AMD and Intel battle for headlines—one true, one fake
AMD goes 32-core, Intel hits 28 at 5GHz; anything legal allowed on Steam; Facebook in hot water again.
COMPUTEX IS the largest IT trade show in Asia. All the big players attend, and it generates a slew of announcements, launches, and headlines, from PC cases that double as fish tanks (no, really), to more serious matters. AMD and Intel always manage to grab the lion’s share of coverage, even if they have to be a little inventive in the process.
AMD was there to show the world Threadripper 2, its new high-end desktop chip. Threadripper is essentially multiple Ryzen chips on a single die. The original packs two eight-core Zen chips, but the silicon was neatly quartered, and the EPYC server chips already sport 32 cores. So, we could guess what Threadripper 2 had in store: a full 32 cores and 64 threads on a desktop. Yowsers. It pops into the existing TR4 slot on X399 motherboards. There are some memory bandwidth issues— the extra silicon doesn’t have direct memory access—but this shouldn’t be too much of problem unless you absolutely thrash the bandwidth. There were two pre-production versions on show: a 24-core and a 32-core. Both the sample chips ran at a base clock of 3GHz, with boost to 3.4GHz. TDP is a touch high for a desktop chip at 250W, although apparently a conservative figure—don’t stint on the cooler, though. Threadripper 2 should be in the wild before the end of the summer. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but expect the usual AMD competitiveness. It’ll deliver, according to AMD’s Jim Anderson, “heavy metal performance.”
Meanwhile, Intel made everybody get rather excited when it unveiled a 5GHz 28-core chip, which it said would be on sale in the last quarter of the year. A demonstration rig ripped through a few benchmarks, including a Cinebench R15 score of 7,334. Initially, details were decidedly vague—the word “overclocked” was not mentioned during the stage presentation; later, this was deemed to be “accidental.” Predictably enough, the stunt grabbed headlines for a day or so, which was the point.
Then people calmed down, and started looking a little closer at the rig. It soon dawned that what they had actually witnessed was a piece of industrial-strength overclocking on a server chip. The heart of the system was an LGA-3647 board and a Xeon CPU—probably a carefully selected Xeon-P 8180. Then some sub-ambient liquid cooling was applied, from a huge unit usually used for aquariums. And—hey presto— we have a 5GHz chip. There might well be a new Xeon part coming in the fourth quarter, but it’s not for desktops, and it certainly won’t run at anything like 5GHz. It was a good bit of showmanship, at least. Or, if we are being less charitable for a moment, it was a desperate last-ditch attempt to undermine AMD’s Threadripper 2 announcement.
Intel did announce a 5GHz chip you could own: the Core i7-8086K, a six-core Coffee Lake chip. It’s limited edition—50,000 are planned. The i7-8086K is most likely a cherry-picked 8700K with the base speed bumped to 4GHz, and a single-core turbo boost tweaked to the magical 5GHz. The name is a homage to the 8086 from 1978, Intel’s first x86 architecture that powered the first PC, 40 years ago. The Core i7-8086 will cost around $425.
In the world of the HEDT, Threadripper gives Intel a headache. It has nothing at the same price that delivers such a punch, and AMD claims to have 40 percent of the gaming market. No doubt Intel has something brewing but, as the main stage stunt demonstrated, it hasn’t got anything ready.
The stunt grabbed world headlines for a day or so, which was the point.
Intel does have a genuine 5GHz part— the i7- 8086K. Just 50,000 available worldwide, at $ 425. It marks the 40 years since the chip that started it all, the 8086.