A look at Intel’s new CPUs
Before diving into the i9-9900K I guess we should run through some of the stuff introduced at that meeting right? Intel had a lot more to announce than just one CPU. So they touched on three different launches. The 9th generation desktop launch, “the” 28 core, and then a new X-Series launch. Of course, by the time this meeting had taken place a lot of the secrets of the 9th gen launch had already been leaked. But I don’t think most people were expecting much from the other two areas.
So Intel touched on a few big trends in the market that they have seen and are projecting. They have noticed that retail gaming PC sales have grown in market share around 29 percent in the last three years. This isn’t too big of a surprise, mobile devices have slowed down normal PC usage, but PC gaming has continued to grow. I imagine that played a role in their observation that in the last 5 years unlocked CPUs have grown in sales 11 percent. All of that then ties in with the middle part of this slide. They are projecting video content grow to four times. This combines video production like YouTube videos with live streaming to services like Twitch. All of these tie into Intel’s upcoming launches, of course, unlocked CPUs, gaming focus, and a focus on CPUs that can stream and produce video content. All similar things to what AMD has been doing with Ryzen as well 😉.
So then they went over their introduction of STIM. This is what they are calling their Solder Thermal Interface Material. They announced this like it was new but we know Intel used to solder before and AMD has continued to do that. But I’m just happy to see Intel bringing it back. They of course touch on the benefits like better conductivity between the die and heat spreader. This allows for better heat dissipation and higher thermal headroom. This allows coolers to better pull heat away and allow better clock speeds.
With that, they introduced the new 9th Gen CPUs. Currently, this is just a small list with three CPUs. Obviously, the focus has been on the i9-9900K but there is also an i7-9700K, and the i5-9600K. All three have soldered TIM. The 9900K has a base clock of 3.6 and is Intel’s first full production CPU with a 5GHz turbo frequency. The i7-8086K did it first, but that was a limited run. In addition to that this is also their first 8 core mainstream CPU. It has 16 threads and is unlocked. The 9700K is similar but with 4.9 on the turbo clock speed and while it has 8 cores it doesn’t have hyperthreading so you have 8 cores and 8 threads and a slightly lower cache as well. This is another first, i7’s up until now have always had hyperthreading. Also interesting with the 9700K is how well this fits with the 8700K that has 6 cores but 12 threads. Lastly, there is the 9600K, this has a higher base clock of 3.7 but a lower turbo clock at 4.6 GHz. This also doesn’t have hyperthreading and is a 6 core 6 thread CPU. All three CPUs are listed with up to 40 lanes, but that is a little deceptive, the CPU still has the same 16 lanes as past Coffee Lake CPUs, you can get up to 40 with motherboard tricks. In the fine print down at the bottom the Intel legal team also had to break down Spectre and Meltdown fixes. These are the first CPUs with hardware fixes for Meltdown v3 and L1 Terminal Fault but everything else is still mitigated with microcode and software.
With the new CPUs, Intel also introduced their new Z390 chipset. This is really just an extension on the Z370 platform to touch on a few areas that Z370 was missing. The new chipset adds USB 3.1 Gen 2 on to the chipset as well as support for Wireless AC. Both had to be added on with Z370 boards. That said the new CPUs will work on the same boards that 8th Gen CPUs worked with as long as you have BIOS updates available for the support.
So the 28 Core CPU that Intel was teasing earlier this year that stirred up all of the controversy with them showing it running at 5 GHz on all cores while they had a chiller running to keep it cool. Well the Xeon W-3175X is what came from that. This is an interesting launch because I don’t think people expected it to have Xeon branding for one. It felt like Intel was bringing this out to compete with Threadripper so sticking with the Xeon branding and not starting a new name or putting it at the top of Core-X was interesting. The official speed is 3.1 on base clock and 4.3 turbo with 28 cores and 56 threads. The interesting part though is that this is an unlocked part. That’s right, an unlocked XEON! Intel didn’t really show off to many details other than that it is coming soon and that details like the price will be announced at a later date. It does run on its own platform with Gigabyte and Asus working with them on crazy motherboards to go with it. Six channel memory support matches with the giant CPU size as well. The Xeon Platinum 8176F that is currently on the market with 28 cores runs you at least $10,000 so it will be interesting to see where the W-3175X lands and how it changes Intel’s Xeon lineup.
The last announcement was the new Core-X series of CPUs. Now I’ve spent a lot testing the last Core-X CPUs and we even use them in our GPU test bench. These have been Intel’s high core count lineup. With the new lineup, there were two main takeaways. All of the CPUs now have soldered TIM and Intel dropped those low end 4 and 6 core CPUs at the bottom of their lineup. The second part helps set a line between the mainstream and Core-X lineups though it does mean you can’t get into Core-X with a cheap CPU and then upgrade later. Now the entry level is the $589 8 core 9800X. As a whole, the lineup jumped the 8 series so the 7980XE is now the 9980XE and everything got a slight clock speed bump. The 9980XE has the biggest jump from 2.6 base clock to 3.0 and it is now up to 4.5 on max boost with its 18 cores 36 threads. The price is also slightly down from 1999 to $1979.
Also while we were there Intel touched on their Mesh Architecture. This was interesting because this isn’t new but it is the first time I have heard them focus on it. This is because of AMD pushing their Infinity Thread usage. Mesh is similar but the difference as described to me is that mesh is laid out in a way where when you scale up to high core counts it keeps the latency lower. Imagine a normal layout being a circle where each bit passes all the way around where mesh allows communication up, down, left, right, and then at each angle. Having those options makes for a shorter distance on high core count CPUs.
Anand Srivatsa did bring out the new packaging for the i9-9900K during the event. I was honestly expecting from the pictures that the box would be larger like Threadripper so I was happy to see it was a little smaller.
Sadly the only chance to look at the packaging was at the event itself. I feel like Intel really missed out on a marketing opportunity by sending out the full retail experience to each reviewer. Look at all of the unboxing videos and articles and social media pictures that Threadripper has gotten with both of its launches. The packaging is interesting though with its transparent blue to let you peek inside. It opens up and lays out flat.
Rather than send out the retail packaging Intel send the CPU out in this box with the 9th Gen i9 covering the front of the box. Having LanOC was a nice touch and they did stick with the same polygon shape here with the pentagon-shaped cover over the CPU but I would rather have that retail box up on the shelf with some of our other cool tech gadgets, boxes, and swag.
The CPU itself doesn’t look any different than any other mainstream Intel CPU. It is impressive that they have packed 8 cores into this small size though. I have to imagine that their socket size is going to have to get a little larger in the future if the core wars continue.