AMD Threadripper 3970X Reviews Show It Wins At Nearly Every Desktop Workload

By Patrick Moorhead - February 3, 2020

Late last year, AMD unveiled its  3rd Generation Ryzen Threadripper HEDT CPUs, the 3960X and 3970X models. I read most of the credible reviews and nearly every one of them was positive. The Threadripper 3970X boasted wins in nearly every creator-focused workload that was included in the reviewers testing suit. These wins are impressive, especially considering price/performance. In addition, AMD lent me a Threadripper 3970X system to test and I had a great experience with it which paralleled the earlier reviews I read.

AMD Threadripper Chip Render

Specs and use cases

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X has 32 cores/ 64 threads based on the Zen 2 architecture. The CPU boosts up to 4.5 Ghz from a base clock of 3.7 GHz, has 144MB of total cache (3MB L1, 16MB L2 and 128MB L3), and is all tied together in the new TRX40 platform that supports PCI Gen 4.0 with Quad-Channel DDR4 memory support at a TDP of 280W. Interestingly, the Threadripper 3970X has the same TDP as the 3960X as well as the 3990X. The Ryzen Threadripper 3970X uses AMD’s sTRX4 packaging and is built using TSMC’s 7nm FINFET process.  Just like the two previous Ryzen Threadripper generations, these parts are targeting creator use cases and should perform well in multi-tasking and creative applications like video transcoding, final renders of CGI, physical rendering, bulk image conversions, computational fluid dynamics, megatasking, ray tracing, file compression, encryption/decryption, application compilling and gaming while streaming just to name a few.

AMD did a great job quantifying the raw computing power of the 3970X right out of the gate. The trailer of the new major motion picture: Terminator: Dark Fate was rendered on the 3970X at Blur Studios. The chip was used to create major motion pictures and that alone shows how valuable Threadripper can be too high-end creative studios.

Key features

AMD did not add any more cores to the equation this iteration of RyzenThreadripper and instead made steady improvements with support for several new features. These features include a new Zen 2 core that helps reach higher frequencies and IPC, PCIe Gen 4.0, 144MB of cache, and a new TRX40 Motherboard platform. The updated TRX40 platform includes PCIe Gen 4.0 for faster data transfer through the addition of 22 more express lanes as well as support for Quad-Channel DDR4 RAM with speeds up to 3200Mhz. Moving to PCIe 4.0 on the TRX40 boards broke the backwards compatibility with previous generations despite using on the same socket. So, for those wanting to upgrade to 3rd Gen Threadripper will need a new TRX40 motherboard. The TDP of the 3970X increased to a 280W TDP mark, which slightly higher than the 250W TDP of previous generations. The higher TDP of this generation could be a potential issue for those wanting to overclock their CPU and will likely require a serious liquid cooling solution and power supply.

Reviews we looked at

Here are the reviews we analyzed:

For a complete look at these reviews follow the links above.

Lets jump into the workloads.

Visualization and rendering

For visualization and rendering, there were three tests that I noticed really illustrated AMD’s lead effective, Marco Chiapetta from HotHardware noted in Cinebench R20 that, “The Threadripper 3960X outpaced the 10980XE by a whopping 55.8% and the 3970X put up a jaw-dropping 93.7% higher score.”

Additionally, Gordon Mah Ung from PCWorld also noted about Cinebench R20 that, “For 3D work, nothing is going to outclass the 32-core Threadripper 3970X right now.” Steve Bassiri from Tweaktown also tested the slightly older and out of date Cinebench R15 which tends to favor Intel with no optimizations for AMD’s newer cores. Steve noted that, “The multi-core performance is excellent, and even though single-core performance is not as good as Intel's gaming offerings, it's good enough to keep up with the 10980XE.” Marco Chiapetta from HotHardware also tested POV-Ray, which is a ray-tracing benchmark designed to test the CPU cores raw performance. He found in his testing that, “Our results in the POV-Ray benchmark mirror what we saw in Cinebench R20. The new 3rd Gen Ryzen Threadripper perform well in the single-threaded test and simply crush everything else in the multi-threaded test, by a wide margin.”

Additionally, the reviewers tested video and audio encoding as well, one of the most popular benchmarks for video encoding is Handbrake and Dr. Ian Cutress from Anandtech along with his colleagues Andrei Frumusanu and Gavin Bonshor found that, “TR3 performs a lot better than TR2, but the 3950X seems the best choice.” Translating that Threadripper’s 3rd generation of processors perform a lot better than the previous generation, but AMD’s Ryzen 3950X 16 Ryzen non-Threadripper provided the best balance of price and performance. They also tested the common file compression applications 7-Zip and found that, “Easily parallel puts the TR3 well ahead of TR2 and Intel.” Nathan Kirsch from Legit Reviews also noted about 7-Zip performance that, “Legit Reviews 7-zip showed the 3970X winning by a wide margin. The 3970X’s score was 278227 vs. that of the Intel Core i9-10980XE with a score of 142365.”

In addition to commonly used CPU rendering benchmarks and video and audio transcoding benchmarks, we also noticed a lot of positive opinions around 3D modeling, specifically one of the most popular industry 3D modeling applications, Blender. Blender is starting to increase in popularity in the 3D community because of it’s simplicity and accessibility. Steve Bassiri from Tweaktown noted that, “The Blender benchmark is amazing - that is the fastest numbers we have ever seen in that benchmark.” The score on the 3970X was 259.4 compared to 357.6 of the fastest Intel part tested. (Lower score is better). Additionally, Anandtech found that, “We have new Threadripper records, with the 3970X almost getting to a minute to compute. Intel's nearest takes almost as long, but does only cost half as much.” HotHardware’s Marco Chiapetta also noted that, “The 24-core Threadripper 3960X couldn't outrun the 2990WX in the Blender benchmark, but the 32-core Threadripper 3970X sure did. And both outperformed the Core i9-10980XE by wide margins.”

Last, but certainly not least is gaming. Gaming is a curious case because workstation CPUs aren’t really designed for gaming workloads. Threadripper in that vein is also not a gaming-focused CPU, but still provides ample coverage for those who like to game on their workstations or use their workstations as personal computers and gaming PCs. Additionally, having a workstation for your gaming rig means you can multitask without affecting your gaming performance at all. Marco from HotHardware tested Shadow of the Tomb Raider, an FPS shooter game and said, “They can't quite catch the lower core-count mainstream processors, which are better suited to gaming, but they're right there in the mix.” Meanwhile, Steve Bassiri from Tweaktown tested Resident Evil a popular RPG shooter game and found that, “Resident Evil tends to enjoy cores and SMT performance, and we see the CPU doing actually quite well in that benchmark.”

The gaming test results typically show an FPS win in favor of Intel. This is due in large part that most games don’t take advantage of multi-threaded rendering but rather prefer higher frequencies. Although the IPC performance for AMD is improving, there is still room for improvement in some gaming workloads.

Wrapping Up

As of now, AMD Threadripper is dominant in heavily multi-threaded applications while steadily gaining traction in IPC and frequency performance. The 3970X shows that it wins in nearly every workload and I have not seen a compelling HEDT answer from Intel since the 1st Gen Threadripper launch in 2017. I believe they will look to respond as AMD continues to take a good amount of profit dollars from them in the high-end desktop and potentially the workstation space. If Intel can drive more DLBoost-enabled applications like it showed off at this year’s CES, it could bring issues for AMD. But for now, AMD continues to bring a tremendous amount of value by maintaining the core advantage over Intel and adding exciting new features with each iteration of Threadripper like PCIe Gen 4. The Threadripper product line is improving and customers are reaping the benefits. AMD pulled off yet another successful HEDT launch and for that, they deserve credit.  

Patrick Moorhead
+ posts

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.