Hear 64 Cores Roar! First Tests: AMD’s Monster Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5995WX
The first sample of AMD’s new Threadripper Pro 5000 series just showed up at PC Labs! We couldn’t help but tease our first benchmarks from this ultimate beast-mode processor.
AMD’s elite Ryzen Threadripper processors and their huge dies, derived from the company’s Epyc server chips, have distinguished themselves as the ultimate multi-core monsters. They are ideally suited for pro-grade content-creation and rendering—not the kind your occasional YouTuber needs, but for the likes of Pixar and well-funded movie studios. They’re also great for crunching titanic data sets and spinning up modeling applications at full tilt.
Threadripper first hit the market years back as a marginally consumer component, with standalone motherboards and chips available for DIY-ers. The more recent Threadripper Pro, meanwhile, is the version for desktop workstations, equipped with AMD’s Ryzen Pro remote-management and security features. It aims straight for Intel’s Xeon W-class and even dual Xeon workstations.
Threadripper Pro is now in its second generation, dubbed the 5000 series, debuting here in mid-2022 in a small selection of prebuilt workstation PCs from OEMs such as Dell and Lenovo. (The first go-round for Threadripper Pro was the 3000 series; the original non-Pro Threadrippers, meanwhile, have run through three generations, in 1000, 2000, and 3000 series of their own.)
The new-for-2022 Threadripper Pro chips range from “modest” 16-core to sky-high-end 64-core chips. We got our mitts on the flagship 64-core, 128-thread Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5995WX in a Lenovo ThinkStation workstation prebuild, and we could not wait to get our first tests out there. Buckle up!
Threadripper Pro: AMD’s Strongest Ryzen Desktop Chips
First, a bit of background. The Ryzen Threadripper Pro is AMD’s most elite desktop processor, aimed exclusively at workstations. Unlike the non-Pro consumer Threadripper, the Threadripper Pro is a system-manufacturer exclusive; you can’t buy it at retail and build your own system. Officially, you can get it only in prebuilds for now, though reports have said that it will be available to DIY-ers later this year. (The details around platform and DIY motherboard support for builders remain unclear.)
The Threadripper Pro distinguishes itself from the non-Pro with its support for Ryzen Pro remote-management and security features. (Ryzen Pro is essentially AMD’s answer to Intel’s vPro.) It also has support for more PCI Express lanes, a whopping 128 versus “just” 88 for the non-Pro.
Let’s put that into perspective. The AMD and Intel consumer flagship chips, the Ryzen 9 5950X and the Core i9–12900K, have support for just 20 lanes. Expansion is indeed a key buying factor for workstations over high-end consumer desktops. With so many PCI Express lanes at its disposal, the Threadripper Pro can handle multiple graphics cards and stacks of PCI Express-based SSD storage drives without blinking. The Threadripper Pro also handles up to a mind-boggling 1TB of RAM, qualifying it for server-level tasks. That’s absolutely massive; top-end consumer desktop CPUs typically top out at a “mere” 128GB.
The Threadripper Pro debuted in 2020 as a Lenovo exclusive in the company’s ThinkStation P620 desktop workstation, which we reviewed at the link. We tested that machine with the 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen Threadripper Pro 3955WX. Though it was blisteringly fast for multi-threaded scenarios, we wished that first-generation Threadripper Pro had been based on AMD’s “Zen 3” architecture, which was brand new at the time.
Our wish has been granted, albeit in 2022: The Zen 3-based Threadripper Pro 5000 series is here. The table below compares the various chip models in the Threadripper Pro 3000 and 5000 series. Many specifications have remained the same; all chips have a 280-watt thermal design power (TDP) rating and support 128 PCI Express lanes.
What’s new? The Threadripper Pro 5000 series adds a 24-core chip to the 12-, 16-, 32-, and 64-core lineup to better compete chip-for-chip with Intel’s Xeon W-class workstation chips. AMD has also bumped up the clock speeds, especially the boost clocks; every Threadripper Pro 5000 series chip can hit 4.5GHz at boost.
Depending on the core count, the Threadripper Pro competes with either Intel’s Xeon W-class or Xeon Scalable processors, the latter typically used in dual-CPU workstations and servers. The top Xeon W-class chip is the 38-core Xeon W-3375, though I didn’t find it in any mainstream workstation tower at this writing. As such, Threadripper Pro 5000-based towers are likely to face the stiffest competition from their own kind. Only the ThinkStation P620 appears to be available among mainstream towers packing Threadripper Pro 5000 chips; Dell’s announced Precision 7865 tower goes on sale later in 2022.
The Threadripper Carrier: Meet the Lenovo ThinkStation P620
Before we start testing, let’s appreciate what it takes to operate a 64-core processor. The roughly $20,000—yes, $20,000, that’s the right number of zeroes—ThinkStation P620 we’re testing here is a relatively compact PC, considering what it is. The thing is, the rig is air-cooled, to our surprise, so the chassis doesn’t have to accommodate bulky liquid cooling gear.
You might say it’s kitted to the nines, but that would be understatement. Maybe we should say kitted to the eighty-ones…nine squared! Our sample tester has 128GB of eight-channel DDR4–3200 ECC memory, Nvidia’s flagship RTX A6000 professional graphics card (with a whopping 48GB of its own GDDR6X ECC memory), and a 2TB PCI Express 4.0 solid-state drive.
Believe it or not, this machine is entirely air-cooled. The easily serviceable interior is an impressive sight.
Here’s a closer look at the massive dual-fan CPU heatsink.
Eight RAM slots surround the CPU, each bank with its own RAM cooler. That’s simply not something you see except, rarely, on elite gaming desktops. But this machine, workstation grinder that it is, is designed to run under full load, 24/7, so that kind of extra cooling is a necessary precaution.
It also has dedicated M.2 heatsinks. But that’s the tour for now; our full review of this machine is forthcoming.
Testing the Threadripper Pro 5995WX: 64 Cores to the Max
Now, on to testing the ThinkStation P620. As for competing machines, let’s just say that most of our comparisons will be very large apples to very small mandarin oranges—nay, tangerines. We test our fair share of fast machines, but nothing we’ve reviewed comes remotely close to the sheer power inside this beast.
Among the test comparison group for our first set of tests are the prosumer Asus ProArt Station PD5, the HP Z2 G8 Tower workstation, and the gaming-centric Corsair One i300 and HP Omen 45L. They’re incredibly fast in their own right, but even all their CPUs combined don’t have as many cores as a single Threadripper Pro 5995WX. But who’s counting?
The tests in this section focus on the CPU, not bringing the graphics card or storage subsystems into play.
Cinebench R23 fully leverages the Lenovo’s massive core and thread count, and what a showing it made; the other towers’ scores added together barely touch it. It also absolutely dominated Blender, with the lowest time we’ve ever seen.
Those gold-medal finishes might make you wonder why the Lenovo machine and the 5995WX didn’t break the charts in the other tests, and the answer is software optimization. Handbrake doesn’t scale well to this many cores; only about 30% of the Threadripper Pro was utilized for that. Photoshop performance also doesn’t scale based on core count alone; I’ve observed it responds better to fewer, higher-clocked cores.
I should note we also use Geekbench 5.4 Pro to gauge CPU performance, but the ThinkStation refused to run that for reasons I couldn’t determine. It also didn’t complete our Adobe Premiere Pro test, likely a conflict with the automation utility we use. It’s not unusual to run into hiccups when testing exotic, seldom-seen hardware like this.
A Different Set of Comparisons
Our last tests aren’t part of our traditional review benchmarking lineup, but they help illustrate what the Threadripper Pro can do. For this test and the next one, we compared the Threadripper Pro 5995WX-equipped ThinkStation with an Origin PC 5000T mega-system we are in the process of reviewing, equipped with Intel’s Core i9–12900KS special edition CPU. We also compared it with our newly rebuilt graphics testbed, which rocks a Core i9–12900K. In both cases, with the Intel chips, we ran the tests with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Founders Edition card installed.
First up is 3DMark CPU Profile, which scales its workload between one to 16 threads and then to “max” threads. I have some doubt it was using all the Threadripper Pro’s cores in the latter case; the max threads score isn’t anywhere close to eight times higher than the 16-thread score.
Next is BAPCo’s CrossMark, a cross-platform benchmark that scores platforms across simulated real-world scenarios.
As you can see, this test doesn’t leverage much of the Lenovo’s hardware, either. The Core i9 chips outpace the top-end Threadripper Pro here. In fact, its scores are lower than what we saw in our first tests of Intel’s laptop flagship Core i9–12900HX, a 16-core mobile chip that isn’t far off the desktop Core i9–12900K’s performance. But these tests aren’t ones for which you’d invest in a 64-core CPU.
Mind-Boggling Performance (But Only With the Right Apps)
Our initial testing shows the Ryzen Threadripper Pro 5000 series has massive potential. More accurately, it has all the potential that the software you’re using gives it.
Case in point, the flagship 64-core Threadripper Pro 5995WX in the Lenovo ThinkStation P620 workstation we tested absolutely crushed the Cinebench R23 and Blender benchmarks, with scores far superior to anything we’ve seen.
However, in other tests, such as Handbrake and Photoshop, the Threadripper Pro didn’t stand out, scoring much like a typical high-end consumer desktop CPU. It won’t let you down for tasks like that, but you wouldn’t get the 32-core Threadripper Pro, let alone the 64-core chip we tested, for those kinds of applications.
Fortunately, AMD sells the Threadripper Pro with as few as 12 cores so you can leverage its super-high memory ceiling and unprecedented 128 PCI Express lanes, specifications you can’t touch with a consumer Ryzen 9 or Core i9 desktop chip. And that’s the Threadripper Pro’s potential: massive scalability for however you want to leverage it. We can get excited about that. Stay tuned for our full, deeper review of the 2022 ThinkStation P620, kitted out with AMD’s mega-chip.
Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.