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AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D review: The fastest CPU for gamers

By The Count - 5 Mar 2023

The most powerful CPU for gamers

Note: This review was first published on 28 February 2023.

AMD's Ryzen 7 5800X3D was a truly exceptional CPU, with gaming performance that exceeded that of other Ryzen 5000 CPUs thanks to its unique 3D V-Cache. Now, its first two successors, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D and 7900X3D, have arrived with the same magic, bringing 3D V-Cache to the Ryzen 7000 family for the first time. A third CPU, the Ryzen 7 7800X3D is scheduled to make its debut this April.

All three should have exceptional performance as compared to their non-X3D counterparts, but the question is whether or not they can dethrone Intel's Core i9-13900K as the "best gaming” processor. Is the larger L3 cache going to be as game-changing for Ryzen 7000 as it was for Ryzen 5000? To find out that answer, we have been putting the flagship Ryzen 9 7950X3D through its paces. The following table reveals the relative standing of the three Ryzen 7000X3D CPUs compared to the rest of their stablemates.

Ryzen 7000X-series Specifications
  Ryzen 7600X Ryzen 7 7700X Ryzen 7 7800X3D Ryzen 9 7900X Ryzen 9 7900X3D AMD Ryzen 9 7950X AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D
Base clock 4.7GHz 4.5GHz 4.2GHz 4.7GHz 4.4GHz 4.5GHz 4.2GHz
Boost clock 5.3GHz 5.4GHz 5.0GHz 5.6GHz 5.6GHz 5.7GHz 5.7GHz
Core 6 8 8 12 12 16 16
Threads 12 16 16 24 24 32 32
L3 Cache 32MB 32MB 96MB 64MB 128MB 64MB 128MB
PCIe 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Default TDP 105W 105W 120W 170W 120W 170W 120W
SRP (as of Feb 27 2023) US$241 US$341 US$449 US$448 US$599 / S$969 US$574 US$699 / S$1,129

 

Since their creation, Ryzen CPUs have made use of a chiplet architecture. The low- to mid-range Ryzens employ a single chiplet of up to eight cores, while the high-end Ryzen CPUs use two chiplets. This design is carried over into the latest Ryzen 9 7950X3D. But this CPU also has an important distinction that sets it apart – an asymmetrical design. This means that while one of its chiplets has been given the 3D V-Cache upgrade at the expense of a slight reduction in maximum frequency, the other chiplet has kept the smaller cache size and frequency of the Ryzen 9 7950X that it is based on.

While the asymmetrical design of the computer processor may seem unusual and have some drawbacks, there are also clear advantages. Having just one 3D V-Cache chiplet makes manufacturing easier and more cost-effective compared to having two. Additionally, applications that don't require a larger cache, such as games, can utilise the higher frequencies on the cores that do not use 3D V-Cache. These cores are primarily used for programs that benefit from a larger cache like games.

But how does 3D V-Cache works? Well, through the new chipset drivers, 3D V-Cache will automatically optimise performance depending on a workload. The driver will be able to dynamically allocate which core is to be used by the Windows OS. In other words, if the workload is cache-sensitive, the operating system will be modified to prioritise cores with 3D V-Cache. If frequency is more important, cores with higher frequency will be chosen instead.

 

Performance benchmarks

My AM5-based test platform for the Ryzen 9 7950X3D remains the same as the one previously used to review the our Ryzen 7000 series processors. To compare the AMD processor's with Intel's best, I have used the same components except for the motherboard - which, obviously has to be an Intel Z790-based board.

  • ROG Crosshair X670E Hero (AMD) / ROG Maximus Z790 Extreme motherboard (Intel)
  • Samsung 980 Pro 1TB SSD
  • Kingston Fury 32GB DDR5 memory
  • NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 Founders Edition
  • Windows 11 OS

 

Gaming (frames per seconds)

When it's possible, I'll use games like Ashes of Singularity: Escalation and Horizon Zero Dawn as CPU performance benchmarks. The list is by no means comprehensive, but there are enough unique game engines and APIs to give us a general sense of performance trends. Additionally, I've turned on ray-tracing in the games that support it.

  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Ashes of the Singularity - CPU
  • Horizon Zero Dawn - CPU
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider
  • Metro Exodus: Enhanced Edition
  • Total War: Three Kingdoms
  • Cyberpunk 2022

Apart from Total War and Cyberpunk 2022, the 7950X3D absolutely wiped out its siblings and competitor in our gaming benchmarks. Notably Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Horizon Zero Dawn, where we see a significant uplift in frame-rates. If anything, the 7950X3D is already an improvement over the 7950X at the minimum.

AMD's new chipset drivers played a key role here, where it worked flawlessly with Windows to distribute workloads to the appropriate cores automatically (higher cache vs. higher frequency) the moment you load a game. The minor caveat here is, of course, not all games will take advantage of the technology and clock speed is still a significant factor in CPU gaming performance and can make a big difference in some games.

 

Productivity and Content Creation (real-time workloads)

For non-gaming benchmarks, I have dispensed with synthetic tools and stuck with SYSmark 30 and PugetBench for Adobe Premiere Pro to get a taste of the Ryzen 9 7950X3D' performance with real-world applications and workloads. I have again, included the Ryzen 9 7900X and 7950X as well as Intel's flagship i9-13900K for comparisons.

AMD has claimed that 3D V-Cache on its Ryzen 7000 processors would see improvements with productivity and content creation, but as we can see with both benchmarks, that's not quite true. In SYSmark 30, for example, the 7950X3D for the most part trails - albeit very narrowly - behind the 7950X and i9-13900K.

Here's the interesting thing: while it wasn't able to outright supersede both processors in productivity and content creation workloads, the 7950X3D is doing all of these at a much lower TDP. Have a look at my temperature and power chart below.

 

Temperature and Power Draw

While running Adobe Premiere (PudgetBench), the 7950X3D drew significantly less power than the other Ryzen 9 and Intel processors, partially making up for its reduced performance in that benchmark. I think it's more than a worthy trade-off and it's impossible not to be impressed by how excellent the 7950X3D power usage and efficiency are, especially in the current economic climate.

 

Final thoughts

The numbers above don't lie, and it is evident enough that the 7950X3D is an exceptional CPU that offers cutting-edge gaming performance while retaining most of the content production capabilities of the original 7950X. We have seen some truly remarkable frame rates in almost all of the games tested with the 7950X3D, besting even the Core i9-13900K.

While it could only almost match, and not beat, the other Ryzen 9 and Intel's flagship processors in productivity and content creation workloads, it is worth remembering that the 7950X3D was running those at a far lower power output, which is a more impressive feat and speaks to the efficiency of AMD's Ryzen 7000 processors in general.

In my opinion, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D is a great choice for a high-end PC, especially for gamers who play games that benefit from the 3D V-Cache design (and there are many already). But let me also share that from a value perspective, the existing Ryzen 9 7950X and the Ryzen 7 7700X new price drops make them excellent options for non-gamers now too. Then there’s also the Ryzen 7 7800X3D, which also looks potentially to be a very attractive gaming CPU at that price point when it’s out in April.

Well done, AMD.

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