I don’t normally write up individual CPU sales or deals, but AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper 3990X is currently $540 off its $3,990 base price. That corresponds to a price cut of ~14 percent, which is fairly significant for a chip in this market segment.
I spent quite a bit of time with the 3990X earlier this year, including an early effort to hit a world record overclock courtesy of Mother Nature. For a brief window of time earlier this year, ET held the second-highest Cinebench R20 score, though other overclockers with access to LN2 have since hit higher performance levels. You can grab the chip on Amazon if you’re interested.
Is the 3990X a Good Investment?
The 3990X is the fastest x86 CPU you can buy today for certain workloads, but it doesn’t make much sense in others. Whether the chip is worth purchasing comes down to what you’re doing with it. The Windows 10 scheduler is limited to 64 threads in a processor group by default, which means the applications that scale up to the full potential of the CPU are required to have their own schedulers in order to do so.
If you’re willing to overclock the CPU — and you’ve got a motherboard that can handle the load — there’s some serious additional performance to be gained. Setting even a modest all-core frequency of 3.7GHz yielded real improvements over stock, and an all-core 3.7GHz seems likely, considering our chip was capable of an all-core 4.3GHz.
But since we don’t recommend CPUs based on OC performance and overclocking is never a sure thing, the 3990X is going to remain more of an acquired taste than a dedicated enthusiast part. One area where it’s proven spectacularly useful is for mass video encoding. I’ve been running a great many encode tests as part of the Deep Space 9 Upscale Project (DS9UP). The 3990X is capable of handling 15-20 simultaneous file encodes, where the 10980XE begins to sag well below that number. While no single encode can stretch up to 128 threads, having a great many potential threads to throw at individual workloads has proven advantageous.
But while I’ve found an actual, practical use for a 64-core CPU, it’s a decidedly niche application — most people aren’t trying to run dozens of different encode tests simultaneously for the purposes of upscaling a television show. On the whole, the 3990X still represents a “halo” part for AMD, while the 3970X is the competitive top-end part. In workloads that can’t take full advantage of the 3990X, the 3970X’s faster clocks often deliver higher performance.
The cool thing about the 3990X is that if you do need one, it’s a really nice halo.
- From 4.3GHz All-Core Overclocking to SMT Scaling: A Comprehensive Review of the AMD Threadripper 3990X
- The AMD 3990X Pre-Review and Overclocking World Record Attempt
- No, AMD Isn’t Building a 48-Core Ryzen Threadripper 3980X