One of the interesting things about Intel’s latest generation of high-end desktop parts was the jump from ten cores at the peak to eighteen, as Intel moved its high core count Skylake-X die into the consumer market. This meant more cores, at a higher cost, and now Intel had seven different HEDT processors rather than three or four. Today Intel is releasing information about an update to this platform: seven new processors, with higher frequency, and as an added kicker, there’s something funny going on with the cache.

A Quick Refresher: Intel’s Large CPU Silicon

At the high-end of Intel’s processor product line, it produces processors for both high-performance enterprise and high-end desktop (HEDT). In order to create a wide range of products with its technology, and attract higher margins, Intel makes three different dies of various sizes based on their total core count:

These three floor plans are called LCC (low core count), HCC (high core count), and XCC (extreme core count). By having three different sizes, Intel optimizes its manufacturing: the 10-core LCC die is smaller, and can be enabled/disabled to make 4-10 core products; the 18-core XCC die is focused more on the mid-range, and the 28-core XCC goes for the big money. Very few customers want a 4-core from a 28-core die, so this helps maximize processors per wafer, and Intel keeps its costs down.

That being said, on the enterprise Xeon processor line, there are some chips with odd properties. For example, Intel can disable cores but keep the L3 cache of that core active: a 24 core part could have access to 28 cores' worth of L3 cache. This extra cache has added latency (as does accessing L3 cache on another CPU), and there are considerations on how the power is managed on the chip which affects TDP.

The reason why I’m bringing this up is because of what Intel is announcing today. For the Skylake-X HEDT platform, Intel used its LCC die for the 6-10 core products, and HCC die for 12-18 core products. With this new refresh, called Basin Falls Refresh or Skylake-X Refresh (SLX-R?), it would appear that every processor is from the HCC family. We can see this because of the cache sizes.

More Cores, More CPUs, More Cache

Today Intel is announcing seven new CPUs for the LGA2066 socket / X299 platform, ranging from 8 cores to 18 cores.

Intel Basin Falls Skylake-X Refresh
AnandTech Cores TDP Freq L3
L3 Per
i9-9980XE $1979 18 / 36 165 W 3.0 / 4.5 24.75 1.375 2666 44
i9-9960X $1684 16 / 32 165 W 3.1 / 4.5 22.00 1.375 2666 44
i9-9940X $1387 14 / 28 165 W 3.3 / 4.5 19.25 1.375 2666 44
i9-9920X $1189 12 / 24 165 W 3.5 / 4.5 19.25 1.604 2666 44
i9-9900X $989 10 / 20 165 W 3.5 / 4.5 19.25 1.925 2666 44
i9-9820X $889 10 / 20 165 W 3.3 / 4.2 16.50 1.650 2666 44
i7-9800X $589 8 / 16 165 W 3.8 / 4.5 16.50 2.031 2666 44
i9-7980XE $1999 18 / 36 165 W 2.5 / 4.4 24.75 1.375 2666 44
i9-7960X $1699 16 / 32 165 W 2.8 / 4.4 22.00 1.375 2666 44
i9-7940X $1399 14 / 28 165 W 3.1 / 4.4 19.25 1.375 2666 44
i9-7920X $1199 12 / 24 140 W 2.9 / 4.4 16.50 1.375 2666 44
i9-7900X $999 10 / 20 140 W 3.3 / 4.5 13.75 1.375 2666 44
i7-7820X $599 8 / 16 140 W 3.6 / 4.5 11.00 1.375 2666 28
i7-7800X $389 6 / 12 140 W 3.5 / 4.0 8.25 1.375 2400 28

These are direct replacements for the current Skylake-X processors, except for the lack of a six-core processor which is lost because the mainstream consumer platform now goes up to eight processors.

The key highlights in the table are listed in bold. All the new processors have a new TDP of 165W, which is the TDP of the old HCC processors. All the processors have significant bumps in base frequency compared to the previous generation, with the old 165W chips getting bumps of up to 400 MHz, showing what should be a 15% increase in power efficiency. For the processors moving up from 140W to 165W, there is up to a 600 MHz jump in base frequency, taking advantage of both the power efficiency increase and the TDP increase. All the turbo frequencies are up to 4.5 GHz except the lower-tier 10 core part. Also worth noting is that every processor now offers 44 PCIe lanes.

A combination of the TDP and the lane count would suggest that each of the CPUs is now built from the HCC die. But the other element is the L3 cache.

For the Skylake-X microarchitecture, each CPU has 1.375 MB of L3 cache – so a 10 core CPU should have access to 13.75 MB. If we take the culprit that has changed the most – the 10-core Core i9-9900K – it should have 13.75MB, but it actually has 19.25MB, which is what a 14 core CPU would get. So underneath the heatspreader, the Core i9-9900K is at least a 14-core part. Because Intel has only made 10/18/28 core silicon for this platform, it means that underneath, it is the 18-core, or HCC part.

But what does this mean for performance? On paper, probably not a lot.

The L3 cache in these parts is a non-inclusive, victim cache. This means that it cannot accept data direct from DRAM, and only contains data that has been loaded into L2 then kicked out into the L3 cache, whether it was used or not. The L3 benefits workloads that has repeat data accesses on immediately close-by data, which is very few consumer oriented workloads (typically integrated graphics gaming, or compression). So while more cache is a good thing, based on previous experience, the performance uplift is unlikely to be more than a percentage point at best in general.

No More 28 PCIe Lane Neutering

For me, one of the biggest highlights of the updated processor line is the PCIe lane count. Rather than having the cheaper models with 28 lanes and the more expensive models with 44, Intel has gone back to having everything with 44 lanes. This makes motherboard deciphering much simpler, and allows everyone to support PCIe storage direct from the CPU, rather than through the chipset which can be bottlenecked upstream by the CPU-to-chipset link.

How 44 Lanes are Partitioned, Plus DMI

It also benefits multi-GPU arrangements, or any multiple accelerator, or for users that want to add in Thunderbolt 3 cards, or multi-gigabit Ethernet, or development on FPGAs, or... (you get the idea) Readers will point to the fact that Intel’s HEDT is now competing against AMD’s Threadripper 2 platform, which has 60 PCIe lanes, as a factor in Intel’s decision in order to remain competitive on this front. The biggest use for the large PCIe lane count in AMD’s enterprise lineup so far is in storage, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the consumer space.

How Did Intel Gain 15% Efficiency? Design? Solder?

If we take the Core i9-9980XE flagship processor, the base frequency for this 18-core part has increased from 2.6 GHz to 3.0 GHz, or around 15.4 %. The TDP is listed as 165W, and as a reminder, Intel always relates the TDP to the base frequency, not the turbo frequency (the power consumption under turbo can be much higher). So it would imply that Intel has done something to increase the processor's efficiency.

The simplest answer would be that Intel is now manufacturing these parts on its 14++ process node, which Intel now calls part of its ‘14nm class family’. The 14++ node is a slightly relaxed version of 14+, with a slightly larger transistor gate pitch:

This relaxing of feature size usually does two things: it allows for a higher frequencies, but it can also lead to increased power consumption. The move from 14+ to 14++ may have required new manufacturing masks as well, depending if Intel is keeping the same layout as the original Skylake-X. Using new masks incurs additional costs, but also allows Intel to make some changes in the chip that might help track voltage closer to the cores for better efficiency. At the time of writing, we’re waiting to hear exactly what security changes (if any) have been applied, and this will depend on if Intel had to redesign its masks for 14++.

The other angle to this is the bonding between the CPU and the heatspreader. While this doesn't lead directly to an efficiency increase, it does help reduce the heatsoak and technically puts less pressure on the TDP. TDP is the Thermal Design Power, and essentially the metric that states that the cooler needs to be able to dissipate 165W. The power consumption of the system can be larger, due to thermal losses through the socket, but usually the two are considered equal.

Having solder in there, instead of thermal paste like the previous generation, helps move those thermals away from the CPU, giving it additional headroom. It also arguably puts less pressure on the cooler materials, reducing the pressure on TDP. At the time of writing, the use of solder hasn't been confirmed, but it would be a very good idea for Intel to do this, especially on a platform with few other changes.

Motherboards: Keeping the X299

Unlike the Z390 launch with the new Core-S processors, motherboard manufacturers have been relateively quiet for this refresh as there isn't a new chipset to generate a full stack of products. Normally we see one or two manufacturers launch refresh models, updated for the power consumption increases or with added new features, but before writing this, no manufacturer has approached us with information on new models.

This means the state of play on X299 will stay the same, albeit with BIOS updates required. It will be a while before the boards on shelves will be automatically updated for sure, meaning that people buying new into the system might have to double check with the retailer that the board they purchase is already updated (or purchase a board with an offline update feature with no CPU present).

For users interested, we have a deep history in our X299 reviews to flick through:

Our X299 coverage is our largest of a motherboard platform in recent memory, so check it out. Joe did some great work!

So Who Is This Aimed At?

If the CPU microarchitecture is fundamentally the same, it has the same memory support, and most of the middle-range features are upgraded to a better minimum level, who exactly is this launch aimed at? Intel often cites the 'mega-taskers' as its main audience here - the users that both stream, edit video, and play video games concurrently, or others that compile and test but also have 50 other things on the go. That's the target market, but who would be upgrading to this?

Despite the supposed 15% better performance efficiency (or better thermals), I don't invisage users upgrading from a Core i9-7980XE (or any Skylake-X processor) to this unless they can justify the cost. The HEDT customer is interested in might be on a Sandy Bridge-E or Haswell-E system already, or something like a mainstream Ryzen, and looking for more grunt. That's where the available market is to be honest.

Timeline for Skylake-X Refresh

Today is only the announcement for the new processors – Intel isn’t giving firm dates on when they are coming to the market at the time of writing, but we expect to see them within the next month or so. When it comes to pricing, the “entry level” Core i7-9800X will cost $589. Meanwhile, the ultra-high-end Core i9-9980XE carries an MSRP of $1,979, which is in line with the price of its direct predecessor. Pricing of other “extreme” CPUs are somewhere between, as you can see in the table above and on the slide below. Meanwhile, given the increase of frequencies, the new products are priced higher than their predecessors.



View All Comments

  • metropcs - Tuesday, October 30, 2018 - link

    Metro PCS Login metro pcs payment Pay Bill-Metro PCS is an online organization owned by T- Mobiles US. This was secured fifth place in mobile telecommunications network sector in the US. Initially, in 2013, the owner Roger D Linquist and Malcolm expanded their services by locating various branches. This is the smart way to make unlimited needs. Entire services related to Metro PCS are organized and managed by T- Mobiles 4G networks.
  • metropcs - Thursday, November 1, 2018 - link

    The Walmart Credit Card is popular for its special financing offers and cash back feature, ... To pay your bill or manage your account online, login to this website
  • steven4570 - Monday, October 8, 2018 - link

    "gaming chip" is a meaningless term. This CPU will handle whatever you throw at it. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, October 9, 2018 - link

    The extra core counts will keep it gaming for a long time to come as well.
    My 3930K is still handling every game I throw at it...
    And my Q9650 quad is still holding up well all things considered.
  • vlado08 - Monday, October 8, 2018 - link

    So who exactly is this launch aimed at? . . . . .

    May be AMD? . . . .
  • Eliadbu - Monday, October 8, 2018 - link

    seems like a better lunch than last gen, finally no more chopping of the PCI-E lanes for lower chips
    and returning to soldered IHS (I still have heat issues wit my 7900x after delidding probably I need to reapply LM) and the improved clocks is a nice bump.
  • Dragonstongue - Monday, October 8, 2018 - link

    thanks to AMD "pressure"
    If Intel would be doing the RIGHT way for consumers they would have a "family" that all shared the same "features" such as Hyper-V, various things such as SSE instructions pcie-lanes that were not added or removed regardless of the cost being paid (or not paid)

    that is one thing have always <3 about AMD they either "give it all" or give "none" not pick and choose things nearly as often as Intel or Ngreedia sometimes in VERY awkward ways...reminds me way back to core 2 Duo line (and many since) that even though was same "family" such as Core 2 Duo E8xxx, some of the chips had some features "given" with some "removed" and the other ones got some of the other features "added" while the others were now "removed"

    If they are such a "premium brand" you figure them (and Ngreedia) would be a far more fleshed out far more "complete" product being offered and not pick and choose certain things added or removed but still expect the "premium" price of that family or generation....

    that whole pci-e lane if anything irked me to no end...let the USER decide what they can afford on the chip or motherboard, but no reason to "cut things away" to save a dollar or 2 when the end consumer still pays the same price anyways and often enough suffers the "consequence" of having a less complete chip/chipset because of not spending through the nose for a product that is well beyond what they need or can afford.

    pressure from AMD (whether Intel, Ngreedia or fanboys "admit it" has caused them to behave more "appropriately") seems AMD is the referee when THEY cannot be their own..shame AMD share price is nowhere close to where it should be considering their massive turn around over the past two years.
  • eddman - Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - link

    I also hate nvidia's pricing tactics but come on, "Ngreedia" is extremely juvenile. Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Wednesday, October 10, 2018 - link

    @ eddman - I liked it. Reply
  • Santoval - Monday, October 8, 2018 - link

    To the best of my knowledge aren't these Skylake-X refresh CPUs called Cascade Lake-X? If that's the case why wasn't it mentioned anywhere? Was "Cascade Lake" just a temporary marketing term? Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now