The era of high-end desktops (HEDT) disappeared a few years ago. Intel’s long-abandoned That is, till now.
AMD’s Threadripper 7000 CPUs are bringing back HEDT, making even the best processors look tiny in comparison. After a generation off, AMD is reviving Threadripper for consumer desktops. This fact alone makes these CPUs important – even you ignore the obscene performance numbers they deliver. AMD has now created a performance class it can call its own, one that straddles the line between flagship consumer chips and data center CPUs where Intel has no alternative.
This doesn’t mean you should buy a Threadripper 7000 CPU. They’re not for everyone, and if you can’t take advantage of the huge core arrays offered, you’ll really be doing your PC a disservice. But anyone who can match the performance of the Threadripper 7000 with equally demanding workloads is in luck.
Wait, how fast?
You may look at a spec sheet and see that AMD’s Threadripper 7000 CPUs are faster, but it’s important to put those numbers in context. I tested two parts: the 32-core Threadripper 7970X and the 64-core Threadripper 7980X. These come with 160MB and 320MB of cache respectively, a total power draw of 350 watts, and the Zen 4 architecture that appears in consumer chips like the Ryzen 9 7950X.
In the Cinebench R23 multi-core test, the Threadripper 7970X is 58% faster than the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X, while the Threadripper 7980X is 147% faster.
The Threadripper 7970X matches the Threadripper 3995WX inside the Lenovo ThinkStation P620, which seems disappointing at first glance. However, the 3995WX is a 64-core processor, meaning the Threadripper 7970X can achieve similar performance with half the cores.
You can see those performance gains in Geekbench 5’s multi-core test, too. Here the Threadripper 7970X is ranked higher than the Threadripper 3995WX, which shows how much faster the Zen 4 chip is compared to the Zen 2 architecture used by it.
Translating this to actual apps, look at scaling in 7-Zip and Blender above. There are big leaps forward in 7-Zip, but rendering entirely on the CPU in Blender shows just how much power these huge core arrays have.
It doesn’t stop here. In Handbrake, both Threadripper CPUs posted record times for transcoding a short video, and in Y-Cruncher, they delivered the highest results I’ve ever recorded. Don’t ignore the few seconds of time-saving you see with Handbrake. Threadripper CPUs complete codecs anywhere from 20% to 37% faster depending on the CPU you’re comparing, and the time savings can add up to exponential growth if you’re transcoding large amounts of video.
However, I have not been completely exposed here. Forgive me. The Threadripper 7970X and 7980X are insanely fast, but they’re also insanely expensive, at $2,500 and $5,000 respectively. With these massive core arrays, it’s no surprise that they beat out $600 and $700 processors like the Core i9-14900K and Ryzen 9 7950X. A quick look at the single-core results in Cinebench and Geekbench shows this clearly. It’s got Zen 4 architecture under the hood – even if it’s running a little slower due to the lower clock speed.
That’s more money for more cores. It’s not a fair fight, but the Threadripper 7000 doesn’t need a fair fight. Looking at what’s available right now – what you can actually buy by going to a retailer or website – the Threadripper 7000 is still in a league of its own.
best by default
Intel introduced its X-series processors almost six years ago. At the time, you could get 18 cores in a desktop processor for a staggering $2,000. AMD launches Threadripper in lockstep, promising 16 desktop cores. These are the norm now, but in 2017, you couldn’t get that kind of multi-core power outside of enterprise contracts and expensive wholesalers.
This is the most recent era of HEDT, but the history of enthusiast desktops goes back to the early 2000s. It was a core count race between AMD and Intel, but by 2020, both companies had lost ground. That core count race won’t take place at a table surrounded by enthusiasts applauding the new Cinebench record. It will take place in a data center, behind closed doors.
|Threadripper 7980X||Threadripper 7970X||Threadripper 7960X|
|cores/threads||64 /128||32/64||24 /48|
|maximum turbo frequency||5.1ghz||5.3ghz||5.3ghz|
The fact that the Threadripper 7000 is available makes it important. Intel has its Xeon chips, and AMD has kept up with its Epic CPUs, but you’ll have a hard time actually buying them. They are sold only through resellers at high markups, through marketplaces such as Newegg, or shipped to workstations through manufacturers such as Lenovo and Dell. If you want to get one direct, to build your own PC as you see fit, you will need to get a direct quotation, and that’s before we tackle getting the motherboard.
This is not the case with the Threadripper 7000. You can go to Micro Center or Newegg and buy a processor like an Intel Core or AMD Ryzen CPU with the right motherboard. AMD is going even further by selling its Threadripper 7000 Pro CPUs this way. They are compatible with TRX50 motherboards, offering up to 96 cores in a desktop you can build yourself.
This costs a lot, but there are applications for huge core arrays in desktops. Professionals who need extra power for transcoding and rendering can easily make their money back compared to typical consumer CPUs, and you can easily split cores into virtual machines to give multiple PCs high-performance CPUs. Can. The Threadripper 7000 is no different from the RTX 4090. You probably don’t need it, but for those who could take advantage of the power, it’s nice to have options outside of expensive resellers and wholesaler rabbit holes.
Even ignoring the price of these chips – you’ll need at least $1,500 even for the 24-core Threadripper 7960X – they’re not the best for every purpose. You shouldn’t just put them on the desktop, even if you have an unlimited budget. In some cases, a regular consumer CPU will still come out on top.
where the threadripper struggles
I’ve already established that the Threadripper 7000 is fast, but for apps that can’t take advantage of multi-core capability, you’ll actually lose performance compared to cheaper consumer processors. A great example of this is PugetBench for Photoshop, the results of which you can see below. Not only does the flagship’s suite easily outperform both Threadripper CPUs, the 64-core Threadripper 7980X is actually slower than the 7970X.
This is not a mistake – AMD provided reference numbers that show similar behavior. There’s also a good explanation why this is so. First, the Threadripper 7000 needs to run at a lower clock speed than typical desktop parts, with the 64-core model running slower than the 32-core and 24-core options. In clock-sensitive applications that do not take advantage of 24 cores and above, they may run slower than regular consumer CPUs.
One great demonstration of this is 3DMark Time Spy. I haven’t subjected these Threadripper chips to the more usual suite of gaming benchmarks — if you’re spending at least $1,500 on a CPU, you’ll probably want to pair it with a high-end graphics card anyway — but 3DMark shows what the clock speed can do. This test is very sensitive to clock speed, allowing cheaper consumer chips to get far higher scores than Threadripper parts.
The same was true in the Leela Chess Zero AI chess engine, where the app was not able to take advantage of the huge number of cores. This resulted in such good performance compared to other options.
Clock speed is one thing, but memory latency is also important. Threadripper requires RDIMMs, which are registered. The specific desktop memory is unregistered. Adding a register creates additional latency on the RDIMMs, which is a compromise you have to make for higher capacity – the Threadripper 7000 supports quad-channel memory with capacities up to 1 TB. This causes memory latency-sensitive apps like Photoshop to show slightly lower performance.
To be clear, the apps where the Threadripper 7000 isn’t as fast as cheaper desktop CPUs are the same apps that don’t need a ton of CPU power in the first place. Check out the web-based JetStream 2 benchmark to see it in action. The Threadripper 7000 is not designed for them.
However, even in apps that can’t take advantage of all cores, there are still performance improvements here. Check out the Premiere Pro benchmark above where both Threadripper chips posted record numbers on the latest version. Note: I was not able to test the latest version of Premiere Pro with all of these chips, so I averaged several results from the publicly available PugetBench database with similar configurations to provide an estimated score.
Even with some performance gains, some of these results serve as a warning to any potential Threadripper 7000 buyers. If you’re not able to take advantage of the large number of cores available on these chips, you’re better off offering much cheaper consumer desktop CPUs.
the beginning of a new era
Although the Threadripper 7000 is not for everyone, it certainly marks the beginning of a new HEDT era. For those who can harness the power of these CPUs for work or even just for bragging rights, there is nothing like the Threadripper 7000 without resorting to wholesalers or manufacturer machines.
Most people shouldn’t buy it, but if you’re in the market for one of these chips, I would highly recommend checking out reviews from websites with a lot of experience in benchmarking workstations that can compare how the Threadripper 7000 performs on its How does it compare to direct competitors? SarvaHome and AnandTech are two of my favorite sources for this type of testing.
But as for me, I’m convinced there is a place for these chips in the consumer PC world – even if that remains a niche audience.