AMD today released the new Ryzen XT Family, and here's our Ryzen 9 3900XT review. These processors are being launched by AMD as its first response to Intel's 10th Gen Core "Comet Lake" processor family and are based on the "Zen 2" microarchitecture, which established a technological superiority over Intel and tilted the DIY retail channel market leadership firmly over to AMD. Just a year ago, "Zen 2" introduced many firsts, including the new 7 nm silicon fabrication process, PCI-Express 4.0, and core counts of up to 16 on the existing AM4 mainstream desktop socket, with backwards compatibility with older 400-series chipsets.
AMD has been largely unopposed by Intel since July 2019. Much of AMD's leadership rests on the fact that "Zen 2" matches the IPC of the "Skylake" CPU core, and AMD is able to offer more cores or threads to the dollar than Intel. In response, Intel's strategy with "Comet Lake" has been to open up the "Skylake" core across the board by enabling HyperThreading for the entire Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, and Core i9 brands, and increasing L3 cache. Intel didn't stop there. In addition to stepping up clock speeds, Intel introduced new boosting algorithms for its Core i7 and Core i9 chips, including Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and Thermal Velocity Boost and significantly bumped power limits (up to 125 W). The company also gave motherboard designers freedom to play with power limits and offer them as user-configurable BIOS settings.
The Core i9-10900K has hence spelled trouble for the Ryzen 9 3900X. In our testing, it beat the AMD chip by 2% in CPU tests despite two fewer cores, and it is some 7% ahead in gaming performance because of its higher frequencies. This forced AMD to get retailers to unofficially cut prices of the 3900X down to $420, leaving a vast price-performance gorge between it and the flagship Ryzen 9 3950X. AMD needs something to sell at $499 again, or it cedes that price-segment to the i9-10900K. We hence have the Ryzen 9 3900XT.
Launched today at $499, the Ryzen 9 3900XT is a 12-core/24-thread Socket AM4 processor that's drop-in compatible with any motherboard that supports Ryzen 3000 series processors. The processor ships with clock speeds of 3.80 GHz base, same as the 3900X, but increased 4.70 GHz boost frequency, compared to the 4.60 GHz of the 3900X. There's more to this 100 MHz increment. AMD built these processors on a refinement of TSMC's N7 (7 nm) silicon fabrication node, which helps with improved boost frequency sustainability and has AMD claim performance gains in both single and multi-threaded tasks. More on this later.
A design focus with the Ryzen 3000XT series has been to shore up gaming performance since the original Ryzen 3000 chips didn't end up too far behind Intel's 10th Gen Core chips. AMD neither wants to lose competitive price points nor the gaming performance outlook to Intel for the next months, while they give finishing touches to the "Zen 3" microarchitecture.
An interesting product design decision by AMD has been to drop the in-box cooling solution with the Ryzen 9 3900XT. Unlike the 3900X, which includes an AMD Wraith Prism RGB cooler, the Ryzen 9 3900XT lacks a cooler. AMD claims that a majority of the audience for the 3900X uses aftermarket cooling, or even watercooling. The more obvious explanation has to do with cost cutting since this could be a straight $25–$30 saving for the company per box. Intel doesn't include coolers with its unlocked K-series processors, either.
In our Ryzen 9 3900XT review we put AMD's new CPU through our entire CPU test suite and compare it with all interesting models from Intel's Comet Lake lineup, as well as the Ryzen 9 3900X.