Intel’s Massive Core i9-7980XE 18-Core Reviewed With ASUS’ ROG STRIX X299-XE GAMING Motherboard
Intel Core i9-7980XE2017
Intel's Core i9-7980XE Skylake-X Flagship: Introduction & Overview
Intel expanded its high end lineup with the launch of the Core-X Series. This marks the first time that the "Core" branding has ventured out of the 4 core limit it has been sitting on for the past few years. And boy, has the limit been broken, from 4 cores (and 8 cores on the enthusiast side) Intel has increased the maximum core count to 18 cores / 36 threads. This is something that can only be attributed to AMD's resounding success with its Zen architecture and the immense competition that it sent Intel's way, and you know what they say, in a competition, the consumer wins at the end.
Intel unleashes the Core-X family: 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6 and 4 Core processors under the same X299 platform on the LGA 2066 socket
The brand new Core-X series includes both the Skylake-X architecture as well as the Kabylake-X architecture. All CPUs that have a core count of 6-18 cores are from the SKL-X family while the quad cores are from the KBL-X family. Since AMD has already realeased its 8-core Ryzen processors and is planning on following up with Threadripper which will increase that number to 16, not only has Intel replied tit for tat, but also managed to one-up them with their Core i9-7980XE flagship which features 18 cores. This is not going to be a cheap platform of course, but those that can afford it will be pleased to find an almost limitless scaling factor to their CPU of choice under the X299 platform.
The Core i9-7980XE: Intel’s Unbeatable Flagship ‘Skylake-X’ Processor with 18 Cores / 36 Threads
Priced at $1999 MSRP (you are paying $111.11 per core) and featuring the Skylake-X architecture, this beast of a processor will be the ideal go-to processor for content creators that want the maximum throughput in terms of rendering performance. This is a processor that will almost certainly be overkill for gaming (unless you are running some sort of CaaS enterprise).
It has 18 cores and 36 threads and features Intel’s new Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology which can boost up to 4.5 GHz (the base clock is unknown at this point). The CPU features an L2 Cache of 18 MB (1 MB per core) as well as an L3 cache of 24.75 MB. Quad channel DDR4 up to 2666 MHz is. The processor has a TDP of just 165W and is housed on the LGA 2066 socket like the rest of the lineup.
Intel Core i9-7980XE Die Shot
- New! Intel® Core™ i9 Extreme Edition processor featuring 18 cores and 36 threads
- New! Intel’s most scalable high-end desktop platform ever with 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 core options
- New! Intel® X299 chipset with improved I/O capabilities
- New! LGA 2066 socket for Intel® Core™ X-series processor family
- New! Additional system performance and amazing responsiveness with Intel® Optane™ memory support
- Improved Intel® Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 (select SKUs) for single- and multithreaded performance
- Up to 44 lanes of PCIe 3.0 directly connected to the CPU
- Up to 4 channel DDR4-2666 memory support, support for the Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (Intel® XMP) specification, revision 2.0 for DDR4
- Fully unlocked for performance tuning
- Rebalanced smart cache hierarchy
- Intel® Hyper-Threading Technology
Intel X299 HEDT Chipset - The Top Brass of Intel's 2017 HEDT Family
The Intel X299 HEDT chipset is powering the enthusiast platform this year's launch. It's easy to tell given the time frame these enthusiast platforms last that the chipset will run for at least 2-3 years before being replaced by a new one. Intel's X299 chipset includes support for both Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors but some vendors have decided to restrict Kaby Lake-X support on their high-end X299 motherboards since it doesn't make sense to go for a $499 US+ motherboard with chips that cost below $350 US.
There are also some various restrictions and features that are not available on Kaby Lake-X when compared to Skylake-X and those are detailed below.
Intel X299 PCH Features
Intel’s new X299 chipset will be the latest PCH to support the enthusiast processors. The X299 platform will be centered around the LGA 2066 socket which will be compatible with at least two generations of processors. In specs, the X299 chipset offers up to 24 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes. The chip also offers up to quad channel memory with speeds up to DDR4-2667 MHz (native). Kaby Lake X series processors will only support dual channel RAM and will stick to the native speeds of 2667 MHz.
This difference is due to the IMC on the Kaby Lake-X chip architecture that only allows support for dual channel memory. Intel basically swapped the Kaby Lake die from the smaller mainstream chip to the larger enthusiast chip. This means that the underlying architecture remains the same.
Aside from that, Intel X299 has full support for CPU overclocking which is a bonus. While that's a plus, independent testing performed prior to our review revealed that the chips don't feature chip soldering and use thermal paste as a layer that connects the die with the heatspreader. This may result in higher temperatures but we have to find that out in our own tests.
The Basin Falls PCH also offers maximum of 14 USB ports (10 USB 3.0 Max), 8 SATA 3.0, and Intel LAN (Jacksonville PHY) controllers. The chipset can also drive three M.2 drives with Intel RST tech. Additional features include Enhanced SPI, SPI, LPC, SMBus and HD audio which are integrated underneath its hood.
Intel X299 Chipset Features:
|Chipset||Intel X79 “Patsburg”||Intel X99 “Wellsburg”||Intel X299 "Basin Falls" With KBL-X||Intel X299 "Basin Falls" With SKL-X|
|SKU Focus Segment||Enthusiast Desktop||Enthusiast Desktop||Enthusiast Desktop||Enthusiast Desktop|
|CPU Support||Sandy Bridge-E / |
|Haswell-E / Broadwell-E||Kaby Lake-X||Skylake-X|
|CPU Core Options||4, 6||6, 8, 10||4||6, 8, 10, 12, 14,16, 18|
|Max Chipset PCI-E Lanes||8||8||24||24|
|Max CPU PCI-E Lanes||Up To 40||Up To 40||Up To 16||Up To 44|
|Memory DIMMs||Quad Channel (8)||Quad Channel (8)||Dual Channel (4)||Quad Channel (8)|
|Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Support||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Support||No||No||No||Yes|
|Intel Optane Technology||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Rapid Storage Technology||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Rapid Storage Technology For PCIe Storage Drive Support||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Smart Response Technology||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated LAN||Yes||1 GbE||Integrated MAC||Integrated MAC|
|Total USB Ports (Max USB 3.0)||N/A||6||10||10|
|Total USB Ports (Max USB 2.0)||14||14||14||14|
|Max SATA 6 Gbps Ports||6 (2 Rated at Full 6 Gbps)||10||8||8|
Intel LGA 2066 Socket - Supports All Intel Core-X Series Processors
On the socket front, Intel has finally replaced the older LGA 2011 with LGA 2066. The LGA 2011 saw several revisions as it was first featured on the X79 platform and slightly redesigned for X99 in the form of LGA 2011-v3. Enthusiasts running older HEDT Intel platforms cannot use a older processor on the new platform and would have to purchase a new one to allow compatibility.
The latest LGA 2066 socket features 2066 pins which support both Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X CPUs but doesn't allow compatibility with Intel Xeon processors. The Intel Xeon class processors that are part of the Skylake-SP family will be featured on the much different LGA 3647 socket which is huge compared to LGA 2066.
Cooler Compatibility With LGA 2066 Socket
Since the change in number of pins is smaller, the socket remains as the same dimensions as the LGA 2011 and LGA 2011-v3 socket. This means that users can equip their older retention brackets from LGA 2011 socket coolers on the LGA 2066 socket with ease. The process remains largely the same.
On the cooler front, while Intel hasn't historically offered any cooling solution on their HEDT CPUs, they do provide their own boxed solutions for users that are interested at a price ranging between $85-$100 US. The said cooler is Intel's TS13X which is a liquid cooling solution and termed as a high performance thermal solution for enthusiasts. The cooler features a 120mm radiator fitted with a 120mm fan that operates at up to 2200 RPM. It's a nice option but there are plenty more similar or better priced solutions in the market that are compatible with LGA 2066.
Intel 'Skylake-X' & 'Kabylake-X': Core-X Series Reveal Complete Press Deck
Intel Core X Series Processor Family Specifications:
|Base Clock||2.6 GHz||2.8 GHz||3.1 GHz||2.9 GHz||3.3 GHz||3.6 GHz||3.5 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz|
|(Turbo Boost 2.0)||4.2 GHz||4.2 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.3 GHz||4.0 GHz||4.5 GHz||4.2 GHz|
|(Turbo Boost Max 3.0)||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.4 GHz||4.5 GHz||4.5 GHz||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|L3 Cache||24.75 MB||22 MB||19.25 MB||16.5 MB||13.75 MB||11 MB||8.25 MB||6 MB||6 MB|
|L2 Cache||18 MB||16 MB||14 MB||12 MB||10 MB||8 MB||6 MB||4 MB||4 MB|
|Memory||Quad DDR4||Quad DDR4||Quad DDR4||Quad DDR4||Quad DDR4||Quad DDR4||Quad DDR4||Dual DDR4||Dual DDR4|
|Socket Type||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 2066||LGA 2066|
|Price||$1999 US||$1699 US||$1399 US||$1189 US||$999 US||$599 US||$389 US||$349||$242|