A rapid rise
Ever since AMD launched the Zen architecture just over three years ago, it has progressed at a relentless pace. At the time, Intel’s $1,100 8-core i7-6900 seemed like it had all the cores you’d ever need. However, AMD moved the goalposts, unveiling the 8-core Ryzen 7 1800 at a much lower $499 price point. That was followed a little later by the $999 Threadripper 1950X with no fewer than 16 cores.
Intel had already unveiled the 18-core i9-7980XE, but it cost double the price at $1,999. Yes, it had a significant speed edge over the Threadripper 1950X, but AMD was starting to close the gap for multi-threaded workstation CPUs — a key and very profitable market for Intel.
AMD quickly changed the game again with its Zen 1 (second generation) Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs. When it first shipped, the 32-core $1,799 Threadripper 2990X was nearly on par with Intel’s best workstation chips, including the $3,000 28-core Xeon W-3175X.
Several months later, Intel launched the $2,000 i9-9980XE. It was still a better option for clock-speed sensitive tasks like Adobe Creative Suite and gaming than AMD’s Threadripper or Ryzen 7 chips, thanks to its stronger per-core performance and better memory architecture. However, the 2990WX could hold its own for multithreaded rendering, thanks to the sheer number of cores, and took the lead in tile-based rendering scenarios like Blender.
When AMD announced the 16-core, Ryzen 9 3950X for just $750, it had good reason to be confident. Some pretty huge architectural improvements and increased clock speeds made performance significantly stronger than the Core i9-9980XE, but at nearly a third of the price. To counter, Intel launched the 18-core Core i9-10980XE and cut the price by half, down to $1,000 — something it wouldn’t have likely done without the competition — but it still wasn’t enough.
AMD has replied again with the 24- and 32-core Threadripper 3960X and 3970X CPUs, priced at $1,399 and…