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AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D review: closing the Intel gap for gaming

AMD lost out to Intel’s Core i9-13900K recently, but it’s back with its 3D V-Cache technology to challenge Intel again.

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A close up photo of AMD’s new Ryzen 9 7950X3D processor on top of its orange box

AMD is back to challenge Intel for the PC gaming crown. After losing out to the Core i9-13900K with its first Zen 4 chips, the new Ryzen 9 7950X3D closes the performance gap for PC games. But it doesn’t seem to replicate the huge jump that we saw with the dominant Ryzen 7 5800X3D due to a rather mixed bag of results in the selection of games we’ve tested.

This new flagship Ryzen 9 7950X3D chip is priced at $699 and has 16 cores with 32 threads and 144MB of cache. It goes head-to-head with Intel’s flagship Core i9-13900K, which retails at around $589 and has eight performance cores and 16 efficiency cores for a total of 32 threads. While Intel’s main Core i9 is cheaper, AMD also has to compete with Intel’s new $699 Core i9-13900KS processor, which breaks the 6GHz barrier at stock speeds for the first time.

AMD has promised it will beat Intel’s gaming and productivity performance with its X3D chips, all while consuming less power. So we’ve put its flagship 7950X3D against Intel’s Core i9-13900K and Core i9-13900KS chips to find out.

I’ve been testing out AMD’s 7950X3D with MSI’s Meg X670E Ace motherboard, 32GB of G.Skill DDR5 6000 RAM, and Nvidia’s RTX 4090. This AM5 motherboard includes one PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot and three PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots, so there’s plenty of room for the latest storage.

The Verge doesn’t review processors in the traditional sense, so we don’t own dedicated hardware testing rigs or multiple CPUs and systems to offer all of the benchmarks and comparisons you’d typically find in CPU reviews. We’re going to recommend Eurogamer’s Digital FoundryTom’s Hardware, and PC World for those.

I’ve tested a variety of workloads, synthetic benchmarks, and games across both AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X3D and Intel’s Core i9-13900K and 13900KS. All tests were run on the latest Windows 11 2022 Update with VBS security off, Resizable BAR enabled, and at 1080p resolution. Tests are performed at 1080p to help avoid any potential GPU bottlenecks and to analyze the raw CPU performance.

AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X3D catches right up to Intel’s Core i9-13900K in most of the games I tested. In Metro Exodus, the 7950X3D is practically identical in frame rates to the 13900K and 13900KS at 1080p, and it’s similar with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs: Legion, too.

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X3D performance (1080p)

BenchmarkAMD 7950X3DIntel Core i9-13900KSIntel Core i9-13900KAMD 7950X
Metro Exodus (ultra / high)158fps157fps159fps153fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider354fps313fps308fps286fps
Gears 5213fps237fps235fps211fps
Assassin's Creed Valhalla207fps207fps209fps201fps
Watch Dogs: Legion156fps155fps155fps141fps
Cyberpunk 2077209fps212fps210fps197fps
F1 22423fps389fps388fps389fps
Geekbench 5 single-thread2204221121302143
Geekbench 5 multithread23205267302624122492
Cinebench R23 single-thread2023216321691941
Cinebench R23 multithread35524394103870434814
Blender Fishy Cat00:13.100:13.200:13.000:12.5
PugetBench for Premiere Pro1288135412271148
PugetBench for Photoshop1550167816461497
3DMark Time Spy CPU16475208582117918650

The big exceptions are Shadow of the Tomb Raider and F1 22, where the 7950X3D blasts straight past Intel’s latest and greatest. Shadow of the Tomb Raider ran at 354fps on the 7950X3D at 1080p, while it hit 308fps on the 13900K and 313fps on the 13900KS. AMD’s 7950X3D also hit 423fps in F1 22, with the 13900KS trailing behind at 389fps.

Intel’s main advantage in the games we tested was Gears 5, where the 13900KS manages to hit 237fps on average compared to 213fps on the 7950X3D. It’s clear from this small selection of games that AMD has closed the gap here, though.

Over on the synthetics benchmarks and productivity side, Intel is still largely ahead. The 7950X3D loses out on PugetBench’s Photoshop test but manages to close the gap on the Premiere Pro side. I found that the 7950X3D also falls behind both Intel’s latest Core i9 chips in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23. Strangely, it also falls really behind in the 3DMark Time Spy CPU test.

While Intel might edge ahead in some productivity tests and draw in gaming ones, it’s doing so with a much larger power budget. AMD upped its first flagship Zen 4 chips to a 170-watt TDP, but it has dropped this Ryzen 9 7950X3D to a TDP of 120 watts. Intel, on the other hand, has a base power of 125 watts on the Core i9-13900K, and it has bumped this up to 150 watts on the 13900KS. At max turbo power, both of Intel’s latest chips hit slightly above 250 watts and can go way beyond this if a motherboard is set to unlimited power. The difference can be as much as more than 200 watts between the 7950X3D and 13900KS on identical multithread loads. Digital Foundry also found that the 7950X3D draws significantly less power than Intel’s Core i9-13900K.

Both AMD and Intel have also been maximizing thermal headroom lately. That saw the 7950X run at around 95C during heavy mutilthread loads in our previous review, and the Core i9-13900K hitting 100C in similar workloads. I noticed the 13900KS hitting 101C in a multithread load, while the 7950X3D managed 86C during the same test. Both CPUs are using the same Corsair H150 Elite LCD cooler.

AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X3D arrives on February 28th.
AMD’s Ryzen 9 7950X3D arrives on February 28th.

If you like the performance results, here are some considerations. AMD’s latest 3D Zen 4 processors use the company’s impressive 3D V-Cache technology. AMD’s first desktop chip to use this technology was the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, and it outclassed its own Ryzen 5900X and Intel’s 12th Gen Core i9-12900K last year for PC gaming. Even against the 13900K, it still holds its own.

We now have a better idea of how it performs at the flagship level for productivity and rendering apps, alongside PC gaming. But if you’re interested in a 7950X3D, you’ll need a new AM5 motherboard, much like the regular 7950.

Motherboards that use AM5 have support for DDR5 memory and up to 24 PCIe 5.0 lanes. We’re still waiting on the first PCIe 5.0 consumer SSDs to appear, so you’ll likely be pairing any AM5 motherboard with PCIe 4.0 SSDs for now. The PCIe 5.0 support is also merely futureproofing on the GPU side, as Nvidia’s latest RTX 40-series don’t support this latest standard, and we haven’t hit the limits of PCIe 4.0 for GPUs yet.

Existing AM4 coolers should work just fine, and much like the 7950, I was able to use Corsair’s H150 Elite LCD without any changes required. You’ll need to check with your cooler manufacturer to make sure that existing AM4 models can easily be used with these new AM5 motherboards.

I noticed some early issues with the DDR5 memory training process during my Ryzen 9 7900X review, with an additional boot time of around 30 seconds. New BIOS updates have certainly addressed this, but I’m still noticing delayed boot times compared to the Intel system I’ve been testing.

I’m pleased to report that the sleep mode issues I also experienced during the Ryzen 9 7900X review have been fixed. I can now resume from sleep with the latest BIOS updates to the MSI Meg X670E Ace.

AMD’s 7950X3D truly closes the gap with Intel’s latest and greatest processors for PC gaming, but it doesn’t go much beyond in our small selection of games. With AMD promising support for its new AM5 socket through 2025, the 7950X3D feels like a great option for those who need performance in both gaming and productivity tasks.

For just pure gaming, AMD might still have a more reasonably priced option for PC gamers that brings the performance and power usage benefits. The 7950X3D arrives alongside the 7900X3D that’s $599. Both chips are shipping on February 28th, with the new Ryzen 7 7800X3D retailing on April 6th priced at $449. AMD only supplied the 7950X3D for testing, but the 7800X3D could be a true successor to the 5800X3D that became a popular option for PC gamers.

Since we haven’t been able to test the 7800X3D yet, the 7950X3D offers some great PC gaming performance in a processor that won’t hit your energy bills quite like Intel’s flagship CPUs will. In an era where chip makers don’t always focus on efficiency, AMD’s 7950X3D shines through as an exception to the rule.