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AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D review: attack of the V-Cache

The AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D installed in a motherboard.
AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D
MSRP $700.00
“Gaming, productivity -- the Ryzen 9 7950X3D does it all, assuming you can stomach its high price.”
  • Chart-topping gaming performance
  • More efficient than base Ryzen 9 7950X
  • Productivity performance keeps pace
  • Unlocked for overclocking
  • Expensive
  • AM5 is still a costly upgrade

After claiming a small victory, AMD took a back seat to Intel’s Core i9-13900K on the list of the best processors. But AMD is looking to gain some ground on Team Blue, and it’s bringing extra cache this time around.

The Ryzen 9 7950X3D is a processor that wouldn’t be possible just a year ago, as it promises to not only deliver excellent productivity performance, but also gaming performance due to AMD’s 3D V-Cache technology. It delivers on both fronts, but it’s also entering a market that has moved to lower prices, putting the value ball back in Intel’s court.

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D specs

AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X3D inside of its packaging.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The main difference between the Ryzen 9 7950X and its 3D-stacked counterpart is AMD’s 3D V-Cache. This processor comes with 128MB of L3 cache and 144MB of total cache — a massive 80% jump over the base processor.

AMD stacks this cache on top of the Core Chiplet Die (CCD), same as the previous Ryzen 7 5800X3D, but this is where the Ryzen 9 7950X3D gets interesting. It has two CCDs, each housing eight cores, and only one of them hasthe additional layer of cache.

Ryzen 9 7950X3D Ryzen 9 7950X Ryzen 9 7900X3D Ryzen 9 7900X
Cores/Threads 16/32 16/32 12/24 12/24
Boost clock speed 5.7GHz 5.7GHz 5.6GHz 5.6GHz
Base clock speed 4.2GHz 4.5GHz 4.4GHz 4.7GHz
Cache (L2 + L3) 144MB 80MB 140MB 76MB
TDP 120W 170W 120W 170W
Price $700 $590 (lowest) $600 $450 (lowest)

This hardware design is what makes the Ryzen 9 7950X3D possible in the first place. The processor communicates with the operating system to focus on the cache CCD for tasks that are sensitive to cache, and the non-cache CCD for tasks that are sensitive to frequency. It’s like a different take on the hybrid architecture in Intel’s Core i9-12900K and how it works with Thread Director.

It’s not free, though. You must have the latest chipset driver installed for your motherboard, as well as an updated version of Xbox Game Bar. The optimization services rely on Xbox Game Bar to tell the processor when you’re playing a game through a universal database. I didn’t run into any games not in the database while testing, but there’s still a nontrivial problem here. The Ryzen 9 7950X3D may have performance hurdles in certain games not in the database, as well as with other operating systems that don’t come with the necessary services to optimize its unique architecture.

Outside of the cache, AMD also reduced the base clock speed (but not the boost block speed), as well as trimmed the power. The latter revision comes on the heels of AMD’s non-X Ryzen 7000 chips like the Ryzen 5 7600, which showcased much better efficiency with lower power limits.

Test configurations

The RTX 4080 in a running test bench.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

There’s nothing too special about my test configurations. I benchmarked the Core i9-13900K, Ryzen 9 7950X, and, of course, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D, all with Nvidia’s RTX 4080 and a 32B kit of DDR5-6000 memory. I used different brands of memory — Corsair Vengeance for the Intel build and Gigabyte Aorus for the AMD — but they came with the same specs.

  AMD Zen 4 Intel 13th-gen
CPU AMD Ryzen 9 7950X / AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D Intel Core i9-13900K
GPU Nvidia RTX 4080 Founders Edition Nvidia RTX 4080 Founders Edition
RAM 32GB Gigabyte Aorus DDR5-6000 32GB Corsair Vengeance DDR5-6000
Motherboard Gigabyte X670E Aorus Master MSI MPG Z690 Edge
CPU cooler Corsair H150i Elite Capellix  Corsair H150i Elite LCD
Power supply Gigabyte Aorus P1200W Gigabyte Aorus P1200W
Storage Corsair MP400 1TB SSD MSI M450 1TB

All three platforms were running the latest 22H2 Windows 11 update. The Ryzen 9 7950X3D got a few specific BIOS tweaks to ensure AMD’s 3D V-Cache optimizations were running, but otherwise, the platforms all had ReBAR turned on, XMP or EXPO set to the default profile, and no in-BIOS overclocking enabled. I also left AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) turned off, but the automatic overclocking feature is available on the AMD chips if you want a hair more extra performance.

Productivity performance

The big problem with AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800X3D was that it was only good for gaming. It struggled in standard productivity tasks, but the unique design of the Ryzen 9 7950X3D helps solve that issue. AMD wants it to provide the best of both worlds, and in most cases, it does.

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D AMD Ryzen 9 7950X Intel Core i9-13900K
Cinebench R23 multi-core 36,335 38,116 40,191
Cinebench R23 single core 2,045 2,030 2,259
7-Zip 224,446 MIPs 224,581 MIPS 175,477
Blender Monster 271.9 283.2 267.8
Blender Junkshop 172.1 175.4 139.9
Blender Classroom 133.4 139.9 125.7
Handbrake (seconds, lower is better) 38 38 37
JetStream 2 353.9 357.2 344.2
PugetBench for Photoshop 1,590 1,574 1,634
Y-Cruncher multi-core (seconds, lower is better) 8.87 9.26 9.93
Y-Cruncher single core (seconds, lower is better) 77.19 77.11 89.19

It’s not one-for-one with the base Ryzen 9 7950X, though. Single-core speed is the same in Cinebench, but multi-core operations like Blender and the variety of web apps tested through JetStream 2 are a bit behind. Intel still leads in transcoding, as well as raw single-core speed, but the boosted cache on the Ryzen 9 7950X3D helps in some tasks like calculating Pi through Y-Cruncher.

The biggest hope for the Ryzen 9 7950X3D is that it would hold up to the base Ryzen 9 7950X. And despite some small regressions, it’s still a plenty powerful processor for productivity. The main issue it has is the Core i9-13900K. AMD claimed anywhere from a 4% to 52% lead for the Ryzen 9 7950X3D, but my benchmarks show that most tasks are closer to that 4% mark.

Gaming performance

The bottom of the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

More than ever, gaming performance of the Ryzen 9 7950X3D proves that not all games are built equally. In cache-sensitive titles like Far Cry 6, the chip shoots ahead, but in more GPU-intensive games like Red Dead Redemption 2, the updated chip provides little benefit. Synthetic benchmarks actually show slight regressions.

I don’t want that to distract from the point here; the Ryzen 9 7950X3D is the best gaming CPU you can buy right now, and sometimes by a significant margin. But my results below are at 1080p with high graphics settings, and most people spending $700 on a CPU want to play at 4K with graphics maxed out. Your GPU becomes the bottleneck in the vast majority of games at that high of a resolution, so keep that in mind when looking over my results.

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D AMD Ryzen 9 7950X Intel Core i9-13900K
F1 2022 379.8 fps 363.7 fps 368.2 fps
Far Cry 6 196.1 fps 156.8 fps 145.7 fps
Gears Tactics 273.5 fps 244.9 fps 255.3 fps
Hitman 3 (Dartmoor) 234.6 fps 197.4 fps 203.8 fps
Read Dead Redemption 2 164.8 fps 163.5 fps 162.7 fps
Time Spy CPU 16,116 15,831 18,516
LeelaChessZero 643 643 652

There are still some big wins for AMD’s latest processor at 1080p. The Ryzen 9 7950X was a bit behind Intel’s Core i9-13900K, but the refreshed version brings a solid 3% lead for AMD. Similarly, Intel’s processor won in Gears Tactics and Hitman 3 before, but now AMD is back in first place with a 7% and 15% lead, respectively.

Far Cry 6 is a very good example of how much the 3D V-Cache is doing for the Ryzen 9 7950X3D. AMD held a lead in this game before, but the updated processor now commands a 25% jump over the base Ryzen 9 7950X.

It’s not all flat-out wins, though. In Time Spy’s synthetic CPU benchmark, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D only shows negligible gains over the base version, while Intel still held onto the lead. In addition, the AI chess engine Leela Chess Zero favored Intel’s processor with its slightly higher boost clock speed.

Still, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D puts AMD back in the gaming lead, even if the advantages will slip at higher resolutions. The big problem is that it’s at least $100 more expensive than the Core i9-13900K. While some titles show a massive 15% lead to justify that price, there are a lot more GPU-limited games (especially at 4K) where there are slim differences, such as Red Dead Redemption 2. 

Is the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D worth it?

AMD's Ryzen 9 7950X3D sitting in the box.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Between the AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D, Ryzen 9 7950X, and Intel’s Core i9-13900K, there isn’t a bad option. All are excellent processors that excel in both gaming and productivity, but it’s clear that the Ryzen 9 7950X3D holds a slight lead in gaming.

The trade-off comes in productivity performance, where the Ryzen 9 7950X and Core i9-13900K trade blows but the Ryzen 9 7950X3D falls slightly behind. For those who are willing to sacrifice a hair of gaming performance, the Core i9-13900K and Ryzen 9 7950X still provide a much better value, and they’re more powerful processors outside of gaming.

For the bunch that needs the best of both worlds, though, the Ryzen 9 7950X3D delivers. It’s the fastest gaming processor on the market. It’s not quite as powerful at its direct competition in productivity apps, but the regressions are small considering how powerful the chip is overall.

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