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Is an AMD Threadripper CPU Good for Gaming?

Depending on your computing needs, you have many options for a CPU. You can get by with a processor with two or four cores for light tasks. However, gamers need processors ranging from six to sixteen cores to handle heavy workloads. On paper, AMD’s Threadripper CPUs can crush heavy workloads, as they offer up to 64 processing cores.

Although Threadripper CPUs are perfect for such tasks, it doesn’t mean they’re suitable for everything. So, before you splurge thousands of dollars on one of these beefy bad boys, you should ask yourself: are they even good for what I want to use them for?


AMD Threadripper’s True Advantage Is Limited to Some Workloads

Before we give you a definitive answer, we first need to know what AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper CPUs are exactly and why they’re good for their market segment.

AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper series is the company’s enthusiast/workstation chip lineup. While Ryzens are a little more balanced, Threadrippers are built to chug through CPU-intensive tasks like animation, coding, and graphic design. They’re fabricated in a different socket than standard Ryzen chips and come with an absolutely massive amount of cores.

While the Ryzen 9 5950X, the company’s currently higher-end AM4 chip, packs 16 cores and 32 threads, the Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, its highest-end Threadripper at the time of writing, comes with a whopping 64 cores and 128 threads.

MAKEUSEOF VIDEO OF THE DAY

With this many cores, surely they’ll be top-tier chips for gaming, right? Is spending thousands of dollars on one of these chips the secret to a best-in-class gaming experience?

Not quite.

Sure, they’ll game, and they’ll do so very well. Paired with a powerful GPU, you’ll see its amazing performance in your games. Some Threadripper motherboards are even marketed towards gamers and are even fully RGB-clad. But chances are a standard Ryzen chip will game just as well, if not better, than the Threadripper.

You can blame your games for this, as they’re probably not using all those extra cores at all. Hence, they’re not benefitting from the very selling point of your ultra-expensive chip.


In the case of the 3000 series, the Threadripper cores are still full-fat Zen 2 cores, sure. But looking at the specs of the Threadripper 3990X, its base clock is a measly 2.9 GHz. Compared to the base clock of the Ryzen 9 5950X—which goes up to 3.4 GHz—the Threadripper seems underwhelming. Additionally, the standard Ryzen chips also boost much higher than the Threadrippers.

In a nutshell, its strength comes from the speed and brute force provided by the cores, not from the number of cores themselves. Threadripper cores are slower and run at a lower voltage than what you’ll find in a standard Ryzen chip. You can’t make the 64 core-chip run at the same pace as a chip with fewer cores without running into thermal and power consumption constraints.

It’s the same reason why a server CPU won’t game as well as a desktop CPU. As a matter of fact, Threadripper chips are actually beefed-up versions of AMD’s Epyc server chips. There are a lot of parallels here.

Threadripper vs. Ryzen: How Big of a Difference Is There?

Let’s say that you have a Threadripper system/workstation and you want to run some games on it. How big of a difference, or performance drop, should you expect compared to a standard desktop chip?

The short answer: probably a smaller difference than you’d think, but it’ll actually depend on whether a game relies more on the GPU or the CPU. You’d notice a bigger difference in CPU-intensive games.

Since AMD hasn’t released 5000-series Threadripper chips, we’ll pit the Threadripper 3000 series against standard Ryzen 3000 chips for a more accurate comparison. They’re both Zen 2 and released in similar timeframes, making them prime candidates for comparison.

The above video by YouTuber TheSpyHood puts a handful of Threadripper chips through the test with desktop Ryzen chips. The differences are pretty minimal in most cases, with standard Ryzen chips having a very slight edge in most scenarios. The Threadripper CPUs had very rare wins on certain occasions, especially in first-person shooters where there’s a lot of CPU action, but the advantage shifts back to Ryzen when turning the resolution up to 1440p.

In most cases, though, the advantages are very slight, not even in the magnitude of 10%. Still, it serves as a testament to what we were saying earlier in this article: they’ll game, but they’re probably not worth their asking price if you’re looking to improve your gaming experience. A Ryzen chip will serve you just as well, if not better.

Should You Buy an AMD Threadripper Chip for Gaming?

In short: no. If you want a longer answer, unless you’re going to use it for a computing workload that’ll benefit from this many cores, AMD’s mainstream Ryzen chips will serve you better.

As we mentioned earlier in this article, the strength of Threadripper comes from the number of cores, not really because of how strong those cores are. Most games will benefit from actually having faster, beefier cores, even if that means having fewer of them. It’s better to have eight super-fast cores than 32 weaker ones.


That being said, Threadrippers will still game very well. After all, those cores are still Zen 2, and they’re quite good. But you won’t actually see a benefit from having all those cores in your games. Also, we now have Zen 3 chips, and we’ll soon have Zen 4 CPUs in 2022, so you can expect mainstream desktop chips to perform even better.

Threadripper Won’t Rip Through Your Games

AMD’s Threadripper chips will have amazing gaming performance, but given their price, you should only be buying them if you’re using that chip for something that will actually benefit from the extra cores, like rendering or production work.

Are you buying a workstation for coding, animation, design, or other professional work, but you also plan to use it for occasional gaming? Then, by all means, get a Threadripper. Are you just building a PC for gaming? Get a normal Ryzen instead. You’ll save a lot of money that you can invest on a better GPU, more RAM, or other PC parts to make for a high-end gaming experience.




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