AMD Ryzen 9 7950X review: Meet the new performance king
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X review: Meet the new performance king
Note: This review was first published on 29 September 2022.
AMD has traditionally released new generations of processors once every two years, and its incumbent the Ryzen 5000 series – launched in 2022 – was at one point our favourite until Intel fought a good fight with their 12th-Generation Core series and the flagship Core i9-12900K became our best processor of 2021.
There was a lot going for Intel’s 12th-Gen processors, bringing with it some interesting (and dare we say, innovative) technologies but crucially also, introducing DDR5 memory and PCIe 5.0, to the masses.
So when AMD announced its Ryzen 7000 series, the expectation for its very own flagship, the Ryzen 9 7950X was not only high but very much anticipated amongst PC enthusiasts as well. After taking a backseat to Intel for the best part of 2022, AMD is back. And wow, is it back with a vengeance.
I will just put this out here first: The Ryzen 9 7950X is the fastest desktop CPU available right now. Be it for gaming, content creation or finding the answer to life, the Ryzen 9 7950X will blaze right through it. That may well change as Intel prepares to launch its next-gen 13th Generation Core processors next month, but it does look like AMD’s best will be able to put up a very good fight.
(To learn more about AMD's Ryzen 7000 series, I highly recommend you read Vijay's overview of the new processor series, its Zen 4 microarchitecture and other pointers of the new platform and CPU package.)
AMD is now next-gen
With the 7000 series, AMD has stuck with the same specifications as the older 5000 series. For instance, the Ryzen 9 7950X shares the same number of cores and threads as its 5950X predecessor, and the Ryzen 9 7900X is the same as the previous Ryzen 9 5900X. There are improvements around clock speeds though, with the 7950X now boosting up to 5.7GHz right out of the box. Here’s what the Ryzen 7000 series line-up looks like:
|Ryzen 9 7950X||Ryzen 9 7900X||Ryzen 7 7700X||Ryzen 5 7600X|
|Base clock speed||4.5GHz||4.7GHz||4.5GHz||4.7GHz|
|Boost clock speed||5.7GHz||5.6GHz||5.4GHz||5.3GHz|
The bigger change is the Zen 4 architecture that the new Ryzen 7000 series CPUs are based on, which uses TSMC’s 5nm node as compared to the 7nm node in the older Ryzen 5000 series. AMD says this allows the Ryzen 7000 to run at a lower power consumption at the same frequency – by as much as 30% lower.
But the performance situation is a lot more complicated than just the manufacturing process. That’s because AMD has also increased thermal power design by a big margin for the 7950X, which now comes with a TDP of 170W versus the 5950X, which topped at 105W. This boost in the requirement, however, allows the 7950X to achieve a massive boost to its clock speed at 5.7GHz (the 5950X topped out at 4.9GHz by comparison).
Yet, despite a new architecture and leap in specifications, the top-end Ryzen 9 7950X, with an SRP of S$1,169, is actually cheaper at retail than its predecessor at launch. I was expecting AMD to mark the price up (what with all the crazy inflations and increases in the material costs going on around the world), so the price cut is a pleasant surprise.
X670 platform: ROG Crosshair X670E Hero motherboard
AMD's AM4 socket has been in used in an assortment of Zen-based family of CPUs and APUs (Ryzen and Athlon) for more than five years now, and while it's commendable of AMD to have stuck with the socket for eight chipset models, from the 300-series to the 500-series, and thus providing AMD users huge savings when upgrading CPUs (Intel, in contrast, has launched three different sockets over the past three years), the AM4 has shown its age.
With the new Ryzen 7000 series, AMD has launched the new socket AM5 and unlike its predecessor, is a zero insertion force flip-chip grid array (LGA) CPU socket. In simple terms, that means the pins are now on the socket instead of them being on the CPU - so be very careful when handling the motherboard now.
Thanks to ASUS ROG and AMD, we got the ROG Crosshair X670E Hero motherboard to pair with the Ryzen 9 7950X processor for our benchmarks. Here are some photos of it:
Now let’s find out how the new Ryzen 9 7950X performs in our series of tests.
The Zen 4 architecture also meant AMD has finally made the jump to DDR5 memory as well as supporting PCIe 5.0. With both AMD and Intel now supporting DDR5 in their CPU line-ups from here on, DDR4 is as good as dead – long live DDR5. But our Ryzen 9 5950X and 5900X are still running on DDR4, so while it’s not going to be an apple-to-apple comparison, it is what it is.
|AMD Ryzen 9 7950X||AMD Ryzen 9 5950X||AMD Ryzen 7 5800X3D||Intel 12th Gen Core i9-12900K|
|CPU Base clock||4.5GHz||3.7GHz||3.5GHz||2.4GHz (E) / 3.2GHz (P)|
|CPU Boost Clock||5.7GHz||4.8GHz||5.3GHz||3.9GHz (E) / 5.2GHz (P)|
|CPU Core||16||16||8||8 (E) + 8 (P)|
|No. of Threads||32||32||16||24|
|Default CPU TDP||170W||105W||105W||125W|
|PCIe version supported||5.0||4.0||4.0||5.0|
|Motherboard||ROG Crosshair X670E Hero||MSI MEG X570 Godlike||MSI MEG X570 Godlike||ROG Maximus Z690 Hero|
|Memory||Kingston Fury 32GB (DDR5)||PNY XLR8 Gaming 32GB (DDR4)||PNY XLR8 Gaming 32GB (DDR4)||Kingston Fury 32GB (DDR5)|
|SSD||Samsung 980 Pro|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti FE|
|PSU||ROG Thor 1200W Platinum II|
|Cooler||Cooler Master Masterliquid PL240 Flux|
My game list includes a mixture of old and recent games to test processor performance. The focus will be on CPU performance, where possible, like Ashes of Singularity: Escalation and Horizon Zero Dawn. The list isn’t exhaustive by any measure, but there are enough different game engines and API variety to give us an idea of broader performance trends.
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- Ashes of the Singularity - CPU
- Horizon Zero Dawn - CPU
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition (ray tracing)
- Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Just for comparison’s sake, I also included the excellent Ryzen 7 5800X3D gaming processor, which scored some incredible gaming numbers in my review earlier this year.
1080p benchmarking is a great measure of a CPU’s prowess, no thanks in part to high-performance gaming cards such as the GeForce RTX 3080 Ti used in the benchmarks here. You see, at lower resolutions, the GPU can process and transfer data much more quickly than at higher resolutions. A CPU bottleneck happens here because the processor cannot keep up with the processing speed of the graphics card. The CPU, after all, is responsible for processing real-time game actions, physics, UI, audio and other complex CPU-bound processes.
Conversely, the opposite happens at higher resolutions when the GPU takes more time to process the higher data load (more textures, etc..) and becomes the bottleneck. With 1440p, we start to see this happening, where the difference in performances pared down, and the numbers start to show some interesting results.
For one, the Ryzen 9 7950X performance against Intel’s Core i9-12900K showed some mixed results: While it scored better in games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Metro: Exodus, it lost out in Ashes of the Singularity: Escalations and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It could be that the Intel processor is just better optimised to use its more powerful P-core (with a boost clock speed up to 5.2GHz) in certain games, than the Ryzen 9 7950X is able to boost its own clock speed up to 5.7GHz in those same games.
That said, the differences in frames per second are minuscule at best, and although the generational improvement isn’t as stark, it’s still close.
The interesting thing to note is that we also know that the 3D V-Cache technology in the 5800X3D processor will eventually make its way to the 7000 series, and gamers are likely to have a Ryzen 7000 series processor, possible a “7700X3D” that could beat the Ryzen 9 7950X in gaming for less money. AMD still has this ace up its sleeve.
Office, Content Creating and Rendering
But to spend more than a thousand bucks on a flagship CPU like the 7950X for just gaming is just an awful waste of money. The processor, with its 16 cores, shines best at computing tasks that make use of its high core and thread counts. To size up the processors’ core performance, I’ve used CineBench R20 alongside a mix of synthetic and real-time benchmarks. SYSmark 25 and PugetBench for Adobe Premiere Pro, for example, are great benchmarks as they run real-world applications and mimic workloads.
If there were any doubts about the power of the Ryzen 9 7950X, the above results should put them to rest. In every single test, the processor posted the highest results out of any CPUs that I tested in the above list – some of which by a significant margin. By all accounts, the i9-12900K is a magnificent CPU, but the 7950X just made it looks so slow here with its superior multi-core performances – outclassing the Intel flagship processor in every single work task and type.
The Ryzen 9 7950X is not only the fastest, but it is also the most powerful desktop processor available now – we will have to see if this statement still stands when Intel’s new 13th-Gen flagship processor launches later this year. It’s so powerful that I think some aspects of it are quite literally overkill.
Gaming, for instance. If you already own the Ryzen 7 5800X3D or the Core i9-12900K, there is really no compelling reason to jump to the Ryzen 9 7950X now. That’s also not forgetting the necessary upgrades that must come with the 7950X for existing Ryzen 5000 series owners: a new X670 motherboard with the new AM5 socket and DDR5 memory.
Thankfully, AMD has wisely designed its AM5 socket to be compatible with existing AM4-compatible AIOs and coolers.
If you must upgrade, then the cheaper options in the Ryzen 7000 lineup are the more sensible choices. The Ryzen 7 7700X, with its easier-on-the-wallet SRP of S$669, is my recommendation. Or better yet, wait for the 3D V-Cache editions later on that will make a big impact on gamers.
In any case, the key takeaway here is that if you are a content creator who streams or encodes videos while playing games, or does a lot of renderings, then the Ryzen 9 7950X is the processor that you’re looking for.
The CPU war has just gotten interesting for 2022, and AMD has just drawn first blood.