Intel has an upcoming refresh for its High End DeskTop (HEDT) product family, based on its Cascade Lake X series of processors. Cascade Lake-X is the latest iteration of the company’s 14nm product line, with technologies like Intel DLBoost for accelerating AI workloads and some additional new features we’ll touch on below.
Up until now, one of the weaknesses of the Intel HEDT product family has been the vastly superior pricing available on AMD’s Threadripper. We weren’t supposed to be able to share details of this with you until October 7, but Intel has opted to release certain information earlier than it originally expected to do so. As a result, here’s a sneak peak of what Cascade Lake will bring to the table.
The improvements on this page are the sorts of gains you’d expect in an iterative platform refresh. Formally supported RAM clocks are creeping up, as has RAM capacity — up to 256GB, whereas the Core i9-9980XE topped out at 128GB. Features like DLBoost are now available in HEDT, building on the AVX-512 support available in previous chips. PCIe lane support has been bumped up, to 72 lanes from the 68 total available on the X299 platform before. Features like 2.5G ethernet and Wi-Fi 6 are useful to some customers, but unlikely to be major platform drivers.
This slide, however, should make people sit up and pay attention. The specs haven’t changed much — the Core i9-10980XE is still a 3.0GHz base clock CPU (like the 9980XE), with a 3.8GHz maximum all-core boost. It offers a higher maximum Turbo clock of 4.6GHz – 4.8GHz depending on whether Turbo Boost 2.0 or 3.0 is used, compared to the 4.4GHz maximum on the Core i9-9980XE, but those gains aren’t enormous, either.
But the price? List price on the Core i9-9980XE is $1,979 – $1,999, and while these prices have little to nothing to do with what OEMs pay for these chips, the new Cascade Lake lineup is a huge improvement over what has come before. This echoes claims Intel made last month at IFA, in which it promised that Cascade Lake would deliver substantially improved performance-per-dollar.
Up until now, stepping on to the HEDT platform has been significantly more expensive than the Intel desktop equivalent. While there’s still going to be a cost adder, the price of using HEDT will be much lower than it has been in the past. And it means that when AMD launches Threadripper on 7nm, those chips will be facing steeper competition than they’ve had in years past. Up until now, Threadripper has had the run of the tables as far as price/performance was concerned, while Intel held on to a narrow per-core lead in terms of absolute highest performance. Now, Cascade Lake is primed to go up against AMD’s 16-core chips at a much more modest cost premium.
It’s not clear how AMD will adjust its own pricing from this point. When AMD announced the 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X, it declared the CPU would cost $750. This would seem to put a floor on the price of any introductory Threadripper, since there’s no reason for AMD to charge less for a 16-core TR than it would charge for a 16-core Ryzen. AMD still has some room to adjust its own positioning here, both before TR launch and before the debut of any Ryzen, but it’ll be interesting to see if Team Red adjusts its own product SKUs after these astronomical price cuts from Intel.
Intel expects to launch its Cascade Lake X family of products in November. We’ll have coverage when they debut.
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