AMD is bringing its acclaimed Ryzen Threadripper processor lineup to the workstation PC market, starting with a new Lenovo ThinkStation model that can be equipped with 64 processor cores.
The new Ryzen Threadripper Pro chips, unveiled on Tuesday, will mark the first time in three years that workstation customers can look to AMD as an alternative to Intel’s Xeon CPUs. The current Xeon W offerings for workstations max out at 28 cores, while the new flagship Threadripper Pro 3995WX has 64 cores and 128 processor threads, which AMD says is the highest number of cores and threads available in a workstation PC.
The ThinkStation P620, the first PC to offer the new Threadripper Pro, will start shipping to customers in September for a starting price of $4,599. When equipped with the 64-core chip, it will offer better performance for some processing tasks—including rendering a 3D image with Maxon’s Cinebench R20 app—than a workstation equipped with two of the 28-core Xeon W chips, AMD says.
The possibility of equipping a single-processor workstation with a vast number of cores has tantalized many existing workstation users. While some tried using consumer-class Threadripper PCs (known as high-end desktops, or HEDTs) as an alternative, they lack the workstation-specific features that many companies require.
Lenovo’s ThinkStation P620 will be the first Threadripper Pro workstation PC
“There was great demand for a true professional Threadripper workstation,” said Jason Banta, AMD’s general manager for OEM solutions. PCs equipped with Threadripper Pro, including the ThinkStation P620, will come with error-correcting code (ECC) memory, a trusted platform module for hardware encryption, and other enterprise security features from the PC manufacturer, like Lenovo’s ThinkShield software.
More Cores, More Speed
In addition to the flagship 64-core Threadripper Pro, AMD will also offer three other workstation processors, with 32 cores, 16 cores, or 12 cores. The 12-core Threadripper Pro 3945WX is notable for its 4GHz base clock speed. AMD says it is the first 12-core, 4GHz workstation chip, which will appeal to users whose software needs higher frequencies, not more cores. Higher frequencies are especially important to game developers.
“Previously, we always had to choose between either high core count or high clock speed,” Pat Swanson, an IT engineer at Epic Games, said in a statement. “The Lenovo ThinkStation P620 powered by AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper Pro processor is optimized for both aspects in a way that previous HEDT CPUs never quite were.”
The ThinkStation P620 offers Threadripper Pro configurations with as many as 64 processor cores
In addition to the choice of all four Threadripper Pro processors, the ThinkStation P620 can also be configured with Nvidia’s full lineup of Quadro RTX graphics cards. The maximum supported graphics configuration is two Quadro RTX 8000 GPUs. The workstation can also be configured with up to a terabyte of memory and up to 20TB of storage spread across a maximum of eight internal drives.
The ThinkStation P620’s support for DD4-3200 memory connected by eight channels to the Threadripper Pro makes it particularly suitable for memory-intensive tasks, Lenovo says, such as airflow simulations performed in the automotive and aerospace industries.
Unlike consumer Threadripper HEDTs, many of which use liquid cooling, the ThinkStation P620 will be entirely air cooled. Lenovo designed a custom heatsink for the Threadripper Pro, while the rest of the P620 will be cooled using the same type of fans as the ones in other ThinkStation models.
Laying the Groundwork for PCIe Gen 4
The Threadripper Pro workstation PCs will use a new WRX80 chipset different from the one that consumer Threadripper chips use. It includes support for the latest 4th-generation PCI Express standard, with 16 chipset-connected lanes available for expansion cards. In total, the ThinkStation P620 will support 128 PCIe Gen 4 lanes.
While some current SSDs can take full advantage of PCIe Gen 4’s increased speeds, even PCI Gen 3-devices like the RTX Quadro graphics cards will see some benefit, according to Lenovo. ThinkStation P620 customers looking to add additional PCIe components will have a maximum of 1000 watts of power to work with.
In addition to workstation staples like ECC memory and enterprise-grade security, the ThinkStation P620 has also secured several certifications from software vendors, indicating that their apps have been tested to work on the device. These certifications include TensorFlow, Autodesk, Adobe, McKesson, and Catia, among others.
The ThinkStation P620 uses Nvidia’s Quadro RTX graphics processors
The ThinkStation will not offer the specialized Windows 10 Pro for Workstations operating system. It will use the more common Windows 10 Pro instead, following an agreement between AMD and Microsoft. Some of the benefits of Windows 10 Pro for Workstations include support for non-volatile DIMM memory modules and better compatibility with multiple CPUs, neither of which the ThinkStation P620 offers.
While pricing for all of the ThinkStation P620 configurations is not yet available, Lenovo notes that the higher-end configurations will be significantly cheaper than their Xeon-powered alternatives, which require two CPUs to achieve similar levels of performance and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The use of Windows 10 Pro instead of the workstation edition of the operating system helps keep cost down as well, Lenovo said. The ThinkStation P620 will also be available with Ubuntu Linux in the future.
AMD’s Banta said the company has no plans to sell Threadripper Pro processors individually. He said they will be available to other workstation manufacturers once an exclusivity agreement with Lenovo expires.
AMD’s previous Opteron workstation processors achieved some success, and were notable for offering 64-bit ARM architecture options as well as the more prevalent x86 architecture. The Opteron line was discontinued in 2017.