The recent renaissance of AMD as the performance choice in the high-end x86 market has been great for consumers, enabling a second offering at the top-end of the market. Where Intel offers 28 cores, AMD offers 24 and 32 core parts for the high-end desktop, and to rub salt into the wound, there is now a 64 core offering. This CPU isn’t cheap: the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X costs $3990 at retail, more than any other high-end desktop processor in history, but with it AMD aims to provide the best single socket consumer processor money can buy. We put it through its paces, and while it does obliterate the competition, there are a few issues with having this many cores in a single system.

I Want Performance, What Are My Options

The new AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X is a 64 core, 128 thread processor designed for the high-end desktop market. The CPU is a variant of AMD’s Enterprise EPYC processor line, offering more frequency and a higher power budget, but fewer memory channels, fewer PCIe, and a lower memory capacity support. The 3990X is at that cusp between consumer and enterprise based on its features and cost, and it’s ultimately going to compete against both. On paper, users who don’t necessarily need all of the 64 core EPYC features might turn to the 3990X, whereas consumers who need more than 32 cores are going to look here as well. We’re going to test against both.

The TR3990X is part of the Threadripper 3000 family, and will partner its 32 core and 24 core brethren in being paired with new TRX40 motherboards. Despite the same socket as the previous generation Threadrippers, AMD broke motherboard compatibility this time around in order to support PCIe 4.0 from the CPU to the chipset, allowing for higher bandwidth configurations for extra controllers. We’ve covered all 12 of the TRX40 motherboards on the market in our motherboard and chipset overview, with a lot of models focusing on 3x PCIe 4.0 x16 support, multi-gigabit Ethernet onboard, Wi-Fi 6, and one even adding in Thunderbolt 3.

ASUS ROG Zenith II Alpha Motherboard, Built for 3990X

All the Threadripper 3000 family CPUs support a total of 64 PCIe 4.0 lanes from the CPU, and another 24 from the chipset (however each of these use eight lanes to communicate with each other). There are four memory channels, supporting up to DDR4-3200 memory, and each CPU has a rated TDP of 280 W. We’ve tested the 3970X and 3960X when those CPUs were launched – you can read the review here.

AMD Zen 2 Socketed CPUs
AnandTech Cores/
Third Generation Threadripper
TR 3990X 64 / 128 2.9 / 4.3 256 MB 4x3200 64 280 W $3990
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
Ryzen 3000
Ryzen 9 3950X 16 / 32 3.5 / 4.7 64 MB 2x3200 24 105 W $749

The new CPU, the 3990X, comes at the hefty price of $1 per 'X' (because it's called the 3990X and costs $3990, get it?). With 64 cores it has a rated base frequency of 2.9 GHz, and a turbo of 4.3 GHz. In our testing, we saw the single core frequency go as high as 4.35 GHz, above the rated turbo, and the all-core turbo around 3.45 GHz.

CPU-Z showing 4.341 GHz

Who is This CPU Aimed At?

Not everyone needs 64 cores, and AMD has been very clear about this in their messaging. Even though the 3990X is part of AMD’s high-end desktop line, because it’s breaking new ground in core count and price, it sort of goes beyond the high-end, essentially eclipsing the prosumer/server market. This means users (and companies) that can amortize and justify the cost of the hardware as it enables them to complete projects (and therefore contracts) faster. For a user that needs to create something, rather than doing 25 prototypes a week, doing 100 per week makes their workflow a lot more complete, and it’s this sort of user AMD is going after.

Render farms that run on CPU is going to be a key example. AMD has already promoted the fact that several animation and VFX studios that produce effects in blockbuster films have been running engineering samples of the 64-core Threadripper processors for titles already in the market. Then there are video game production houses and architects, that want to rapidly prototype demo models and shorten the time to create each prototype – something that might not be able to be done on GPU (and isn’t AVX-512 accelerated).

The 3990X with 64 cores is $3990, double the cost of the 3970X with its 32 cores at $1999. Doubling the cores is an obvious step up, however there isn’t an increase in memory bandwidth or PCIe lanes, so users need to be sure that the CPU is the bottleneck of their workload.

TR3 3990X AnandTech TR3 3970X
$3990 SEP $1999
64 / 128 Cores/Threads 32 / 64
2.9 GHz Base Frequency 3.7 GHz
3.45 GHz All-Core Freq (As Tested) 3.81 GHz
4.3 GHz Single-Core Frequency 4.5 GHz
64 PCIe 4.0 Lanes 64
8 x DDR4-3200 DDR4 Support 8 x DDR4-3200
256 GB / 512 GB Max DDR4 Capacity 256 GB / 512 GB
280 W TDP 280 W

If we put the 3990X against the EPYC 7702P, the 64-core single socket offering on the enterprise side, then the 3990X has a higher thermal window (280W vs 200W) to enable higher frequencies (2.9/4.3 vs 2.0/3.35) and is cheaper ($3990 vs $4425), but it only has half the memory channels (only 4 compared to 8), half the PCIe lanes (only 64 compared to 128), and no registered memory support. The question here is whether the workload the user is looking at requires more memory/PCIe for the EPYC, or more raw CPU performance for the Threadripper.

Then there’s the competition against the Intel processors. In the high-end desktop market, Intel has nothing to compete, with the maximum product at 18 cores. It does offer a 28-core workstation part, the W-3175X, which is unlocked, with a TDP of 255W, six memory channels, 44 PCIe 3.0 lanes, at a high cost of $2999. Then there’s the server CPUs – if we want parity to the 64 cores of the 3990X, we either need to use a single Xeon Platinum 9282 with 56 cores, which isn’t available without a big contract and it has an unknown price ($25k+?), or dual Xeon Platinum 8280s, with two lots of 28 cores, at a tray price of $20018.

64-core Battle
1 x TR3 3990X AnandTech 2 x Xeon 8280
$3990 Price $20018
64 / 128 Cores/Threads 56 / 112
2.9 GHz Base Frequency 2.7 GHz
3.45 GHz All-Core Freq 3.30 GHz
4.3 GHz Single-Core Freq 4.0 GHz
4.0 x64  PCIe Lanes 3.0 x96
8 x DDR4-3200 DDR4 Support 12 x DDR4-2933
256 GB / 512 GB Max DDR4 Capacity 1536 GB
280 W TDP 410 W

We’re testing against the dual 8280s and the W-3175X as well. Please note our 2x8280 results are from an older review, and so it hasn’t been run on some of our newer benchmarks.

This Review

In this review, we want to cover the Threadripper 3990X in terms of frequency, temperature, power, and performance. There’s a big caveat we have to discuss in terms of operating system choice, which we’ll go into in the next few pages. But our main comparison points are dependent on whether you are a consumer looking at a faster desktop, or an enterprise user looking at an alternative server replacement. We’ll cover both angles here.

Frequency, Temperature, and Power


View All Comments

  • velanapontinha - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    far too many to mention in a comment Reply
  • andrewaggb - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    We use both. Windows server is fine. Very long support, much longer than Ubuntu lts, and it's stable. Reply
  • reuthermonkey1 - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    I'm a Linux dude through and through, but most companies I've worked for use a lot of Windows for their backend systems. I think it's a bad idea, since dealing with Windows Server adds quite a bit to overall costs and complexity, but the financial folks demand it so they pay for it. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    "the financial folks demand it so they pay for it."

    because they've been slaves to Office for decades. no other reason.
  • Ratman6161 - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    There is cost and then there is cost. What does that mean? Well, I'm in a highly regulated environment where if an auditor saw a system that wasn't under manufacturers support, that's an automatic fail. So lets all please get the word "free" out of our vocabulary for this discussion. Linux is definitely not free. The companies that supply Linux distros just bill you for it using a very different licensing model than Microsoft does. To find the real costs, you have to figure the total cost of a system including all hardware and software and all costs associated with each. When you do that, a couple of things become obvious. 1) The cost of hardware is relatively trivial when compared with software licensing. 2) the cost of the operating system, regardless of what that OS is, is also relatively trivial though generally speaking we find that fully supported Linux and Windows end up costing very close to the same. 3) The big costs are for the software that runs on top of the hardware and OS. So saving costs by using Linux is essentially a fantasy.

    RRINKER also had a great point...the vast majority of Windows servers these days are virtual. We tend to have large numbers of small Windows servers dedicated to a particular task. We don't really find this adding complexity.
  • Whiteknight2020 - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    Windows server is way cheaper to administer, configuration with group policy, DSC etc is way easier than messing with ansible, puppet etc. TCO is lower as windows admins are cheaper, SA licensing is on par or cheaper than RHEL/Oracle UK, server core is rock solid. I use & deploy both Linux & Windows, whichever the application runs best or more stable on. Reply
  • dysonlu - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    It's cheaper the same way it is cheaper to outsource. The cost is hidden and usually comes later. Reply
  • PeachNCream - Monday, February 10, 2020 - link

    This is the best approach. The underlying OS should be whatever is best suited to the task it is expected to perform within the limits of the costs running it incurs. Of course, figuring out what might be the best balance between costs and performance can be tricky and a lot of companies do not dedicate the resources to examine options, simply defaulting to something familiar while assuming it is the best choice.. Reply
  • dysonlu - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    Enterprise use Windows because they are pretty tech-illiterate and needs Microsoft support. Nobody will get fired for selecting Microsoft and Windows, even if it'll cost more and your whole IT will be at the mercy of Microsoft.

    But, kickbacks help a lot in the decision making.
  • zmatt - Friday, February 7, 2020 - link

    Many. I would argue most actually. There are certainly some areas where Linux really shines but one place where they aren't just behind but completely non existing is competing with active directory. Most offices still use AD domains, and for good reasons, and Linux doesn't have an answer to it.

    We have a few VM clusters that run redundant DCs. Its the only option because active directory is unique. It isn't perfect, but nobody offers a competing solution. Someone could develop an open source competitor but nobody has.

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