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AMD Ryzen 9 7900X and Ryzen 9 7950X Review

Top of the Pack

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

Last week, we took a look at the Ryzen 5 7600X and Ryzen 7 7700X. Both of those chips offered excellent performance for gamers and content creators with mid-sized budgets. Today, we’re looking at the top of AMD’s release stack with the Ryzen 9 7900X and 7950X. Featuring up to 16 cores and 32 threads of performance on the 7950X, 12 cores and 32 threads on the 7900X and fast top clock speeds, these chips offer class-leading performance that blends single-core burst speeds with high multi-threaded tasks. At $549 and $649 respectively, are these chips worthy of your upgrade dollars? Find out in this review!

Specifications

The Ryzen 9 7900X and 7950X - Overview, Specs, Temps, and Changes

When we introduced the new generation in last week’s review, we spent a lot of time discussing the major changes coming with the Ryzen 7000 series and AM5 platform as a whole. We’ll still include that below just in case you happened to miss that article, but before we do, it’s worth taking a look at both of these chips on their own. They’re impressive, and as the current top two processors in the Zen 5 consumer release stack, a deeper dive is certainly warranted. 

Beginning with the Ryzen 9 7900X, this is a chip designed for enthusiasts. At $549, it has price parity with last generation’s R9 5900X and delivers the same 12 cores and 24 threads of performance. Clock speed have gotten a major boost, jumping from a maximum clock speed of 4.8GHz last generation to 5.6GHz today. It also has more cache to work with, keeping the same 64MB of L3 cache but increasing from 6MB of L2 cache to 12MB with this release. The result is a fairly large boost to performance in benchmarks, 3D and video rendering, and an improvement to in-game FPS. 

The 7950X is the most performant chip of the release cycle, offering 16 cores and 32 threads, more cache, and higher clocks with a suggested retail price that $100 less than last generation. The maximum clock speed on the Ryzen 9 5950X was 4.9GHz but the 7950X received a similar 800MHz bump to the 7900X, topping out at 5.7GHz. The L2 cache has also been doubled to 16MB, giving this a total cache count of 16MB (L2) + 64MB (L3). 

It’s not all clock speeds and cache, however. AMD has made numerous improvements to the architecture of Zen 4, so be sure to read through the next section to find out exactly what’s changing under the hood. 

Both processors are fully unlocked for overclocking. Like last generation, they utilize AMD’s Precision Bost 2 algorithm to intelligently maximize their performance. The way that this generation works is a bit different, however. Like graphics cards, Zen 4 chips are designed to hit their thermal limit ahead of their power limit. In practice, this means that even the lowest chip, the Ryzen 5 7600X, will hit its 95C thermal limit when under intense load.

There are several important things to note here. First, this is by design. Ahead of these reviews, AMD was very clear that these chips are designed to run at 95C constantly without any damage or shortening of their lifespan. As a longtime PC builder, seeing those numbers makes me a bit uncomfortable, but there shouldn’t be any risk of harm to your system. By doing this, each chip is able to maximize its frequency and performance. 

The second thing to know about this design is that it means your overall performance will be contingent on your cooling solution. For both of these processors, AMD recommends an all-in-one liquid cooler of 240mm or more in size. Bearded Hardware has been seeing great results using an IceGiant air cooler, but these are not chips you should strap with Hyper212 and call it a day.

The last thing to note is that these are not gaming temperatures. In our testing, the processors only hit their TJMax when under intense load with synthetic benchmarks. For gaming, and running background programs like OBS during, temperatures were typically between 75-83C.

The performance on these chips is impressive, as you’ll soon see, but both consume more power to achieve that performance. TDPs have been bumped to 170W from last generation’s 105W, with total socket draw limited to 230W. That’s… steep. We’re in a time when all of our components are pushing the power boundaries, so be sure you have a power supply that’s able to drive your components when these processors use in excess of 170W. Simply put, with modern designs, 170W’s is a conservative figure and neither chip is afraid to draw more. 

With that said, the performance per watt is significantly better than last generation. The move to a 5nm processing node allows these kinds of gains without the 1:1 we would see from simply increasing the clock speed, as has been the case with team blue. So, you’re getting more for each watt, but it’s important to be aware of modern TDP specs and how they play out in real world tests. 

While neither is a mid-range chip or targeted at even mainstream gamers, there is a lot of appeal here if you step outside those bounds. If you plan to create videos for YouTube, for example, those extra cores, threads, and clocks can absolutely speed up your rendering times, stream smoothness, and overall system performance. They aim high and are designed for it, but if you only see yourself doing these things intermittently or on a hobbyist basis, it’s safe to look at the 7600X and 7700X. 

Ryzen 7000 Series - Big Changes and Improvements

The Ryzen 7000 series promises major improvements, whether you’re a gamer, content creator, or a first-time builder looking to achieve the most bang for the buck. In AMD’s testing, it delivered a 13% IPC uplift compared to last generation, while also offering improvements to energy efficiency thanks to its 5nm fabrication process. The company also claims major improvements to single-core workloads, boosting performance up to 29% — a figure that should have a direct impact on gaming performance and Ryzen’s competitive performance with Intel. 

The 7000 series launches with four major SKUs to start. In this review, we’ll be looking at the Ryzen 9 7900X and 7950X. The R9 7900X features 12 cores and 24 threads with a maximum clock speed of 5.6GHz. The 7950X is the top-tier chip and offers 16 cores and 32 threads with a maximum clock speed of 5.7GHz. L3 Cache on these CPUs is 64MB but the combined totals are a whopping 76MB and 80MB respectively. TDP is expectedly higher at 170W with a socket power spec of 230 watts. 

The other two chips being released are the Ryzen 5 7600X and Ryzen 7 7700X. The R5 7600X features 6-cores/12-threads and features a maximum boost clock of 5.3GHz. The Ryzen 7 7700X features 8-cores/16-threads and a boost clock of 5.4GHz. Both CPUs sport 32MB of L3 Cache. When you combine L2 and L3 cache stores, the 7700X comes out slightly ahead with 40MB but the 7600X is close behind with 38MB. The TDP of both chips is the same at 105W with a maximum socket power spec of 142W. 

Each chip has a higher frequency than last generation, something that pays immediate dividends in in-game FPS. The highest tier part, the 7950X, even offers up to 29% higher single-core performance. Just as interesting is that the 7900X and 7950X purport to offer all-core workload speeds of 5.2GHz. These are big improvements that can lead to noticeably better performance in games, apps, and benchmarks. 

The 7000 series brings a number of improvements to the CPU core microarchitecture, enhancing elements such as branch prediction and increasing the Op Cache to increase the performance capability of this generation. The core now supports AVX-512 instructions for enhanced AI and machine learning applications.

The I/O die has also been enhanced in meaningful ways for everyday users. JEDEC memory speed support has been dramatically increased from 3200MHz to 5200MHz from last generation (more on that in a moment). Every chip now has basic RDNA 2 graphics for easier troubleshooting and accessibility for business applications. The chip also now features 28 PCIe 5.0 lanes to support your graphics card and multiple M.2 NVMe SSDs. 

While the TDP of each processor has gone up since the 5000 series, the power efficiency is much higher at 40% more performance per watt. If that TDP is too high for you, each chip also features an Eco Mode that shifts the CPU to a lower TDP (for example, 170W to 105W and 105W to 65W). (Editor’s Note 10/1/22: As of this writing, the Eco Mode in Ryzen Master puts all chips to 65 watts, which significantly reduces performance on the Ryzen 9 CPUs. Therefore, we recommend not to use Eco Mode on these chips until an update is released). Eco Mode also reconfigures the processor’s other parameters to match this lower power setting, as if it were designed for that lower spec straight out of the box. Impressively, AMD claims the processing improvements of this generation still allow for competitive and sometimes continued improved performance compared to the 5000 series when locked to these lower TDP settings. 

Another set of major changes with this generation comes with the memory. As we discussed above, the default speed is much higher than last generation, but overclocking has now been standardized and simplified with the introduction of AMD Expo. Like Intel’s XMP, Expo is a one-click overclocking standard to quickly and easily get your memory running up to its full speed. Memory kits certified for Expo will also have to publish full self-certification reports detailing the components and settings they used to certify that rated speed. It’s quick compatibility guarantee that simplifies the PC building and upgrading process. 

AMD has also made changes to the Infinity Fabric. In the 5000 series, the sweet spot for DDR4 memory was 3600MHz. While you could use memory that ran at higher speeds, the Infinity Fabric would run out of sync with the memory speed, decreasing performance. This generation, the Infinity Fabric speed defaults to 2000MHz, but only so long as your memory kit is DDR5-4800 to DDR5-6000. Anything higher and the fabric’s ratio with the memory changes. As a result, the sweet spot for memory speed and performance this generation is 6000MHz. 

Also important to note is that these advanced speeds are only available on two DIMM kits. I’ve heard from some insider contacts that this could potentially change as the platform matures, but if you’re looking to fill out all four DIMM slots, you’ll be limited to 3600MHz only. 

While it’s possible to manually overclock these chips, AMD recommends utilizing Precision Boost Overdrive to simplify the process. Ryzen 5000 series processors weren’t great overclockers, but that could change here. More on this in the overclocking section of this review (see below). 

One change that’s poised to be rather alarming is how these new CPUs manage thermals. Under heavy load, AMD expects these chips to hit their maximum temperature of 95C fairly often. They note that this is an intentional design decision made to maximize performance and that the chips are designed to run safely at this temperature “24/7 without risk of damage or deterioration. 

Pricing on these new processors begins at $699 for the 7950X and $549 for the 7900X. These are chips designed for more serious creators and enthusiasts and will be overkill for pure gaming, web browsing, and productivity tasks. The Ryzen 7 7700X and the Ryzen 5 7600X are the more mainstream performance parts and retail for $399 and $299 respectively.

The AM5 Platform

First introduced in 2016, the AM4 platform had a legendary run, but AMD is finally ready to move on to its next-generation solution. With the new Zen 4 chips, the company is debuting AM5 to the world. It offers major improvements to power delivery and connectivity, as well as support for DDR5 memory and PCI Express 5.0. 

Compared to last generation, the advantages of AM5 are plain to see. The new LGA1718 socket makes installation easier and less likely to result in a damaged CPU for new builders. DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 are both much faster, forward thinking solutions for graphics and add-in components, as well as memory, directly increasing gaming and application performance. Improved communication between the voltage and thermal components results in more stable power delivery, increasing the reliability and capability of your system. There’s also improved USB, display, and audio connectivity. 

The AM5 platform is also excellent for PCI Express lanes. In addition to the 28 lanes provided by the CPU itself, up to 20 additional are available for different components you may want to add to your system. This count is decreased by up to eight lanes the more SATA peripherals you use, but there should be plenty to fully outfit a system with a top of the line GPU and multiple NVMe SSDs with lanes to spare.

The new socket will be supported in four new motherboard tiers. X670 and X670 Extreme motherboards will launch alongside the new chips in September. These top tier boards come at high prices but offer all of the features described above in some truly unique, feature-packed designs. 

More affordable B650 and B650 Extreme versions will launch in October. The more affordable versions will offer scaled back USB connectivity and four fewer lanes. 

Corsair Vengeance DDR5 EXPO Memory 

While AMD provided a platform kit to complete this review, Corsair supplied us with a kit of its Vengeance RGB DDR5 memory to swap in for testing. Having had excellent experiences with Corsair’s Vengeance memory throughout the entirety of the Ryzen 5000 series lifespan, I decided to utilize the same here to add consistency between generations. 

The Vengeance RGB DDR5 kit has a number of advantages if you’re looking for a kit to pair with your new Zen 4 processor. The first, in my opinion, is Corsair’s long history in the memory space. They’ve been a leader in memory performance, speed, and reliability for years. This is what drew me to them in the first place and has kept me with them ever since. 

The second reason is that their kits are fast and EXPO certified. The kits sent over for our review bench is a 16GB (2x8GB) kit clocked to 6000MHz — right in the sweet spot. Just as importantly, it features a fast CL30 latency. It’s one of the fastest kits you can find in terms of latency and should offer some of the best performance results possible on the AM5 platform. 

The other reason is the incredible RGB lighting they offer. The Vengeance series is, in my opinion, the best memory available for customizable RGB lighting. The upper edge features large, full-length diffusers to evenly spread lighting without hotspotting. It’s bright and looks great. 

Just as importantly, every LED is independently color customizable and can be easily synced within the company’s iCUE software. My personal system is thunderstorm themed using Corsair’s prior generation Vengeance DIMMs. While the RGB fans flash with a lighting-like effect on a purple background, the memory sticks mimic raindrops to complete the picture. The potential within iCUE is exceptional for an RGB-centric gaming rig and memory kits sit front and center to draw the eye. 

Is RGB the end-all-be-all of memory? Not even close. But when you’re building your personalized gaming rig, being able to tailor its look allows you to make it uniquely yours. The Corsair Vengeance RGB kit allows you to do that while also offering top-shelf performance and official EXPO certification. 

At the time of this writing, pricing is currently unknown. Based on the low latency speeds of the particular kit I was sent, I expect pricing to be around $300 but will update this article as official prices become available. 

Ryzen 9 7950X and 7900X - Performance Testing

AMD Test System #1: MSI X670 MEG Ace Motherboard, Corsair H115i RGB Platinum AIO, Corsair DDR5-6000 Vengeance RGB Memory (32GB), Nvidia RTX 3090, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1000i Power Supply, Windows 11 (fully updated).

AMD Test System #2: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master Motherboard, Corsair H115i RGB Platinum AIO, Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4-3600 (64GB), Nvidia RTX 3090, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1000i Power Supply, Windows 11 (fully updated).

Intel Test System #1: MSI Z690 MPG Carbon WiFi, Corsair iCUE Elite LCD 360mm, Corsair DDR5-6000 Vengeance RGB Memory (32GB), Nvidia RTX 3090, Samsung 970 Pro NVMe 1TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply, Windows 11 (fully updated).

Intel Test System #2: ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme, Corsair iCUE Elite LCD 360mm, G.Skill TridentZ Royal DDR4-3600MHz 32GB DRAM Kit, Nvidia RTX 3090, Samsung 970 Pro NVMe 1TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply, (fully updated).

Important Update (11/22): We have since learned of an issue with our memory kit that may have been producing reduced performance at the time of this review. We are currently working closely with Corsair to validate the problem and will update the results of this review should that prove to be the case.

The test systems used throughout these reviews were built to be as symmetrical as possible. Throughout all of my testing. Tests were conducted in sequence between platforms, taking the components from one system to the next. Given platform support for DDR5 memory, that is a core differentiating factor between both systems for each platform. 

Processing 

Compression

Rendering and Encoding

Gaming

Ryzen 9 7950X and 7900X - Overclocking

Overclocking these CPUs is possible due to the unlocked multiplier. Due to the high temperatures, I would recommend only attempting to do so using an effective liquid cooler. We don’t use any kind of exotic cooling for our testing — only a simple 280mm cooler from Corsair. I had good luck with the 7950X and was able to lock in a 5.4GHz all core overclock at 1.35v. The 7900X was a bit more finicky and could only close in on 5.2GHz while running stable.

With those figures in mind, I did not keep these overclocks following the test. Temperatures in excess of 105C are not something I am comfortable with, particularly when each part is as performant as they are with stock temperatures. In normal gaming tasks, temperatures do not reach as high, so they are viable should you avoid the kind of intensive rendering and benchmarking you would likely choose these CPUs for in the first place. Generally, I think PBO2 does a fine job and maintains a good balance between performance, power, and thermals.

Discussion and Final Thoughts

Now having tested all four of the Ryzen 7000 series CPUs, I can’t help but be very impressed at what AMD has delivered here. There are some major gains being made on the upper end, particularly when you compare with the 5000 series which doesn’t seem all that long ago. The 7950X is an absolute multi-threading beast and the 7900X isn’t far behind. For mainstream consumers, the 7700X and 7600X are good options, with the edge clearly going to the 7700X for total value, in my opinion.

Against Intel, we still see the Performance core design netting them some wins and close calls in performance. With the 13000 series right around the corner, they’re likely to pull ahead in further. That will make for some tough calls in value, but there’s another angle here where AMD will maintain an edge.

Performance per watt. While Intel continues to ratchet things up on their current process node, AMD has moved to smaller 5nm designs that allow them to deliver more with the wattage they have. Total wattage has crept up on both sides, but with the launch of new power-hungry GPUs on top, we’re coming to a place where PC builders will need to reconsider the output of their power supplies. I’ve had to do exactly that very recently. If you’re building a top of the line system with one of these high performance chips and an equal GPU, it seems like 1000 watts or more is pretty much a necessity — especially if you have lots of RGB in your system. 

All of that aside, Zen 4 is a winner. I’m very curious to see the product stack continue to evolve. At $300 for the lowest chip and B-series motherboards not coming for a few more weeks, budget builders are still waiting for an accessible entry point. If these current chips are any indication, there’s a lot to look forward to across this generation, and we’re here for it.

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Outstanding multi-threaded performance
  • Solid performance gains over last generation
  • Ryzen 9 7950X is a powerhouse and suggested retail pricing is $100 less than last generation
  • AMD EXPO is straightforward and easy
  • Killer rendering and benchmarking aptitude
Cons
  • High temps make water cooling a necessity
  • High power draw (but higher performance per watt thanks to generational uplift)
  • Pricing places them out of reach for all but the highest enthusiasts and prosumers


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight