The Ryzen 9 3950X is the single fastest mainstream desktop processor on the market today. It straddles the line between mainstream and HEDT. On that front, it gets within a stone’s throw of Intel’s best HEDT part, the Core i9 10980XE. Not only is the 3950X 90-95% as fast, but it also does so at around 60% of the power draw. You also have a much wider choice of motherboards and thus, more control over the price points. You also won’t have to buy four memory modules, a 1,000 Watt PSU, or raise your electric bill too much. You can also get away with far more modest cooling and get great performance.
From a gaming standpoint, I was slightly disappointed in the performance of the 3950X. I was sure the extra boost clock rating would allow us to achieve at least parity with the 3900X, if not beat it. Sadly, I typically saw a slightly worse performance in games at low settings and resolution. For gaming, I think the 3700X or 3800X’s are your sweet spot. The 3900X and 3950X can certainly do it, but you will want the best cooling. If gaming is your main focus then there are better-priced options. But if you do gaming, content creation and streaming, then the extra cores can pay off.
Productivity Standpoint vs. Competition
In the realm of productivity, the 12 and 16 core Ryzen 9 parts best the 2nd generation Threadripper most of the time and outclass anything Intel has on the desktop. While I haven’t tested the whole Cascade Lake-X family, there is a lot we can infer from the 10980XE since its the top of the stack. Basically, Intel needs two more cores, greater clock speeds, and a metric ton of power to compete with AMD here.
In pure performance, the 10980XE is usually faster, but not by enough to justify its price tag. This tells us that most of, if not the entire Cascade Lake-X line would likely be beaten by the 12 core 3900X and the 16 core 3950X. The 3900X starts at the same price point as the Cascade Lake-X family. Not only that, but the availability is there as well. You can get a 3900X at your local Microcenter. 3950X’s are rarer, but this CPU came from one so they are out there in limited numbers. Intel’s Cascade Lake-X CPU’s launched the same day as the 3950X and I have yet to see one for sale.
In fairness, the Core i9 10980XE doesn’t compete directly with the Ryzen 9 3950X. The fact that we can even compare those two legitimately speaks volumes as to the power of the Ryzen 9 3950X. It’s a desktop part that nips at the heels of the HEDT part and in some cases, does beat it. It’s also generally a better buy unless you need the extra PCIe lanes or memory bandwidth of the HEDT platform for some reason.
In short, the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is the new desktop king. It’s also fairly expensive, but I actually consider it a bargain for what your getting. A year ago, that same $750 would have bought you an entry-level Threadripper which would get destroyed by the 3950X today. It would also have required a more expensive motherboard to use it.
This CPU still isn’t for everyone, but if you use applications that can leverage the extra cores the 3950X offers, then I think its got the best performance/price ratio out there for CPUs with this kind of core count. Naturally, the new king deserves our highest award.