First Look: AMD's Threadripper 2000 Series Versus Intel's High-End Desktop Chips

AMD announced today that its new second-gen Threadripper lineup, also known as Threadripper 2 or Threadripper 2000-Series, is open for preorders. The brawny 32-core, 64-thread Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX serves as the $1,799 halo product of the company's new 2000-series lineup. And if you're not after that many cores (or ready to take that big of a hit on your bank account), the flagship chip comes accompanied by several new Threadripper processors that include 12, 16, and 24-core options.

The 32-core Threadripper 2990WX and the $899 16-core 2950X will ship to customers on August 13 and 31, respectively, while the remainder of the processors will come to market in October.

AMD recently held a Ferrari-themed Threadripper Tech Day in Maranello, Italy. With the help of liquid nitrogen, the flagship Threadripper 2990WX smashed past the Cinebench score Intel displayed during its now-notorious Computex presentation with an overclocked (and unreleased) 28-core processor. We'll circle back to that shortly.

AMD revitalized the high-end desktop market when it released the Threadripper processors last year. Intel quickly adapted to the new normal, at least as well as it could given its existing roadmap, and dropped prices from $172 per core for its flagship Core i7-6950X to $99 per core for the follow-up Core i9-7900X. Even after Intel's radical pricing adjustments, Team Blue still lags behind AMD's competitive per-core pricing that drops as low as $48 for the first-generation Threadripper 1950X.


Threadripper 2990WX
Threadripper 2970WX
Intel Core i9-7980XE
Threadripper 2950X
Intel Core i9-7960X
Threadripper 2920X
Intel Core i9-7920X
Cores / Threads
32 / 64
24 / 48
18 / 36
16 / 32
16 / 32
12 / 24
12 / 24
Base / Boost Frequency (GHz)
3.0 / 4.2
3.0 / 4.2
2.6 / 4.4
3.5 / 4.4
2.8 / 4.4
3.5 / 4.3
2.9 / 4.4
L3 Cache (MB)
64
64
24.75
64
22
64
16.5
PCIe Gen 3.0 Lanes
64 (Four to Chipset)
64 (Four to Chipset)44
32 (Four to Chipset)44
32 (Four to Chipset)44
MSRP
$1,799
$1,299
$1,999
$899
$1,699
$649
$1,199
Price Per Core
~$56
~$54
~$111
~$56
~$106
~$54
~$100
Availability
Aug. 13th, 2018
October 2018
Now
Aug. 31, 2018
Now
October 2018
Now

But AMD isn't finished. The company has retooled its Ryzen lineup with the new Zen+ optimizations that include an optimized 12nm manufacturing process, improved memory latency, and enhanced multi-core turbos. The net effect of these optimizations has truly had a transformative impact on the mainstream Ryzen desktop processors--like the Ryzen 2700X--and those same enhancements carry over to the new Threadripper models.

Threadripper WX-Series

AMD has split up the Threadripper family into the WX and X series, and much like it did with the previous-gen X products, the company gears the WX series for intense multitasking workloads, software developers, video/audio engineers, and content creators.

The range-topping 32C/64T Threadripper 2990WX has a 3.0 GHz base frequency that stretches up to 4.2 GHz via the AMD's XFR (eXtreme Frequency Range) algorithms. The $1,299 Threadripper 2970WX slots in with 24-core and 48-threads, but it won't be available until October 2018.

AMD provided performance comparisons between the Threadripper 2990WX and the Skylake-X Core i9-7980XE (Intel's flagship 18C/36T model) in several heavily-threaded workloads like Cinebench, POV-Ray, and Corona rendering. As expected, the 32-core 2990WX beats Intel's finest by an impressive margin, but it is important to remember that Intel's Skylake-X generally holds the frequency and IPC throughput advantage. That means it compares much more favorably in lightly-threaded tasks.

AMD isn't sharing some performance specifications directly, but we found a few tidbits in the footnotes of the press deck. The Threadripper 2990WX scored 5,089 points in the Cinebench multi-threaded test while the Core i9-7980XE weighed in at 3365 points. We've included AMD's measurements for the 2990WX in our chart below. We're hard at work testing as you read this, and will provide plenty of our own benchmarks that measure performance in a broader range of workloads when we can.

Threadripper X-Series

AMD is aiming the X-series Threadripper processors at enthusiasts and gamers. The $899 Threadripper 2950X weighs in with 16-core and 32-threads, but features much higher clock speeds than the higher-core-count Threadripper models. The 2950X has a base frequency of 3.5 GHz and boosts up to 4.4 GHz, which is a slight step up from the 3.4/4.2 GHz on the previous-gen Threadripper 1950X. As we observed with the Zen+ optimizations with the mainstream Ryzen 2000 desktop models, we expect refinements to the multi-core turbo bins and cache latency to have a more tangible impact on performance than heightened clock speeds.  

AMD shared additional benchmarks that pit the Threadripper 2950X against the similarly-priced 10C/20T Core i9-7900X, again touting a performance advantage in heavily-threaded benchmarks. Unlike its first-gen Threadripper products, AMD is targeting gamers specifically with the new X-series processors, so the company provided a gaming comparison based on the average performance across a range of game titles at 1080p. According to AMD's measurements, the Threadripper 2950X lags the Core i9-7900X in gaming workloads by 6 percent. But much of AMD's value proposition lies in multi-tasking or game streaming workloads--much like Intel's competing Core X lineup. 

AMD listed the 2950X with a Cinebench multi-thread core of 3,092 points while the Intel Core i9-7900X scored 2,183 points.

All of the 2000-series Threadripper processors are backward-compatible with existing X399 motherboards, which is good given the high prices of all boards on the Threadripper platform. Power delivery will naturally be an important aspect considering the heightened power consumption required to power up to 32 cores, but several vendors have announced new X399 motherboards with beefier power delivery subsystems.

We also know from our briefings during Computex that the new Threadripper 2 models will ship with an Asetek bracket that provides compatibility with leading AIO watercoolers. The company also worked with Cooler Master to develop a new "Wraith Ripper" air cooler specifically for the Threadripper's TR4 socket, but it's sold separately. AMD's first-generation Threadripper came with two active dies and two inactive 'dummy' dies, but the new model comes with four active dies tied together with the company's Infinity Fabric. AMD isn't allowing us to share more granular specifics yet, but the extra die will obviously require a bit of extra cooling power. The Wraith Ripper cooler provides full coverage of the large TR4 socket and is rated for up to 250 watts. Several new full-coverage air and water coolers will also debut alongside the official Threadripper launch. 

AMD's original Threadripper packaging set a new bar for the industry (you can see our first-generation Threadripper unboxing here), but the company has stepped up its game with an even larger package this time around. You can see a closer look at the packaging, and the processors, in our Threadripper 2 unboxing coverage.

Threadripper 2990WX, LN2, And An All-Core 5.1 GHz Overclock

The battle for CineBench supremacy entered another stage during AMD's Tech Day in Maranello, Italy. Intel wowed the huddled masses at Computex 2018 with its impressive 7,244 multi-core Cinebench score, which was powered by an insanely-equipped motherboard, an industrial-grade water chiller, and a 5.0GHz all-core overclock.

AMD upped the ante with the help of several pots of LN2. The company overclocked the Threadripper 2990WX to 5.1GHz on all cores and scored a whopping 7,618 points in the same multi-core test. Both demo's were conducted under different conditions, but we've plotted the respective overclocked and stock scores along with data we gathered in our labs (chart above) to illustrate just how powerful these processors are compared to garden-variety mainstream variants (at least if your cooling, power supply, and VRM's are up to the task). 

Stay tuned for our full review coming soon.

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