I ntel released a new set of processors that are so “extreme” it broke out the i9 branding for the first time. Until now, Intel’s Core processors have been streamed into the i3 (entry-level), i5 (mid-range) and i7 (high-end) categories. The new X-Series processors, which run up to 18 cores and 36 threads, push performance beyond those.
The Core i9 has an extreme price to match its extreme performance, with the 18-core i9-7980XE chip costing around US$2,000. “I think the 18-core beasts will be of interest to people who perform regular CPU-intensive tasks that are parallel in nature, [such as] 3D design and rendering, video editing and ultra-high resolution photographic work,” said Ben Miles of system builder Chillblast. “People using virtual machines for software testing will also find them useful.”
At the lower end of the scale, there are four-core processors based on the Kaby Lake-X architecture. The i5-7640X and the i7-7740X, for example, have a higher power envelope than previous Kaby Lake chips and use Socket 2066, which is part of the new X299 chipset.
Intel has also changed the processors’ cache configuration, with less shared memory across the cores but each core given 1MB of private Level 2 cache, up from 256KB in Broadwell-E and Skylake.
“I’d expect the X299 chips to fit in above AMD’s Ryzen line up in performance, but also in price,” said Miles. “Ryzen remains the best option for users that need a lot of multicore performance and can’t a©ord Intel’s ‘prothusiast’ platform products.”
Moving upwards through the price range sees chips based on the older Skylake-X, which is basically a desktop version of the Skylake-SP core that’s planned for the next generation of Xeon chips.
The range has a rolling release, with lower-end hardware available now. High-end flagship products, with as-yet-unknown clock speeds, won’t arrive until October. KEY SPECS Processors range from Core i5-7640X (14nm, quad core, quad thread, 6MB L3 cache, up to 4.2GHz, $359) to Core i97980XE (14nm, 18-core, 36 -thread, cache and clock speed TBC, Australian and NZ price TBC)
Intel’s new “extreme” X-Series i9 processors run up to 18 cores and 36 threads