Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) once again stole the spotlight at CES 2020. It launched two new CPUs (central processing units) and GPUs (graphics processing units) for desktops and laptops. The most expensive product AMD launched was its 7nm (nanometer) Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, priced at $3,990. Following AMD’s 7nm launch tradition, this new GPU will hit the markets on February 7. AMD launched its other 7nm products on July 7, August 7, October 7, November 7 of last year.
AMD CEO Lisa Su started CES 2020 with the launch of Ryzen 4000 mobile CPUs, with the first laptops coming in the first quarter. Other mentions that followed were the Radeon RX 5600XT (scheduled to hit the market on January 21) and mobility GPUs RX 5700M and 5600M (scheduled to come in this year’s first half). Su kept the best and most expensive for last.
In a processor, the important aspects you should look at are performance, price, and target audience. Amid the current CPU supply shortage, you should also consider availability. Let’s look more closely at the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X.
Specifications: The Ryzen Threadripper 3990X is the most powerful CPU
Last week, we forecast that the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X would appear at CES 2020. AMD’s Threadripper is the consumer variant of AMD’s EPYC server CPU, with a few dies deactivated. In the RT 3990X, AMD doubled the cores, threads, and L3 cache from its lower variant, the RT 3970X. As shown in the above table, the RT 3990X has 64 cores, 128 threads, and a 256MB (megabyte) L3 cache. The RT 3990X was able to accommodate 64 cores as AMD moved this CPU to eight chiplets from the RT 3970’s four chiplets.
What do these specifications mean for investors? AMD already offers the highest core count in the HEDT (high-end desktop) space with its 32-core RT 3970X. The RT 3990X is the world’s first 64-core HEDT processor. With this CPU, AMD is bringing data-center-server performance to a PC. What’s interesting is that such a heavy CPU has the same TDP (thermal design power) as the RT 3970X, of 280 watts. The RT 3990X’s lower TDP is made possible by its lower clock speed. It has a base clock speed of 2.9GHz (gigahertz) to 4.3GHz, lower than the RTX 3970X’s 3.7 GHz–4.5 GHz speed.
Does the RT 3990X have an appealing price-to-performance ratio?
Who will shell out $4,000 for the RT 3990X, and why? Lisa Su stated that the CPU is targeted at content creators, who need a lot of cores. The reason content developers should invest in the RT 3990X CPU, according to Su, is its price to performance.
Su compared the RT 3990X’s performance with that of two Intel Xeon Platinum 8280 server CPUs. Together, the two Intel CPUs would have 56 cores, 112 threads, and cost $20,000. She demonstrated the RT 3990X’s speed on the V-Ray rendering application and showed that the CPU was 30% faster than Intel’s server CPUs.
Su also highlighted the RT 3990X’s performance on Maxon’s Cinebench R20, and the CPU was 50% faster than the RT 3970X, noted PCWorld in its live coverage of the CES event. According to AnandTech, AMD recommends the RT 3990X to users with at least 64GB (gigabytes) of DDR4 (double-data-rate) memory (1GB in memory per core) to maintain performance scaling.
PCWorld looked at the RT 3990X’s price and noted that it would cost a consumer $31 per thread and $62 per core. While this price may be heavy for the average consumer, it would be a good bargain for visual effects or heavy-duty multitasking.
AnandTech compared the RT 3990X’s specs with the 64-core EPYC 7702P’s and found that the desktop variant has a higher clock speed and TDP. AnandTech stated that the RT 3990X has a lower price ($3,990) than the EPYC 7702 ($4,650) because of its fewer memory channels and enterprise features. The website stated that the RT 3990X’s lower price makes it a good bargain for enthusiasts and content creators who can amortize this cost over time. However, the website doubts how many professionals would choose the RT 3990X over a server CPU.
Will 64 cores come to mainstream PCs?
Now that AMD has made 64 cores possible in its HEDT CPUs, The Verge thinks 64 cores could soon come to mainstream CPUs. Similarly, AMD first introduced 16 cores in 2017 in the first-generation Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, priced at $1,000. After two years, it brought 16 cores to the mainstream Ryzen 9 3950X for $750.
AMD chief technology officer Mark Papermaster explained this multicore approach in an interview with Tom’s Hardware. He stated that AMD adds only as many cores the software can use. Once the software is in place, it’s just a matter of time before more applications benefit from multithreading, he added.