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AMD’s new 16-core CPU takes aim at PC gamers, throws shade at Intel

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AMD has been on a roll these days. Hot off announcements at Computex, the company has entered E3 with a surprising, strong announcement. The first 16-core gaming processor, known as the Ryzen 9 3950X.

AMD hasn’t revealed all the specifics, but here’s what we do know. It has 16 cores, 32 threads, a 4.6GHz boost speed, and a 3.5GHz base clock. Most significantly, it has 72MB of cache and only draws 105 watts of power. Efficiency has always been AMD’s largest hurdle, but the 3950X increases clock speeds and core counts without increasing power draw from the 2nd-gen Ryzen 7. However, Ryzen 9’s main competitor, the Intel Core i9-9900K, still hits faster clock speeds at a lower 95-watt TDP.

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The 3950X is the latest entry in the new series of Ryzen 3000 chips, based on the redesigned 7nm Zen 2 architecture. Across the new Zen 2 architecture, AMD is boasting impressive gains in performance, both in gaming and creative applications. From an increased L3 cache size, to faster clock speed ramping within Windows 10, to the 2nd-gen Infinity Fabric, the 3950X benefits from architectural advances in its 7nm design. The 3950X is the follow-up to the previously announced Ryzen 9 3900X, which is a $499 12-core chip.

“Are we waiting for our competition to unveil something? Some of you asked that question,” said Dr. Lisa Su, the CEO of AMD at a press event ahead of its E3 livestream. “The answer is no. The truth is we had every intention from day one to release up to 16 cores because we are all about pushing the envelope.”

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AMD has produced chips with more cores in the Threadripper line, which offered up to 32 cores and 64 threads. That, however, was not what AMD would call a “gaming” processor. That might seem a strange line to draw, but AMD isn’t kidding, and we’ve witnessed the results in our own reviews of Threadripper processors. They don’t perform as well as you’d expect in games due to their low base and boost clock speeds compared to Ryzen processors, as well as Intel’s Core i7 and i9 lines.

Compared to the Threadripper Zen+ processor, AMD’s new Ryzen 9 3950X has higher clock speeds and a significantly lower TDP. Those traits make it more suitable for gaming, where a high clock speed is often required to maintain smooth performance.

The roll-out of Zen 2 seems to be happening quickly, which could be a good sign for the yield on these new 7nm processors. Meanwhile, Intel’s 10nm processors are limited to mobile products for 2019, with desktop chips not expected to land until 2021.

AMD didn’t provide an exact release date for the 3950X, but it’s currently scheduled to launch sometime in September. A price has not been announced.

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Luke Larsen
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
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