AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2920X & 2970WX Review

👤by David Mitchelson Comments 📅10-01-19

The more we ruminate on the Threadripper project, the more impressed we become with what AMD have achieved. Taking the basic building blocks of the desktop Ryzen and scaling it up to a HEDT platform that rivals workstation performance and features is astounding, and deserves credit for that alone. But how about these two specific examples of the refreshed range?

Comparing these two models – the Threadripper 2970WX and 2920X – is a case study in proper part selection for your use case. In many instances performance is quite similar, notably in lightly-threaded benchmarks which aren’t particularly sensitive to clock speed, but otherwise they can wildly diverge.

Just as the choice between the two for CPU rendering is clear – those twenty-four cores are just too tempting to ignore – so gaming is more closely fought. We judge that the 2970WX is a perfectly capable processor for gaming, but performance similar to the 2920X means that the additional cores are going to waste. One exception however might be VR, if the VRMark results are anything to go by.

Mix up the workloads, or focus on a specific segment that leverages the 2970WX, and AMD’s larger Threadipper swiftly takes the lead. That’s not just versus other AMD CPUs mind you, but the entire HEDT field. Using a high core count Threadripper CPU for gaming, streaming and encoding simultaneously is very much the sort of use case we have in mind for the 2970WX, but it’s the flexibility and enormous headroom that will probably be its biggest selling-point.

It’s not all positive however. Total system power draw is high under load, particularly for the 2970WX, and while temperatures are well under control with our Noctua NH-U12S TR4 (an air cooler specifically designed for Threadripper CPUs) both factors may mandate a particularly robust PSU and cooling solution (the latter of which would ideally support Socket TR4 natively). That should be expected to a certain extent as the 24-core system is effectively running four Ryzen 2600X CPUs at one.

While we’re pleased that 2nd Generation Threadripper retains a great all-core overclocking capability, the results achieved often didn’t measure up to the scale to which frequency was raised. Performance Boost 2 is the culprit here; the smart feature intelligently boosts all-core frequencies by default without needing to get your hands dirty in the BIOS. You can squeeze a little more performance from the CPU in some cases by overclocking (although that trend is reversed in one or two instances where max single/dual core boost is higher than our configured all-core overclock), but so good is the feature that you might as well leave it to defaults unless you’re a true enthusiast.

By the same token, if you’re open to overclocking 1st Generation Threadripper remains a compelling alternative until your demands exceed the 16-core limitation. Transitioning to 12nm has clearly been a benefit to the platform, but the next major technological step isn’t with us just yet and so benefits are marginal. Certainly upgrading a current Threadripper system to the second generation, but at the same core count, isn’t a recommendation.

We should also mention that an effective retiring of the 8-core Threadripper model means that there’s now clear water between the mainstream Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper in terms of multi-core capability and platform price, a state of affairs that we welcome. Muddying the picture with a sub-standard entry level to the HEDT platform does no one any favours, least of all consumers.

And finally, hats off to AMD for viewing their own platform through a critical lens. Dynamic Local Mode is an example of a technology developed by a team that knows their platform has more to offer, isn’t ashamed of overcoming weaknesses, and pushing the performance fix out to every affected consumer.

So to sum up, AMD’s Threadripper remains a platform to be reckoned with into its second generation. More cores, and more cores per dollar/pound spent, will have enthusiasts and ‘prosumer’ content creators queuing up for the 24-core 2970WX at a very reasonable £1160. Meanwhile the 2920X is an excellent entry level point that balances the needs of gamers and content creators on a tighter budget looking for a little more heft. And even as their competition seeks to respond with higher core count CPUs of their own, AMD stand aloft in unrivaled multi-core performance for the High End Desktop segment.

+ Premium packaging
+ Able to cope with big workloads
+ Ideal for intense content creation
+ Significant improvements made since 1st Gen.
+ A better value option over Intel HEDT
+ Easy to overclock

- TR4 specific coolers required
- Big on power consumption

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