In­tel i9-9980XE CPU

14nm pushed to the limit.

APC Australia - - Contents - Chris Szewczyk

The core wars are in full swing. AMD may be in front thanks to its re­cently re­leased 24- and 32-core Thread­rip­per mod­els, but multi core power isn’t the be all and end all. In­tel’s 9th gen­er­a­tion Sky­lake-X re­fresh prom­ises a good blend of multi-threaded grunt combined with ag­gres­sive turbo modes and strong clock for clock per­for­mance. We’ve got the flag­ship 18 core i9 -9980XE on hand, which on pa­per is a very pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor in­deed.

With 10nm pro­ces­sors nowhere in sight, In­tel has no choice but to con­tinue to re­fine its 14nm process tech­nol­ogy. The 9980XE ap­pears to be right on the limit of what we can ex­pect from 14nm and the cur­rent ar­chi­tec­ture. To In­tel’s credit, the 9980XE is a de­cent step for­ward over the 7980XE. Its base clock is in­creased to 3.0GHz vs. the 2.6 GHz of the 7980XE, while all core turbo boost goes up to 3.8GHz from 3.4GHz. Peak turbo boost is now 4.5GHz for a two core load. A sol­dered heat spreader makes a wel­come re­turn, lead­ing to im­proved heat dis­si­pa­tion. The 9980XE is drop in com­pat­i­ble with ex­ist­ing X299 boards af­ter a BIOS up­date. Mem­ory sup­port re­mains un­changed with its quad-chan­nel mem­ory con­troller of­fi­cially sup­port­ing DDR4-2666. TDP is 165W though ac­tual power con­sump­tion can go well beyond that, es­pe­cially if you’re over­clock­ing.

WELL ROUNDED PER­FOR­MANCE

What matters with an ex­pen­sive and pow­er­ful pro­ces­sor is how it per­forms, and the i99980XE does very well. It can’t match the 2970WX let alone the 2990WX at highly threaded work­loads, but then we wouldn’t ex­pect it to with such a large core count dis­ad­van­tage. It’s clearly no slouch though. The lightly threaded bench­marks and those that strug­gle with scal­ing are in­ter­est­ing. The Ci­nescore bench­mark is in­ter­est­ing as it stops scal­ing at 16 cores, but the clock speed and IPC ad­van­tage sees the 9980XE pulling well ahead of the sim­i­lar core count 2950X. We also see this ad­van­tage in our gam­ing tests which pre­fer clock speed over very high core counts.

Over­all, per­for­mance is quite sur­pris­ing. AMD’s Thread­rip­per reigns supreme when pre­sented with work­loads that are ap­pro­pri­ately coded to take ad­van­tage of their par­al­lel prow­ess, but the 9980XE is more well-rounded and suit­able to a broader range of tasks. It shows the i9-7980XE a clean pair of heels thanks to much more ag­gres­sive per core turbo modes. Tem­per­a­tures were also sur­pris­ingly in check with a 75c peak. If you in­tend to over­clock to any mean­ing­ful ex­tent, you’ll need a top class AIO or cus­tom wa­ter cool­ing as we saw peaks in the 90s with a quick and dirty 4.2GHz all core OC. You’ll also need a very ca­pa­ble PSU ca­pa­ble of push­ing a lot of cur­rent through the EPS con­nec­tor(s).

“In­tel’s 9th gen­er­a­tion Sky­lake-X re­fresh prom­ises a good blend of multi-threaded grunt combined with ag­gres­sive turbo modes and strong clock for clock per­for­mance.”

“If you’re into gam­ing then the Strix X299-XE is worth a look, but you re­ally need to be do­ing some­thing else to jus­tify the ad­di­tional cost over the main­stream plat­form.”

CARE­FULLY CON­SIDER YOUR X299 MOTHERBOARD CHOICE

When Sky­lake-X was re­leased, there were con­cerns over the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the VRM and cool­ing so­lu­tions used on many of the first wave X299 mod­els. For the most part this was overblown, es­pe­cially if you were us­ing the lower core count CPUs. The prob­lem was that push­ing 16 or 18 core CPUs hard puts a LOT of stress on the motherboard VRM. This was ex­ac­er­bated by the ten­dency of motherboard man­u­fac­tur­ers to ap­ply non-stan­dard turbo boost modes. For our test­ing, we used an Asus ROG Strix X299-XE motherboard which comes with a larger heatsink, mak­ing it bet­ter equipped to han­dle the de­mands of fully loaded ex­treme core count CPUs.

The Strix X299-XE is what we’d call a mid­dle of the range X299 motherboard. Even though it comes with a $500 price tag, in X299 terms, that’s far from top end pric­ing. You get a nice well rounded pack­age with a good set of en­thu­si­ast fea­tures and a well done RGB im­ple­men­ta­tion. You won’t find some bells and whis­tles like 10GbE or U.2 ports but then those things are less im­por­tant on a gam­ing ori­ented board like the Strix. If you’re into gam­ing then the Strix X299-XE is worth a look, but you re­ally need to be do­ing some­thing else to jus­tify the ad­di­tional cost over the main­stream plat­form. If you’re one of those gamers who can make use of the X299 and CPUs with all that mul­ti­threaded grunt, then by all means check out the Strix X299-XE.

A TRUE FLAG­SHIP WITH A PRICE TO MATCH

Pric­ing is the 9980XE’s big­gest prob­lem. The mul­ti­core per­for­mance of the cheaper AMD 2970WX is bet­ter, while the 2950X goes close to match­ing the 9980XE at around half the price. If In­tel did lower price, it would risk can­ni­bal­iz­ing sales from its lu­cra­tive en­ter­prise mar­ket, so un­for­tu­nately a hefty price drop is un­likely. As it stands though, the i9-9980XE is a ca­pa­ble flag­ship pro­ces­sor across a wide range of tasks that’s only let down by its eye-wa­ter­ing price..

CPU TBA $2700+ | WWW.IN­TEL.COM.AU In­tel Core i9-9980XE, 14nm, Socket LGA2066 18 cores/36 threads, 3.0GHz base clock, 4.5GHz max boost clock, sup­ports up to 128GB DDR4-2666 (quad chan­nel), 24.75MB SmartCache, 44 PCIe lanes, 165W TDP

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