Sidenote: Computex 2019 and the Ryzen 9 3900X Revealed

Computex 2019 just happened in Taipei, Taiwan, and it is the biggest event for computing all year. While CES often covers some computing tech, the biggest stuff is often at Computex, and this year did not disappoint.

As I’ve discussed in previous Sidenote posts, the biggest story going in to the show was the imminent showdown between AMD and Intel over the next generation processor releases between the two. The shape of that fight is now much clearer, as AMD’s show-opening keynote revealed the new Ryzen 3000 lineup, with two 8-core CPUs clocked higher than the current Ryzen lineup and with much higher instructions per clock, closing the main advantages Intel had over AMD. The top of the lineup is now at 12 cores and 24 threads, with a top boost clock speed of 4.6 GHz, bringing AMD into a hypothetical 1st place in the desktop market for performance (pending actual benchmarks and testing).

Intel’s big conference the next day, on the other hand, was disappointingly light on actual details. A new X-series high-end lineup was promised, with higher clock speeds and higher turbo boost speeds, but what these speeds actually are, and most importantly, the prices and power consumption at which they would be offered, are completely unannounced. Instead, Intel pulled a trick they also pulled out last year – trying to beat AMD’s announcement by announcing a future 5 GHz CPU. Last year, it was a re-purposed 28-core Xeon server chip (the server version of which sells for a staggering $10,000!), which was demoed under a 1,500W water chiller in order to even get that speed and was not launched at that speed in the end. This year’s announcement was a little more tame and realistically attainable – a highly-binned version of their current Core i9 9900k (called the i9 9900ks) which has an all-core boost of 5 GHz at an unconfirmed price, power level, and with no confirmed launch date other than Q4 2019. Based on currently available benchmarks (all from AMD so take with a grain of salt), the top-end Ryzen 9 3900X 12-core should eke out a win(and if overclockable to push to all-cores at the top-end boost specification of 4.6 GHz, or even higher, than it will definitely be better).

Intel did have a demo of their new 10nm Ice Lake CPUs, which are currently mobile only and promise an 18% IPC gain relative to their Skylake architecture from 2016 (their last truly new design), but the test conditions under which this was evaluated are questionable. They also lose around 10% of their clockspeed, which is not altogether promising, but the performance on mobile seems like it will be fairly decent, particularly the new integrated graphics. Mobile is definitely Intel’s market, but it will be curious to see how well a similar design might scale up for the desktop market – although word is that it will either not be on desktop until 2021 (!!!) or will be skipped for a desktop-only architecture using the same CPU core design, which still wouldn’t be out until 2020 at least.

In the meantime, Intel seems content to compete with the existing 9-series Core lineup and the newly announced-but-no-details X-series parts, which themselves will likely only start at pricing of $800+ as the X-series traditionally has. Barring any major surprises (either poor benchmarks for Ryzen 3000 or exceptional performance for the new X-series parts from Intel) it seems increasingly likely that AMD is going to be on top for performance and also likely price-to-performance this year, and that is before considering that AMD was barely hiding the fact that they have a 16-core Ryzen engineering sample floating around which offers another path to victory.

For me, this is very exciting news, as it means that I have a little over a month before I can buy a 12 core CPU as a drop-in upgrade to match the core count of my old two-socket ridiculous system, but with nearly double the clockspeed and IPC – making it nearly 4 times as fast!

With the new AMD launch comes new motherboards, and while I don’t need one as I have a very nice X470 motherboard that already has a BIOS for the new processors available, I will admit to drooling at the new version of the Crosshair Hero from ASUS. The whole lineup of new X570-based motherboards from the various manufacturers bring a variety of new designs, including many of the top-end branding designations that the board partners only gave to Intel motherboards previously.

Outside of the CPU war, GPU’s are going to be slightly more interesting, with the new Navi GPU lineup from AMD being officially christened the Radeon RX5000 series, with the top-end RX5700 competing with nVidia’s RTX 2070 in the single game shown, Strange Brigade (which, admittedly, is an AMD-sponsored title that makes exceptionally good use of the various features and design of Radeon’s cards). While nVidia teased a “super” reveal, they haven’t really shared much in the GPU space as far as upgrades or successors to the current RTX lineup, instead sharing some basic details about new laptop ecosystems which I will admit to having not read much about, as I am not much of a laptop person. AMD also showcased the Radeon RX5700 in a wildly misleading new 3Dmark test which showcased PCI-Express bandwidth, in which, of course their card wins, as it is the only graphics card with PCI-Express 4.0! While AMD did state this clearly during the demo, it naturally blew up online.

My favorite reveals outside of the direct CPU and GPU unveils are the more fun hardware or things that can accent the style of your system. A larger version of my current case, the Lian Li PC O11 Dynamic, is interesting to me and is something I’ll probably pick up if I end up going to a two-system setup for streaming and video capture. The number of interesting computer cases, fans, and cooling devices are fun to look at – especially how all of these are increasingly bringing in fresher styling and RGB illumination, which is a guilty pleasure of mine. GSkill showed off some fascinating RAM kits, with the fastest DDR4 memory seen running at 5200 MHz, and a 384 GB kit running at 4200 MHz! There are fun and interesting watercooling parts like interlocking and tubeless watercooling setups, customizable easy watercooling kits from Corsair, and a demo of an immersion cooling setup using Novec fluid from Cooler Master which they intend to bring to market in some form!

But my main takeaway is that I now know how much I will have to spend and when in order to secure my 12-core, 24-thread mega-boost, and it turns out it’ll only be $500 on 7/7/2019!

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