AMD has officially revealed their latest play into the high-end desktop market, announcing yesterday evening that their new Threadripper 2 family is officially on pre-order, with sales and reviews coming later this month. While the embargo on details for the chips and their prices went up today, pre-orders have opened for the range-topping 32-core Threadripper 2 2990WX, long before reviews have been finished. If you’re considering buying one this week, I would wait just a little bit to see which one is better for you. There’s good reason behind that.
The lineup is composed of just four Threadripper processors, but the new additions in the form of the 24-core and the 32-core processors carry the new WX suffix. AMD uses the WX suffix for their Radeon Pro WX series of professional graphics cards, so in the company’s marketing they’re pushing the higher-core count versions of these chips for professional workloads only. Which makes sense, really. Unless you’re running eight copies of Crysis at once, the 2990WX is probably not the chip for you.
The range-topping 2990WX boasts 32 real cores and 64 virtual, literal [figurative – Ed.] acres of L3 cache compared to traditional consumer processors, an enormous thermal limit of 250 watts, and a launch price of $1,799 in the United States. Compared to Intel’s offerings, the most relevant chip on team blue’s side is a 18-core Core i9-7980XE which costs $200 more. Not only is AMD offering more cores for less money, they’re also offering professional users access to benefits such as StoreMI, up to 64 directly connected PCIe lanes, and quad-channel memory that supports a higher memory frequency as standard.
The rest of the lineup tapers off pretty significantly in terms of pricing. The 24-core 2970WX chip is $500 cheaper than the 2990WX, the 29050X is $400 cheaper than the 2970WX, and the baseline 2920X is $250 cheaper than the 2950X. Each fully enabled core cluster in Threadripper 2 therefore adds about $250 to the build cost overall.
Clock speeds are also quite high, with turbo boost modes in the 4.2GHz range for up to two cores and four threads per core cluster (CCX). Threadripper 2 includes all of AMD’s recent additions to power management for the Ryzen 2000 series including Precision Boost 2. In newer generation AMD chips, the chip will try to intelligently manage clock speeds and power draw as more cores are loaded. Each CCX can boost up to two cores and four threads to the maximum XFR boost frequency, so if you have lightly threaded workloads up to eight cores in the system will be running at the maximum clock speed.
AMD’s trick to making Threadripper 2 work on X399 without resorting to a server chipset is that they’re chopping off the additional PCI Express lanes that come essentially for free with each CCX, as well as the dual-channel memory controller. The additional cores are kind of hanging off the end of the fully functional CCXes, like having an additional arm for doing stuff while your first two are occupied. In fact, that’s how AMD says they’ll be manage those additional cores. They’re only going to be given work if the adjacent CCXes are occupied, and only as long as there’s enough headroom for the inter-CCX comunication to allow for the additional cores to communicate with the memory controllers.
Pre-orders for all four Threadripper 2 chips are open now, and all these chips will fit into existing X399 motherboards and the TR4 socket. BIOS updates won’t be needed to get the motherboard to boot, although you will need to update the BIOS to unlock the additional cores and update the motherboard’s firmware to support the “new” memory architecture.
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