Intel's new 18-core chip is 37% faster than AMD's Threadripper... for twice the price

Intel Core X-series CPUs

The great race for more cores is into its second leg. AMD shot the starting pistol with Threadripper and now Intel are upping the ante on their X299 platform. The biggest and baddest of them all, the 18-core i9 7980XE, has just waltzed onto the scene and ripped the multi-core performance crown right off AMD’s head.

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Intel have been launching their top processors since June, with the i9 7980XE expected to finally complete the extended X299 lineup in October. Arriving with a whopping $1,999 price tag, this 18-core monster is a pretty limited, extreme-use case, and before it’s even launched I can confirm it won’t be making our best gaming CPU list.

Intel can’t be expecting to ship vast amounts of the i9 7980XE. However, in lieu of sales, just taking the crown from AMD’s 1950X for best multi-threaded performance has its own hearts and minds benefits. If the benchmarks leaked by VideoCardz, are accurate, then this is exactly what Intel have succeeded in doing.

Intel Core i9 18-core CPU

In Cinebench R15, the Core i9 7980XE breaks the 4K barrier, posting a score of 4,204 compared to AMD’s 1950X at 3,069. That is a massive 37% increase in performance, especially impressive compared to the 131% increase over Intel’s previous generation top-end chip, the 6950X. What a difference a year and a half (and some panic-inducing competition) can make, eh?

The story continues in other benchmarks, with the i9 7980XE smashing the 1950X in multicore performance. 3DMark Fire Strike scores the i9 7980XE at 32,201, with the 1950X at 27,579, a 17% increase. Intel’s two extra cores and four threads are no doubt giving the blue team the expected edge over the 16-core Threadripper competition.

Intel’s single-core performance has always been at the front of the pack, with the 18-core i9 7980XE retaining the impressive single-core performance of the Core  i9 7900X and i7 7820X in Cinebench R15.

An Asus ROG Zenith Extreme motherboard was used for the benchmarking system, which may explain the especially high all-core clock of 4.2GHz. Whether this is consistent across other boards is yet to be seen, but obviously take these early benchmarks with a grain of salt, regardless.

Intel Core i9 7900X architecture

Overall, the Intel i9 7980XE far outperforms AMD’s Threadripper 1950X. For the discerning professional, the extra performance surely won’t justify the 100% increase in price, and I doubt many enthusiasts will want to shell out quite this much dollar for the privilege of those two extra cores. 6950X users, on the other hand, must be scratching their heads over the sudden and massive performance boost over their $1700 chip from just over a year ago.

The i9 7980XE shows that Intel, despite AMD’s best efforts, can’t be beaten at their own game, but at what cost? Then again, if AMD really wanted to make an exorbitantly expensive and unrealistic chip themselves, I’m sure they could - they have a 32-core EPYC chip after all.

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makson1998zz avatarDaddyO' Fourty five avatardeksroning avatarahsan_shah avatarDave James avatarKronos1996 avatar+2
makson1998zz Avatar
4
2 Months ago

It's a pointless release. Too expensive for too little. Once AMD is on 14nm+ with Zen 2 it will be difficult for Intel. Especially in the mobile market once Raven Ridge is released. At 7nm intel may fall behind the price/performance/volume curve

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DaddyO' Fourty five Avatar
4
2 Months ago

Nice... hahahahaha

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deksroning Avatar
6
2 Months ago

Not in the slightest.

Intel has years of software industry optimizations behind them.

Heck, Ryzen easily experienced up to 30% increase in performance in 3 different games after a simple patch was released.

Industry software optimization however will take time, but right now, I'd say its a very uneven playing field (with Intel having an unfair advantage).

That, and you still need to pay double for that performance extra.

Whereas the differential is likely not as big at 16 cores, and this is still an unreleased product (so we don't know what it's behavior will be in the real world).

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deksroning Avatar
6
2 Months ago

Perspective please... Intel has 2 extra cores and how many years of industry software optimizations behind them to take advantage of their architecture?

Pair a Ryzen CPU or even a TR one with a high speed RAM and performance increases by about 10%.

I know... small increase, but most benchmarks are done with low speed ram that doesn't do Ryzen any favors.

That and the fact that at least 3 games experienced rather large (up to 30%) performance increase after patches to support Ryzen is nothing to sneeze at.

Oh don't get me wrong, I do expect Intel to beat AMD at multi-core with 18 cores... but the score gap between the two is a tad unrealistic and unfair when you take into account software optimizations for Intel.

Also, leaks should also be taken with a grain of salt if you don't mind.

Speculations are running high, and until we see real life performance differential between TR and Intel's 18c CPU's... we shouldn't make any final conclusions - except for the price of course... which goes up to $2000 for Intel vs $1000 for TR.

Thanks, but I'd rather go for the cheaper option that might actually experience software optimizations that will further increase performance (and if it doesn't, you're comparing apples and oranges without a somewhat level field).

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Dave James Avatar
460
2 Months ago

As Jacob said in the piece, we do need to take the benches with a grain of salt, but realistically the chip is being tested by a host of different reviewers right now, so the results are probably pretty close to being accurate.

Playing devils advocate here though, those Ryzen performance boosts are only in a few very specific cases, and haven't seemed that repeatable.

As to your point about reviews of the AMD chips being done with slow memory, that was mostly because at launch they simply didn't cope well with a wide range of high performance RAM.

That said, I'd still question the motives (and maybe sanity) of anyone picking a $2,000 18-core chip over a $1,000 16-core part. Especially given TR's extra PCIe support et al.

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ahsan_shah Avatar
2
2 Months ago

Author did not mention that i9 7980X was overclocked to 4.2GHz giving unfair advantage to intel. Agreed even without OC Intel would have been ahead but not by 37%.

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Dave James Avatar
460
2 Months ago

Are you sure the CPU was overclocked? From the source we saw it was running in an Asus X299 motherboard, and they don't give a pair of fetid dingo's kidneys what Intel rate their chips at - not in terms of how many cores are allowed to hit the 4.2GHz Max Turbo clockspeeds, their boards just push it right up.

With the Asus STRIX X299-E Gaming our board automatically pushed the 10-core 7900X up to 4.3GHz all-core as default, so I wouldn't be surprised if the high-end Asus Apex does the same with the 7980XE. Which, in itself, is kind of impressive.

Essentially then the 18-core chip here is just running at standard, out-of-the-box settings.

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ahsan_shah Avatar
2
2 Months ago

Author should have mentioned overclocked 18 core on the headline

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Kronos1996 Avatar
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2 Months ago

Not unexpected at all but AMD's chips are still a much better price/performance ratio. That being said even at their comparatively cheap price they are still very niche in their non-commercial uses. I'd be willing to bet more then half the people buying these chips are only getting them for the additional epeen waving. I'm no computer professional but i think Ryzen and Threadripper still have some driver optimization to be squeezed out, plus AMD has committed to the motherboard platform for the next two generations for ease of upgrading. Intel is nervous but they still refuse to give up their BDSM inspired business practices. Which is fine because until they do AMD has a golden opportunity to annihilate their market dominance. AMD has learned what a powerful ally PC enthusiasts can be by catering to them directly (Ryzen launched on desktop first and the Threadripper chips were a love letter to enthusiasts). In fact without the support of Tech enthusiasts (partly due to Intel boning them for so long) and extremely competitive pricing Ryzen might have been dead on arrival. Lets hope AMD doesn't ignore that important fact going forward.

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Quimoi Avatar
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2 Months ago

How can you compare a 16-core chip with an 18-core chip? You should have compared Intel's chip with AMD's EPYC.

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Dave James Avatar
460
2 Months ago

It's Intel's most powerful consumer chip vs. AMD’s most powerful consumer chip. It's a pretty straightforward comparison.

The EPYC CPUs most definitely aren't consumer processors so there'd be no point comparing the two.

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Shadowized Avatar
140
2 Months ago

No ECC support and only 44 PCI-Lanes on a CPU targetted towards content production and heavily threaded workstation tasks... Intel really haven't a clue what they are doing anymore. SemiAccurate wrote up a nice article on it recently and it summed up the situation quite nicely.

you can buy a EPYC 7551P in the same price group offering 128 PCI-E lanes, full ECC support, and with 32c/64t.

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