It’s a Cascade of 14nm CPUs: AnandTech’s Intel Core i9-10980XE Reviewby Dr. Ian Cutress on November 25, 2019 9:00 AM EST
The most profitable process node in the history of Intel has been its 14nm process. Since 2014, the company has been pumping out CPUs built on a variety of configurations of 14nm – slowly optimizing for power and frequency. We used to call these variants 14+ and 14++, but as the next process node isn’t yet ready, rather than draw attention to a soon-to-be 6-year old process, Intel just calls it all ‘14nm class’. The latest launch on 14nm is Intel’s new Cascade Lake-X processors: high-end desktop hardware that gives a slight frequency improvement over Skylake-X from 2017 but it also has the first round of hardware mitigations. Today we’re testing the best CPU of the new list, the Core i9-10980XE.
The Ups and Downs of Intel’s High-End Strategy
Way back in June 2017, Intel first launched its Skylake-X high-end desktop processors. The Core i7-7900X was a 10-core processor built using the smallest silicon die from Intel’s enterprise processor range. It was on sale for $999, a noticeable drop from the $1729 pricing of the 10-core in the previous generation, and fit into a market where AMD had just started to launch its 8-core Ryzen processors for half this price. The benefits over AMD at the time, as explained in our review, came down to new vector extensions, more PCIe lanes, more memory channels, and a higher rate of instruction throughput, all equating to more performance – if the cost didn’t frighten you away.
AMD quickly launched 16-core processors and then 32-core processors into the high-end desktop market, turning most of the areas in which Intel had been winning into wins for AMD. The 16-core 1950X/2950X and the 32-core 2990WX were able to stifle the usefulness of Intel’s 10-core offerings by being much more competitively priced. In response, Intel moved up another step in its enterprise CPU silicon, and started offering up to 18 cores to the high-end desktop market, first with the Core i9-7980XE at $1979, and then the Core i9-9980XE at the same price but with a small clock increase.
For 2019, both companies have kicked it up a gear. AMD now offers for its mainstream platform 16 cores built on TSMC’s 7nm process with the Ryzen 9 3950X, which has a recommended price of $749. It also has a fundamental performance per clock advantage, as well as a higher frequency than Intel's HEDT parts. This now means that Intel’s 18-core CPU, at $1979, competes against AMD’s 16-core CPU at half the price and with better efficiency.
Today’s Launch: Cascade Lake-X and the Core i9-10980XE
In order to be competitive, Intel is doing the only thing it can do, based on what it has in its arsenal: the new 18-core Core i9-10980XE that comes out today is going to have a tray price of $979. The new Cascade Lake-X processor, based on the same silicon as Intel's already-launched Cascade Lake generation of Xeon processors, comes with many of the same features introduced for those parts. In particular, this means the new Intel HEDT chips come with hardware protections for the first round of Spectre/Meltdown security patches. Intel is launching a range of processors, from 10-core all the way up to 18-core.
The Core i9-10980XE is an 18-core processor that has a base frequency of 3.0 GHz (same as the 9980XE) and a turbo frequency of 4.6 GHz (+100 MHz higher than the 9980XE) and a turbo max frequency of 4.8 GHz (+100 MHz higher than 9980XE). It can support up to 256 GB of DDR4-2933 with a quad-channel design, and has a 165W TDP.
|Intel Cascade Lake-X|
|Core i9-10980XE||18C / 36T||3.0||3.8||4.6||4.8||165 W||$979|
|Core i9-10940X||14C / 28T||3.3||4.1||4.6||4.8||165 W||$784|
|Core i9-10920X||12C / 24T||3.5||4.3||4.6||4.8||165 W||$689|
|Core i9-10900X||10C / 20T||3.7||4.3||4.5||4.7||165 W||$590|
|Skylake-X (previous generation)|
|Core i9-9980XE||18C / 36T||3.0||4.5||4.7||165 W||$1979|
|Core i9-9940X||14C / 28C||3.3||4.5||165 W||$1387|
|Core i9-9920X||12C / 24T||3.5||4.5||165 W||$1189|
|Core i9-9900X||10C / 20T||3.5||4.5||165 W||$989|
If we compare the top parts from AMD and Intel, we get an interesting differential.
|Intel vs AMD
|Core i9-10980XE||AnandTech||Ryzen 9 3950X|
|18 / 36||Cores / Threads||16 / 32|
|3.0 GHz||Base Frequency||3.5 GHz|
|4.6 / 4.8 GHz||Turbo Frequency||4.7 GHz|
|18 MB||L2 Cache||8 MB|
|24.75 MB||L3 Cache||64 MB|
|256 GB||DRAM Capacity||128 MB|
|165 W||TDP||105 W|
|$979 (1ku)||Price||$749 (MSRP)|
What we have here are two processors that are technically in different markets: AMD is making the ‘high-end desktop market’ for its processors go beyond $749, while Intel’s HEDT market is now from $569 to $979. This means that Intel does have an advantage in this price range for memory controllers and PCIe lanes. It is worth noting that Intel is not launching a 16-core processor in this family, to compete directly with AMD’s 16-core. The official reason is that Intel doesn’t see a need to insert a product between the 10940X and the 10980XE in that price range; however as most people have gathered, not having a direct competition product on core count saves Intel some expected embarrassment in performance comparisons.
With that being said, AMD is also launching its newest HEDT processors today as well. The AMD Threadripper 3960X (24-core) and AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X (32-core) are (just) derivative designs of their enterprise processors, but signify that Intel has nothing to compete in this 24-core and above space.
|Intel vs AMD
|18 / 36||Cores / Threads||24 / 48||32 / 64|
|3.0 GHz||Base Frequency||3.8 GHz||3.5 GHz|
|4.6 / 4.8 GHz||Turbo Frequency||4.5 GHz||4.7 GHz|
|18 MB||L2 Cache||12 MB||16 MB|
|24.75 MB||L3 Cache||128 MB||128 MB|
|256 GB||DRAM Capacity||512 GB||512 GB|
|165 W||TDP||280 W||280 W|
If we were to compare the 10980XE to the 3960X/3970X, it wouldn’t necessarily be a fair fight, with the AMD processors costing a good chunk more. But comparing the 10980XE to the 3950X is comparing a mainstream processor against HEDT, so the mainstream CPU automatically loses on most memory bound and PCIe bound tasks.
If we put up a price list for the updated product families, it shows the following:
|$2000+||28/56||Xeon W-3175X ($2999)|
|TR 3970X ($1999)||32/64||$1750-$1999|
|TR 3960X ($1399)||24/48||$1250-$1499|
|$900-$999||18/36||Core i9-10980XE ($979)|
|Ryzen 9 3950X ($749)||16/32||$700-$799||14/28||Core i9-10940X ($784)|
|$600-$699||12/24||Core i9-10920X ($689)|
|$550-$599||10/20||Core i9-10900X ($590)|
|$500-$549||8/16||Core i9-9900KS ($513)|
|Ryzen 9 3900X ($499)||12/24||$450-$499||8/16||Core i9-9900K/F ($488)|
|Ryzen 7 3800X ($399)||8/16||$350-$399||8/8||Core i7-9700K/F ($374)|
|Ryzen 7 3700X ($329)||8/16||$300-$349|
|$250-$299||6/6||Core i5-9600K ($262)|
|Ryzen 5 3600X ($249)||6/12||$200-$249|
|Ryzen 5 3600 ($199)||6/12||Below $200||4/4||Core i3-9350K ($173)|
|*Intel quotes OEM/tray pricing. Retail pricing will sometimes be $20-$50 higher.|
Keep an eye on all our benchmarks, just to see where everyone ends up.
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milkywayer - Monday, November 25, 2019 - linkThank you AMD for strong arming the serial-milker Intel. Price cut from $1900 to $900. Hard to believe Intel would cut down on the core count milking. Am I dreaming?
regsEx - Monday, November 25, 2019 - linkMind it was Intel and without any competition who lowered mainstream price from $500 to $300 back in 2011. 3700X would cost $500 now if not that. So thank you, Intel.
Spunjji - Monday, November 25, 2019 - linkBalderdash. Near the end of 2010 you could get a 6-core AMD Phenom II CPU for $270. By 2011, an "8 core" 4-module Bulldozer cost the same and Intel's products were priced to compete with that.
So, uh, thanks again AMD..?
karmapop - Monday, November 25, 2019 - linkSorry, but you may want to dig back into the review archives for some untinted perspective on that info. In fact, you're both incorrect. That mainstream performance pricing shift happened in 2008, with the introduction of the Yorkfield Core 2 Quad chips, and more importantly the Bloomfield Core i7 (with the i7-920 becoming that $300 darling entry point for the enthusiast platform).
Those mid-2010 Thuban Phenom II X6 chips? Passably competitive with the lowest end quad-core Bloomfield chips (which were already on the market for a year and a half prior). And let's just forget about the dumpster fire that was Bulldozer, given that fabled FX-8150 had trouble matching the old Thuban Phenom II X6 at launch.
nt300 - Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - linkThe FX 8350 & FX 8320 Piledriver CPUs saved AMDs bacon and proved to be more than enough for modern PC Gaming back in the day. They held great price/performance and were highly cost effective. Among Steamroller, then Excavator for the APU markets, they've held AMD afloat just in time for the superior ZEN launch. Now sit back and watch Intel finally struggle, deservingly so.
yeeeeman - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - linkThey were so crap that AMD could boast 50% better ipc with zen over bulldozer, while still being lower than Skylake.
Korguz - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - linktoo bad zen has better ipc then intel now...
Gondalf - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - linkAccording to the official Spec submissions nope, Zen 2 is on pair with Skylake (bypassing the huge L3). More or less AMD enlarged the L3 just to have the lead, this have a cost obviously, the 7nm silicon is pretty expensive. Try to image a 9900K with 32MB of L3 with the same latency.
You will have a winner.
Korguz - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - linkgondalf
sorry but zen 2 does have better ipc then intel does now.. why else does intel need such high clocks to compete with lower clocked chips ?? explain that one.. clock for clock.. zen 2.. has better ipc...
Qasar - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - linkgondalf : According to the official Spec submissions " what spec submissions page ? also.. if you think having a large L3 cache is the reason why zen has more ipc then intel, then there is something wrong. if that was the case, WHY didnt intel do the same with the 10xxx series they just released ? keep in mind, 10xxx series, as 10 megs more of L2 to play around with... lets see you explain that as well.