Intel Core i9-10980XE Cascade Lake-X 18 Core, $979 US CPU Review With MSI Creator X299 – Creation Enthusiasts Ahoy!
Intel Core i9-10980XE CPU / MSI X299 Creator Motherboard2019
Four years ago, Intel was the undisputed leader of the high-end desktop market. Intel's Extreme Edition processors were the top of the line chips that people could buy and their accompanying platform was unrivaled in the industry.
However, we can't say the same in 2019. Intel's HEDT has seen no major change in the last two years. We get the same platform and the same underlying architecture with no increase in core and thread count. Even the platform remains unchanged and Intel's AIB partners are to take credit for their efforts to make the X299 platform still feel refreshing.
Technically, Intel's 10th Gen X-series lineup isn't anything to get excited about aside from a slight clock speed bump but what's noteworthy is the pricing. Intel's latest pricing strategy was to make 10th Gen X-series processors more competitive in performance per dollar by slashing off major $$$ from their lineup. Intel claimed up to 2.09x better performance per dollar on the new X-series line compared to Skylake-X. Here, Intel is simply comparing their Core i9-7980XE, a $1999 US CPU with their $979 US Core i9-10980XE.
But since Intel announced their 10th Gen X-series parts, AMD introduced the Ryzen 9 3950X. A 16 core chip with Zen 2 cores for a price of $749 US. The processor is supported by the mainstream AM4 platform which means that the cost of building a 16 core PC is now cheaper than Intel's line. That may also explain why the lineup launching today is missing a 16 core part, but existed in the previous 7th Gen and 9th Gen X-series lineup.
AMD Threadripper vs Intel Core - More Than Just Core Wars
Before I start this review, let's take a quick recap of the core wars that's been going on since the beginning of 2017 between AMD and Intel. Prior to 2017, the industry was used to the annual 4 core mainstream and 8/10 core high-end desktop refreshes that Intel produced. Intel was also on top of the game since AMD's Bulldozer (and its various iterations) didn't pose a major threat and Zen was still under development.
So how did Intel go from the leader of the HEDT space to being crushed by AMD's mainstream chip platform? You are expecting me to blame Intel's reliance on 14nm for this issue and while it is a factor, it isn't as big as some other bad decisions that went into Intel's HEDT lineup, starting with the 7th Generation Core-X series. You see, back in 2017, there was no AMD HEDT lineup and Intel was considered to be the bleeding-edge HEDT offerer in the market space. While AMD had started pushing Intel to offer more cores in the mainstream segment (e.g. four cores flagship on Kaby Lake vs 6 cores flagship on Coffee Lake), they weren't expecting or rightly put, weren't in the mood to innovate their HEDT lineup any time soon.
Then 1st Gen Threadripper happened and we all know how AMD caught Intel with their pants down. The problem wasn't that Intel didn't have the platform to compete against AMD, it's more to do with their laziness on how they wanted to continue offering 10 cores / 20 thread chips as flagship HEDT parts for years to come. You see, Intel had the technology to offer 12 cores and 24 threads back in their Ivy Bridge generation, 18 cores and 36 threads in the Haswell generation and same in the Skylake generation. However, knowing they dominated the market, the didn't see the reason to innovate the HEDT space anytime soon.
HEDT & Mainstream Segment Core/Thread Count Race:
|AMD HEDT||N/A||16 / 32||32 / 64||32 / 64||64 / 128|
|Intel HEDT||10 / 20||18 / 36||18 / 36||18 / 36|
28 / 56 (Xeon W-3175X)
|18 / 36
28 / 56 (Xeon W-3175X)
|AMD Mainstream||8 / 8||8 / 16||8 / 16||16 / 32||16 /32|
|Intel Mainstream||4/8||6 / 12||8 / 16||8 / 16||10 / 20|
So what do you when your darkest nightmare comes true? Rush to rebadge Xeon parts which could've been done early on and don't give partners enough time to evaluate your new chips on their products, resulting in a botched launch. Intel's first Core-X lineup was a mess and that is why it took Intel 3 generations just to fix the problems of their first X-series lineup.
The 3 years of Threadrippers have also been building up to this moment. While Intel was fixing their X-series lineup, AMD was gaining on both fronts, the market and mind share. You have to sacrifice margins for market share gains and word of mouth to spread before you start hiking up prices for higher profits.
AMD's Threadrippers are repurposed EPYC chips just like how Intel's Core X processors are repurposed Xeon chips that couldn't pass the server-level qualifications. This was another factor, which if Intel could've considered earlier on, wouldn't get their HEDT lineup into so much trouble. AMD was willing to cut the profit margins offering the same core counts of their EPYC lineup on the Threadripper parts. Intel might have downplayed the fact that in the coming years, AMD's Ryzen Threadripper core count would match the EPYC lineup. This is a superb game played by AMD where their first-generation Threadripper had half the core count of EPYC Naples and only the second generation that launched a year later offered the full 32 cores. This is changing with 3rd generation as the Threadripper 3990X will be carrying 64 cores, same as the top-end EPYC chip.
Intel HEDT Processor Families:
|Intel HEDT Family||Gulftown||Sandy Bridge-E||Ivy Bridge-E||Haswell-E||Broadwell-E||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Skylake-X||Cascade Lake-X|
|Flagship SKU||Core i7-980X||Core i7-3960X||Core i7-4960X||Core i7-5960X||Core i7-6950X||Core i9-7980XE||Core i9-9980XE||Xeon W-3175X||Core i9-10980XE|
|Clock Speeds||3.33/3,60 GHz||3.30/3.90 GHz||3.60/4.00 GHz||3.00/3.50 GHz||3.00/3.50 GHz||2.60/4.20 GHz||3.00/4.50 GHz||3.10/4.30 GHz||3.00 / 4.80 GHz|
|Max Cache||12 MB L3||15 MB L3||15 MB L3||20 MB L3||25 MB L3||24.75 MB L3||24.75 MB L3||38.5 MB L3||24.75 MB L3|
|Max PCI-Express Lanes (CPU)||32 Gen2||40 Gen2||40 Gen3||40 Gen3||40 Gen3||44 Gen3||44 Gen3||44 Gen3||44 Gen3|
|Chipset Compatiblity||X58 Chipset||X79 Chipset||X79 Chipset||X99 Chipset||X99 Chipset||X299||X299||C612E||X299|
|Socket Compatiblity||LGA 1366||LGA 2011||LGA 2011||LGA 2011-3||LGA 2011-3||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 3647||LGA 2066|
|Launch||Q1 2010||Q4 2011||Q3 2013||Q3 2014||Q2 2016||Q3 2017||Q4 2018||Q4 2018||Q4 2019|
|Launch Price||$999 US||$999 US||$999 US||$1059 US||$1700 US||$1999 US||$1979 US||~$4000 US||$979 US|
AMD is also taking Intel's position, becoming the leader of the HEDT market but at the same time, not let this platform become stagnant. AMD is aware that eventually, Intel will have a response which is the next topic I want to shed light on, so they want to stay on the high-ground whenever Intel tackles them, but also try to maximize profits when there is no competition which we can get a slight hint of from the 3rd Gen Threadripper prices. AMD is easing up on the prices and only Intel themselves is to blame. You can read our review of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3970X here.
As for this review, I will be taking a look at the Intel Core i9-10980XE on MSI's brand new X299 Creator motherboard. The Core i9-10980XE retails for $979 US as of today while the MSI X299 Creator has a retail price of $539 US.