AMD Delivers New Threadripper CPU For Creative Work
When AMD launched the Zen processors last year, the company also pulled out a surprise among the standard desktop and server product lines. That surprise was Ryzen Threadripper-a 16 core CPU that was part EPYC server processor and part Ryzen desktop CPU. The processor’s package was derived from the quad-die EPYC server processor, but the motherboard and system design was much closer to the desktop Ryzen processor. The 16-core Threadripper was a desktop CPU that could best Intel’s eight-core Core i7 on multithreaded benchmarks and workloads. (Intel later responded with an 18-core Core i9 processor, at a much higher price.)
Threadripper found an audience with PC enthusiasts who wanted more CPU threads for multitasking and some scalable applications like video transcoding. AMD also found an audience with creative professionals rendering complex content. These high-priced desktop parts provide an economic bonus for AMD. Based on the success of the first generation, AMD decided to invest in a second generation of Threadripper.
Ryzen Threadripper 2 (TR2) is based on the 12nm Zen+ core found in the new Ryzen processors. With improvements in power from the 12nm process, AMD decided to up the ante by going to the 32-core capability of its packaging technology, although with a somewhat higher power (250W). In a pleasant surprise, all Threadripper 2 processors maintain backwards compatible with the original Threadripper motherboards (after a BIOS update). There are updated motherboards introduced with TR2, but it also supports older motherboards. making it easier and faster to bring TR2 to market. While the new top of the line TR2 doubles the number of cores to 32, AMD also has a new 16-core version as well. It’s at this point, AMD is bifurcating TR2 marketing – the 16-core version is positioned as a direct upgrade to last year’s model for enthusiasts. The new 32-core version is pitched as a new AMD workstation platform for creative development and has a new product suffix (WX).
The technical details are that Treadripper is made from the same multi-chip module as the EPYC server processor – with four silicon die per package. In the 16-core version of Threadripper, there are two active 8-core die and two blank silicon die in the package. In the 32-core version, there are four 8-core die. The Threadripper socket has quad DDR4 memory channels, with support for error correction codes (ECC). The other benefit of Threadripper is up to 64 lanes of PCIe. Threadripper motherboards can support multiple graphic cards and multiple PCIe NVMe storage drives.
Maintaining backwards socket compatibility with the first generation Threadripper does have a trade-off – TR2 has the same number of memory channels, but has up to twice the number of cores to hit acceptable motherboard costs. The EPYC server processor also has up to 32 cores, but it has eight memory channels, giving it more bandwidth and more linear performance scaling. The advantage of the 32-core TR2 is that with a 250W power envelope, it has higher clock speeds than the 180W EPYC processor. This was a key advantage for some of AMD’s testimonial customers. For creative work loads, having more core performance and lower cost platforms, was more important that the additional memory bandwidth.
AMD is taking pre-orders for the Threadripper processor today. The first shipments are expected on August 13th for the Ryzen Threadripper2990WX with 32 cores (with 64 threads) The 2990WX has a base clock speed of 3.0GHz and a boost clock up to 4.2GHz and is priced at $1,799. The 16 cores (and 32 threads), 180W AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X will also be available at the same time and priced at $899. AMD will deliver additional members of the Threadripper family in October, with the 24-core 2970WX at $1,299 and the 12-core 2920X at $649.
Principal Analyst, TIRIAS Research
The author and members of the TIRIAS Research staff do not hold equity positions in any of the companies mentioned. TIRIAS Research tracks and consults for companies throughout the electronics ecosystem from semiconductors to systems and sensors to the cloud.
Disclaimer: AMD paid for my travel to Italy for the Treadripper 2 tech day.