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.

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