Price vs. Performance, Best Workstation CPUs

Before wrapping things up let’s go over a few performance vs. price scatter plots which give us a good overview of where things stand, starting with Blender. On the graph you want to be positioned as low as possible and as far to the right as possible, lower means cheaper and further right means faster.

The blue dots represent the Intel CPUs tested, and well, they’re all higher and more to the left than the competition. The Threadripper 2920X destroyed the Core i7-7820X for example, it also beats out the Core i9-9900K and in terms of value the first-gen TR 1920X destroys them all.

Meanwhile the 2970WX is much cheaper and faster than the 7960X, so an easy win there. For those taking on 3D rendering tasks the Threadripper series is a must.

When it comes to video encoding we get more mixed results. The ultimate value award again goes to the TR 1920X, but the new 2920X while not as good value as the 1920X, it does beat out the Intel Core i7-7820X by a convincing margin and even edged out the 9900K.

The TR 2950X also does very well but unfortunately the 2970WX and 2990WX are underutilized and have issues with encoding workloads, particularly on Windows 10. At least at the very high-end of things, Intel does come out well on top for this type of workload.

Margins when encoding with Premiere are far less brutal however, and while the 2990WX is worse value than the 7960X you could argue that the 2970WX isn’t, offering reasonable performance for a much lower price. That said, the 2950X makes so much more sense as it’s faster and cheaper. The new TR 2920X roughly matched the 9900K and 7820X. The Intel CPUs were slightly better but it’s a close call.

Closing Remarks

But those graphs don’t tell us everything about this comparison in terms of value. Usually AMD tends to catch Intel out with better motherboard prices along with the inclusion of a decent included cooler, but that’s not the case with Threadripper. The cheapest X399 boards typically cost around $300 whereas X299 boards start at just under $200, this is a factor for those buying the mainstream CPUs on these platforms. For your 16-core+ CPUs you’re probably looking at spending over $400 on a motherboard for either platform. Neither Threadripper or Skylake-X CPUs come with a cooler, so you’re looking at a similar expense there, too.

Where AMD currently has an advantage is in the platform itself, they offer loads of PCIe lanes, ECC memory support and the ability to expand beyond just 18 cores. That last one is a big one, especially when 3rd-gen Threadripper will work on the same boards, so that MSI X399 Creation you spent $500 won’t need to be tossed for a considerable amount of time yet.

But what to buy, and what CPUs make the most sense?

Starting with the Threadripper 2920X, it has an MSRP of $650 which is considerably cheaper than the $800 the 1920X came in at. AMD’s offering 12 cores for the price Intel will give you 8, you get basically 3x the L3 cache and just over twice as many PCIe 3.0 lanes. There were just two tests where the 7820X beat the 2920X and that was single-thread Cinebench and PCMark 10. For everything else AMD’s new 12-core Threadripper part wiped the floor with the 7820X, it was basically a non-contest.

We didn’t have time to retest the Core i9-7900X, but I can assure you with the data we have on hand the 2920X also dominates that part as well, mostly because the 10-core Intel CPU costs over 40% more. That just leaves the 9900K, and honestly, if productivity tasks are the focus then we believe the 2920X is the smarter buy. It will end up costing a little more overall but for applications that utilize the 12-core Threadripper CPU well, a heavily overclocked 9900K will melt trying to keep up.

Of course, if you mostly want to game then the 9900K is a better choice... though we’d recommend you forget the 9900K even exists -- let’s be honest, right now it doesn’t -- and just get Intel's own 8700K, or AMD's 2700X, your choice.

We had nothing bad to say about the 2950X when it launched back in August and it’s the same story with the 2920X in late October. The only issue for the 2920X right now is the first-gen TR 1920X sells for a little over $400, that’s the obvious choice now and if I were in the market for a high-end desktop system that’s what I’d be snapping up before stock runs out.

Then we have the 24-core Threadripper 2970WX which is a 3D rendering beast, just like the 2990WX. Unfortunately right now Windows won’t allow you to get the most out of this processor, so it’s not a CPU we recommend unless you’re using Linux or you are certain it can blast its way through whatever workload you want to throw at it.

Overall we see less reason to invest in Intel’s X299 platform. If AMD didn’t have the high-end desktop market segment all stitched up last year, they certainly do now, seeing how Intel’s remained stubborn and won’t become competitive on pricing (read our editorial on the matter).

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