Taking it Straight to Chipzilla’s Fastest Xeon
The Core Wars are heating up.
With today’s launch of the Threadripper PRO ThinkStation P620 — the new AMD chip sports 64 computing cores that tops anything Intel delivers — Lenovo has pulled out from the workstation crowd. In case you’re keeping score: this is the first and only professional workstation utilizing the top AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO 3995WX Series processor.
We’ve said this before, but I’ll say it for those who were late: If you work in post-production–as a VFX artist, computer animator, video editor, compositors and of course, audio–you will always want to use the fastest and most powerful computer available. This isn’t for bragging rights. If you spend your days sitting at a desk, you at least want your machinery to help you blow through as much work as possible.
Intel Left Treading Water?
Well, AMD claims the 64-core Threadripper PRO 3995WX offers up to 37% more multithreaded performance than two 28-core Xeon 8280’s in the SPECViewperf suite. That’s significant, as this test relies heavily on the CPU’s ability to push a pro GPU to its highest throughput.
Traditionally, top-tier workstation manufacturers like Lenovo have relied on Intel’s Xeon CPUs to power their single or dual socket machines. By delivering capability beyond anything Intel offers, Lenovo not only benefits from the significant performance improvements that AMD offers, but validates that company’s expansion into the realm of supplier for top-shelf workstations.
To date, Intel’s Xeon W-3175X has been its behemoth processor, with 28 cores and 56 threads.
AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper PRO chips are their most powerful. Four chips have been unveiled: the 3995WX, 3975WX, 3955WX, and 3945WX, with core counts ranging from 12 to 64.
Below them sit the Ryzen 3, 5 and 7 Series, fast and economical chips which have become a favorite of serious gamers.
At the top end – and that’s what we’re dealing with here – AMD claims that the Threadripper PRO 3995WX offers up to 27-percent better multithreaded performance over the competition’s best dual processor configuration (in this case the Intel Xeon Platinum 8280), and that it takes the lead in over 25 applications and benchmarks.
Highlights of the Threadripper PRO include support for 128 PCIe 4.0 lanes, support for more types of memory (specifically registered memory RDIMM and LRDIMM), and eight memory channels that supports up to 2TB of RAM.
64 Cores on a Single Socket System? What?
One of the most compelling things about the new ThinkStation P620 is that it is available with an amazing 64 cores. Not too long ago, I was impressed to see a dual-core Xeon system with 28 physical cores. Now a single CPU with 64 cores? Excuse me while I pick up pieces of my brain from the floor after having my mind blown.
Of course, core count isn’t everything. A lot of the performance of a machine has to do with clock speed. The Lenovo P620? Core clock speeds of up to 4.2 GHz. While that is good for a chip that has 8 or 10 cores, it is very impressive for a CPU with 64 cores. AMD’s version of hyperthreading – CMT, or clustered multi-threading – means programs that can fully take advantage of parallel processing now have 128 threads…er – CMTs – to work with.
The AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO in the Lenovo P620 also features 128 lanes of PCIe 4.0 bandwidth for extremely fast I/O to and from the bus. The chip’s 8-channel memory support doubles the amount of channels compared to other CPUs, so accessing memory should be twice as fast as a machine with four memory lanes. Of course, M.2 NVMe SSD storage will also benefit from PCIe Gen 4.
Bring on the GPUs
The ThinkStation P620 has a lot more to offer besides its incredible processing performance. For one it will have flexible GPU configurations. This includes support for up to two extremely powerful NVIDIA Quadro RTX 8000 or four RTX 4000 Graphic cards. We’re talking serious GPU muscle there.
In this era where the GPU has all but taken over final 3D renders, video encoding and other tasks that was once relegated to the CPU, the ThinkStation P620 will be a rendering powerhouse. It will also prove to be very useful in high-level VR and immersive content development, a field that demands the highest levels of computation.
More on the List…
The new P620 will also support high-performance memory and faster storage speeds. Also unique: integrated 10GB Ethernet on the motherboard, the new benchmark in high-speed workstation connectivity.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 also supports a remarkable 1TB of memory and 20TB of storage. That’s a lot of RAM, and 20TB of online storage is enough for the assets of multiple feature film projects.
As briefly mentioned before, The ThinkStation 620 boasts PCIe Gen 4, the only workstation available with it today, offering twice the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0. This will greatly enhance throughput in the machine from the GPUs to the storage system to the network.
Lenovo ThinkStations are premium products with attention paid to detail in their construction and design. Of course, it’s a design that needs no tools for casual repairs and upgrades. One surprise: The machine is air-cooled, no water or oil here, with a custom-designed heat sink that is claimed to be quiet enough for edit suites.
Pat Swanson, IT engineer at Epic Games (creators of Unreal Engine) puts it like this: “Previously, we always had to choose between either high core count or high clock speed. The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 powered by AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper PRO Processor is optimized for both aspects in a way that previous HEDT CPUs never quite were. It provides groundbreaking performance for everything from professional visualization and simulation to compiling and building for game development.”
Conclusions, for Now Anyway.
Working closely with Lenovo, AMD has granted them an exclusivity period for use of the Threadripper chip. I do not know how long that period will last, but such agreements usually run around six months. You can bet Lenovo’s competitors are hard at work on their own workstations.
The Lenovo ThinkStation is expected to be available at some point in late September to early October.
ThinkStation P620 Starting Price: AMD Threadripper Pro W3945W, 16GB RAM, 256GB M.2 SSD memory, PCIe 3×4 SSD, NVIDIA Quadro P620 GPU, keyboard, mouse, Windows 10 Pro, a 3 year onsite warranty, for US$4,599. Of course, the machine is performance-tuned and ISV certified for multithreaded application environments. More info here at Lenovo’s site.