lane counts.
  • X399 looks to be a well-built platform with a good feature set.

Cons:

  • Power draw is very high, albeit sometimes justifiable on a performance per Watt metric.
  • Strong overclocking for high-core count CPUs but Intel’s 10-core i9-7900X at 4.6GHz remains a solid competitor.
  • Intel’s Skylake-X i9-7900X is generally faster in frequency-driven or less heavily-threaded tasks.

KitGuru says: Offering superb multi-threaded performance while maintaining solid overclocking capacity and manageable thermals, AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper processors have taken the fight to Intel’s Skylake-X line-up and the 1950X has stolen the HEDT performance crown in the process. Factoring in AMD’s aggressive pricing, we are left exceedingly impressed by AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9.0.

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