AMD Ryzen 9 3900X & H.265 Transcoding

Many years ago, I preferred AMD CPUs over Intel, but Intel seemed to advance ahead and became my standard CPU. I watched the first generation Ryzen CPUs with interest, but it was too new [for me] when I needed to build a couple computers so I went with the Intel i7-8700 and i7-8700K. I was upgrading from i7-3770 CPUs, so the increase in speed was very impressive [again, for me].

Time went by and AMD was now on their third-generation Ryzen CPU. I was feeling the itch to upgrade and the 3900X seemed like an easy choice. I would be going from a six core Intel CPU to a 12 core AMD CPU. The Ryzen 9 3900X had been out a few months and I was not reading anything that concerned me. I also had 32GB of DDR4 RAM that was compatible, so all I really needed to replace was a motherboard and CPU (AMD even includes a Wraith cooler). I paired the CPU with the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Plus motherboard and the cost with tax was $630.73. Not too bad considering I would easily pay around $600 for just a lower end Intel i9.

I got my new AMD and ripped the old motherboard out of my computer case (actually, I gently set it aside). I installed the CPU and RAM on the new motherboard and installed it in the case. I powered on the computer and Windows 10 booted with no problems. New drivers automatically installed and everything seemed fine. I was not about to trust the old Windows install, so I did a fresh install. I did not overclock the CPU and ran it with the stock cooler.

The first test I did was to install Handbrake and transcode an MKV that was 29.11GB. I used my custom preset, which was based on the general preset HQ 1080p30 Surround, but with the following changes:

  • Video Codec: H.265 (x265)
  • Framerate (FPS): Same as source
  • Variable Framerate
  • Constant Quality: 20 RF
  • Encoder Preset: Fast
  • All audio is set to Auto Passthru and I create an AAC stereo track (for those times a file may only have 5.1 audio)
  • Subtitle Tracks: Foreign Audio Scan has “Forced Only” and “Burn In” checked

My test file was on a NAS with a 1Gb connection and was saved to a NAS with a 10Gbe connection. The computer I was using also had a 10Gbe connection. The transcoding process took 00:52:38 to complete (not including the foreign audio scan, which was about five minutes). I transcoded the same file over the network with a computer that had an Intel i7-8700K and 10Gbe connection, so it was a fairly apples to apples comparison. The process on the Intel computer took 01:23:26 to complete. The Ryzen was able to save me 32 minutes. Not bad, especially if I am transcoding several files in a row.

I know these speeds are nothing compared to using a GPU, which can accomplish the same transcode in around 15 minutes, however, I prefer CPU encoding because it provides a much smaller file size. If I need to transcode something fast, I use the GPU and sacrifice file size. When I want quality and smaller file size, I use CPU encoding.

CPU usage with the Ryzen is around 70% on average while using Handbrake with the settings listed above. Intel was always 100%. I was able to do other tasks and even run a virtual machine with no lag. The Ryzen Master software reports the CPU temperature to be around 75 degrees Celsius (167 degrees Fahrenheit), and that is in the green with a limit of 95 Celsius listed. CPU power and CPU EDC are always in the red when transcoding, so I’m hoping this CPU can withstand the punishment because it will be a transcoding machine.

If you are wondering what I did with the old Intel i7-8700 and MSI motherboard, I didn’t throw it in the e-waste bin. I had enough spare parts to build a complete computer. It’s crunching away right now.

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