Ryzen 9 3950X: AMD's 16-core CPUs is an epic end-zone dance over Intel

AMD's 16-core CPU reigns supreme as the most powerful consumer CPU we've ever seen

Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

Ryzen 9 3950X Compression Decompression Performance

We’ll close off application performance by looking at the compression and decompression of the chips. The first result uses the built-in benchmark inside of RARLab’s WinRAR. WinRAR has traditionally not favored AMD’s Ryzen, but the winner through sheer will power is the Ryzen 9 3950X. 

ryzen 9 3950x winrar nt IDG

WinRAR has traditionally not run well on AMD, but the Ryzen 9 wins this one. That 12-core, though...

The thing is, WinRAR is not free, and free sells. So, our next test uses the popular 7-Zip compression/decompression utility. Looking at the built-in benchmark for the compression score, it’s all win for Ryzen over Intel. 7-Zip’s decompression test is mostly dependent on integer performance and branch prediction capability—all things a 16-core CPU has in spades, as you can see by the results. The benchmark is multi-threaded as well, so the results are not unexpected.

ryzen 9 3950x 7 zip decompress IDG

7-Zip’s decompression portion is more dependent on a chip’s integer performance, and more cores with more integer performance wins.

One potential issue for Ryzen, though, is 7-Zip’s Compression test. This portion is more memory-dependent. Cache performance, memory latency, and out-of-order performance matters, 7-Zip creator’s say. While both Ryzens easily ace the Intel parts, the 16-core Ryzen 9 is just about dead even with the 12-core Ryzen 9 CPU. Because the test is multi-threaded, we would expect the 16-core also to outperform the 12-core chip easily, but it doesn’t. We wonder whether the dual-channel memory of the Ryzen is to blame. But hey, it’s still a big win.

ryzen 9 3950x 7 zip compress IDG

While the Ryzen 9 chips win, we’re surprised the 16-core isn’t outrunning the 12-core more.

Ryzen 9 3950X Gaming Performance

If you’re buying a 16-core CPU solely to play games, you might want to consider an 8-core chip, or even a 6-core chip instead, because few games can use all of the cores. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. The problem is modern gaming isn’t about playing a game, winning, and going to sleep warm and happy. It’s about streaming it live, or recording it while adding LOL memes, sound effects, and all kinds of “gaming”-related tasks that didn't exist a few years ago.

 In theory, with its slightly higher boost speeds and “best of the best” dies, the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X should be AMD’s ultimate gaming CPU. For the most part, it is.

For our gaming section we tested only at 1920x1080 resolution. You can get 300MHz monitors now (at 1920x1080) and at anything higher-res, even with the mighty GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, it’s pretty much dead-even almost all of the time. And yeah, turn on ray tracing options, and you are 100 percent GPU-bound all of the time at any resolution.

First up is Shadows of the Tomb Raider, which we ran at 1920x1080 resolution using the Highest quality preset, but with ray tracing off. This is likely the only good news (although it’s not a lot) for Intel. The higher clock speed and other Intel magic still rings true in game. Unfortunately, it’s only about 10 percent in Shadows of the Tomb Raider and at 1920x1080, which makes the game less bottlenecked by the CPU.

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The Ryzen 9 3950X and its teammate, the Ryzen 9 3900X, close up a little more in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, where they trail by about 8 percent. A loss, but AMD didn’t plan on winning in gaming, it just wanted to close the gap.

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In the newly released Gears of War 5 benchmark, it’s a similar 6- to 7-percent performance gap between the Ryzens and Core i9s. It’s about a 6- to 7-percent clock speed difference between them too.

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One inconvenient truth: Some things just run better on Intel chips. We see that illustrated in Far Cry 5 run on Ultra at 1920x1080 resolution: The familiar “Ryzen gaming gap” of 20 to 23 percent rears its head. Even at 2560x1440 resolution, Intel’s chips have the edge, although the gap closes to 13 percent. 

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There are exceptions to this rule. One is Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, the original poster child for multi-core support in DX12. For the most part, it’s a dead tie when looking at the CPU heavy preset, which throws more units on the screen. Technically the Ryzen 9 3950X lands in front, but we consider them mostly even.

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While new games are typically bottlenecked by the graphics card, the vast majority of games people play are not. These eSports-grade games typically run on fairly low-end hardware, which moves the needle further toward the CPU. One such game is the popular Rainbow Six Siege. We run it at 1920x1080 on Ultra, and predictably the Intel chips win—but the gap is fairly small at 10 percent, and all of the CPUs are kicking out in excess of 300 fps.

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We’ll close out gaming with the immensely popular Counter Strike: Global Operations at 1920x1080 resolution set to high quality. We run the FPS Workshop map for our results, which features both interior and exterior scenes. An excessive amount of smoke particle effects at the end greatly drags down frame rates.

The winner is Intel by a healthy 14 percent. But as with Rainbow Six Siege, we're looking at frame rates in excess of 400 fps to 500 fps for all CPUs involved. So outside of a professional player who really does need the excessive frame rates, it’s not much of a victory.

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Ryzen 9 3950X Performance analysis

We’ll close this out by trying to give you an idea of the strengths of the new Ryzen 9 3950X across various workloads. For this test, we use Cinebench R15 and task the CPU to cough up a score using from 1 thread to the maximum amount of threads the CPU has. 

For our first chart, we compare the scores of the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X with the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X. You can see that in the chart below.

ryzen 9 3950x vs ryzen 9 3900x threadscaling IDG

The 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X easily outruns even the 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X.

It’s a little hard to visualize the differences in the chart above, so we also graph out the performance difference between the chips. As you can see, the Ryzen 9 3950X wins against the already stupidly good Ryzen 9 3900X by giving us single-digit increases in performance on lightly threaded loads, then double-digit jumps up to 30 percent when all threads are loaded up. That’s simply stunning.

ryzen 9 3950x vs ryzen 9 3900x threadscaling percentage IDG

The 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X is clearly the alpha AM4 CPU folks.

Perhaps more important is how the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X compares to Intel’s shiny new 8-core Core i9-9900KS. Sure Intel fans will say they don’t compare, but both are the alpha CPUs in their sockets. 

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The Ryzen 9 3950X simply crushes the Core i9-9900KS chip

Looking at it from a percent difference again helps visualize the stunning performance differences between these two CPUs. The left side of the chart shows a little bit of a negative for the Ryzen 9 vs. the Core i9, but we are talking single-digit differences. Maybe that depression is a road bump for the Ryzen 9 3950X, as it hurtles forward with up to an 88-percent advantage over the Intel CPU.

ryzen 9 3950x vs core i9 9900ks threadscaling percentage IDG

Get your jaw off the ground. The 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X is that much faster than Intel’s fastest small socket CPU.

Conclusion

The performance we’re seeing in the Ryzen 9 3950X is truly historic for consumers.

Yes, some will complain that the $749 launch price for the Ryzen 9 3950X is too high, but when you remember the tears of joy nerds shed when the 16-core Threadripper 1950X made its debut in July of 2017 for $999, and then think about the 16-core Threadripper 2950X for $899—and don't forget Intel’s $1,699 Core i9-9960X from 2018—this actually feels like a deal for this insane amount of performance.

Yes, Intel has cut the price of the upcoming 18-core Core i9-10980XE to $999, but after seeing the performance of the Ryzen 9 3950X, we’re not sure it’s enough.

ryzen 9 3950x wood box 5 Gordon Mah Ung

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Gordon Mah Ung

PC World (US online)
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