AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X


AMD has lifted the review embargo on their new flagship AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X HEDT processor. Because of this, many outlets have posted reviews of this high end desktop processor today. I thought I would give you some of my initial thoughts about this processor.

First of all, this thing is an absolute beast. It is very expensive compared to a typical desktop processor, but it also has an amazing amount of compute horsepower. For professional content creators with the right types of workloads, it is worth every penny. The increased productivity they will see will quickly pay for a system based on this processor. For most “normal” usage, it is overkill, and you will be much happier with a less expensive mainstream desktop processor.

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X
AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X

AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X Specifications

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X processor is a 7nm Zen 2 processor with 64 cores and 128 threads. It has a base clock speed of 2.9 GHz and a max boost clock speed of up to 4.3 GHz. There is 4 MB of L1 cache, 32 MB of L2 cache, and 256 MB of L3 cache. The processor supports four memory channels of 3200 MHz DDR4 memory, with eight memory slots. This means you are practically limited to 256 GB of unbuffered RAM. This might be an issue for some HEDT workloads. There are 88 PCIe 4.0 lanes, which gives you a lot of capacity for storage, graphics and network I/O.

AMD 64-Core Topology
AMD 64-Core Topology

Threadripper System Cost

If you want a system with this processor, it is going to cost a significant amount of money. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X processor is currently $3,990.00 at Micro Center. A TRX40 chipset motherboard will be between $370 and $850. Eight 32GB sticks of DDR4-3200 RAM for this system would be $1,300.00. If you get a 360mm AIO water cooler for that CPU, that will be about $200.00. I think you are starting to get the picture here!

Here is a more complete parts list, using mostly high-end components.

  • $4,000.00 AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X processor
  • $1,400.00 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti video card
  • $1,300.00 256 GB of DDR4-3200 RAM
  • $1,300.00 960GB Intel Optane 905P storage card (for a boot drive)
  • $850.00 TRX40 motherboard
  • $400.00 2TB Corsair MP600 M.2 PCIe 4.0 storage card
  • $300.00 Relatively high-end case
  • $200.00 Relatively high-end power supply
  • $200.00 360mm AIO water cooler for the CPU

That is $9,750.00, before sales tax. You could spend less on some components, but you could also spend much more on some of them. I would say that most people don’t really need a system like this. If you do actually need this kind of compute power for professional work, then this is a bargain!

Budget Considerations

If you don’t want to spend $10K for a system like this, there are more affordable alternatives! We could build a 3rd Generation Threadripper system with a 24C/48T AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3960X processor. You could pick less expensive components, depending on your workload. Someone might start out with “only” 64 GB of RAM and less expensive storage. You could select a far less expensive video card for most scenarios.

Another alternative would be to build a system using a mainstream desktop processor. An Intel-based system could use a Core i9-9900K with 8C/16T. A better choice for non-gaming usage would be an AMD Zen 2 processor like the Ryzen 9 3950X. If you are willing to spend perhaps $2,000-$3,000, we could build a very powerful system. You can actually build a very nice mainstream system for quite a bit less than that!

Selected Reviews

If you want to see some of the reviews that have already been posted, here is a list:

Final Words

If you do get an AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X processor, make sure you use Windows 10 Pro for Workstations or Windows 10 Enterprise. Otherwise, you will see some performance issues from the Windows scheduler because of the high logical core count. Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Professional will both run into this. You also might consider running Linux.

Honestly, this is a halo, niche product. It is a great choice if you are actually CPU bound for certain types of workloads. This is not the best choice for your average, typical desktop workload because of the high cost. Most non-server software doesn’t really handle this many cores and threads very well.

On the other hand, this processor does much better on lightly threaded workloads than the older AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990X. If you wanted to do some gaming in between your paying work, the 3990X will perform quite well. But, if gaming is your main focus don’t buy this processor!

I have written several recent previous posts about mainstream AMD desktop processors:

Please let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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