AMD has added a new processor family to their already-fantastic lineup: Threadripper PRO. It is based on their EPYC server CPUs, but in a workstation-friendly platform, and includes features like an 8-channel memory controller, RDIMM support, and tons of PCI-Express lanes. We have gathered hardware specifications, links to articles about how Threadripper PRO performs with many popular applications, and more detailed background information about these new processors below.
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AMD Threadripper PRO Performance Articles
|Base Clock Speed||2.7GHz||3.5GHz||3.9GHz||4.0GHz|
|Max Boost Speed||4.2GHz||4.2GHz||4.3GHz||4.3GHz|
AMD Threadripper PRO Platform Details
Over the last four years, AMD has been pushing the boundaries of CPU performance - steadily increasing core count and improving per-core performance with their Ryzen and Threadripper processors. They have also been competing with Intel in the server space with their EPYC CPUs, but the loosely-defined "workstation" space - which falls between the consumer and server worlds - has been somewhat of a gap in AMD's product line.
What makes a CPU a "workstation" product is somewhat arbitrary. We often use consumer and enthusiast CPUs in our workstations here at Puget Systems, but the general consensus we have seen in the PC community is that the distinctions between consumer and workstation processors include support for Registered ECC memory (RDIMMs), higher numbers of PCI-E lanes, and overall increased reliability. In the past, high core count and support for dual processors was another factor - although that has become largely moot due to the incredible number of cores in AMD's Threadripper chips.
However, with the launch of the new Threadripper PRO processors, AMD is breaking into this workstation CPU space - and doing so at a time when Intel is particularly weak. When AMD announced Threadripper PRO, Intel's primary workstation CPU line was the Xeon W-3200 series which was based on much of the same technology as their Core X-series processors. If you have seen our articles comparing the X-series to AMD's Ryzen and Threadripper processors, you may know that Intel does not fare particularly well in that comparison.
While the Intel Xeon W-3200 processors are the primary competitor for Threadripper PRO, many will also end up comparing these new CPUs to AMD's own Threadripper (non-PRO) processors since, at first glance, they seem pretty similar. You can see how they stack up in terms of performance in the articles linked to above, but it is worth noting that just like with workstation vs consumer video cards, the advantages of a workstation CPU extend well beyond pure performance.
In the case of Threadripper PRO, there are three primary advantages to the platform as a whole versus normal Threadripper, two of which also apply when comparing to Xeon W:
1) Increased RAM capability - Compared to Threadripper, this is a two (or even three) part improvement. First, Threadripper PRO supports Registered ECC memory which enables hardware error correction as well as greatly increasing the maximum amount of RAM that can be used. Where Threadripper maxes out at 256GB of RAM, Threadripper PRO is capable of using up to 2TB. The number of memory channels is also doubled compared to Threadripper, going from four to eight channels of memory which should greatly improve overall performance in applications that are memory bound.
The Intel Xeon W-3200 processors, on the other hand, only have 6 channel memory support. They do support Registered ECC memory, but most of the models you will find for sale only support up to 1TB of RAM. If you want up to 2TB of memory, you need to get one of the Xeon W-32__M models which cost roughly $3,000 more than the standard versions.
2) Increased PCI-E lanes - Like other contemporary AMD processors, Threadripper PRO supports PCI-Express Gen4, but it increases the number of PCIe lanes from 32 (on Ryzen) or 64 (on Threadripper) to 128. This may not affect too many users, since the 64 lanes on Threadripper already allows for up to four video cards, but having this many PCIe lanes can enable support for multiple GPUs alongside a large number of other devices like M.2 NVMe drives. For example, in theory, you could have four GPUs running at full x16 speeds, and still have enough lanes left over for 16 NVMe drives at x4 each!
Compared to Intel Xeon W-3200, this is another big advantage for Threadripper PRO. Xeon W is still using PCI-Express Gen3, and only offers 64 lanes in total. That means that since Threadripper PRO has twice the number of lanes, and each lane is double bandwidth due to them being Gen4, you effectively get four times as much total PCIe bandwidth compared to an Intel Xeon W-3200 platform.
3) Higher Reliability - With a new platform like this, it is hard to say exactly how much more reliable Threadripper PRO will be compared to Threadripper, but in general, workstation hardware like this is built to be more reliable - especially when put under long, sustained, and heavy loads.
There are also other features Threadripper PRO supports, like remote management and real-time memory encryption, but for most users, the increased RAM and PCIe capabilities are likely going to be the primary driving force for using this platform over AMD's desktop processors. As far as pricing goes, Threadripper PRO is of course more expensive than Threadripper, although the cost only works out to about an extra $24 per core which is fairly reasonable for a workstation-class product.
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