When Intel unveiled its Core X series of processors at Computex in early June, many believed that the only reason we saw the launch take place at that time was because of the immense (almost out-of-nowhere) pressure applied by AMD, with its Ryzen portfolio. Considering the fact that up to this point, Intel hasn’t been able to tell us the specs of its new top-end chips, that’s not too hard to believe.
Well, after a couple of months of waiting, Intel has today provided the information we’ve been craving. Overall? Not too much is a surprise:
|i9-7980XE||2.6 GHz||4.2 GHz||18 (36T)||44||Quad||165W||$1,999|
|i9-7960X||2.8 GHz||4.2 GHz||16 (32T)||44||Quad||165W||$1,699|
|i9-7940X||3.1 GHz||4.3 GHz||14 (28T)||44||Quad||165W||$1,399|
|i9-7920X||2.9 GHz||4.3 GHz||12 (24T)||44||Quad||140W||$1,199|
|i9-7900X||3.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||10 (20T)||44||Quad||140W||$999|
|i7-7820X||3.6 GHz||4.3 GHz||8 (16T)||28||Quad||140W||$599|
|i7-7800X||3.5 GHz||4.0 GHz||6 (12T)||28||Quad||140W||$389|
|i7-7740X||4.3 GHz||4.5 GHz||4 (8T)||16||Dual||112W||$339|
|i5-7640X||4.0 GHz||4.2 GHz||4 (4T)||16||Dual||112W||$242|
With AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper boasting 64 PCIe lanes across its entire stack (well, 60, since 4 are allocated to the chipset), I was hoping to see a surprise with Intel’s ultra high-end offerings here. For the regular user, having more than 40 PCIe lanes at-the-ready isn’t a concern (the chipset adds 24), but for the high-end enthusiast or content creator, it’s nice to have as much breathing room as possible.
The biggest PCIe lane hog are our GPUs, so having two installed would eat up 32 of those 44 CPU-provided lanes. The rest then could be dedicated to 3x full-speed M.2 NVMe drives. Or, one x16 GPU could be used, and 7x NVMe drives could be opted for (drool). This isn’t taking into account the PCIe lanes delivered through the chipset, so the chances of you running into PCIe issues are slim.
With 16 cores and 32 threads under its hood, AMD’s 1950X does battle with every CPU in Intel’s Core X lineup between the i9-7900X and i9-7960X – quite impressive since we’re talking about a price delta of $700 between those. Based on our Ryzen testing, it would seem likely that Intel’s 16-core would beat out AMD’s, but until the two are tested, it’s hard to predict.
While Threadripper touts a clock speed of 3.4GHz, Intel’s i9-7960X is clocked 600MHz lower at stock. Based on our testing of the 10-core i9-7900X, I am wondering if these even beefier chips will have aggressive Turbo ratios to negate that. As covered in that review, while the i7-6950X peaked at 3.5GHz across all 10 cores, the i9-7900X boosts that to 4.0GHz, resulting in big gains from one generation to the next. For the sake of peak performance, I am hoping these big chips are in fact aggressively clocked like the i9-7900X. If so, the stated 165W TDP seems quite modest in comparison to the i9-7900X’s 140W.
Expect EFI updates to hit your favorite X299 motherboard soon
Intel is claiming that these top-end chips are an important piece of the “ultimate platform” for content creation, and I’d consider that assessment to be spot-on: these are workstation chips, through and through. CPU-bound encoding, rendering, image manipulation, et al, will all perform much faster on properly multi-threaded applications.
Both AMD and Intel market their beefiest chips as being ideal for hardcore gamers, but the benefits are going to depend on your use case. Chips like these are only going to benefit you if you’re multi-tasking; gaming + streaming is a good use case, but even then, you don’t need an 18-core chip for it. If a gamer goes after chips like these, they need to be an astute power user to take full advantage.
In addition to this info, I’d like to comment on the fact that it’s about damn time that we’re seeing options like i9-7900X+ and 1920X+ on the market. For many years, I’ve heard complaints from users about there being a lack of multi-threaded software (especially on the gaming side). Things people would expect to be accelerated aren’t. The release of these chips mean that things should change. For those who are willing to plunk down a good chunk of cash on a high-end CPU, it also means that the value proposition nowadays is way better than it was just a year ago.
Consider the fact that Intel’s new 18-core chip costs just a bit more than last-gen’s 10-core (i7-6950X). Would we see a chip like the i9-7980XE if Zen wasn’t here? It’s hard to say, but at the end of the day, our wait for many core consumer chips has finally ended. Just don’t look at the price tags right now if you have a weak stomach.