Should I buy an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X?

Ryzen 9 3950X product shots
(Image credit: Future)

With the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X launching just next month, you're probably wondering if you should purchase the existing Ryzen 9 3950X. After all, it's likely to be going cheap once the next-gen Zen 3 chips arrive, right?

Not so fast. While Black Friday is approaching, and AMD is known to slap a deal on its products for the occasion, we're not yet sure whether the tippy top of the Ryzen 3000 range, the Ryzen 9 3950X, will be included. Usually the stock of these high-end CPUs is all dried up by the time their replacement rolls around.

There is a chance that we'll see a great deal on this fantastic 16-core chip, however, and in case of that eventuality here's a breakdown of the Ryzen 9 3950X, what it offers, and how much you should pay for it.

What is the Ryzen 9 3950X?

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X specs

Cores: 16
Threads: 32
Base clock: 3.5GHz
Max boost clock: 4.7GHz
Socket: AM4
TDP: 105 W
Cooler: None
Launch price: $749

The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X is the very best Ryzen desktop processor AMD was able to muster out of the Zen 2 architecture. Above it, you have the Ryzen Threadripper chips, but we're counting those as HEDT and a little beyond what most PC gamers will be after.

With 16 cores and 32 threads, it's quite a beast too. This is not only the highest threaded CPU of the Ryzen 3000 series—the Egyptian cotton of the CPU world—it's also the joint highest clocked at 4.7GHz, alongside the slightly newer 12-core Ryzen 9 3900XT. This makes it great for productivity, creative tasks, and, most importantly, gaming.

The Ryzen 9 3950X fits the same AM4 socket as all AMD Ryzen chips to date, and runs with a 105W TDP. There's no cooler included in the box to keep that under control, so you'll want to make sure you've got a decent liquid cooler or chunky air cooler ready at hand.

What are the alternatives to the Ryzen 9 3950X?

There's no direct comparison to the Ryzen 9 3950X right now. The closest you'll find from Intel is the Core i9 10980XE, or Core i9 10940X X-Series, which offer high core counts upwards of the usual S-series chips. These are HEDT chips, however, and as such are quite expensive. The platforms necessitated by these heavyweight chips can also be rather pricey. Otherwise you're looking at the 10-core Core i9 10900K if you want the best of Chipzilla's gaming performance, which currently stands as the best around.

But perhaps not for long. AMD has announced the Ryzen 9 5950X, a CPU that looks similar to its predecessor on the surface, but hides a secret weapon: Zen 3. The next-gen architecture is promising a rather hefty bump in instructions per clock (IPC), and gaming performance is reportedly through the roof too. We'll have more to say about these chips soon, so if you can hold off until November 5, when the Ryzen 5000 will become available, we recommend you do.

Although one thing to note is that the Ryzen 5000 series is $50 more expensive than the Ryzen 3000 series, and that goes all the way down the stack. So if you're already thinking the Ryzen 9 3950X is pushing your budget, the Ryzen 9 5950X will only be even more of a stretch.

Should I buy the AMD Ryzen 9 3950X and at what price?

AMD Ryzen 9 3950X pricing has remained fairly steady all year, and right now it's available for $710 (£620). That's a pretty great deal for a 16-core chip anyways, especially in the UK. I'm not expecting much of a discount on that price for Black Friday, but you never know.

With the Ryzen 9 5950X launching for $799, a $100 discount on the Zen 2 16-core chip isn't a bad deal by any means. If you want the best gaming performance, however, it looks like you'll want to save up for the newer Zen 3 chip.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things as hardware writer at PCGamesN, and would go on to run the team as hardware editor. Since then he's joined PC Gamer's top staff as senior hardware editor, where he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industries and testing the newest PC components.