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Performance Summary, Who Is It For?
With a ton of benchmarking data and we feel like in some ways we're just starting to scratch the surface. Over the next few weeks we'll be spending more time looking into new productivity workloads that we can throw at the 2990WX to try and work out if it's good for anything other than just rendering.
For now let's have a look at some price vs. performance scatter plots before wrapping this review up.
Let's take the POVray data as the 2990WX had its best showing here, it's much faster than the 7980XE while costing slightly less. So for rendering tasks the 2990WX is the bees knees and while it might not offer the best value overall, it certainly provides the best value at the top end of the scale.
The 2950X destroys the Core i9-7900X offering significantly more performance at a reduced price. The only better value option here is the discounted 1950X. Still in POVray both 2nd Gen Threadripper CPUs look great.
The second price vs performance scatter plot we're going to look at is for Adobe Premiere as this pretty much sums up the 2990WX when it's handling a non-rendering task.
Here we see how badly things can go for AMD's new 32-core processor. When encoding with Premiere the 2990WX is considerably worse value than the Core i9-7980XE and therefore every single CPU tested.
You're basically looking at Threadripper 1920X performance for 4x the price. Thankfully the 2950X is again solid and offers the most bang for your buck of any CPU tested.
Who Is It For?
The Threadripper 2990WX certainly is an unusual beast. In short, AMD has made a 32 core CPU that appears quite good for rendering. And that was about as much as we can prove from our standard test suite. The memory limitations do seem to make the 2990WX a very focused product and we're not sure how many users are going to find it useful for powering their workstation, given the inconsistent results.
On the other hand, we have nothing bad to say about the Threadripper 2950X. It does everything well and in our opinion it takes over from the 1950X as the ultimate high-end desktop CPU.
We're still in the process of conducting extensive multi-tasking benchmarks to understand the 2990WX better. So far we think what we're seeing is painting a more positive picture. We're following up with additional testing that's more focused on taking advantage of the 2990WX in the next day or so (Update: now live. We're calling that mega-tasking, check out the results here.)
AMD themselves admit this is a focused product and that's why they have branded this chip to include the 'W. They have also shown in their review guide the 2990WX beating the 7980XE in Corona, Blender, Cinebench, POV-Ray, MAYA and Adobe Dimension. What do all those programs have in common? They're all rendering applications.
Meanwhile the Threadripper 2950X was tested against the Core i9-7900X in HandBrake, TrueCrypt, 7-zip, Premiere and a few rendering applications. So while the 2950X can clearly do it all, AMD is well aware the 2990WX can't, but they're not going to tell you that. Worse still, rather than give you a chance to work out the 32 core model might not be all it's cracked up to be for your particular workload, they took pre-orders for only that part a week in advance.
We voiced these concerns with our AMD contacts over the weekend and they assured us that anyone who is unhappy with how the 2990WX performs can cancel their pre-order and if any money has exchanged hands it will be refunded. So we're not ready to close the book on the 2990WX just yet, but given that there are some obvious shortcomings, we do feel the $1800 asking price is a bit much. The Core i9-7980XE is grossly overpriced as it is, but at least it does everything well and short of the insane asking price, has no weakness.
The 2990WX, on the other hand, not only has the same issue all massively core heavy CPUs have: utilization. Finding software that can fully use it, but the kicker is the software also can't be heavy on memory access, or it will cripple the 2990WX to the point where it's as slow as a mainstream desktop CPU.
This ultimately is the issue with the 2990WX. We would be okay with most software like Premiere not using 64 threads, but in that case the 2990WX should act like a 2950X and as we've seen, it doesn't as it's generally much slower.
So how do you know if your particular workload will cripple the 2990WX? You don't unless someone tests it first. This means you need someone to test drive it for you, and it's not just good enough that they test the software you're using, they have to test it in a manner that's similar to your use case, if not exactly the same.
We'd have been perfectly fine with all this if AMD came out and said, the 2990WX is designed for rendering workloads and due to limited bandwidth, performance might be lower than expected. It's pretty much the Threadripper Pixar edition, no actually, they should have called it the 2990CB, that makes more sense.
But, we're not ready to call it just yet. The TR 2990WX still has more to prove although it won't be the drop in 32-core upgrade replacement I was expecting. Still I will be getting an upgrade and that upgrade will be the real hero here. It's no secret we really liked the 1950X and the 2950X is simply a more refined version, typically offering 5-8% more performance, while coming in $100 less at launch. Right now the TR 1950X is a cracking good buy at $780, but considering the 2950X's introductory price it's amazing value.
The good news is the more affordable Threadripper 2950X becomes the ultimate high-end desktop CPU. We feel many like us will be scraping their 2990WX plans, and most will be moving to the 2950X instead. Of course, if you already have a TR 1950X the 2950X is not a worthwhile upgrade, so your processor hasn't been rendered obsolete by any means.
- AMD Threadripper 1950X on Amazon, Newegg
- AMD Threadripper 2950X on Amazon, Newegg (available Aug 31)
- AMD Threadripper 2990WX on Amazon, Newegg
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X Scorecard
Pros: Takes over its predecessor as the ultimate high-end desktop CPU. The 2950X offers more performance, uses less power and runs cooler than its Core i9 competition. Supports ECC memory, quad-channel memory and more PCIe lanes than regular Ryzen processors.
Cons: Only marginally faster than the TR 1950X. It's not a gaming processor, meaning it performs well but you can get similar gaming performance for less.
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX Scorecard
Pros: The 2990WX is a beastly CPU capable of breaking records on rendering tasks. Other processes that can utilize many cores but are not memory intensive could benefit from the 2990WX.
Cons: Memory bandwidth issues result in inconsistent performance on a variety of tasks. Very expensive. Potentially a one-trick pony that does one thing really, really well, but the others not so much (for the price).