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Intel's new Core X-series HEDT processors include an 18-core chip for just US$969

By Koh Wanzi - on 2 Oct 2019, 11:50am

Intel's new Core X-series HEDT processors include an 18-core chip for just US$969

Intel today announced its Cascade Lake-X processors, over two years after launching its Skylake-X HEDT chips. But forget about the new features and slightly higher clock speeds for a second. There's one other big difference between Cascade Lake-X and Skylake-X, and that's the price. Intel has pushed forward with a huge drop in pricing, and the Core i9-10980XE is an 18-core chip that costs just US$979.

That's still not cheap, but it's a far more reasonable pricing compared to 2017's Skylake-X, which saw the 18-core Core i9-7980XE debut at a stratospheric US$1,999. Intel has slashed the price of the equivalent Cascade Lake-X chip by more than half, and it's a clear response to AMD's upcoming Ryzen 9 3950X and third-generation Threadripper processors. The latter two chips are expected to launch in November, which is also when the new Cascade Lake-X processors will go on sale. 

We still don't know how much Threadripper will cost, but the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X and 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X are priced at US$749 and US$499 respectively. Those are very competitive prices that effectively make picking Ryzen over Intel's existing HEDT alternatives a no-brainer, so Intel really had no choice but to respond in kind.

Either way, consumers have plenty of reason to celebrate. Competition is always good news, and we're now beginning to see the benefits of that. 

Here's an overview of the specifications of the latest Core-X CPUs:

  Base/Turbo Boost 2.0 clock All-core Turbo speed Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 Cores/Threads L3 cache Price (USD)
Intel Core i9-10980XE Extreme Edition 3.0GHz/4.6GHz 3.8GHz 4.8GHz 18/36 24.75MB $979
Intel Core i9-10940X 3.3GHz/4.6GHz 4.1GHz 4.8GHz 14/28 19.25MB $784
Intel Core i9-10920X 3.5GHz/4.6GHz 4.3GHz 4.8GHz 12/24 19.25MB $689
Intel Core i9-10900X 3.7GHz/4.5GHz 4.3GHz 4.7GHz 10/20 19.25MB $590

These are all 165W processors that support up to 256GB of quad-channel DDR4-2933 memory and offer a total of 72 platform PCIe 3.0 lanes, comprising 48 lanes straight off the processor (up from 44 from Skylake-X).

There's also some explaining to do for the model names. Intel really muddied the waters on the mobile side with its Ice Lake and Comet Lake chips. Both of them sport the same 10th Gen numbering scheme, but Ice Lake is actually based on the newer 10nm process node, while Comet Lake is stuck on 14nm. 

That said, the potential for confusion continues here. While Cascade Lake-X features model names that start with 10, they're not actually 10th Gen chips. These are still 14nm products, and according to an Intel spokesperson, there's technically no generational number attached to the X-series chips. Ultimately, it seems like Intel is now just appending the number 10 in front of all its new chips without really caring about what it does or does not signify. 

Looking back at the spec sheet, one of the newer specifications you'll have noticed is the All-core Turbo speed, which refers to the speed which every core should hit under sustained, heavily-threaded workloads. There's the potential for confusion between the traditionally listed boost clock, and what the processor can achieve when all the cores are under load, so this All-core specification helps clear things up somewhat. 

Image Source: Intel

The Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 makes a return here too. It identifies which core in the processor supports the highest clocks and then boosts that core in single-threaded workloads, thus helping the chip keep up with processors with fewer cores but higher clocks in single-threaded applications like games.

The Cascade Lake-X chips boast a bunch of new features as well, with very familiar additions that we've seen on the mobile end of things. This includes Wi-Fi 6, Intel Deep Learning Boost, and Thunderbolt 3 support, in addition to 2.5G Ethernet.

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