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AMD Ryzen 9 7900X vs. Intel Core i9-12900K Needs to Be Cheaper or Just Get the 7950X

 Last week we checked out the flagship 16-core Ryzen 9 7950X and found it to be a productivity monster, crushing the Core i9-12900K with ease. However, that CPU is also quite a bit more expensive than the Core i9, so today we're taking a look at a Zen 4 processor priced to compete with the 12900K, and that processor is the Ryzen 9 7900X.

With a $550 MSRP, it's actually slightly cheaper than the Core i9, so it will be interesting to see how they stack up and we'll get to the benchmark results as quickly as possible, but before we do, let's go over the 7900X specs.

What we have here is a 12-core, 24-thread Zen 4 processor that clocks between 4.7 GHz and 5.6 GHz depending on the load. Like the 7950X, we're getting two CCDs along with a 6nm I/O die. The additional CCD translates into total L3 cache capacity of 64MB, and there's also 16MB of L2 cache. The TDP is also increased from 105w on single CCD chips to a whopping 170w, though do note because the same I/O die has been used, the same 28 PCIe 5.0 lanes are supported.

Now, where the 7950X came in $100 lower than its Zen 3 predecessor, the 7900X carries the same MSRP as the 5900X at $550. It's worth noting that the 5900X can be had for just $400 these days, which is ~30% less than the latest model. Still compared to Intel, that should be a competitive price with the Core i9-12900 starting at $510 for the locked version, $560 for the 12900KF, and then $580 for the full-blown 12900K which we'll be comparing to the 7900X in this review.

As we've done for previous Zen 4 reviews, we have updated all our CPU data and we have 17 CPUs for comparison. Representing the AM4 platform we have a range of Zen 2 and Zen 3 CPUs with popular models such as the Ryzen 9 3900X, Ryzen 7 5800X3D, and of course the Ryzen 9 5900X included, but there are half a dozen more chips also included.

Then we've got the Intel 10th-gen core series including popular Core i5, i7 and i9 models, but we decided to skip the 11th generation as it wasn't as relevant and due to time constraints. Of course, the 12th-gen Core processors are part of the comparison and we've tested them using DDR4-3200 dual-rank CL14 memory and DDR5-6400 single-rank CL32 memory, with various models that go from the Core i3-12100 up to the Core i9-12900K.

Our AM5 test bed is based on the MSI MEG X670E Ace using DDR5-6000 CL30 memory which is what AMD recommended, so that's what we've done. All testing was conducted using a GeForce RTX 3090 Ti GPU installed, Windows 11, and Resizable BAR enabled for all configurations.

Clock Speeds

Before we dive into the blue bar graphs, here's a look at clock behavior in Cinebench R23. After an hour of load testing, the 7900X maintained an all-core frequency of 5.1 GHz on the primary CCD1 and 5.05 GHz on the secondary CCD2, so there's just a single percent frequency discrepancy between the two core complex dies.

These results were achieved using the be quiet! Pure Loop 2 FX 360mm liquid cooler installed inside the be quiet! Silent Base 802.

Then for single core workloads the 7950X appeared to maintain a clock frequency of 5.625 GHz, so 25 MHz above the advertised clock frequency.

Application Benchmarks

As usual we'll start with Cinebench results and we see like the 7950X, the 7900X is also able to beat the 12900K quite comfortably, scoring 7% higher in the multi-core test. It was also just 12% slower than the 7950X which is quite good given it packs 25% fewer cores.

As we found with the 7950X, the single thread performance of the 7900X is very strong, producing a score of 2034 pts. That's not a big improvement over the 12900K, a mere 3% difference, but it does mean the 7900X is often going to have the upper hand for productivity workloads given it's faster in Cinebench R23 for both multi and single core performance.

When it comes to compression work, the 7900X is able to outpace the 12900K, this time winning by a 7% margin, not a massive difference but a win all the same. The 7900X is seen trailing the 7950X by a 12% margin, which is not a bad result all things considered.

Decompression work is a Ryzen stronghold and the 7900X is no exception, basically matching last season's 5950X to make it 45% faster than the 12900K. An easy win here for AMD's new 12-core processor.

The 7900X was also dominant in Blender, trailing the 7950X by just 18%, making it 16% faster than the 5950X and a whopping 30% faster than the 12900K.

It's a similar story with the Corona benchmark, the 7900X was 26% slower than the 7950X but 13% faster than the 12900K and a massive 28% faster than the old 5900X.

The Adobe Premiere Pro 2022 performance is impressive, as has been the case for all Zen 4 CPUs, particularly the 7700X and up. The 7900X was 33% faster than the 12900K and just 7% slower than the 7950X, another great result here.

The 7900X also stood up strong in the Adobe Photoshop benchmark despite coming in behind the 7700X and 7950X. A score of 1488 pts meant it was a whisker faster than the 12900K and 21% faster than its predecessor, the 5900X.

The 7900X did fall behind the 12900K in the After Effects benchmark, though the margin was slim. A negligible difference there, but not so much when compared to the 5900X as we see a 31% uplift, for an impressive generational improvement.

Looking at code compilation performance, the 7900X can be seen matching the 5950X and 12900K, taking 3188 seconds to complete the workload. Not amazing given it only matched the Core i9 CPU, but overall a decent enough result.

Gaming Benchmarks

Time for the gaming benchmarks and we'll start with Factorio which is very cache sensitive, and only looks at single core performance. Interestingly, the 7900X produces the highest score here of all the Zen 4 processors, though we're only talking about a 1% increase from the 7950X, so within the margin or error. Still, from our three run average it was consistently faster.

The 7900X nudged ahead of the 7950X in Watch Dogs Legion, though overall performance was much the same, coming in just 2% slower than the Core i9-12900K.

As we've seen in the previous Zen 4 coverage, Rainbow Six Extraction isn't a great title for AMD's latest, but it's not a bad one either as the 7900X trailed the 12900K by just 4%.

Zen 4 has impressed in Hitman 3. The 7900X matches other 7000 series processors already tested with 229 fps on average, which means it delivers 12900K-like performance.

Tiny Tina's Wonderlands is not a very demanding game on the CPU side, but it remains a good indicator of how many modern games are going to be GPU bound, even when using an RTX 3090 Ti at 1080p as we see in this test.

This game can be useful for testing low-end CPUs, but for the 7950X it just shows us that we're able to max out the RTX 3090 Ti, matching other high-end CPUs.

Next up we have F1 22 and like the rest of the Zen 4 lineup the 7900X is impressive in this title, delivering similar performance to what we've already seen from the 7600X, 7700X and 7950X.

The 7900X is able to outperform the 12900K by a 12% margin and put away the old 5900X by a convincing 25% margin.

As seen previously, the Spider-Man Remastered results for Zen 4 aren't too impressive with the 12700K and 12900K enjoying commanding leads and the 7900X does nothing to change that, matching the 7950X with 114 fps on average, making it 13% slower than the 12900K.

It appears as though we've reached the limits of the RTX 3090 Ti in Shadow of the Tomb Raider using the highest quality preset at 1080p with all high-end CPUs hitting a wall at around 190 fps. As a result the 7900X is only on par with the 12900K.

At some point we thought a similar thing with Horizon Zero Dawn, perhaps the 3090 Ti just wasn't capable of pushing past 200 fps, but Zen 4 proved that theory wrong reaching just over 210 fps. The 7900X matched other Zen 4 CPUs, so while impressive it was no faster than the 6-core model.

Cyberpunk 2077 isn't great for AMD CPUs in general and the new Zen 4 CPUs trail Intel's entire Alder Lake K-SKU series, too. The 7900X was a lot slower than the 12900K, trailing by a significant 14% margin which was really disappointing to see, but not unexpected given what we'd already seen from the 7600X, 7700X and 7950X.

The 7900X doesn't disappoint in ACC, though it doesn't surprise us either, matching other Zen 4 CPUs almost exactly with 173 fps on average, making it just 5% faster than the 12900K.

As was the case with the 7950X, the 7900X is a bit broken in The Riftbreaker. Realistically it would be able to match at least the 7600X, if not the 7700X, but as we saw with the 7950X this game has an issue with the dual CCD design of the 12 and 16-core models, and this is something AMD is in talks with the developer to try and solve.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has no surprises for us. The 7900X was a whisker faster than the 7950X with 518 fps and that made it 15% faster than the 12900K, a convincing win there.

12 Game Average Performance

For the 12-game average, as expected the 7900X matched the 7950X making it a fraction faster than the 6-core 7600X overall and a mere frame slower than the 12900K, in other words the same performance as the Core i9. That was expected given what we've seen so far.

Power Consumption

We've seen that in terms of power consumption Zen 4 isn't too impressive, typically worse off than Zen 3 when it comes to performance per watt, at least based on our recorded Blender data. The 7900X pushed total system usage to the same level as the 10900K and slightly higher than the 12700K.

When compared to the 5900X, the 7900X was 24% faster in this test but also pushed system consumption 47% higher, meaning it's much worse when it comes to performance per watt. That said, it was faster than both the 12700K and 12900K, quite a bit faster, and used a bit less power than the 12900K, so at least relative to Intel it's a win for AMD.

Cooling Performance

When it comes to cooling, Zen 4 CPUs intentionally give the impression that they're difficult to cool by delivering as much performance as possible by taking full advantage of the thermal and power headroom. AMD claims that with the new AM5 socket and higher TDP, Zen 4 processors will run into a thermal wall before they hit a power wall.

This means under heavy load they'll sit at TJMax which is about 95 degrees Celsius for the Ryzen 7000 series, and this will be particularly true for the 12 and 16-core models.

AMD has stressed that this behavior is intended and that it's important to note TJMax is the maximum safe operating temperature -- not the absolute maximum temperature. In the case of Zen 4, the processors are designed to run at TJMax 24/7 without risk of damage or deterioration.

AMD went on to say that 95C is not running hot, rather Zen 4 will intentionally go to this temperature when under load because the power management system knows that this is the ideal way to squeeze the most performance out of the chip without damaging it.

For our testing we used the be quiet! Pure Loop 2 FX 360mm liquid cooler which is fully compatible with AM5. After an hour of looping Cinebench multi-core with the Pure Loop 2 FX installed inside the be quiet! Silent Base 802, we recorded a peak CPU temperature of 97C for the primary CCD and 94C for the secondary CCD, so just above the 95c TJMax.

Cost vs. Performance

Time for the value analysis and as we found with the 7950X, the 7900X is overkill for gamers and largely a waste of money if all you plan on doing is gaming.

Currently, you're faced with paying a little over 40% more per frame than the 7700X when just taking CPU cost into consideration. The 7900X is slightly better value than the 12900K, but much worse than the 12700K.

Now let's take a look at cost per frame while including memory and motherboard costs which for the DDR4 configurations includes a 32GB kit of DDR4-3200 CL14 memory at a cost of $200. Then the DDR5 configurations cost $280, regardless of the spec -- both 6000 and 6400 cost the same amount.

The AM5 motherboard price point is based on the $290 MSI Pro X670-P WiFi, AM4 uses the Asus TUF Gaming X570-Plus WiFi which costs $180, and then the MSI Pro Z690-P DDR4 at $180, and the MSI Pro Z690-A DDR5 at $210.

Here the 7900X doesn't look great when including platform costs, it's slightly worse value than even the 12900K and considerably worse value than the 7700X and 7600X. Clearly, if you're just gaming the 6 and 8-core Zen 4 CPUs are far better value.

When it comes to productivity, the 7900X looks far more impressive from a value standpoint. It's not quite as good as the 7950X based on our Cinebench scores, but even so it's comparable to the Core i9-12900K.

It's about 15% more expensive per 1000 points when factoring in not just the CPU cost but also the cost of the motherboard and memory. In short, the 5950X package costs 13% more but offers 30% more performance, so if you're serious about productivity you might as well just go all out.

The 7900X looks a bit more competitive from a value perspective in Premiere Pro, costing just 9% more than the 7700X when looking at price to performance. It's also much better value than the competing Intel parts. That said, if performance is the ultimate goal then paying the premium for the 7950X will be worth it.

What We Learned

The Ryzen 9 7900X is an impressive and capable CPU, but in a way it's also a somewhat unfortunate product, because while it's quite good at everything, in terms of value it's not great, even for a specific workload.

Gamers are certainly better off going with the Ryzen 7 7700X as it's essentially as fast (or even slightly faster) and is much cheaper. Even when factoring in the platform costs, the 8-core model is considerably better value for gaming.

Then for those interested in productivity, it's almost always going to be the case where buying the 7950X ends up being the better deal. When just factoring in motherboard and memory costs, it's not much more for an additional 33% cores, and those extra cores often net you a good amount of performance.

The fact that the 7900X ends up costing $46 per core, whereas the 7950X is $44 per core is also less than ideal. With cheaper AMD B650 motherboards and a drop in DDR5 pricing, the 7900X may start to make sense, but in the meantime paying more per core is one of the key issues with the 7900X.

The Ryzen 9 7900X is a rock solid CPU that stacks up very well when compared to the Core i9-12900K, but we also think it's the least compelling offering in the Ryzen 7000 series. We'll continue to re-evaluate the 7900X as platform costs go down and new competitors are launched, but unless AMD discounts this part, we don't see how it could be a popular model.


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