Intel Xeon W-3175X Review: Supercharged 28-Core Skylake-SP
Intel Xeon W-3175X - Our Summary And Verdict
Performance Summary: There is a lot to summarize and digest in regards to the Intel Xeon W-3175X. Let’s start with performance. To put it simply, the Intel Xeon W-3175X is the fastest processor for heavily-threaded workloads currently available. Although it has six fewer cores (28 vs. 32), the Xeon W-3175X surpassed the performance of AMD’s flagship Threadripper 2990WX in all of the multi-threaded workloads we threw at it. The Xeon W-3175X also offered superior single-thread performance versus AMD’s Threadripper processors and the Xeon’s monolithic nature means it doesn’t suffer from any of the performance anomalies associated with Threadripper’s distributed memory controllers. In summary, the Xeon W-3175X is faster and there are fewer architecture-related performance caveats to contend with overall.
Raw performance isn’t the only consideration with a processor and platform like this, however. Pricing and the overall user experience also matter, and in these categories AMD’s many-core workstation processors may be more appealing to most of you. The Xeon W-3175X commands a lofty $2,999 price tag. That’s a full 73% higher than a 32-core AMD Threadripper 2990WX, which is available for about $1,729. Sure, the Xeon is faster, but it’s not 73% faster by any stretch. And then there are the motherboards and memory configurations to consider. This technically isn’t a negative in our book, due to the additional bandwidth and lower-latency afforded by the Xeon W-3175X’s unified, six-channel memory configuration, but the fact remains consumers will have to spring for a six-channel memory kit to get the most from the chip, whereas a quad-channel kit will suffice for Threadripper.
Motherboards for the Xeon W-3175X will likely be more expensive than many X399 boards as well. Unfortunately, we don’t have official pricing for the ROG Dominus Extreme we used for testing, because ASUS isn’t disclosing its MSRP. The board will be offered through system integrators (at least for now), so ASUS isn’t talking about standalone pricing at the moment. A quick search for 1P ASUS-branded C621-based motherboards, however, reveals that ASUS’ least-expensive offering sells for about $400, and rest assured, the ROG Dominus Extreme will be pricier than that board. There are a handful of premium X399 motherboards for Threadripper that sell for more than $400, but we suspect the pair of ASUS and Gigabyte C621 boards launching alongside the Xeon W-3175X will be on the more expensive side in comparison.
The EEB (14” x 14”) form factor of the ASUS ROG Dominus Extreme and Gigabyte motherboards for the Xeon W-3175X also limits the number of cases that users can choose from. That said, there are some really attractive EEB-compatible cases at a variety of price points, but their number and variety obviously pales in comparison to all of the standard ATX cases out there.
Cooling the Xeon W-3175X will also require something brawnier than your average AIO liquid cooler. The system Intel provided for testing the W-3175X was quite noisy, but even with seven fans and a beefy 360mm radiator on duty, the processor would easily heat up into the mid-70s under load. Do a bit of overclocking and thermal throttling will likely be an issue with all but the most robust cooling solutions, when the processor is being taxed. In comparison, our 2990WX-based test system is cooled by a slim Thermaltake Floe 360mm AIO liquid cooler and a couple of generic 120mm case fans; and the rig is nearly silent. In all fairness, we didn’t assemble the Xeon W-3175X-based system and we’re sure a quieter selection of fans could have been used, but we felt the need to point this out potential consideration nonetheless.
We broke this down as if end-users could assemble their own Xeon W-3175X, but for now it will be available through select system integrators and it remains to be see what those SIs will do with their designs and how full system bundles will be priced. The fact remains, that the Xeon W-3175X has more cores (and threads), more CPU PCIe lanes, and the highest memory capacity of any Intel desktop processor released to date. For heavily-threaded workloads, it is the highest-performing single processor out there. And even though it is not based on Intel’s latest microarchitecture, it still holds an IPC and single-thread advantage over AMD’s competing solution as well. Intel is clearly pushing the limits of its 14nm process with a beastly, 28-core behemoth like the Xeon W-3175X and it results in some real pitfalls (like its almost crazy-high power consumption), but as enthusiasts on the outside looking in, we’re kind of excited to see that Intel is being aggressive enough to pump out a product like this. After years of steady iteration in the CPU market, things have gotten much more competitive, and we look forward to seeing where it takes us through 2019 and beyond.