Intel “Core-X” Core i7-7900X, Core i7-7820X, Core i7-7800X, Core i7-7740X, Core i5-7640X HEDT CPU Review on ASRock X299 Taichi Motherboard
ASRock X299 Taichi Motherboard26th June 2017
ASRock X299 Taichi Motherboard - Conclusion
Intel Core i5-7640X Processor
The Intel Core i5-7640X might seem like a weird option for the Core-X family but after testing it, I think it was a right choice to add this processor to the HEDT platform. The reasons are plenty and for starters, it's perfect for those who want to get the features of X299 platform at a lower cost. It's the cheapest HEDT processor at just $242 which is the same price as the mainstream Core i5 part.
The additions are that the Core i5-7640X has faster clock speeds than the mainstream parts, clocks better when overclocked and we hit a surprising 5.1 GHz with just 1.28V on a Corsair H115i liquid cooling solution. It offers great gaming and application performance for a quad core chip and ideal for those who are aiming the huge upgrade path of the X299 platform. In terms of temperatures and power consumption, this chip performed well compared to others but was slightly higher due to its 112W TDP.
The Intel Core i5-7640X seems to be the perfect value option for those who want to take advantage of the plentiful features that the X299 platform has to offer.
Intel Core i7-7740X Processor
The Intel Core i7-7740X is another Kaby Lake architecture based processor which is almost identical to the Core i7-7700K. It costs $339 US which for starters is a tad bit lower compared to the desktop mainstream part. Like the 7640X, it has higher frequencies out of box, overclocks great and is very stable.
The processor also has the same reason to be in the lineup as the other Kaby Lake-X part which is to offer something a bit faster than a simple quad core to users who plan on taking advantage of the features that X299 has to offer. The quad core design with hyperthreading allows for increased performance and I achieved a good 4.9 GHz on my chip. I was expecting a bit more from the CPU but I would take the clock I got as it was with a measly voltage push of 1.26V, lower than what was required on the Core i5.
It shows that Kaby Lake-X may look like the least interesting parts of the HEDT family but offer some great incentives and upgrade paths to value users who are planning to build setups based around the X299 platform.
Intel Core i7-7800X Processor
The Intel Core i7-7800X falls in the Skylake-X family and is the least expensive part, retailing at just $383 US. For the said price, you get 6 cores and 12 threads. Now, technically, this part should be compared against the Ryzen 5 1600X which has 6 cores and 12 threads too but the price difference is big. At $249 US, the Ryzen 5 1600X is the better value while the Ryzen 7 1700 with 8 cores and 16 threads ships for $329 US. The faster Ryzen 7 1700X is just $20 US more expensive which makes it a more viable option, specially considering the platform cost which is higher on X299 compared to X370.
If we compare performance, the Core i7-7800X is definitely faster than Ryzen 5 1600X and Ryzen 7 1800X. When it comes to application performance, the Core i7-7800X is largely comparable to the Ryzen 7 1700X which shows that both processors are neck to neck. The Ryzen 7 1700X has a higher core count advantage but performance still ends up faster on the 7800X which is a good feat. All is not great however, power consumption is really high on the Skylake-X platform and temperatures soar past 60C in nominal loads which is worrisome. Overall, the Core i7-7800X is a very decent option in the lineup and is the winner of the bang for buck award.
Intel Core i7-7820X Processor
In response to AMD's 8 core options, Intel has the Core i7-7820X. This is their latest and most cheapest 8 core processor to date which is faster than the Core i7-6900K and AMD's Ryzen 7 offerings with 8 cores. The chip is a good deal for just $100 US more than the Ryzen 7 1800X, offering good gaming and application performance. Intel's last 8 core chip was $999 US while 7820X is retailing for $589 US. The Ryzen 7 1800X launched at $499 US and disrupted the whole market segment with such competitive prices.
While a good deal, Intel still believes that people will see the performance advantage of their Core-X processors over rivaling chips and pay the extra price rather than going for chips that focus more on the value proposition. But Intel should know that Ryzen series isn't only competitively priced but they also offer competitive performance.
Intel Core i9-7900X Processor
Lastly, we have the Core i9-7900X. This is Intel's fastest chip available as of right now and it's a huge update over last year's Broadwell-E. Compared to the Core i7-6950X, this 10 core and 20 thread cpu is almost $700 US cheaper than its predecessor. And it doesn't lack in terms of performance at all. The performance results show that the 7900X is the fastest processor to date for $999 US that will be eventually succeeded by the Core i9-7920X in August and Core i9-7980XE in October. There's no issue in terms of performance, you get the fastest for paying the most but there are some issues in terms of power consumption.
Almost 500 Watts at stock and a whooping 550W+ when overclocked is what this chip demands. That's only while testing it with a GTX 1080 Ti STRIX OC. A dual SLI setup put the load consumption north of 650W. I was planning to do Tri-Sli with this chip but that seems like a no go unless I update my power supply. Temperatures are also very bad on the 7900X with the chip crossing 80C when loaded on stock speeds and over 95C when loaded on overclocked speeds. It seems like the board VRMs were at war at most times as there was visible throttling after overclocking.
This was the first chip I booted on the motherboard and neither my Cryo rig R1 Ultimate nor the Deepcool Captain 120 EX was able to keep up on overclocked speeds. Discovering that Skylake-X chips will be hotter than previous generation offerings, I decided to use the Corsair H115i across the entire processor lineup which resulted in stable temperatures.
Now coming to the value proposition, you are paying $999 US and getting the fastest processor available right now. Great? Not at all. The $1000 US price would have been awesome if there was no competition and that has arrived in a fierce way. AMD has announced pricing of their Ryzen Threadripper prices with the 1920X 12 core retailing for $799 US and the 1950X 16 core model for $999 US. These are 16 cores for a grand whereas Intel is asking the same price for a 10 core model while their 12 core model will be priced even higher at $1200 US. We can only expect Intel to have a lead with their architecture in single and some multi-tasking workloads otherwise AMD will have marked a home run with Threadripper.
Summing it up, the Core i9-7900X is the fastest chip to buy with great performance and more value over its predecessor but is plagued with power and temperatures issues plus the imminent threat of AMD's Threadripper HEDT CPUs.
ASRock X299 Taichi
I was surprised with the performance on the ASRock X299 Taichi. Not only is it better than ASUS's PRIME X299 Deluxe motherboard, but it also costs $200 US lesser. The credit for this goes to ASRock as they managed to produce a very solid, rounded up board which performs well in terms of BIOS optimization and various hardware solutions that produce better results. The higher VRM count does effect the overclocking performance by boosting clock speeds ahead of those that were achieved on ASUS's product. The processors ran slightly better and more stable under overclocks. It's apparent that ASUS lacked towards the BIOS front giving others a lead in this department on the X299 platform.
When it comes to expansion slots, the motherboard can support up to two discrete cards in full x16 mode. I tested a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti configuration on my sample board and it ran fine. I had plans to go ahead for 3-Way SLI but was a bit worried that the PSU on the test rig wouldn't be able to with stand the load power consumption. That brings us to the next part of this review, the VRMS.
The board has an 13 phase VRM design that is supplied power through a single 8 pin connector. It may seem fine at first but this delivers 150W of power while the CPUs themselves are rated with a TDP of 140W. It ran slightly cooler than ASUS's PRIME but were still nearing the 100C limit which is very concerning. Also, it's worth noting that the BIOS while better than ASUS isn't fully prepped at the moment and more updates are on the way to fix some sluggish performance issues when it comes to PCIe NVMe and Skylake-X CPU support.
Aside from the issues, the ASRock X299 Taichi is possibly one of the affordable HEDT options which has all that you need to build yourself a fast mega tasking monster PC. At $289 US, things cannot get any better for the Taichi in terms of hardware but BIOS and software support definitely needs future revisions for better platform optimization.
What does all of this mean for Intel?
The whole scenario within the desktop CPU market is a huge wake up call for Intel. While they have produced a new generation of HEDT processors, the did so in a rush and it may backfire really hard. In Intel's defense, I could say that Ryzen was rushed too but after months of updates, the value and performance proposition has massively increased compared to Intel. Intel on the other hand is trying really hard to compete in the mainstream segment and now trouble looms in their HEDT segment too.
The announcement of Ryzen Threadripper and EPYC has really shook Intel's client desktop and server segments. The company has been at the helm of these segments and their sluggishness resulted in this day. For years, Intel focused at efficiency rather than IPC improvements for their cores and look at how that has hit them back. Their processors are consuming more power, run hot. Their modern day core is comparable to Zen in terms of IPC which runs efficiently and cooler while the processors based on Zen are cheaper and perform great. This depression can be seen in Intel's latest slides which they issued in response to EPYC and that's just a sad coming from some one as big as Intel.
In short, the Core-X series isn't that bad of a lineup. Intel just needed to give it and most importantly, their partners some time to polish it up. Unfortunately, knowing that they wouldn't most likely be able to sell as much processors or keep the halo product tag to themselves if they had launched the HEDT family after Threadripper, Intel messed up what could have been a great processor family. The pricing structure which could have been great is also a mess as Intel is pricing their halo i9-7980XE product at a mind boggling $2000 US. With just 2 core advantage over the 16 core 1950X which costs $999 US, it just shows that Intel is believing in themselves and not what the customer wants.
It's by no means the end of X299, just like Ryzen, we can expect Intel and their partners to fix up most of the issues. We can expect refined variants of the X299 boards available in the coming quarters but for those who have already got their products, the former is their key to survival. In short, I would like to say this as an ending note that users who are planning to buy X299 and Core X series processors should wait for the platform to mature a bit more and obviously wait for Ryzen Threadripper as an alternative to Intel's HEDT offering. Those who cannot wait would see multitudes of performance at the cost of more power consumption, higher temperatures and higher prices.
Source: ASRock X299 Taichi Official Page
More costly doesn't necessarily means better performance and that's where ASRock gets their product right. At $299 US, the X299 Taichi is a very powerful motherboard with a working BIOS that delivers best support on Intel Core-X chips and features all the connectivity and I/O options you would expect from a HEDT motherboard.