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DaVinci Resolve 15: AMD Threadripper 2990WX & 2950X Performance

Written on September 19, 2018 by Matt Bach


DaVinci Resolve may be known for its ability to utilize the power of your GPU to improve performance, but your choice of CPU can definitely have an impact on performance in many situations. However, the Resolve testing we've done in the past has shown diminishing returns after around 10 CPU cores. This begs the question of whether AMD's new 32 Core 2990WX or even the 16 Core 2950X will perform well in Resolve or if Intel's X-series will continue to be our go-to CPU for DaVinci Resolve. To find out, we decided to test these new Threadripper CPUs in both the Color tab and the new Fusion tab alongside a wide range of Intel CPUs.

If you would like to skip over our test setup and benchmark result/analysis sections, feel free to jump right to the Conclusion section.

Test Setup & Methodology

Listed below are the test platforms we will be using in our testing:

Our testing for DaVinci Resolve primarily revolves around the Color tab and focuses on the minimum FPS you would see with various media and levels of grading. The lowest level of grading we test is simply a basic correction using the color wheels plus 4 Power Window nodes with motion tracking. The next level up is the same adjustments but with the addition of 3 OpenFX nodes: Lens Flare, Tilt-Shift Blur, and Sharpen. The final level has all of the previous nodes plus one TNR node.

We kept our project timelines at Ultra HD (3840x2160) across all the tests, but changed the playback framerate to match the FPS of the media. For all the RAW footage we tested (CinemaDNG and RED), we not only tested with the RAW decode quality set to "Full Res" but we also tested at "Half Res" ("Half Res Good" for the RED footage). Full resolution decoding should show the largest performance delta between the different cards, but we also want to see what kind of FPS increase you might see by running at a lower decode resolution.

Codec Resolution FPS Camera Clip Name Source
CinemaDNG 4608x2592 24 FPS Ursa Mini 4K Interior Office Blackmagic Design
[Direct Download]
RED 4096x2304
29.97 FPS RED ONE MYSTERIUM A004_C186_011278_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 6144x3077
23.976 FPS WEAPON 6K S005_L001_0220LI_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
RED 8192x4320
25 FPS WEAPON 8K S35 B001_C096_0902AP_001 RED
Sample R3D Files
ProRes 422 HQ
ProRes 4444
DNxHR HQ 8-bit
3940x2160 29.97 FPS Transcoded from RED 4K clip

With the addition of the "Fusion" tab in Resolve, we are also going to be including some basic tests for that tab as well. At the moment these are relatively easy projects that specifically test things like particles with a turbulence node, planar tracking, compositing, and 3D text with a heavy gaussian blur node. These projects are based on the following tutorials:

If you have suggestions on what we should test in the future, please let us know in the comments section. Especially if you are able to send us a sample project to use, we really want to hear from you!

Color Tab FPS - Raw Benchmark Results

[Click Here] to skip ahead to analysis section

Color Tab FPS - Benchmark Analysis

To analyze our benchmark results, we are going to break it down based two criteria. First, we will completely separate the results based on whether we used a single GTX 1080 Ti or if we used a triple GTX 1080 Ti setup. Second, we noticed that whether the media we used was RED or not significantly affected the results. Because of this, in both charts we will split up the results between RED and non-RED media.

The "Score" shown in the charts is a representation of the average performance we saw with each CPU for that test. In essence, a score of "800" would mean that on average that card was able to play our project at 80% of the tested media's FPS. A perfect score would be "1000" which would mean that the system gave full FPS even with the most difficult codecs and timelines.

Starting with the single GPU results, there was actually little difference between each CPU. With non-RED media especially, it appears that the GPU is the limiting factor as every single processor scored within a few percent of each other.

With RED media, however, there is a tiny bit of difference but only if you are using a relatively low-end CPU like the Core i7 7820X or Core i7 8700K. At that level, the AMD Threadripper 1920X is a bit better - about 11% faster (or a few FPS on average) than the i7 7820X.

Moving up to a triple GPU setup is where we really start to see a difference between some of the processors. However, at the high-end the Threadripper 2990WX and the Core i9 7980XE performed almost exactly the same. Technically the 2990WX was a few percent faster, but it really only showed up as an FPS or two when using Temporal Noise Reduction.

At a more mid-range (TR 2950X vs i9 7900X) level, Threadripper takes the lead. Here, the 2950X gave about 14% higher FPS with RED media, although with non-RED media it only barely managed to sneak ahead of the 7900X. The results are a bit more in favor of Threadripper with a relatively low-end CPU (TR 1920X vs i7 7820X) where Threadripper gave about 26% higher FPS with RED media.

Fusion Tab FPS - Raw Benchmark Results

[Click Here] to skip ahead to analysis section

Fusion Tab FPS - Benchmark Analysis

Moving on to the results for Fusion, the first thing we want to point out is that having multiple GPUs doesn't appear to greatly affect performance. To be fair, we are not using footage inside any of our projects that is particularly difficult to process, but given the FPS we saw in each project we doubt that that having multiple GPUs would significantly improve performance even if you are using 8K RED media.

That said, the results with each CPU is certainly very interesting. At first glance, it would appear that Fusion favors per-core performance more than it likes having a higher number of CPU cores. This is shown by the fact that the Core i7 8700K was easily the fastest CPU overall for our tests. On the other hand, the second fastest CPU was the AMD Threadripper 2950X which, compared to Intel, doesn't have the greatest per-core performance.

Really, what it comes down to is that with the exception of the Core i7 8700K, all the CPUs performed within ~5% of each other. This is a very interesting result since it appears that we are not CPU bottlenecked... but we also don't seem to be bottlenecked by the GPU performance either. We will need to look into this further in the future, but our best guess here is that we actually are GPU limited, but Fusion doesn't scale well across multiple video cards. So if we want better performance, we may need to upgrade to a higher-end GPU like the Titan V.

Is Threadripper 2 good for DaVinci Resolve?

Based on our testing, AMD's Threadripper 2 CPUs are terrific choices for DaVinci Resolve 15. They are not always significantly faster than a similarly priced Intel X-series CPU, but if you have multiple video cards and work with RED footage - especially at 6K/8K resolutions - you can often see significant FPS gains with Threadripper.

AMD Threadripper 2990WX & 2950X DaVinci Resolve 15 Benchmark

The charts above really don't tell the whole story since it is simply an overall compilation of all Color Tab results (we opted to skip the Fusion results since we didn't see a significant difference between each CPU). To really solve the Intel vs AMD question for DaVinci Resolve, there are three primary comparisons we should be looking at based on the rough price of each CPU:

AMD Threadripper 2990WX vs Intel Core i9 7980XE for DaVinci Resolve

In most situations, the 2990WX and 7980XE are going to perform almost exactly the same in Resolve. One thing to keep in mind is that we saw very little difference between the 2990WX and the 2950X. So, if you are considering purchasing the 2990WX, you may be better off sticking with the 2950X and diverting the difference in cost towards a more powerful GPU configuration.

AMD Threadripper 2950X vs Intel Core i9 7900X for DaVinci Resolve

For many users, these CPUs should perform about the same unless you have multiple video cards and work with RED footage. In that case, the 2950X should be able to give you on average about 14% higher performance in the Color Tab. However, with 6K/8K RED media in "Full Res. Decode" mode the 2950X can at times give up to 10 more FPS compared to the i9 7900X.

AMD Threadripper 1920X vs Intel Core i7 7820X for DaVinci Resolve

In most cases, the Threadripper 1920X has the lead - but typically only if you work with RED footage. In that case, the 1920X should be able to give you on average about 10-25% higher performance in the Color Tab. However, with 6K/8K RED media in "Full Res. Decode" mode the 2950X can at times give up to 10-15 more FPS compared to the i7 7820X if you have multiple video cards.

Overall, AMD Threadripper CPUs are pretty clear winner for DaVinci Resolve as they at the very least match the Intel X-series and in some situations significantly out-perform them. The main thing to keep in mind is that since DaVinci Resolve utilizes the video card to such a heavy extent, having a more powerful CPU won't matter if you don't have the GPU power to match. This means that if you only have a single GPU you may actually be better off with an Intel CPU simply due to the lower power draw which translates to a quieter workstation. However, if you do have multiple video cards and work with RED footage, Threadripper is the clear choice.

Choosing the right CPU for your system is a complicated topic, and DaVinci Resolve is likely just one of many programs you use every day. If you want to see how the 2990WX and 2950X fare in other applications, we recommend checking out some of our other recent Threadripper articles.

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Tags: DaVinci Resolve, Threadripper, 2990WX, 1950X, 2950X, Core i7, Core i9, 8700K, 7820X, 7900X, 7920X, 7940X, 7960X, 7980XE