Intel have taken to the stage at Computex2017 to finally take the wraps off the Core X-series processor family, the latest and greatest iteration of their High End Desktop platform for consumers. Comprised of both Skylake-X and KabyLake-X CPUs, they're the first designs to push the consumer space up to 18 cores and 36 threads on a single CPU socket.
At the very top of the totem pole will be the Intel Core i9-7980XE, carrying the worthy title of both series flagship and the platform's lone Extreme Edition model. It certainly lives up to the billing due to its ludicrous 18-core/36-thread design, a full eight cores more than the previous best on this platform. Of course, there have previously been similarly outlandish enterprise-class Xeon designs using architecture ostensibly identical to its HEDT counterpart, but lets not take too much thunder from the announcement.
Sadly you will need deep pockets to pick up the Core i9-7980XE. Priced at $1999 excl. tax, UK enthusiasts will likely not have much change from £2000 once V.A.T. and other costs are taken into account. Furthermore these particularly large models don't quite have a release date, so expect them much later this year. Thankfully the Core X-series isn't just one chip.
Launching first, next month in fact, are five Core X-series CPUs and a whole bevy of X299-chipset motherboards. These CPUs overlap in capability with current mainstream KabyLake models, most clearly the Core i7-7700K and Core i5-7600K, potentially positioning the new HEDT platform as one you can dip your toe into with little extra cost. Look to the motherboard manufacturers to vary up the features across their motherboard range to make the price of adoption as attractive as possible.
Entry level for the platform is the quad-core Core i5-7640X, a model which does not include hyperthreading nor quad-channel memory support and is based on the KabyLake architecture. The Core i7-7740X is similar, but includes hyperthreading and a larger L3 cache; both are based on a slightly more mature KabyLake X architecture which likely accounts somewhat for higher operating frequencies. With prices starting from $269 they're fractionally more expensive than their mainstream counterparts.
Six, eight and ten-core Core X-series are a little more in keeping with what we've come to expect from Intel HEDT range. Not only do they support higher core counts, they also feature quad-channel memory support, hyperthreading, and more PCI-Express lanes (up to 44, rather than only 16). Architecturally distinct from Broadwell-E, they nonetheless bring the price of a 10-core Intel CPU down from ~$1700 to $999, a huge improvement in competitiveness assuming that performance at least remains on par.
The Skylake-X parts, including later models but with the exception of the six-core i7-7800X, will also support Intel Turbo Boost Max technology 3.0. This latest iteration isolates the best performing core to boost when under appropriate workloads, adding just a notch higher performance. Once again the number of supported PCI-Express lanes differs based on the CPU model, which may be critical to the tiny proportion of gamers using multi-GPU configurations above 2-way as well as high-speed PCI-Express storage.
One other point well worthy of note is Intel are stating that all X299 motherboards will support the entire Core X Series range. In theory this could greatly ease the upgrade process for systems purchased early which then require more horsepower as their requirements evolve.
We await announcements from AMD tomorrow regarding Threadripper/Ryzen 9 tomorrow. Competition, even if only potential at this stage, sure is refreshing.