Intel Core i9-7980XE 18-Core Processor Spearheads Beastly Core X-Series CPU Family

Intel Core i9 Extreme Edition Processor
We’ve heard rumors regarding Intel’s upcoming Kaby Lake-X and Skylake-X processors for the past few months, but today it's finally time for the official roll-out of these new flagship Intel CPUs. We were no doubt impressed by the initial specs that leaked (especially over the past week), but the final product may actually be a bit more impressive than we initially thought.

Intel bills these new Core i5 X-Series, Core i7 X-Series, Core i9 X-Series, and Core i9 Extreme Edition processors as its “Most Powerful, Most Scalable” desktop processors to date. We’ve known for a few weeks now that Intel would surpass the current Core i7 line-up with a new Core i9 designation, but today we’re learning that the Intel Core i9 Extreme Edition will be taking the pole position as the flagship of Intel’s High-End Desktop (HEDT) family.

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Intel Core X Processor Family Features
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The Core i9-7980XE (Extreme Edition) manages to squeeze in a densely-packed 18 cores (36 threads with HyperThreading), with 44 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes, and a TDP of 160W. The Core i9 family has support for a more refined version of Turbo Boost Max 3.0, quad-channel DDR4-2666 memory, and Optane (3D XPoint) memory technology. Intel also has overclockers in mind, given that the processors come unlocked and with support for a newly incorporated AVX-512 clock ratio offset to keep the processors below their throttling point when overclocking and running AVX workloads.

Other features aimed at making overclocking easier include support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0 technology, memory controller trim voltage control, PEG/DMI overclocking, and per-core overclocking/voltage, all of which can be monitored via Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility. 

intel hedt
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In addition to the 18-core flagship, there are four other members of the Core i9 family, including the Core i9-7960X, i9-7940X, i9-7920X, and i9-7900X which have 16, 14, 12, and 10 cores, respectively. Of all of the Core i9 processors announced, Intel is only providing clock speeds for the Core i9-7900X. This chip has a base clock of 3.3GHz, a Turbo Boost frequency of 4.3GHz and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 frequency of 4.5GHz. 

We thought that AMD would have the enthusiast core count battle won with its 16-core/32-thread Ryzen Threadripper processor, but it appears that Intel had other plans in mind with the Core i9-7980XE. Instead, it looks as though the Ryzen Threadripper 1998X will actually be going head-to-head (when it comes to market) with the slightly lower-end Core i9-7960X, which also features 16 cores and support for 32 threads. However, AMD could undercut the $1,699 expected price of the Intel chip, as they've done with previous Ryzen SKUs. Incidentally, as you can see, the Core i9-7980XE will set you back a stiff $1999.

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Moving along to more affordable pastures, there are two Skylake-X Core i7 models, although only the Core i7-7820X (priced at $599) supports Turbo Boost Max 3.0. That processor has eight cores/16 threads, a base clock of 3.6GHz, a Turbo Boost clock of 4.3GHz, and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 of 4.5GHz. It features 11MB of L3 cache, 28 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes, and has a TDP of 140W. The Core i7-7800X drops down to six cores/12 threads and has quad-channel memory support at DDR4-2400 speeds.

Improved Intel Turbo Boost Max 30

Further, the Intel Core i7-7820X and all Core i9 series processor will support an updated Turbo Boost Max 3.0 implementation that allows specific "Best Core" boost clocks for up to two processor cores now, improving both single- and dual-core performance. The first implementation of Turbo Boost 3.0 was only optimized for a single core.
Intel Core X series family
We should mention that of the nine new X-Series processors announced today, seven of them are based on the Skylake-X architecture. The two Kaby Lake-X entries are also the least powerful of the bunch, support dual-channel DDR4-2666 and 16 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes. The Core i7-7740X has four cores/eight threads along with base/Turbo Boost 2.0 clocks of 4.3GHz and 4.5GHz respectively. With a base clock of 4GHz and Turbo Boost 2.0 of 4.2GHz, the Core i5-7640X has just four cores (four threads) and 6MB L3 cache. It does, however, have a $242 price tag for the value-minded.
Intel X299 chip

All of Intel’s new processors will be paired with the new X299 HEDT chipset. The X299 supports Socket R4 (LGA 2066), which is required for all of the new Core X processors that Intel has announced today. The chipset is Intel Optane ready, supports up to 24 additional PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes, up to 10 USB 3.0 ports, and up to eight SATA 3.0 ports. The chipset can also drive up to three M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD devices and is compatible with Intel Ethernet I219 (Jacksonville PHY) controllers.

Although Intel has provided pricing for all of the new Core X processors, it still hasn't given us any firm guidance on when they will be made available. Given the "dialed in" specs for the Core i9-7900X and below, we would assume that those processors will be available first (possibly as soon as June). The higher-end SKUs, starting with the Core i9-7920X don't even have their full specs (including clock speeds) listed, which leads us to believe that they will arrive at a later date. Whatever the case may be, we'll be providing updates as soon as the information is handed down to us from Intel.