With someone in the press having broken their embargo earlier today, Intel is lifting the lid earlier than planned on their upcoming Cascade Lake-X family of processors for the high-end desktop market. Similar to the way Cascade Lake based Xeon Scalable processors are offering clock speed increases and security fixes in hardware, the new HEDT processors will grant more frequency, more memory capacity, and better protection against side channel attacks. The key numbers however are the big drop in Intel’s pricing: Intel is making its 18-core part, the Core i9-10980XE, under $1000.
|Intel Cascade Lake-X|
|Core i9-10980XE||18C / 36T||3.0||3.8||4.6||4.8||165 W||$979|
|Core i9-10940X||14C / 28T||3.3||4.1||4.6||4.8||165 W||$784|
|Core i9-10920X||12C / 24T||3.5||4.3||4.6||4.8||165 W||$689|
|Core i9-10900X||10C / 20T||3.7||4.3||4.5||4.7||165 W||$590|
This pricing is a significant shift in Intel’s pricing strategy, and a number of fingers will be pointed at AMD to make this happen. AMD is set to launch its 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X at the $749 level, with 16 PCIe 4.0 lanes and 128 GB support, later this year, and so Intel needed something of a similar frequency but with more PCIe lanes and more memory support for just a bit more, and so the 10980XE will have a tray price of $979 – on-shelf price is often just slightly higher than tray price, so we can imagine around $1000.
All the CPUs will support 256 GB of quad-channel memory, and have 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes. Memory speed support is listed as DDR4-2933 for 1 DIMM per channel, and DDR4-2666 for 2 DIMMs per channel. All these CPUs have a TDP of 165 W, up from 140 W in the previous generation, which Intel states will help the CPUs to turbo longer under Intel’s recommended settings (as we know, consumer motherboard manufacturers like to ignore these anyway). All these CPUs are supported in X299 motherboards.
There is no 16-core in this stack, with Intel’s official reasoning being that they assess the market with each generation and they don’t believe there’s a suitable price point for such a part when the 14C and 18C parts are so close. Most people will point the finger and say that no-16 core Intel part means no direct comparison with the Ryzen 9 3950X, which is something to think about.
Another point to note is that Intel has stopped this stack at the 10 core and no lower. This means that there will be no cross over between Intel’s consumer processor stack and the HEDT stack, with users needing to spend just a little bit more from the Core i9-9900K/KF to reach up to the Core i9-10900X. It will be interesting to see where Intel’s Core i9-9900KS fits in, although that still only has dual channel memory and 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes.
These CPUs will have the same security mitigations as the Cascade Lake Xeon processors, with updated hardware mitigations for a number of side channel attacks. We are waiting to hear from Intel if the firmware that supports these processors will also have additional fixes in for Zombieload by default.
With AMD’s recent Zen 2 Ryzen 3000 series launch on 7nm earlier in the year, Threadripper 3 coming later this year, and Intel swinging another generation of 14++ into the high-end desktop market, Intel is going to have some tough times. Don’t get me wrong, this pricing update from Intel is a good thing for users, especially those looking at implementing things like DL Boost to their workflow, but this market is suddenly turning very aggressive, and it will be interesting to see if Intel can be agile enough to keep pace.
Intel’s Cascade Lake-X processors will be available in November. More details should be released nearer to launch.