AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D Review: Giving Intel a Run For Its Money
AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series has been in the wild for just under five months, which makes it prime time for an X3D upgrade! We first saw the firm’s vertical 3D cache technology with last generation’s Ryzen 5000 series and it delivered improved gaming performance. This time around, AMD has unlocked Precision Boost Overdrive for even better performance — enough that AMD is positioning this directly against Intel’s Core i9-13900K for gaming and multi-threaded applications.
Coming to market with a suggested retail price of $699, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D is priced identically to the original Ryzen 9 7950X. It maintains the same 16 cores and 32 threads of performance, socket AM5 compatibility, and is even more power efficient. If you’re a gamer that also makes use of heavily multi-threaded applications, this is definitely a CPU you should consider for your next system upgrade.
It’s also worth noting that the Ryzen 9 7950X3D is launching alongside the Ryzen 9 7900X3D, which can provide a most cost effective alternative if you don’t need all 16 cores. The 7900X3D features 12 cores and 24 threads and will launch at $599, a fifty dollar increase over the original 7900X3D. AMD will also launch the Ryzen 7 7800X3D in April for $449, bringing with it 8-cores and 16-threads.
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AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D – What Is It?
The Ryzen 9 7950X3D is the new flagship consumer CPU for AMD, topping out its consumer product stack and going head-to-head with the Intel Core i9-13900KS. The original 7950X was already a top-performing processor and we were very impressed in our original review. The 13900K (we weren’t able to examining the “KS” version) gave it a run for its money in gaming performance, however, and the even more performant KS variant extended that lead. The 7950X3D is here to close that gap and potentially nab a lead of its own.
In this review, we’ll be looking at the Ryzen 9 7900X and 7950X3D. It features 16 cores and 32 threads. Compared to the original, it runs more efficiently with a TDP of only 120 watts compared to the older 170 watt spec. It features 24 PCIe lanes to power your high-speed memory and graphics cards, as well as support for DDR5 memory and AMD-certified EXPO kits.
The X3D in its name refers to AMD’s 3D Vertical Cache (V-Cache) system. While most CPUs have placed cache on a horizontal plane, AMD’s system stacks cache vertically on top of the chiplet, allowing for more memory without creating a physically larger CPU. The 7950X3D applies this design to one of its two core complexes (CCXs), allowing for improved gaming performance while still leaving a standard CCX available for tasks that benefit from high core frequencies.
This design has clear advantages for gaming. The total cache from the 7950X has been dramatically increased from 80MB to 144MB, providing games with rapid access to data at extremely low latencies, improving their overall performance. The base clock speed is a touch more limited than the standard 7950X (4.2 GHz versus 4.5 GHz), boost clock speed remains unchanged at 5.7 GHz.
This generation also unlocks key generation features, Precision Boost Overdrive and Curve Optimizer. PBO was disabled on the 5800X3D, which limited its performance potential (while still being an excellent improvement from the non V-Cache chip). Unlocking these features should make them even more performant since they’ll be able to spin up to higher levels during gaming and in high-intensity application workloads. Manual overclocking is still disabled, however, so the guard rails haven’t been completely removed.
Since these are different types of chips, they’ll require a chipset update to work correctly. To put it simply, the new driver tells Windows how to best utilize the new CPU. With it, the system will dynamically determine the best cores for optimal performance across applications, selecting between the standard CCX and that with 3D V-Cache.
When gaming, the new driver will automatically utilize the CCX that offers the best performance (usually the complex with additional cache). The second is “parked” until it’s called for. Having used the 7950X since its release, and the 5950X before it, some games simply become overwhelmed when presented with so many cores. In these cases, manually disabling one CCX often results in an immediate performance gain. With this driver, this will happen behind the scenes and without you having to think about what’s actually taking place.
One interesting change with this release is that the thermal power limit has been dropped from 95C to 89C. This more limited headroom might offer some peace of mind to those that were concerned about 95C becoming the "new normal" with Ryzen 7000, but in total performance potential, it’s a step down from what we expected ahead of this release.
Of course, the 7950X3D is an iteration, so you’re also getting all of the same features we covered in our review of the vanilla Ryzen 9 7950X. If you haven’t read it and need a refresher, I would highly encourage you to click through and give it a read. Since it’s been five months since that original review, we’ll also include the pertinent information on the larger 7000 series and AM5 platform, but feel free to ship over the following two sections and head straight to the performance results if you’re up to speed.
Ryzen 7000 Series – Overview
The Ryzen 7000 series promises major improvements, whether you’re a gamer, content creator, or a first-time builder looking to achieve the most bang for the buck. In AMD’s testing, it delivered a 13% IPC uplift compared to last generation, while also offering improvements to energy efficiency thanks to its 5nm fabrication process. The company also claims major improvements to single-core workloads, boosting performance up to 29% — a figure that should have a direct impact on gaming performance and Ryzen’s competitive performance with Intel.
The original launch line-up consisted of the Ryzen 9 7950X and 7900X, the Ryzen 7 7700X, and the Ryzen 5 7600X. Each chip has a higher frequency than last generation, something that pays immediate dividends in in-game FPS. The highest tier part, the 7950X, even offers up to 29% higher single-core performance. Just as interesting is that the 7900X and 7950X purport to offer all-core workload speeds of 5.2GHz. These are big improvements that can lead to noticeably better performance in games, apps, and benchmarks.
The 7000 series brings a number of improvements to the CPU core microarchitecture, enhancing elements such as branch prediction and increasing the Op Cache to increase the performance capability of this generation. The core now supports AVX-512 instructions for enhanced AI and machine learning applications.
The I/O die has also been enhanced in meaningful ways for everyday users. JEDEC memory speed support has been dramatically increased from 3200MHz to 5200MHz from last generation (more on that in a moment). Every chip now has basic RDNA 2 graphics for easier troubleshooting and accessibility for business applications. The chip also now features 28 PCIe 5.0 lanes to support your graphics card and multiple M.2 NVMe SSDs.
While the TDP of each processor has gone up since the 5000 series, the power efficiency is much higher at 40% more performance per watt. If that TDP is too high for you, each chip also features an Eco Mode that shifts the CPU to a lower TDP (for example, 170W to 105W and 105W to 65W). Eco Mode also reconfigures the processor’s other parameters to match this lower power setting, as if it were designed for that lower spec straight out of the box. Impressively, AMD claims the processing improvements of this generation still allow for competitive and sometimes continued improved performance compared to the 5000 series when locked to these lower TDP settings.
Another set of major changes with this generation comes with the memory. As we discussed above, the default speed is much higher than last generation, but overclocking has now been standardized and simplified with the introduction of AMD Expo. Like Intel’s XMP, Expo is a one-click overclocking standard to quickly and easily get your memory running up to its full speed. Memory kits certified for Expo will also have to publish full self-certification reports detailing the components and settings they used to certify that rated speed. It’s quick compatibility guarantee that simplifies the PC building and upgrading process.
AMD has also made changes to the Infinity Fabric. In the 5000 series, the sweet spot for DDR4 memory was 3600MHz. While you could use memory that ran at higher speeds, the Infinity Fabric would run out of sync with the memory speed, decreasing performance. This generation, the Infinity Fabric speed defaults to 2000MHz, but only so long as your memory kit is DDR5-4800 to DDR5-6000. Anything higher and the fabric’s ratio with the memory changes. As a result, the sweet spot for memory speed and performance this generation is 6000MHz.
Also important to note is that these advanced speeds are only available on two DIMM kits. I’ve heard from some insider contacts that this could potentially change as the platform matures, but if you’re looking to fill out all four DIMM slots, you’ll be limited to 3600MHz only.
While it’s possible to manually overclock these chips, AMD recommends utilizing Precision Boost Overdrive to simplify the process. Ryzen 5000 series processors weren’t great overclockers, but that could change here. More on this in the overclocking section of this review (see below).
One change that’s poised to be rather alarming is how these new CPUs manage thermals. Under heavy load, AMD expects these chips to hit their maximum temperature of 95C fairly often. They note that this is an intentional design decision made to maximize performance and that the chips are designed to run safely at this temperature “24/7 without risk of damage or deterioration.
Pricing on these new processors begins at $699 for the 7950X and $549 for the 7900X. These are chips designed for more serious creators and enthusiasts and will be overkill for pure gaming, web browsing, and productivity tasks. The Ryzen 7 7700X and the Ryzen 5 7600X are the more mainstream performance parts and retail for $399 and $299 respectively.
The AM5 Platform
First introduced in 2016, the AM4 platform had a legendary run, but AMD is finally ready to move on to its next-generation solution. With the new Zen 4 chips, the company is debuting AM5 to the world. It offers major improvements to power delivery and connectivity, as well as support for DDR5 memory and PCI Express 5.0.
Compared to last generation, the advantages of AM5 are plain to see. The new LGA1718 socket makes installation easier and less likely to result in a damaged CPU for new builders. DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 are both much faster, forward thinking solutions for graphics and add-in components, as well as memory, directly increasing gaming and application performance. Improved communication between the voltage and thermal components results in more stable power delivery, increasing the reliability and capability of your system. There’s also improved USB, display, and audio connectivity.
The AM5 platform is also excellent for PCI Express lanes. In addition to the 28 lanes provided by the CPU itself, up to 20 additional are available for different components you may want to add to your system. This count is decreased by up to eight lanes the more SATA peripherals you use, but there should be plenty to fully outfit a system with a top of the line GPU and multiple NVMe SSDs with lanes to spare.
The new socket will be supported in multiple motherboard tiers. X670 and X670 Extreme motherboards launched alongside the new chips and are top tier boards. They come at high prices but offer all of the features described above in some truly unique, feature-packed designs. There are also more affordable tiers, such as the B650 and B650 Extreme versions, which offer competitive features at more affordable prices.
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D – Performance
AMD Test System #1: MSI X670 MEG Ace Motherboard, Corsair H115i RGB Platinum AIO, Corsair DDR5-6000 Vengeance RGB Memory (32GB), Nvidia RTX 3090, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1000i Power Supply, Windows 11 (fully updated).
AMD Test System #2: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master Motherboard, Corsair H115i RGB Platinum AIO, Corsair Vengeance Pro RGB DDR4-3600 (32GB), Nvidia RTX 3090, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1000i Power Supply, Windows 11 (fully updated).
Intel Test System #1: ASUS ROG Z790 Maximus Extreme, Corsair iCUE Elite LCD 360mm, Corsair DDR5-6000 Vengeance RGB Memory (32GB), Nvidia RTX 3090, Samsung 970 Pro NVMe 1TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply, Windows 11 (fully updated).
With background out of the way, it’s time to dig in and see how the 7950X3D performs in comparison to the original 7950X and the Intel Core i9-13900K. Note that AMD did not send us a sample of the Ryzen 9 7900X for testing but we hope to look at this in the future, alongside the 7800X3D.
For the game tests, games are run at 1080p on Ultra settings. DLSS is not enabled. We are currently working on a complete revamp of our game tests to incorporate newer titles and graphics cards. With that in mind, these tests provide good insight into the relative differences in gaming performance between the chips.
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Discussion and Final Thoughts
Compared to the original Ryzen 9 7950X, the 7950X3D holds a clear advantage. In our suite of benchmarks, the results are very similar; however, due to the lower base frequency, there were cases where the vanilla version still won the day. In real world tasks, however, these differences are trivial. The same is largely true versus the Intel Core i9-13900K. In applications that favor frequency, the Intel nets a lead, but these differences are generally close.
In gaming performance, the 7950X3D is a performer. Against the 13900K, it brought performance right up to par and surpassed it, averaging a 4% lead in mean FPS overall. Against the standard 7950X, that extends to 12%. As we re-work our current test arrangement, I plan to revisit these benchmarks in the next CPU review. Newer titles can play an important role here, as can features like Smart Access Memory if you’re also running an AMD GPU.
It’s not a clear win for the 7950X3D, especially since we don’t have eyes on the 13900KS variant which should skew numbers a bit more in favor of team blue than our results here. But it’s close, which makes Intel’s prior margins thinner than ever.
Like we saw with last generation’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D, the application of V-Cache results in a more well-rounded chip. Gaming performance gets a boost while some synthetic scores fall a tad to account for the newly limited frequency. In real world testing, however, the processors feel incredibly closer to their non-V-Cached counterparts in applications but net you sometimes large gains in gaming performance.
While it’s hard to recommend such an expensive, high core and thread-count CPU on gaming alone, it makes a strong case for itself if you’re an enthusiast who also enjoys games — and really, who searching for these reviews doesn’t want top-tier gaming performance in their TOTL CPU?
What this does mean, however, is that it will be especially interesting to see how the more affordable 7900X3D and 7800X3D pan out. If you lean more toward gaming than, for example, content creation, the 7800X3D may just be the CPU to buy come April.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.