The high end desktop market has been rather quiet in recent times. Intel's Cascade Lake processors aren't competitive and it’s been over two years since the launch of AMD’s Threadripper 3000 series, topped by the insane 64-core 3990X. We’ve been hoping to see a Zen 3 version, and if the rumor is true, we could be seeing next-gen Threadripper in early March. But it's been a year since 5000 series AM4 processors launched. Is it too late?
The leak comes from a source via Videocardz, stating very specifically that the new CPUs will launch on March 8th, with an announcement likely at CES in early January. However, the report claims that only Pro versions are coming for now. It’s unknown if non-Pro consumer versions will arrive at some point in the future.
Speculation is that the new CPUs will be built with the refreshed Zen3+ architecture, meaning a shift to 6nm chiplets with higher clocks or slightly better power efficiency. It’s also possible the CPUs could be in for the V-Cache treatment. A hypothetical 64-core CPU with V-Cache could pack in an unprecedented amount of L3 cache.
Threadripper might seem to have limited appeal to gamers, but it's not all about core count. TRX40 motherboards feature a large number of PCIe lanes that can benefit a gamer that needs a lot of expansion options. If you run a GPU with a couple of expansion cards plus a bunch of M.2 drives then those lanes come in handy. There’s certainly a market for 12 and 16 core Threadripper CPUs to pair with such a feature rich platform.
Assuming the Pro versions alone launch in March, they’ll be relevant to workstation users only due to the high cost of both the CPUs and WRX80 motherboards. Current Threadripper Pro 3000 series CPUs feature 128 PCIe lanes and support for 8-channel ECC memory. That’s overkill for a gamer and more in line with Epyc series processors. Perhaps the chip shortage is as big a factor in AMDs thinking as anything else. The dies used for Threadripper CPUs are shared with Pro and Epyc processors, and AMD is likely reserving their best chiplets for processors with the highest margins. If we do get desktop Threadripper, and it arrives mid year or later, it could be too late to have much of an impact on the market.
Intel is set to roar back to HEDT competitiveness with its Sapphire Rapids CPUs that may arrive in Q3 of 2022. At that time AMD could have some tough competition on its hands. Add to that mainstream Zen 4 and Intel 13th Gen Raptor Lake processors and 2022 is looking pretty exciting if you’re looking to move to a new platform, all the way from the bottom to the top of the market.