Conclusion: Price Makes Perfect

When you buy a system, ask yourself – what matters most to you?

Is it gaming performance?
Is it bang-for-buck?
Is it all-out peak performance?
Is it power consumption?
Is it performance per watt?

I can guarantee that out of the AnandTech audience, we will have some readers in each of these categories. Some will be price sensitive, while others will not. Some will be performance sensitive, others will be power (or noise) sensitive. The point here is that the Xeon W-3175X only caters to one market: high performance.

We tested the Xeon W-3175X in our regular suite of tests, and it performs as much as we would expect – it is a 28 core version of the Core i9-9980XE, so in single threaded tests it is about the same, but in raw multi-threaded tests it performs up to 50% better. For rendering, that’s great. For our variable threaded tests, the gains are not as big, from either no gain at all to around 20% or so. This is the nature of increasing threads – at some point, software hits Amdahl’s law of scaling and more threads does nothing. However, for software that isn’t at that point, the W-3175X comes in like a wrecking ball.

Corona 1.3 Benchmark

For our graphs, some of them had two values: a regular value in orange, and one in red called 'Intel Spec'. ASUS offers the option to 'open up' the power and current limits of the chip, so the CPU is still running at the same frequency but is not throttled. Despite Intel saying that they recommend 'Intel Spec', the system they sent to us to test was actually set up with the power limits opened up, and the results they provided for us to compare to internally also correlated with that setting. As a result, we provided both sets results for our CPU tests.

For the most part, the 'opened up' results scored better, especially in multithreaded tests, however Intel Spec did excel in memory bound tests. This is likely because in the 'opened up' way, there is no limit to keeping the high turbo which means there could be additional stalls for memory based workloads. In a slower 'Intel Spec' environment, there's plenty of power for the mesh and the memory controllers do deal with requests as they come.

Power, Overclockability, and Availability

Two-and-a-half questions hung over Intel during the announcement and launch of the W-3175X. First one was power, second was overclockability, and two-point-five was availability.

On the power side of the equation, again the W-3175X comes in like a wrecking ball, and this baby is on fire. While this chip has a 255W TDP, the turbo max power value is 510W – we don’t hit that at ‘stock’ frequency, which is more around the 300W mark, but we can really crank out the power when we start overclocking.

This processor has a regular all-core frequency of 3.8 GHz, with AVX2 at 3.2 GHz and AVX-512 at 2.8 GHz. In our testing, just by adjusting multipliers, we achieved an all-core turbo of 4.4 GHz and an AVX2 turbo of 4.0 GHz, with the systems drawing 520W and 450W respectively. At these frequencies, our CPU was reporting temperatures in excess of 110ºC! This processor is actually rated with a thermal shutoff at 120ºC, well above the 105ºC we see with regular desktop processors, which shows that perhaps Intel had to bin these chips enough that the high temperature profile was required.

On the question of availability, this is where the road is not so clear. Intel is intending only to sell these processors through OEMs and system integrators as part of pre-built systems only, for now. We’ve heard some numbers about how many chips will be made (it’s a low four-digit number), but we can only approximately confirm those numbers given one motherboard vendor also qualified how many boards they were building.

One of Anand’s comments I will always remember during our time together at AnandTech was this:

“There are no bad products, only bad prices.”

According to OEMs we spoke to, initially this processor was going to be $8k. The idea here is that being 28-core and unlocked, Intel did not want to consume its $10k Xeon market. Since then, distributors told us that the latest information they were getting was around $4500, and now Intel is saying that the recommended consumer price is $3000. That’s not Intel’s usual definition of ‘per-1000 units’, that’s the actual end-user price. Intel isn’t even quoting a per-1000 unit price, which just goes to substantiate the numbers we heard about volume.

At $8000, this CPU would be dead in the water, only suitable for high-frequency traders who could eat up the cost within a few hours of trading. At $4500, it would be a stretch, given that 18-core on Intel is only $2099, and AMD offers the 32-core 2990WX for $1799 which surpasses the performance per dollar on any rendering task.

At $2999, Intel has probably priced this one just right.

At $2999, it's not a hideous monstronsity that some worried it would be, but instead becomes a very believeable progression from the Core i9-9980XE. Just don’t ask about the rest of the system, as an OEM is probably looking at a $7k minimum build, or $10k end-user shelf price.

Gaming: F1 2018
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  • FMinus - Friday, February 1, 2019 - link

    Not really, 3D rednering is done on specialized render farms, the modeling work, key framing etc. can be done on any decent modern mainstream CPU, and especially well on any modern HEDT chip, for prototyping and preview, once satisfied, send it out to render properly. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    The only scenario where this or similar Xeons do outperform the AMD lineup is if (!) the key application (s) in question make good use of AVX512. In those situations, Intel is still way ahead. In all others, a similar or lower priced Threadripper will give more bang for the buck. Reply
  • Tango - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    There are scenarios in which this is perfect, and in fact my research department is looking into acquiring two of them. Our algorithms include both highly parallelized instructions and completely non parallelizable ones where clock speed dominates. We estimate models that take a whole weekend to spot out a result, and the alternative is paying top money for supercomputer time.
    At $3000 it is a steal. The problem is half Wall Street will be sending orders to get one, since the use case is similar for high frequency trading applications.
    Reply
  • MattZN - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    I expect all the review sites will redo their 2990WX benchmarks once Microsoft is able to fix the scheduler. The question is really... how long will it take Microsoft to fix their scheduler? That said, nobody should be expecting massive improvements. Some of the applications will improve a ton, but not all of them. It will be more like a right-sizing closer to expected results and less like hitting the ball out of the park.

    -Matt
    Reply
  • BGADK - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    Little professional software exists for Linux, so these machines WILL run windows for most parts. Reply
  • cmcl - Thursday, January 31, 2019 - link

    Agree that there is more professional software for Windows, but in visual effects (where I work), 90% of our workstations (and all render) runs on Linux (24-core workstations, with P6000s), running Nuke, Maya etc. Apart from the gaming benchmarks (and who would buy one of these for gaming), a lot of the tests could be done in Linux as that software runs on Linux Reply
  • Icehawk - Thursday, January 31, 2019 - link

    Workstations aside, these mega-core beasts are run as VM hosts on bare metal. I don't have a single server here that just runs an OS & app suite, it's not 2000 anymore everything is virtualized as much as possible. Reply
  • WasHopingForAnHonestReview - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    Holy shit. AMD absolutely bent intel over on this one. The price for performance ratio is overwhelming in AMD ls favor! Intel would have released this for 8k if the 2990wx wasnt so competitive!

    WOW!
    Reply
  • GreenReaper - Thursday, January 31, 2019 - link

    They probably wouldn't have released it at all. As noted, most of these could easily be server cores on which they could make plenty more money. This appears to be largely a PR effort. Reply
  • jcc5169 - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    Who in the world would buy this over-priced piece-of-crap? Reply

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