Last night out of the blue, we received an email from AMD, sharing some of the specifications for the forthcoming Ryzen Threadripper CPUs to be announced today. Up until this point, we knew a few things – Threadripper would consist of two Zeppelin dies featuring AMD’s latest Zen core and microarchitecture, and would essentially double up on the HEDT Ryzen launch. Double dies means double pretty much everything: Threadripper would support up to 16 cores, up to 32 MB of L3 cache, quad-channel memory support, and would require a new socket/motherboard platform called X399, sporting a massive socket with 4094-pins (and also marking an LGA socket for AMD). By virtue of being sixteen cores, AMD is seemingly carving a new consumer category above HEDT/High-End Desktop, which we’ve coined the ‘Super High-End Desktop’, or SHED for short.
AMD is listing the top of the line Threadripper 1950X for 999 dollars, which gives you 16 cores and 32 threads, with a base frequency of 3.4Ghz (and a turbo frequency of 4.0Ghz) at a TDP of 180W (nothing to sneeze at). These are two quite amazing processors, and later next year, the pricing should definitely come down a bit so it’s a bit more affordable for regular computer use as well.
Well done, AMD. Sure, we need to await the benchmarks for more information, but this is looking real good. I’m hoping this will finally start forcing developers – specifically of games – to start making more and better use of multicore.
With graphics cards, developers can target very high end graphics and low end graphics simultaneously. The worst that happens on lower systems is a lower frame rate, lower resolution, or lower details. Crucially the game is still fundamentally playable on lower graphics settings.
Because of the way they’re used, CPUs are different. More CPUs can benefit back end systems: smarter bosses and AI companions, more sophisticated physics, more characters operating concurrently, intelligent speech, far larger crowds, etc. However unlike with graphics cards, it may not be so easy for a studio to support cheaper CPUs without fundamentally changing the game play experience.
For example, a game might have AI teammates that use AI to learn from and work with you to get you through game obstacles, but turning them off the teammates could break the game.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be interested in seeing all the cool things they could do, but I suspect game studios will continue to target lower CPU specs so they can sell more games. IMHO 32 thread CPUs will remain very niche in the medium term, at least for consumer applications.