AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX review

More speed than you need

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Our Verdict

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX is an intoxicatingly powerful HEDT processor that features the highest specs we’ve seen yet and the performance to back it up.

For

  • Technically better value than Intel
  • Highest performance we’ve seen yet

Against

  • One power hungry beast
  • Not all applications are 32-core optimized

The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX features a baffling 32-cores, 64-threads and some of the best high-end desktop CPU performance we’ve seen. It’s a ridiculous processor very few users will need for their personal computing, but for power users and creatives, though, there isn’t a more powerful processor than this and that’s including last year’s best HEDT CPU, the Intel Core i9-7980XE.

Spec sheet:

Cores: 32
Threads: 64
Base clock: 3.0GHz
Boost clock: 4.2GHz
L3 cache: 32MB
TDP: 250W 

Price and availability

Priced at $1,799 (£1,639, AU$2,679), the Threadripper 2990WX is AMD’s most expensive consumer processor. That price tag far outpaces the company’s previous flagship Threadripper processor, the 16-core and 32-thread Ryzen Threadripper 1950X that launched at $999 (£845, AU$1,329) almost exactly a year ago on August 13, 2018.

Despite such a high price, you could do worse by paying for the even more expensive $1,999 (£1,649, AU$2,729) Intel Core i9-7980XE, which only sports 18-cores but a higher 4.4GHz boost clock speed. If you look at the Threadripper 2990WX from a core-per-dollar value proposition, AMD is clearly in the lead here – so long as you’re prepared to spend close to two-grand for a CPU.

Features and chipset

Of course, AMD isn’t just increasing core counts with Ryzen Threadripper 2nd Generation. These new high-end desktop processors also come built upon the chipmaker’s 12nm Zen+ architecture, which allows for up to 200MHz higher clock speeds as well as reducing the amount of core voltage required at any frequency by 80-120mV.

AMD has also introduced enhanced versions of Ryzen Threadripper’s staple features. Precision Boost 2, for example, still adjusts CPU frequencies down to 25MHz increments, but now with the help of an algorithm that ensures the processor intelligently runs at its thermal and electrical limit when tasked.

It’s staggering to see AMD pull so far ahead over the Intel Core i9-7980XE in Cinebench (multi-core)

Extended Frequency Range 2 (XFR2), meanwhile, can now enable up to 16% additional processor performance across any number of cores and threads. That’s a capability previously limited to a small number of cores on original Ryzen Threadripper chips. Furthermore, AMD has introduced Precision Boost Overdrive, which allows its HEDT CPUs to exceed their specifications and max out their power draw from the abundant VRMs on X399 motherboards.

The 2990WX features some special sauce the rest of the Ryzen Threadripper 2nd Generation family doesn’t: its 32-cores are split into four core complexes that are all connected symmetrically by AMD’s patented Infinity Fabric. This basically allows each of the processor’s octa-core quadrants to access any of the CPU’s total 64 PCIe lanes and quad-channel memory.

What really hasn’t changed is that all Ryzen Threadripper 2nd Generation CPUs are backwards compatible with any X399 motherboard. This comes as a boon as you can plug the 2990WX or any of its underlings into older sTR4 socketed motherboards. However, this means also AMD’s HEDT platform hasn’t progressed to include additional PCIe lanes.

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Test system specs

GPU: Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti (8GB GDDR5X VRAM)
RAM: 32GB G.Skill Trident Z RGB (DDR4 3,200MHz)
Motherboard: Asus ROG Zenith Extreme
Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W
Storage: 500GB Samsung 970 Evo M.2 SSD (NVMe PCIe 3.0 x4)
Cooling: NZXT Kraken x62
Operating system: Windows 10

Performance

As we had hoped, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX delivers the best performance we’ve seen from a high-end desktop processor yet.

It’s staggering to see AMD pull so far ahead over the Intel Core i9-7980XE in Cinebench (multi-core). Furthermore, our graphs depict the incredible evolution we’ve seen in the HEDT space over the last two years.

Here the bad news: Geekbench and HandBrake show the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX to be severely underperforming, but this is likely due to early release jitters and the applications likely not recognizing all the cores. Cinebench shows what’s this CPU is capable of and we’ll be retesting the processor again in a few weeks to see if compatibility with Geekbench and HandBrake have improved.

In terms of gaming, the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX consistently matches the frame rates the Intel Core i9-7980XE puts out – this is also true compared to the older Ryzen Threadripper 1950X. 

However, no one should really spend close to two-grand for this CPU just to game with it. Those looking for the highest frame rates in games would be better off picking up a mainstream processor like Intel Core i7-8700K and AMD Ryzen 7 2700X that outperform their respective HEDT cousins.

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As good as this processor is at being a uni-tasker in our benchmark tests, the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX truly sings when you max out its multi-tasking capabilities.

While setting up the test bench to benchmark this CPU, we were gleefully unzipping a dozen folders at a time while installing a handful of applications simultaneously. Likewise, the processor happily exports some 30 odd images in Lightroom, while exporting a short video in Adobe Premiere and still delivers a solid 60fps as we play Overwatch on Epic settings.

The Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX can basically take on any intensive processor-based task you throw at it and it’ll still have plenty of performance left over to handle another two or three workloads.

Final verdict

The Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX brings the biggest specs on a consumer CPU yet and it has the performance to back it up. Of course, it isn’t necessarily for everyone. At $1,799 (£1,639, AU$2,679), it’s a steep price to pay for a single chip, and even those that can afford it should also think twice about whether or not they need truly need all this processing power.

If you want the best CPU performance in 2018, the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX is an intoxicatingly powerful processor. It just makes everything fast and is readily willing to take any number of tasks you throw at it. Specifically, if you’re looking for a processor to minimize your down time of having to watch as things render, this really is the HEDT CPU for you.