Intel Core i9 7980XE / 7960X review: Intel back in the lead with 18 cores

New Skylake-X processors go up against AMD Threadripper

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Specifications: high TDP, low clockspeed

The table below shows the specifications of all Intel Skylake-X processors, wherein the Core i9 7920X, 7940X, 7960X and 7980XE are the top models that were introduced this week. As with the already available CPUs in the series they use Socket 2066 and have to be combined with a motherboard that has the Intel X299 chipset. They have an on-board quad-channel DDR4-2666 memory controller, as well as integrated PCI-Express 3.0 controller with 44 lanes, enough to handle multiple graphics cards and PCIe SSDs. 


From left to right: the 16-core Core i9 7860X and the 18-core Core i9 7980XE.

What stands out in the table is that the three top models have a relatively high TDP; 165W is a value we have not seen before with Intel desktop processors. The base clock frequencies of the four high-end CPUs also stand out, because these are relatively low. This is not strange: having 12, 14, 16 or even 18 cores active at the same time results in a lot of power consumption; a relatively low clock frequency is necessary in order to stay within the TDP. Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 and 3.0 make sure that high clock frequencies can still be reached with workloads that only use a single core or a few cores. 

As we know from the Skylake-X architecture, every enabled core has 1 MB L2-cache and 1.375 MB L3-cache is shared by every core. Therefore the top model has 18 MB L2-cache and 24.75 MB L3-cache, numbers that we would not dare imagine for desktop CPUs a few years ago. 

  Clock Frequency Max Turbo 2.0/3.0 All Core Turbo Cores / Threads L3-cache PCIe 3.0 Memory TDP MSRP
Core i9 7980XE 2.6 GHz 4.2/4.4
GHz
3.4
GHz
18/36 24.75
MB
44 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
165 W $1999
Core i9 7960X 2.8 GHz 4.2/4.4
GHz
3.6
GHz
16/32 22
MB
44 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
165 W $1699
Core i9 7940X 3.1 GHz 4.3/4.4
GHz
3.8
GHz
14/28 19.75
MB
44 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
165 W $1399
Core i9 7920X 2.9 GHz 4.3/4.4
GHz
3.8
GHz
12/24 16.5
MB
44 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
140 W $1199
Core i9 7900X 3.3 GHz 4.3/4.5
GHz
4.0
GHz
10/20 13.75
MB
44 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
140 W $999
Core i7 7820X 3.6 GHz 4.3/4.5
GHz
4.0
GHz
8/16 11
MB
28 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
140 W $599
Core i7 7800X 3.5 GHz 4.0
GHz
4.0
GHz
6/12 8.25
MB
28 Quad-channel
DDR4-2666
140 W $389
Core i7 7740X 4.3 GHz 4.5
GHz
4.5
GHz
4/8 8
MB
16 Dual-channel
DDR4-2666
112 W $339
Core i5 7640X 4.0 GHz 4.2 GHz 4.0
GHz
4/4 6
MB
16 Dual-channel
DDR4-2666
112 W $242

With these new high-end Skylake-X processors Intel again targets an audience of the most demanding gamers and an audience of (semi-)professional content-creators. Of course we performed all kinds of gaming tests using the CPUs, but we can renounce the fable that these new CPUs are an ideal choice for gamers without taking a look at a single benchmark. As a gamer you are better off choosing a CPU that costs a lot less and investing (part of) the price difference in a faster graphics card. For (semi-)professional content creators the introduction of these CPUs is certainly great news: if you are working with Ultra HD video, complex 3D-rendering or any other heavy task, a PC cannot be fast enough. The idea of a maximum of 18 cores will be welcomed by this audience. 

Of course the questions remain: how fast are these new Intel processors and how do they compare with the AMD Threadrippers? These questions will be answered in this review. 


Also read these processor articles on Hardware.Info

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