Intel Core i9-9980XE CPU Review: Supercharged, Many-Core Skylake-X

The Intel Core i9-9980XE - Updated Skylake-X Takes On 2nd Gen Threadripper

When Intel officially announced its 9th Generation Core processors at an event in NYC a few weeks back, it used the opportunity to also unveil a beastly, unlocked 28-core Xeon processor that’ll be arriving at a later date, and a refreshed line-up of 9th Gen-branded Core-X series processors as well. Unlike the 9th Gen Core i products, however, which leverage an updated Coffee Lake microarchitecture, the “new” Core X series remains based on Skylake-X – just like the 7th Gen Core X series processors we evaluated here.

Some folks are likely to shout “re-brand” from the mountaintops in reference to the 9th Gen Core X series, but rest assured Intel has performed some significant tweaking with the manufacturing and packaging of these chips, and the end result is somewhat surprising. We’ve had the flagship Core i9-9980XE in hand for a little while now and will lay out its performance, power, and overclocking capacity on the pages ahead. Before we get down and dirty with the Core i9-9980XE though, take a gander at its main features and specifications, along with the particulars of the rest of the line-up...
9980xe with mug
Intel Core i9-9980XE HEDT Processor
Specifications & Features
intel x series specs
  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0: Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 4.4 GHz when applications demand more performance. Speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.
  • Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0: Now identifies the two best performing cores to provide increased single- and dual-core performance up to 4.5 GHz. Natively supported with the latest Microsoft Windows* 10 releases, Linux* distributions based on kernels since 2017, or the Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 driver for legacy Microsoft Windows products.
  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology: Allows each processor core to work on two tasks at the same time for up to 36 total independent tasks (threads) providing parallel processing capability for better multi-tasking with threaded applications.
  • Intel Smart Cache: 24.75 MB of shared cache allows faster access to your data by enabling dynamic and efficient allocation of the cache to match the needs of each core, which can help significantly reduce latency to frequently used data and improving performance.
  • CPU Overclocking Enabled (with Intel X299 Chipset): Fully unlocked core multiplier, base clock, and memory ratios as well as options to modify power settings and per core overclocking enable ultimate flexibility for overclocking.
  • Solder Thermal Interface Material: Delivering improved thermal conductivity between the CPU die and the integrated heat spreader for improved overclocking capability
  • Integrated Memory Controller: Supports 4 channels of DDR4-2666 memory.3 Support for memory based on the Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (Intel XMP) specification.
  • PCI Express 3.0 Interface: Supports up to 8 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to 44 lanes configurable, per x16 port, as 1x16, 2x8, or 1x8 and 2x4 depending on the motherboard design.
  • Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility: Compatible with the Intel X299 chipset with the latest BIOS and drivers.

As we’ve mentioned, all of the processors in the 9th Gen Core X series are based on Intel’s Skylake-X microarchitecture. Due to the fact that we have already covered Skylake and Skylake-X in detail in a number of past articles, we won’t dive deep again here. If you’d like to understand what makes Skylake-X tick, however, we would suggest reading some of our previous coverage. Between our Core i9-7900X / Core i7-7740X review, our Xeon Scalable Series Processor article, Core i9-7980XE review, and a host of other Skylake-related details, we’ve got you covered.

To quickly re-iterate some of the differences between Skylake-X and Intel’s more mainstream processor architectures, Skylake-X features monolithic many-core designs, with a restructured cache hierarchy and a high-speed mesh interconnect distributed between the cores. It is not Intel’s newest microarchitecture – that designation is currently reserved for the Coffee Lake refresh – but Skylake-X is the foundation of Intel’s top-end HEDT and many-core Xeon processors, at least for the time being.
intel 9980xe front intel 9980xe back
The Core i9-9980XE -- Top And Bottom

The 9th Gen Core X line-up's configurations correlate closely with Intel's 7th Generation – the model numbers only differ in their first digit for the most part and core counts range from 8 to 18. These 9th Gen parts, however, are manufactured using Intel’s 14nm++ process, they feature higher base and Turbo Boost frequencies than their predecessors, and they are also outfitted with more efficient soldered thermal interface material (STIM) to better wick away heat. Using the mature 14nm++ process and STIM allowed Intel tweak voltages and frequencies for increased performance, while remaining within similar thermal and power envelopes. All the chips have the same number of PCIe lanes (44), but some have more smart cache than their predecessors. For example, the Core i9-7900X has 13.75MB, while the i9-9900X has 19.25MB.

cpuz 1 cpuz 2
cpuz 3 cpuz 4
Intel Core i9-9980XE CPU-Z Core And Cache Details

The Core i9-9980XE is the new flagship that supplants the Core i9-7980XE at the top of the stack. This monolithic powerhouse features 18 Skylake-X cores (36 threads with HyperThreading) with a base clock of 3.0GHz – that's 400MHz higher than the 7980XE. The Core i9-9980XE has max Turbo Boost 2.0 and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 frequencies of 4.4GHz and 4.5GHz, which are 200MHz and 100MHz higher than the 7980XE, respectively. Max all-core boost wasn’t revealed in Intel’s specifications, but we saw that hover in the 3.8GHz range with all-cores taxed in benchmarks like Cinebench and Blender. The Core i9-9980XE has 24.75MB of shared L3 cache, 1MB of L2 cache per core, and a TDP of 165W.

Now, let’s see how this thing performs...

Related content