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

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Intel Core i9-9980XE - Overclocking, Temps, And Power Consumption

We also spent some time overclocking the Core i9-9980XE and using the Gigabyte Aorus X299 Gaming 7 Pro motherboard. Like most of Intel's modern processors, the easiest way to overclock Skylake-X is by tweaking various multipliers. BCLK straps and granular frequency manipulation are also available for fine tuning, but the quickest gains will come from simply upping the CPU core voltage and cranking up the CPU's multiplier. Like more mainstream K series SKUs, the Core X series processors are fully unlocked; so CPU, Turbo, and Memory frequencies can be easily altered through multiplier manipulation.
Overclocking The Core i9-9980XE
Pushing Them To The Limit

With chips as large and complex as the Intel Core i9-9980XE, power and cooling considerations are very important when overclocking. In its stock configuration, this processor is rated for 165W, but power consumption and heat output can shoot up considerably when the chip is pushed beyond spec. As such, Intel has incorporated options to increase voltages and specify peak current thresholds. These threshold options and power/heat considerations add some wrinkles and complexity to the overclocking process if you're looking to squeeze every last MHz out of a Skylake-X chip, but we still found overclocking the 9980XE to be relatively straightforward and fruitful, even with a mainstream, tower-type air cooler. We didn't use any exotic cooling equipment here either.

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Overclocking In Action, Core i9-9980XE -- All Cores @ 4.5GHz

With proper cooling and a moderate voltage bump in the 1.175V - 1.2V range, we suspect many Core i9-9980XE processors will be able to hit 4.3 - 4.4GHz on all cores with quality air or liquid cooling. With more powerful cooling and some additional voltage though, we suspect higher clocks will be possible, based on our experience.

Although the options are there to disable SpeedStep and various C states, overclocking Skylake-X is really as easy as finding the right combo of voltage, BCLK, and peak Turbo frequencies. By altering those options and leaving SpeedStep, etc. enabled, the processor can still clock-down when not under load, minimizing total power consumption and heat output when the CPU isn’t being fully utilized.

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We were able to take our particular Core i9-9980XE up to a 4.5GHz all-core boost frequency using only 1.175V and a peak, all-core turbo multiplier of 45. At that speed, however, we were pushing the limits of our test platform, as temperatures would spike above 90ºC with long, sustained workloads and result in some throttling and lower than expected performance. With bursty workloads, however, things hummed along nicely. We should also mention, that higher clocks were possible, but temperatures shot up too quickly with our thermal solution and caused the chip to throttle.

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While we had our Core i9-9980XE overclocked, we re-ran a few benchmarks and saw some significant performance gains. The Core i9-9980XE's performance in Cinebench broke the 4400 mark and actually overtook the 24-core Threadripper 2970WX. In the 3DMark Physics test, the 9980XE's score jumped up by over 15 points and extended the processor's lead over the competition.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

Before wrapping things up, we'd also like to talk a bit about power consumption. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored how much power our test systems were consuming with a power meter to compare and contrast the results. Our goal was to give you an idea as to how much power each configuration used while idling at the Windows desktop and while under a heavy CPU workload. Keep in mind, this is total system power consumption being measured at the outlet with only the processor loaded and not the the individual power of the CPUs alone.

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Although Intel is using an updated manufacturing process and selectively binning 9th Gen Core X series processors, they're still being built at 14nm, and with their higher frequencies, we were expected increased power consumption. Turns out idle power with the Core i9-9980XE is very similar to the Core i7-7980XE, but load power was a full 68 watts higher. Load power wasn't quite high enough to match the Threadripper 2970WX, but it's not too far behind either.

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We also monitored power consumption while overclocked to see how power was affected by the additional boost in frequency and higher voltage and saw a big jump. Under load, the overclocked Core i9-9980XE-based rig pulled over 500 watts from the wall, which was a over 160 watts more than the stock configuration.  Moral of the story -- if you're contemplating buying one of these processors and overclocking it, make sure to take power and cooling considerations seriously.

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