The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is the latest addition to the red team’s roster of CPUs, and it’s one of the most outrageous chips to bare the Zen 2 architecture – it’s got sixteen cores, for instance, and a huge price of $750 in the US and £750 in the UK.
The huge core count and vast price means that this chip is more suited for work rather than play, but should it take a spot in your new productivity PC? Find out in our full AMD Ryzen 9 3950X review.
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Review – Specification
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is a beast – the only chip available on mainstream, consumer platforms with sixteen cores. And, because Ryzen chips are multi-threaded, that means the 3950X can work with thirty-two concurrent threads.
It’s a huge number. It’s four more cores than AMD’s existing Ryzen 9 chips and double the core count of Ryzen 7 chips. The only way to get more cores on an AMD CPU is to head to a high-end desktop Threadripper chip.
The sixteen-core Ryzen 9 3950X shoves Intel aside, too. It’s double the core count of any Intel Core i7 chip. It also doubles the cores available on Intel’s Coffee Lake-based Core i9 parts, although forthcoming Intel Core i9-10 CPUs will have between 10 and 18 cores.
Elsewhere, the Ryzen chip has base and boost speeds of 3.5GHz and 4.7GHz. That’s solid pace, especially for a chip that’s packed full of cores – the former figure is middling for AMD’s range, but that Turbo speed is the best available on any AMD Ryzen part.
The speeds are competitive with Intel’s forthcoming Core i9-10 series CPUs – the 18-core i9-10980XE has speeds of 3GHz and 4.8GHz.
The Ryzen chip’s speeds are a little behind the pace delivered by current-gen Core i7 and i9 chips, although those parts do have fewer cores.
Elsewhere, the Ryzen 9 3950X has 64MB of L3 cache. That’s twice as much as Ryzen 7 parts and between three and five times as much on any competing Intel chip.
There’s also the Zen 2 architecture, which delivered performance, cost and efficiency benefits by moving to a 7nm manufacturing process and a modular design that’s cheaper to build.
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Don’t be mistaken: the Ryzen 9 3950X is not a cheap chip. In the US it’ll cost you $750, and in the UK it’s £750.
That’s a lot more than the eight-core Ryzen 7 3800X, which costs $380 and £350. It’s also more expensive than the Ryzen 9 3900X, which has twelve costs and costs $530 and £480. However, that’s to be expected – the price is roughly scaling with the core count of these chips, with a little bit of extra on top to cover the tougher manufacturing conditions, lower yields and extra cache.
The Ryzen 9 3950X compares favourably to Intel chips when it comes to price. The current Core i9-9900KS is a 4GHz part with a 5GHz Turbo speed and eight cores that support sixteen threads. It costs $540 and £560 despite it having half the core count of the AMD chip.
If you want more cores on Intel, the forthcoming Core i9-10980XE is the best option – it has eighteen cores that support thirty-six threads and it has speeds of 3GHz and 4.8GHz. However, it costs $1,050 and £1,100 – a huge amount more, and only for two extra cores.
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X uses the existing AMD AM4 socket and X570 chipset, which means it works with AMD’s existing platforms and motherboards.
It’s a similar situation to Intel’s older Core i9 parts, which use the existing LGA 1151 socket and chipsets. However, if you want one of those forthcoming Core i9-10 series processors then you’ll need a new motherboard. They use the LGA 2066 socket. Those boards tend to start at around $190 or £250 and range right the way up to $750 or £600.
If you want to buy a new motherboard for an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X then your best bet is an X570 product. These boards start with lower prices. You can get one for $150 or £170 and extend all the way up to $700 or £770.
Of course, price isn’t the only consideration – you’ll need to look at features too. New motherboards with AMD or Intel support will largely have the same features, although there are a couple of differences.
AMD’s boards support PCI-Express 4.0, so you have the option for faster storage there. However, Intel’s forthcoming Core i9-10980XE and other chips from the same range will have support for quad-channel memory, while AMD is stuck with dual-channel. Some high-end applications will benefit from quad-channel DDR4.
We’ve compared the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X with a host of rival chips. The Core i9-9900KS is included because it’s one of Intel’s most recent high-end releases, and the forthcoming Core i9-10980XE is included because it’s the best bet that Intel has against the new Ryzen part.
We’ve also included the Core i7-9700K to show how the new AMD part outperforms are more conventional CPU. Finally, we’ve included the AMD Ryzen 7 3800X and 9 3900X to show how this new chip stacks up against existing AMD silicon.
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is an absolute monster when it comes to multi-threaded performance.
The sixteen-core chip is faster than everything else in every multi-threaded benchmark. It’s marginally quicker than the Core i9-10980XE in every test, even though the Intel part has two more cores.
Unsurprisingly, the Ryzen 9 3950X opens up wider leads over other chips tested that have fewer cores. It’s a couple of thousand points beyond the twelve-core Ryzen 9 3900X in Cinebench R20, for instance.
It’s got virtually double the pace of the Ryzen 7 3800X in multi-core tests. Unsurprisingly, it’s even further ahead of the Core i7-9700K. The eight-core Intel i9-9900KS is miles back, too – around 8,000 points slower in Geekbench, for instance.
The Ryzen 9 3950X is not as impressive in single-threaded benchmarks. It’s a handful of points behind Intel’s chips and some AMD parts in Cinebench’s tougher R20 test. It’s level with rivals in Cinebench R20. It also returned middling scores in Geekbench.
AMD pairs this part’s incredible performance with superb power figures. Machines with the Ryzen 9 3950X barely require any more power than rigs with the twelve-core Ryzen 9 3900X. Top-end Intel Core i9 chips need more electricity. The AMD part is always more efficient.
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is a beast, but it’s not always the most suitable chip depending on what you’re looking for.
For content-creation, video-editing, database and CAD design and other tools where multi-threaded power is a boon – the Ryzen 9 3950X is the best option right now. It’s faster than anything else in these situations, and it’s significantly cheaper than Intel’s equivalents.
If you’re a gamer, do photo-editing or need a CPU for mainstream computing then there’s no point buying the Ryzen 9 3950X. It’s still a very expensive processor and it’s no slower than other chips in those tasks, but the extra cores don’t deliver a benefit – those games and applications just don’t make use of the abilities.
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X Review – Conclusion
The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is a revelation – a brilliant processor that beats every rival with room to spare.
It’s the fastest mainstream chip available right now for multi-threaded applications bar none – and it’s faster than Intel’s forthcoming Core i9-10980XE too. That makes it the best option for content-creation, video-editing, CAD work and database tools – any high-end software that will benefit from multi-threaded ability.
The AMD chip does this while being pretty power-efficient, too, and its reliance on mainstream socket and chipset platforms means that it’s easier and a little cheaper to get involved when compared to certain Intel Core i9 chips.
It’s not perfect. It’s no faster than anything else in single-threaded tests. If you’re a gamer, or if you need a CPU for mainstream computing or normal work applications, then this chip is a waste of money – those applications just don’t make use of the core count available, so a solid chunk of this processor will be twiddling its thumbs while you handle work tasks or games. You’d save a lot more money by buying a more conventional chip with fewer cores.
Also bear in mind that certain Intel chipsets support quad-channel memory, while AMD doesn’t – certain software will really benefit from quad-channel DDR4.
For the vast majority of multi-threaded work, though, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X cannot be beaten. It’s faster and cheaper than rivals in those crucial workloads, and it pairs its better performance and lower price with a more accessible ecosystem and better efficiency. It’s a fantastic AMD chip and a worthy award-winner.
- Spectacular multi-core performance
- Cheaper and faster than rivals
- Easily accessible ecosystem
- Relatively power-efficient
- No faster than competitors in single-threaded tests
- Still pretty expensive
- Ecosystem doesn’t support quad-channel memory
Base speed: 3.5GHz
Boost speed: 4.7GHz
L3 cache: 64MB
Architecture: AMD Zen 2