This AMD Ryzen Threadripper 7000 Series workstation takes performance to entirely new levels with a custom liquid cooler that allows to processor to boost well above its typical all core frequencies, writes Greg Corke
One of the advantages of buying a workstation from a specialist system builder is that they sometimes squeeze every last drop of performance out of key components. This is especially true with CPUs. One of the best in the business is UK firm Armari, which has developed exceedingly powerful workstations for decades and, as we found in our last two reviews, knows how to get the absolute best out of AMD’s multi-core Ryzen Threadripper processors.
For its new ‘Zen 4’ Threadripper 7000 Series workstation, the Magnetar M64T7, Armari has managed to significantly increase the performance of a standard Threadripper processor — so much so that an overclocked 64-core High End Desktop (HEDT) model, the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 7980X, can beat a standard 96-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper Pro 7995WX in some workflows.
Before we get into the details, let’s first talk about overclocking in general. In years gone by, Armari had to manually tweak frequencies and voltages to boost the performance of each processor. Then AMD released Precision Boost Overdrive (PBO) and the process of overclocking essentially became automated, pushing up all-core frequencies so long as sufficient cooling was in place.
Of course, good cooling takes engineering expertise. In the past, Armari developed a Full Water Loop (FWL) cooling system, which required regular maintenance with liquid coolant changes and plumbing inspections. For its latest workstation it has gone for an All In One (AIO) cooler, which is far more straightforward.
Armari’s AIO is different to many others on the market in that it covers the entire rectangular integrated heat spreader (IHS) of the Threadripper Pro CPU, so heat generated by the massive processor transfers more efficiently to the cooler. Other AIOs that are being used with Threadripper processors are circular, so don’t reach the extremities. Round peg, square hole, if you will. The result is an extremely efficient liquid cooled system that keeps thermals well under control and allows the processor to boost to very high all-core frequencies, resulting in a double-digit performance boost.
Nothing in life is free, of course, and the downside to extracting more performance from the processor is the need to feed in more power. At standard settings, the Threadripper 7000 Series draws 350W. By enabling PBO, power can go up all the way up to 700W.
Users have full control over this. By simply changing a PBO setting in the BIOS of the ASUS Pro WS TRX50-SAFE WIFI motherboard, the CPU can be boosted to the desired level.
It’s all controlled by setting thermal boundaries. ‘Level 3’ limits the temperature of the processor to 70°C and raises the sustained PBO to around 500W. ‘Level 2’ takes it up to 80°C (around 600W), and ‘Level 1’ up to 90°C (around 700W, which is the upper limit of the AIO cooler). This might sound hot, but AMD considers 95°C to be safe.
That’s as far as temperature goes. AMD’s product warranty does not officially cover any damages caused by overclocking, but Armari has stated that PBO tuning is a ‘supported and fully warrantied feature’ of the Magnetar M64T7. In short, Armari knows what it’s doing.
What about performance?
PBO can make a big difference to performance in ray trace rendering software. Going from PBO off, and running the CPU at a stock 350W, to ‘Level 3’ 70°C, which pumps 150W more into the processor, took all core frequency from 3.56 GHz to 4.10 GHz and boosted performance by 16% in Cinebench R23, 14% in Cinebench 2024, 20% in V-Ray, and 23% in KeyShot. If you’re planning on rendering out a complex animation for hours this is a massive potential time saving.
You can take performance even higher but there are diminishing returns with each new Level of PBO. Going from ‘Level 3’ 70°C to ‘Level 1’ 90°C took all core frequency from 4.10 GHz to 4.56 GHz and boosted performance by an additional 7% in Cinebench R23, 6% in V-Ray, and 4% in KeyShot, but you burn a considerable 200W to get you there. We also observed no benefit at all in Cinebench 2024, which uses the Redshift rendering engine.
Of course, even small boosts are important to some users and with ‘Level 1’ 90°C enabled the Armari Magnetar M64T7 even outpaced the leader of the ‘Zen 4’ pack, the 96-core Threadripper Pro 7995WX, in all of our ray trace rendering benchmarks, as tested in the Lenovo ThinkStation P8.
As the 96-core 7995WX processor costs twice as much as the 64-core 7980X this is certainly food for thought. In fact, you can buy the entire Armari workstation for only a tad more than the 96 core processor.
PBO is not for everyone. In some workflows there is no benefit at all. In engineering simulation, for example, in the WPCcfd (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and Calculix (Finite Element Analysis) worksets from the SPECworkstation 3.1 benchmark, scores remained static even with more power draw.
There is also no benefit to PBO in single threaded or lightly threaded workflows, such as those typically used in CAD and BIM application like Solidworks and Revit, but at least you are not wasting energy if PBO is enabled, as it never goes above 350W.
As reviewed, the Armari Magnetar M64T7 can be considered more of a technology demonstration / preproduction unit than a fully shipping product. When we tested the workstation in December 2023 as part of AMD’s Threadripper 7000 Series review program, Armari was putting the finishing touches to the machine, and in the process of introducing an updated chassis.
As part of the review program, AMD provided Armari with 128 GB of G.SKILL Z5 Neo DDR5 6,400 MT/sec memory. Spread across four 32 GB RDIMMs it maxes out the four-channel architecture of the HEDT Threadripper 7000 Series platform.
The G.SKILL Z5 Neo DDR5 6,400 MT/ sec memory is not only faster than the typical 5,600 MT/sec DDR5 memory that Armari would supply with this machine, but it also costs significantly more. In fact if you specify 256 GB of 5,600 MT/sec DDR5 memory instead of 128 GB of G.SKILL Z5 Neo DDR5 6400 you’ll save £100.
In the Threadripper 7000 Series all memory operates at 5,200 MT/s speeds by default, but like the processor itself, memory can be overclocked. In the Magnetar M64T7, Armari set the memory to run at full 6,400 MT/s memory speeds, delivering a significant boost in memory bandwidth.
With a score of 152.15 GB/sec in the SiSoft Sandra benchmark, it wasn’t that far off a Threadripper Pro 7000 WX-Series workstation with 8-channel memory. As tested with 8 x 16 GB DDR 5600 DIMMs (running at 5,200 speeds), the HP Z6 G5A delivered 206.1 GB/sec.
Memory bandwidth has very little bearing on performance in ray trace rendering software. However, there are some select visualisation workflows where it will make a difference. Recompiling shaders in Unreal Engine is one, which is probably why the Armari Magnetar M64T7 outpaced the Lenovo ThinkStation P8 with the 96-core 7995WX and four 4800 DDR5 RDIMMs (113.86 GB/sec) even with PBO off.
We explore performance in much more detail in our in-depth review of the Threadripper 7000 Series, both Pro and High-End Desktop (HEDT) models.
Unlike most other specialist system builders, Armari designs its own chassis. Our test machine was built around the company’s M60G3 case, which features a strong steel frame and lightweight aluminium side panels. It’s since been updated to a G4 edition, with changes largely made to accommodate very high-end Nvidia GPUs. This includes a new ATX 3.0 PSU with native 12VHPWR (Nvidia) GPU power connectors, improvements to the cooling to support two Nvidia RTX 4090s, and a new support brace to secure them in transit.
The Armari M60G3 chassis is sizeable. At 470 x 220 x 570mm it’s much bigger than the Threadripper Pro 7000 WX-Series workstations from Dell, HP and Lenovo.
A large part is taken up with the AIO cooler’s heat exchanger, which is secured top left and cooled by three 12cm fans. Each memory bank has its own custom RAM cooler, which is 3D printed in house by Armari. The rest of the machine is all about pushing air from front to back using a combination of large Phantek and Noctua intake and exhaust fans. Altogether it contributes to a relatively quiet system, although fan noise does ramp up as PBO levels increase. But even when 700W is being pushed through the CPU, it’s not excessive.
There are plenty of options for storage. Armari included a single 2TB Crucial T700 PCIe Gen 5 SSD, but the motherboard can accommodate up to two more M.2 NVMe SSDs (1 x PCIe Gen 5 and 1 x Gen 4). With a caddy for up to four 3.5- inch Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) there’s plenty of options to build on this.
For accessible I/O, all the ports are on the top of the machine, rather than the front, which is good or bad depending where you keep your workstation. There’s (1) USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C and (2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports. At the rear, you get (1) USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, (6) USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A, and (2) USB 2.0.
As the name of the motherboard suggests, the machine has WiFi 6E built in. Of course, for most workstations of this type, it’s all about maximum and consistent data transfer over the network, and this is done via the built in 10Gb or 2.5Gb Ethernet.
Armari did not provide a GPU, but we tested with a mid-range AMD Radeon Pro W7700 (16 GB) (read our review). As mentioned earlier, it can take up to two super high-end Nvidia GPUs.
It’s impossible not to take notice of the Magnetar M64T7, simply because Armari has squeezed so much additional performance out of the already powerful Threadripper 7000 Series processor. Dell, HP and Lenovo simply can’t compete on performance alone.
Outpacing the 96-core Threadripper Pro 7995WX processor with the 64-core Threadripper 7980X is a phenomenal feat. It can save you a lot of money or, because Armari can also configure this machine with the 96-core Pro chip, there’s potential to take performance even higher.
Of course, dialling up PBO does come with a cost — both in terms of power consumed and heat produced. We expect most users will choose some middle ground here. Armari ships the machine with ‘Level 2’ enabled, but customers can select whichever profile they prefer, including PBO off. It’s not inconceivable that a user could temporarily invoke ‘Level 1’ when on a tight deadline, although this will require a reboot.
In summary, Armari has delivered another excellent Threadripper workstation that not only stands out from the major OEMs, but many of the other specialist system builders as well.
- AMD Ryzen processor (3.2 GHz, 5.1 GHz boost) (64- cores, 128 threads)
- 128GB (4 x 32GB) G.SKILL Z5 Neo DDR5 RDIMM 6,400MT/sec memory
- 2TB Crucial T700 PCIe Gen 5 SSD
- ASUS Pro WS TRX50-SAFE WIFI motherboard (TRX50)
- AMD Radeon Pro W7700 GPU (16 GB GDDR6 memory)
- Armari Threadripper AIO CPU cooler
- Magnetar M60G4 chassis (470 x 220 x 570mm)
- Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
- 3 Year RTB warranty. 3 Years RTB Parts & Labour, 1st year collect and return is included
- £8,495 (Ex VAT)
This article is part of AEC Magazine’s Workstation Special report
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- Power to the people: the importance of power in performance
- Know your workstation – From GPU to CPU, memory to storage
- Beyond performance: from power and warranty to chassis and bottlenecks
- Review: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 7000 Series
- Review: HP Z6 G5 A (Threadripper Pro)
- Review: Lenovo ThinkStation P8 (Threadripper Pro)
- Review: Workstation Specialists WS IC-Z7900 (14th Gen Intel Core)
- Review: AMD Radeon Pro W7500, W7600 & W7700 workstation GPUs
- Review: Nvidia RTX 4000 Ada Generation workstation GPU
- Working and rendering beyond the desktop
- Remote possibilities: Lenovo targets the cloud
- Inevidesk: flexible virtual workstations