Are you building or upgrading a PC and not sure whether to go with a Ryzen, Threadripper, or Epyc CPU? You will make the right decision with the help of this guide.
A Ryzen CPU is best suited for gaming PCs, while Threadripper and Epyc CPUs are better suited for workstations and servers.
The CPU is one of the most important pieces of hardware to consider when building a PC.
A number of factors should be considered when choosing the right CPU: performance, specifications, pricing, among others.
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If you’re building a new gaming PC and are thinking about getting an AMD CPU, then you’ll find that “Team Red” offers a number of different CPU brands.
Among these are the immensely popular Ryzen lineup, as well as the more expensive Threadripper and Epyc CPUs.
How do these three brands differ from one another, and which should you ultimately pick for gaming?
We’ll answer that question in this article, so read on!
Let’s take a closer look at each of the three brands before we compare them.
The Ryzen series is the first. AMD’s Ryzen lineup includes a number of CPU models, which are further classified based on their performance and pricing:
- Ryzen 3 – Low-end
- Ryzen 5 – Mid-range
- Ryzen 7 – High-end
- Ryzen 9 – Enthusiast
Therefore, mainstream Ryzen CPUs cover everything from entry-level systems to gaming CPUs and workstation-class CPUs that pack a lot more computing power.
Up the price and performance ladder, we reach Ryzen Threadripper, a brand that covers a range of performance-oriented solutions that offer more threads and cores than even the most powerful models of the Ryzen 9 family, although at a higher price.
Furthermore, the Threadripper’s price and performance gaps are not the only differences between it and the rest of the Ryzen series, as it also uses a sTRX4 socket rather than the AM4 standard used by the rest of the series.
Epyc is a brand of CPUs based on the same architecture as Ryzen and Threadripper. However, they are geared primarily towards servers so they also have high core counts, better multitasking performance, better stability, along with some other features that aren’t available in the less expensive CPUs. Like Threadripper CPUs, Epyc CPUs also use a unique socket, the SP3.
Let’s take a look at some of the specs and features that people are most often seeking in CPUs today.
People often look at the core and thread counts first when shopping for CPUs in 2021, and Ryzen processors’ popularity is largely due to their high core and thread counts, which topped Intel’s offerings these past years.
What are the differences between Ryzen, Threadripper, and Epyc CPUs in this department?
Here’s a look at the Ryzen 3000 series. Ryzen offers CPUs with anything from 4 cores and 8 threads in the cheapest Ryzen 3 models to 16 cores and 32 threads in the most powerful and most expensive desktop Ryzen 9 CPU, the Ryzen 9 3950X.
While Threadripper 3000 series leave even the Ryzen 9 in the dust, starting at 24 cores and 48 threads and going as high as 64 cores and 128 threads.
Accordingly, the second generation of Epyc CPUs currently range from 8 cores and 16 threads in the more affordable models up to 64 cores and 128 threads in the most expensive ones, thus matching Threadripper in both terms of cores and threads.
Threadripper and Epyc CPUs both offer higher core counts than mainstream Ryzen models, something that is very important for workstations and servers that have to handle large volumes of data quickly.
Despite this, games these days hardly require the monster thread counts offered by Threadripper and Epyc CPUs, even if many of them are optimized to take advantage of multiple cores and threads. In addition, games usually benefit more from high clock speeds rather than high thread counts.
The CPU clock is the frequency at which a single CPU core operates. The GHz (gigahertz) value indicates how much data the core can process each second.
While clock speeds, like most on-paper specifications, aren’t a good indicator of actual performance, AMD’s latest Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs’ base clock speeds are all confined to the 3-4 GHz range, and there are no noticeable differences in boost clocks.
When it comes to Epyc CPUs, they typically have low base clock speeds and they don’t overclock as well as AMD CPUs, although stability is much more important than raw processing power for servers.
Next, we should talk about cache memory. In general, this is one of the entries on a CPU spec sheet that gamers tend to overlook since it doesn’t offer any noticeable benefits when it comes to in-game performance. However, it remains an essential part of every CPU.
So, what does cache memory do?
Essentially, it is a small memory cache that stores important data and enables the CPU to access it quickly whenever necessary. Thus, cache memory is helpful for multitasking, but, more importantly, it contributes to system stability.
The mainstream Ryzen CPUs have anywhere from 16 MB to 64 MB of L3 cache memory, according to the latest CPU models. Currently, the latest Threadrippers have either 128 or 256 MB of memory, while Epyc CPUs start at 32 MB and can reach 256 MB.
As with core counts, the Threadripper and Epyc models greatly outperform the mainstream Ryzen models in this department as well, but it’s not a factor that makes or breaks a gaming CPU.
In terms of CPU memory, cache memory isn’t the only type that needs to be considered. The amount of RAM and the number of memory channels are determined not only by the motherboard but also by the CPU.
Memory channels are only supported by mainstream Ryzen CPUs in dual-channel configurations. Additionally, Threadripper models can support quad-channel configurations, and Epyc CPUs support a total of eight memory channels.
It follows that the Threadripper and Epyc CPUs can support significantly greater memory bandwidth, enabling them to transfer and process data much faster. As before, quad-channel and octa-channel RAM configurations are overkill for gaming PCs, but they can provide workstations and servers with a lot of extra bandwidth that can greatly benefit their overall performance.
While shopping for any hardware piece, it is important to keep the price in mind. Many people do not want to spend too much on a CPU, while others don’t mind spending more as long as they get good value for their money.
With regards to the overall cost, the mainstream Ryzen CPUs are the most affordable, ranging from as little as $100 for the budget Ryzen 3 models up to $750 for the most expensive Ryzen 9, although the most popular gaming Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 models cost between $200 and $400.
As you might expect, Threadripper CPUs are more expensive. Threadripper 3000 models range from $1400 to $4000, which is significantly more expensive than the mainstream Ryzen CPUs.
Compared to the first and second Threadripper generations, which could be found in the $500-$1000 and $650-$1800 price ranges, respectively, the first and second generations were more affordable. Since the introduction of Ryzen 9 models into the mainstream lineup, Threadrippers have become a more premium performance-oriented option that offers even more power at a significantly higher price point.
As for Epyc, they cover a fairly wide price range, starting at $450 (about the price of some Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 models) and going all the way up to $6950, making them AMD’s most expensive CPUs.
Which is Best For Gaming?
If you are new to PC building, you might be wondering which of these CPU brands would be the best for gaming. The beefier, more expensive CPUs offer better performance in games?
The short answer is: no, they don’t.
The Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 models are typically the most popular choices for gaming PCs. The latest mid-range and high-end GPUs can be run on them without being bottlenecked.
Threadrippers and Epyc CPUs are overkill when it comes to gaming, and there’s no need to spend quadruple digits on a CPU if you only intend to use the PC for gaming.
This type of CPU is designed for high-end workstation and server systems that can better utilize their advanced features, such as higher core and thread counts, greater stability, more PCIe lanes for additional GPUs and SSDs, and greater memory bandwidth for an average gaming PC.
Therefore, the mainstream Ryzen series is made up of processors aimed at the average consumer. It includes everything from entry-level solutions for budget gaming PCs to the incredibly powerful Ryzen 9 models that would work well in most workstations.
The Ryzen Threadripper and Epyc CPUs are simply not suitable for gaming for several reasons:
- They pack way more power than what a gaming PC needs.
- Most of them are much more expensive than the mainstream Ryzen CPUs.
- They both use special sockets (sTRX4 and SP3, respectively).
If you’re shopping for a new gaming CPU at the moment, we suggest checking out our selection of what we feel are the best CPUs for gaming in 2021. You’ll certainly find something there that will fit your needs and budget.