by Rob Williams on November 25, 2019 in Processors
We’ve reached the third generation of eighteen core desktop processors from Intel, with the launch of the new Core X-series, and its flagship Core i9-10980XE. Even with a bump to the max Turbo clock, and an increase of officially supported memory speed and total density, the most notable thing about Intel’s latest flagship is actually something else: its sub-$1,000 price tag.
Drumming up final thoughts is sometimes an effortless endeavor, while other times, it feels like a crippling chore. In the case of this particular review, we’ve never felt more ill-prepared to conclude on anything, only because our actual thoughts are being held under lock and key until a certain competitor lifts its embargo. Thus, our thoughts here might change, but at the same time, this product really isn’t that difficult to figure out, given other recent performance articles we’ve published.
It might have more cores than AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X, but AMD’s proven to be a seriously strong contender this generation, and has forced a recalibration on what we expect out of each vendor’s CPUs in various workloads. We feel pretty safe in saying that Intel was likely caught off-guard by its current competition, but for the rest of us, everything’s resulted in us getting more cores for less money.
Just one generation ago, the 18-core 9980XE retailed for about $2,000. This 10980XE will be hitting store shelves for about half of that, a true testament to what competition can pull off. We can never say that a $1,000 CPU is affordable, but given the context, it’s truly incredible what we’re seeing for the money now, compared to only a few years ago. Many used to only dream of having so many CPU cores at their disposal, but the times have shifted to make our PCs feel like serious powerhouses.
We’ve mentioned the new Core X-series chips in relation to third-gen Threadripper numerous times in this review, but at the given price-points, both series are actually separated completely right now. With the launch of its mainstream sixteen-core processor, AMD’s started its third-gen Threadripper at twenty-four cores, and a price of $1,400. Conversely, Intel’s Core i9-10980XE sits at just under $1,000.
One area where Intel competes strongly right now is with any workload that can utilize AVX-512. We saw an example of this on our Sandra page, but our previous (and upcoming) Linux articles can highlight other workloads that will make good use of it, like Intel’s Open Image Denoise, as well as Intel’s OSPray.
As we always droll on, it’s hard to sum-up a CPU based on a single workload, and in fact, it’s never wise to do that. Despite AMD’s huge gains with Zen this generation, we still see examples of Intel coming out ahead, especially where high clocks are preferred, but numerous cores isn’t. In many cases, the 3950X edges out the 10980XE, but in others, both it and the 9980XE properly strut their stuff to take the lead.
There were a few occasions where the 9980XE pulled ahead of the 10980XE as well, and it’s hard to figure out why (Blender Classroom and V-Ray benchmark). Quite a few results are within rounding errors of each other and are largely inconsequential, while others require a bit of thinking to figure out. The slightly different clock speeds may play a part, but it does seem something else is interfering at times. This will need further investigation.
Since we can’t conclude on too much right now, we’ll say that you should keep tabs on the front page, or our social media, as we’ll be soon publishing fresh Linux performance results, following-up on our 3950X look last week. Soon after that, we’ll publish our full thoughts on AMD’s and Intel’s latest top-end chips across our full Windows suite.