AN IN­TEL X299 PRIMER

In­tel’s X99 chipset is over two years old. It’s high time for a change.

HWM (Singapore) - - Learn - By Koh Wanzi

The high-end desk­top (HEDT) mar­ket is on re. In­tel an­nounced X299, co­de­named Basin Falls, at Com­pu­tex 2017, nally re­plac­ing the com­pany’s ag­ing X99 chipset.

AMD’s own HEDT plat­form is just around the cor­ner as well, and the com­pany hopes to make a splash with its X399 moth­er­boards and Thread­rip­per CPUs. And if the main­stream Ryzen pro­ces­sors are any­thing to go by, there’s a good chance that Thread­rip­per will also un­der­cut Core X on price.

It’s safe to say that this space has al­most never been so com­pet­i­tive. But un­til AMD ofcially launches Thread­rip­per, this is what In­tel’s lat­est ul­tra­en­thu­si­ast chipset and Core X pro­ces­sors of­fer:

CORE X COMES IN TWO FLA­VORS

The new Core X pro­ces­sors can be di­vided into two seg­ments: Kaby Lake-X and Sky­lake-X. The for­mer com­prise the so-called low-end of the Core X fam­ily, and in­clude the quad-core Core i5-7640X and Core i7-7740X.

These chips are very sim­i­lar to the cur­rent Kaby Lake pro­ces­sors on the mar­ket, and of­fer just dual-chan­nel mem­ory and 16 PCIe lanes from the CPU. How­ever, they do have a higher TDP of 112 watts, com­pared to the 91 watts of non-X parts, and use In­tel’s LGA 2066 socket.

Their clock speeds are slightly higher as well. For in­stance, the Core i7-7740X has a base clock of 4.3GHz, whereas the Core i7-7700K starts at 4.2GHz.

But what’s in­ter­est­ing is the price, and the Core i77740X costs US$339, the same as the main­stream Core i77700K. This is the most at­trac­tive an In­tel HEDT chip has been for a while, putting it within the reach of far more con­sumers.

The Sky­lake-X chips sit higher up the price tier, and un­like their Kaby Lake-X coun­ter­parts, do not share much in com­mon with the main­stream Sky­lake pro­ces­sors. In­stead, they’re a desk­top ver­sion of the Sky­lake-SP core that will be used in the next-gen­er­a­tion Xeon chips. They range from six to an eye-wa­ter­ing 18 cores, and in­clude the ag­ship Core i9 pro­ces­sors.

FEA­TURE SEG­MEN­TA­TION IS STILL A THING

In­tel isn’t ris­ing up to AMD’s chal­lenge. AMD has made a point of not lim­it­ing fea­tures to se­lect chips, and all its Thread­rip­per CPUs will of­fer 64 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and just as all its Ryzen pro­ces­sors, are over­clock­able.

In typ­i­cal In­tel style how­ever, not all the pro­ces­sors will of­fer the full 44 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and the Core i7-7800X and Core i7-7820X give you just 28 lanes. The Core i7-7800X

X299 rep­re­sents a big depa ture from X99. Fo the st time, it im­ple­ments In­tel’s con­cept o HSIO lanes

also does not ship with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 and ofcially sup­ports only DDR4-2400 mem­ory, no doubt In­tel’s way of nudg­ing en­thu­si­asts fur­ther up the price lad­der.

The Core X fam­ily is es­sen­tially di­vided into CPUs with 16, 28, or 44 PCIe lanes, which will af­fect sup­port for cru­cial things like the num­ber of GPUs, stor­age drives, and net­work con­trollers.

MORE PCIE LANES FROM THE CHIPSET

In­tel X299 rep­re­sents quite a big de­par­ture from X99. For the rst time, it im­ple­ments In­tel’s con­cept of HSIO (high-speed I/O) lanes, which was rst in­tro­duced on Z170. X299 of­fers up to 30 HSIO lanes, the same as on Z270.

The link be­tween the CPU and PCH has also been up­graded to DMI 3.0, and X299 now sup­ports up to 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes from the chipset in dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions, up from 8 PCIe 2.0 on X99.

This also means that board mak­ers don’t have to bor­row PCIe lanes from the CPU for PCIe SSDs, which can com­pro­mise sup­port for mul­ti­GPU set­ups.

Fur­ther­more, the ex­i­bil­ity of the HSIO lanes gives man­u­fac­tur­ers more free­dom to choose what com­bi­na­tion of SATA, stor­age, USB ports and net­work­ing fea­tures they wanted.

HEDT AND MAIN­STREAM CON­SUMER PLAT­FORMS ARE CLOSER THAN EVER

There are few prac­ti­cal dif­fer­ences at the chipset level be­tween X299 and Z270. If you dis­count the ex­tra PCIe lanes of­fered by a higher-end Core X pro­ces­sor, the few ad­van­tages X299 has in­clude sup­port for eight USB 3.0 ports com­pared to six on Z270, and DDR4-2666 mem­ory with se­lect chips.

In­tel’s HEDT chipset has tra­di­tion­ally trailed its main­stream plat­form in terms of the new­est fea­tures, partly be­cause they were based on data cen­ter plat­forms that were up­dated less fre­quently. But X299 is not de­rived from In­tel’s up­com­ing Pur­ley server plat­form, and this shift may sig­nal more fre­quent up­dates in the fu­ture.

Then there’s the in­clu­sion of the four-core Kaby Lake-X chips as part of the ul­tra-en­thu­si­ast line-up. Priced sim­i­larly to their main­stream coun­ter­parts, they’re now a fea­si­ble op­tion for some­one who would usu­ally only be con­sid­er­ing a main­stream Core i5 or i7 pro­ces­sor.

This con­ver­gence sug­gests in­ter­est­ing things for the fu­ture, where we could even­tu­ally see more over­lap be­tween the main­stream and high-end.

X299 now sup­ports up to 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes f om the chipset in di*e ent com­bi­na­tions, up f om 8 PCIe 2.0 on X99

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