AN INTEL X299 PRIMER
Intel’s X99 chipset is over two years old. It’s high time for a change.
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 ofcially 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 ofcially 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