There is a certain audacity to owning an 18-core, 36-thread processor such as Intel's flagship Core i9-7980XE Extreme Edition, and then overclocking it. Goosing the CPU's clockspeed is hardly needed when there is so much raw compute power underneath the heatspreader. Then again, why not put the pedal to the metal? That is what an overclocker on a Korean-language web forum did, and then he posted some benchmarks to boot.
We will get to the overclock and subsequent benchmarks in a moment, but first let's recap some details about this processor. The Core i9-7980XE is based on Intel's high-end desktop (HEDT) Skylake-X architecture. It sits at the top of the heap of Intel's Core X series, which also include Kaby Lake-X CPUs, and rings at $1,999.
At stock settings, it has a 2.6GHz base clock and 4.2GHz Turbo boost on all cores, and can reach 4.4GHz in Turbo mode when focusing on a single core. Rounding out the spec sheet is 24.75MB of L3 cache, quad-channel DDR4-2666 memory support, access to 44 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and a 165W TPD. Yes, it's a monster processor.
The aforementioned overclocker slapped the chip into an ASUS Rampage VI Apex X299 motherboard and proceed to push the CPU until reaching 4.8GHz on all 18 cores. He kept the vCore set at Auto and noted a peak voltage of 1.25v—not too shabby, considering the end result. Temperatures stayed below 90C, leading the overclocker (and us) to wonder if Intel is using solder as the thermal interface material (TIM) the Core i9-7980X instead of paste.
It is a difficult to see without enlarging the image to its original size, and even then it's not the best screenshot in the world. That said, the overclocker scored 37,485 on Futuremark's 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark using custom settings. We do know what custom settings he used, unfortunately, but to put the score into context, Intel's $999 Core i9-7900X (10 cores, 20 threads) scores around 10,000 in the same benchmark.
Realistically we are looking at a niche processor in the Core i9-7980XE. It is priced far to high for mainstream consideration, and even for the target enthusiast audience, the pricing premium is pretty steep. That said, it is nice to see that Intel's top shelf part in the consumer space have the kind of overclocking headroom that is on display here.
The trade off is the comparatively low 2.6GHz base clock, but that is of less concern to us. For any kind of meaningful processing chore, the Core i9-7980XE is going to ramp up to one of its Turbo clocks, both of which are above the 4GHz threshold.