It’s been a crazy year in the CPU market, with that craziness also pushing the rest of the market as well. Back in June Intel introduced their new Core-X line of CPUs as well as the X299 chipset. That launch was missing the top portion of their CPU lineup though. The increased competition and the surprise announcement from AMD of Threadripper seems to of prompted Intel to expand on their planned lineup. They added four more CPUs up above the i9-7900X with 12, 14, 16, and 18 cores. Well, the wait is over, they are available and today I’m going to check out the top two that Intel sent over. The i9-7980XE is Intel’s new flagship CPU with 18 cores and 36 threads with the i9-7960X just behind it with 16 cores and 32 threads. Let's see what they have to offer across a range of tests.
Review samples provided for testing by: Intel
Written by: Wes Compton
Pictures by: Wes Compton
Core X, Again
Well with the original Core X launch I did sit down and run through what was introduced with X299 and the new CPUs. Today I’m just focusing on the four CPUs that didn’t have details at the time. That would be the i9-7980XE, the i9-7960X, the i9-7940X, and the i97920X. All four are positioned above the original flagship, the 7900X as you can tell with their naming. All four add to the core count totals as well. So the 7900X was a 10 core 20 thread CPU. But now Intel has 12, 14, 16, and 18 core count options, all with hyperthreading as well. To pull that off the clock speeds are interesting. The base clock of the 7900X was 3.3 and all four drop down to lower base clock speeds with the 7920X being the only oddball here that is running at a lower speed than the 7940X above it. Even at 2.6, the 7980XE doesn’t have a super low clock speed, this is still better than a lot of the older high core count Xeons. But Intel leans on Turbo Boost 2 and 3 to make up the speed. So the 7980XE still has a Turbo Boost 2 clock speed of 4.2 GHz and a Turbo Boost 3 clock speed of 4.4 GHz. Less multi-threaded software still gets the high clock speeds that it needs. Unlike clock speeds, as the core count goes up the L3 Cache goes up at all going from the 13.75 MB of the 7900X to 24.75 MB on the 7980XE.
At least Intel didn’t mess with PCI lanes here, all four CPUs have the same 44 lanes that the 7900X has. The same goes for the quad channel memory, though I think it is crazy we have to even worry that any of the CPUs on a platform that supports quad channel might not have it. Then for TDP, the 7920X has the same 140 TDP and the other three are bumped up to 165 watts. Who would have thought that we would be back to crazy power draw again!
How does this compare to Threadripper? Well, Threadripper is available in a 16/32, 12/24, and 8/16 offerings. The 1950X with its 16/32 core/thread count does have a higher base clock speed (3.2 vs 2.8)than the 7690X that is comparable to but it has a lower boost speed (4.0 vs 4.4). The 1950X has more cache as well and all Threadripper CPUs have more PCIe Lanes at 64. The TDP is higher and the TR price is lower. Sadly I don’t have one to see how they actually compare though even after bugging AMD for months now about it.
Intel’s with the i9-7980XE is that it has the highest core count in a consumer-focused product and with 18 cores and 36 threads it is a monster. For me, the biggest selling point though is all of the other Intel tech that works with it. Optane is really cool though I don’t see people needing to worry about it at this performance level. But thunderbolt/Type-C support is huge to me.
So Intel sent two CPUs for me to check out. The i9-7980XE is the flagship and then they also included the i9-7960X as well that is positioned core count wise with the 1950X from AMD. Sadly they just come in basic protective boxes like other engineering samples. I’ve been getting spoiled by getting retail packaging along with some of these other launches. Especially with Threadripper going crazy with their packaging. It would have been cool to at least get one of the black i9 boxes with the Miami Vice color scheme.
If you haven’t seen a 2066 socket CPU before they aren’t any larger than LGA 2011 but they look huge compared to an Intel 1151 CPU. Of course, TH4 (Threadripper) on the other hand makes these look tiny. But it does make it seem even more impressive that Intel packed in 18 cores into one and 16 into the other.