It’s been a long wait, but today is an exciting day for those of us here at MMORPG.com. Today, we get to bring you our review of the AMD Ryzen R9 3950X. Featuring an incredible 16-cores and 32-threads of processing power with a boost speed all the way up to 4.7GHz, this CPU has “prosumer” written all over it. Coming to market at a comparatively cheap $749, is this the right CPU for you? We have the answer and this is our review.
- Current Price: $749
- Number of CPU Cores: 16
- Number of Threads: 32
- Base Clock: 3.5GHz
- Max Boost Clock: Up to 4.7GHz
- Total L1 Cache: 1MB
- Total L2 Cache: 8MB
- Total L3 Cache: 64MB
- Unlocked: Yes
- CMOS: TSMC 7nm FinFET
- Package: AM4
- PCI Express Version: PCIe 4.0 x16
- Thermal Solution (PIB): Cooler Not Included, Liquid Cooling Recommended
- Default TDP / TDP: 105W
- System Memory Specification: 3200MHz
- System Memory Type: DDR4
- Memory Channels: 2
Earlier this year, we took a look at the 3700X and 3900X and were blown away. Keeping it short and sweet, the level of sheer processing power both of those CPUs offered for the cost was nothing short of game-changing. Ever since, Intel has been on the ropes, struggling to catch up despite being stuck on the 14nm manufacturing process. AMD has delivered exactly the kind of shake-up the CPU market needed and the kind of value proposition consumers crave. Simply put, if you need multi-threaded performance, you look to AMD.
Today, we’re finally able to take a look at the peak of the Ryzen 3000 consumer product line with the R9 3950X. It’s a 16-core, 32-thread performance powerhouse with a base clock of 3.5GHz and an impressively high boost frequency of 4.7GHZ. It also offers a whopping 64MB of L3 cache to speed up its processing potential. Even writing these specs out is surreal considering that we’re talking about a consumer-level part. Not long ago, the only way to find specs of this caliber in a CPU was to look to the HEDT space where you could easily spend over $1000. The 3950X is still pricey at $749 but in comparison to competing CPUs, it’s remarkably well-priced.
As a Ryzen 3000 processor, it also brings with it other benefits. Improved power efficiency is a big one, especially with this many cores. The default TDP is a power-sipping 105W. Compare that to Intel’s similarly 16-core/32-thread i9-9960X which requires 165W while also running at a lower speed for twice the cost. Perhaps a better comparison, if slightly skewed in core count is the i9-10980XE, which offers two more cores for that higher TDP, but still falls short in cache, frequency, and price.
Likewise, it also offers PCI Express 4.0 which allows for vastly improved bandwidth versus PCI-E Gen 3. A Gen 4 NVME drive, for example, can easily hit 5 GB/s in transfer speed compared to the <3.5 GB/s found on Gen 3. AMD’s graphics cards already take advantage of PCI-E 4.0, though the impact is limited and will likely become apparent over the coming few years.
The 3950X also makes an excellent platform for enthusiasts that want the potential for lots of speedy drives and multiple graphics cards. The CPU alone supports 24 high-speed lanes. 16 of these can support graphics, leaving an additional 8 for full speed NVME storage. The X570 chipset also delivers an 16 lanes, which provides plentiful headroom for future expansion.
The only concern really comes in the form of cooling. AMD says the CPU is “optimized for liquid cooling.” That’s interesting, because the TDP is quite reasonable. Yet, this makes sense should you plan to overclock or should the quoted TDP turn out to be lower than real-world numbers. Generally speaking, however, when you’re running a high core count CPU, it’s a good idea to pair it with a good AIO to prevent thermal throttling.
Do You Need a 16-Core CPU?
There’s lots of potential here, but do you actually need a 16-core CPU? If you’re a streamer or content creator, the benefits quickly become apparent but for the average gamer, no. Your money would be better spent buying a lower core count CPU, overclocking it, and investing the savings into a better GPU. If you multi-task, streaming games, or rendering videos, however, the 3950X will save you time and make you better at what you do.
Each of those activities I mentioned involve heavy CPU use (as well as DRAM). If you’re running a single machine instead of dual-boxing for your live-stream, the average quad-core isn’t going to cut it. This is especially true if you run a stream with a lot of plug-ins and live to keep a browser open on the side to monitor chat. Even a quad-core with hyper-threading is likely to buckle under the weight of such process tasks of active encoding, broadcasting, and managing each of the background activities that let you game stream comfortably without dropping frames.
In my case, I tend to render movies more than I stream. The additional cores of the 3950X lower rendering times, which increases the speed of my workflow. That’s invaluable to me, because it means I can get back to using my computer with less downtime.
If all you’re doing is gaming, though, this really isn’t the CPU for you. It’s for creators, prosumers, and enthusiasts who want the best of the best. Even then, there’s headroom here that will save you from needing to upgrade for a good long time.
With all that said, let’s see how it actually performs.
AMD Test System: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master Motherboard, NZXT Kraken Z73 AIO Cooler, G.Skill TridentZ Royal DDR4-3600MHz 16GB DRAM Kit, RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply.
Intel Test System: ASUS ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming Motherboard, NZXT Kraken X72 360mm CPU cooler, 32GB ADATA XPG D41 DDR4-3200 DRAM Kit, RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition, 1TB Samsung 970 PRO NVME SSD, 1TB WD Black NVME SSD, 1TB WD Blue 2.5” SATA SSD, 1TB, Crucial MX500 2.5” SATA SSD, 10TB WD Gold HDD, EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 Watt Power Supply.
After running the 3950X through its battery of tests, it performed like the multi-core champ I expected it to. Simply put, if you’re running tasks that take advantage of all those cores, this processor is the hands-down champ in the consumer space. Your next step up would be a Threadripper or an Intel X-series; but, the chances are that if you’re considering buying this CPU, you’re already savvy enough to know whether or not that big of a leap makes sense for you.
When it comes to single-core performance, the 3950X drops its first place ranking but does admirably well. The IPC improvements and out-of-the-box clock speed really go a long way toward making the 3950X a well-rounded CPU.
One thing you shouldn’t look to this CPU for is massive FPS improvements in modern games from the 3700X or 3900X. For this review, I refreshed our game list to bring it in line with modern games used across the tech review space. In the five AAA titles I tested, the 3950X performed better in some and worse in others. With the exception of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, these results are close enough where I would contend that it really doesn’t matter for what you’ll actually feel and perceive in games. There is a trade-off that often occurs where higher core counts frequently translates to slightly less FPS. Looked at in that light, I would even argue that the 3950X does remarkably well in making that trade-off absolutely minor where it exists at all.
Temperatures and Overclocking
Overclocking the R9 3950X proved to be quite difficult. AMD has been diligent about picking, or binning, processors that are already approaching their maximum speed in this generation. Due to the high core-count here, aiming for an all-core overclock can yield performance gains but at the expense of high temperature. As a result, the all-core clock must be lower than the boost clock frequency which does not utilize all of the cores at one time.
In my testing, I was able to achieve a stable all-core overclock of 4.2 GHz. I had to increase voltage to 1.41V. Doing so definitely saw an increase in temperatures, however.
Using the NZXT Z73 Platinum, I found the R9 3950X to be particularly variable in temperatures. When idling, the CPU would often hover between 40-50C. It was very common to see it rise above 50C if any background process kicked in. Interestingly, under load it rarely ever broke 75C. I remounted the AIO twice with the same result, making sure to apply even pressure. It seems this is just how my sample is.
When overclocking, however, my temperatures would spike above 80C. While that’s still a safe temperature, I personally prefer cooler temperatures and longevity over a modest performance boost, so I defaulted back to stock settings.
If you’re the kind of gamer that enjoys streaming, working in creative programs, or does a lot of mult-tasking, there’s wisdom in buying into a higher core-count CPU. The 3950X is the top of the consumer space in that regard. Compared to other consumer CPUs, it might seem expensive but it effectively bridges the gap between the consumer and HEDT sectors, giving those of us who want a lot of cores but don’t need other expensive features a mor cost-effective option than we’ve ever had. To the audience that would want a 16-core CPU, the 3950X is outstanding and well worth the purchase.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.