The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X and 2990WX Review: Moving Forward
Legacy Compatibility Mode
Like we saw with the original Threadripper CPUs, the 2990WX and 2950X can enable a "Legacy Compatibility Mode" from within the Ryzen Master software. This mode disables some of the CPU cores to provide compatibility with some applications that may not behave well with high core counts. This type of behavior is most applicable in games.
Along with the "1/2 core" mode we saw with the 1950X last year, the 2990WX provides a "1/4 core" mode, which will disable all but one of the CPU dies, essentially emulating a Ryzen 7 2700X. Switching between these modes requires a full system reset, as it's an option set in Windows' BCD boot file. Keep in mind that both "1/2 core" mode on the 2950X and "1/4 core" mode on the 2990WX cuts the available memory bandwidth in half, back to 2 channel mode.
We performed our gaming testing at 1080P with the 2950X and 2990WX in stock configurations, as well as the 2990WX in "1/4 core" mode. This mode is referred to as "gaming mode" in our charts for brevity's sake.
3DMark Time Spy
Starting off with a synthetic gaming test, 3DMark Time Spy, we already start to see issues with gaming on the workstation-focused 2990WX.
The 2950X has the second highest Overall score, with a score less than a percent lower than the 7960X. In fact, we would consider these scores close enough to be considered a draw.
Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation (DX12)
Ashes of the Escalation in DX12 mode is a benchmark that is known for good scaling as core count increases, with the 2950X providing an over 2% improvement over the 7960X.
The 2990WX however, even in compatibility mode is the slowest CPU in this test.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
Wildlands is the first game that we've come across that wouldn't function with the fully enabled 32-core 2990WX, crashing on application launch instead.
While the 8700K is the clear leader by 5-6%, all of the other high-core count CPUs perform similarly, including the 2990WX in "gaming mode."
While both the 2950X and 2990WX provide a healthy 10% bump over the previous generation Threadripper CPUs, both fall 5-10% short of the Intel Skylake-X options.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is the first game where we see a need for the compatibility mode with the Threadripper 2990WX. In the full 32-core mode, the performance is less than half when the processor is in "1/4 core" mode.
The 2950X, however, is within 1 FPS of the highest-performing Intel Skylake-X offering.
Assassin's Creed: Origins
While the gap isn't quite as high as we saw in Grand Theft Auto V, the Threadripper 2990WX takes a significant performance hit in its default state for Assassin's Creed Origins.
The 2950X sees a 5% edge over the Skylake-X processor and even manages to eek out the Intel i7-8700K.
Total War: Warhammer II
Without compatibility mode enabled, the performance of the Threadripper 2990WX is obliterated in Total War: Warhammer II.
Overall, the AMD Threadripper processors see a healthy performance advantage over the Intel Skylake-X processors.
F1 2017 is another title which sees a significant performance advantage between modes with the 2990WX, with almost double the frame rate achieved in legacy mode.
Intel Skylake-X processors take the slight performance advantage of about 5% over the Threadripper 2950X
For Honor presents a unique behavior with the Threadripper 2990WX. While in full 32-core mode, the 2990WX sits among the highest performers, legacy compatibility mode enabled the 2990WX to reach similar performance levels seen with the Ryzen 7 2700X.
The Threadripper 2950X provides a slight advantage over the Skylake-X processors like the i9-7960X and i9-7980XE.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
The Threadripper 2950X ends up around 3% slower than the Skylake-X processors in Shadow of War.
Threadripper 2990WX sees a modest 25% performance gain by moving to compatbility mode.
Forza Motorsport 7
There is little performance difference between any of the 2nd generation Threadripper and Skylake-X offerings in Forza Motorsport 7, with the advantage going towards the Intel processors.
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 was the other title that we found wouldn't launch without legacy compatibility mode enabled on the 2990WX. However, with "1/4 core" mode enabled, the gaming performance in Far Cry 5 is almost identical to a Ryzen 7 2700X.
The 2950X however, sees FPS 7% lower than the Intel 7900-series processors.
Overall, the gaming performance story of the 2nd generation Threadripper processors is a bit of a mixed bag. While the 32-core 2990WX processor has significant performance issues without enabling legacy mode in several games and refuses to launch in others, the 2950X is an entirely different story.
In fact, the 2950X is probably the most competitive Ryzen processor ever, when comparing gaming performance to similar Intel processors. At higher resolutions, this performance gap should be non-existent.
However, since enabling legacy compatibility mode requires a system reboot, it marks an inconvenient trade-off between people who want the extremely high core count for things like 3D rendering, but also want to be able to play games. Think of a game developer, who could very well have to reboot their computer in a different mode to properly playtest their game.