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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  • Kevin G - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    For $3000 USD, a 28 core unlocked Xeon chip isn't terribly bad. The real issue is its incredibly low volume nature and that in effect only two motherboards are going to be supporting it. LGA 3647 is a wide spread platform but the high 255W TDP keeps it isolated.

    Oddly I think Intel would have had better success if they also simultaneously launched an unlocked 18 core part with even higher base/turbo clocks. This would have threaded the needle better in terms of per thread performance and overall throughput. The six channel memory configuration would have assisted in performance to distinguish itself from the highend Core i9 Extreme chips.

    The other aspect is that there is no clear upgrade path from the current chips: pretty much one chip to board ratio for the life time of the product. There is a lot on the Xeon side Intel has planned like on package FGPAs, Omnipath fabric and Nervana accelerators which could stretch their wings with a 255 W TDP. The Xeon Gold 6138P is an example of this as it comes with an Arria 10 FPGA inside but a slightly reduced clock 6138 die as well at a 195 W TDP. At 255 W, that chip wouldn't have needed to compromise the CPU side. For the niche market Intel is targeting, a FPGA solution would be interesting if they pushed ideas like OpenCL and DirectCompute to run on the FPGA alongside the CPU. Doing something really bold like accelerating PhysX on the FPGA would have been an interesting demo of what that technology could do. Or leverage the FGPA for DSP audio effects in a full 3D environment. That'd give something for these users to look forward to.

    Well there is the opportunity to put in other LGA 3647 parts into these boards but starting off with a 28 core unlocked chip means that other offering are a downgrade. With luck, Ice Lake-SP would be an upgrade but Intel hasn't committed to it on LGA 3647.

    Ultimately this looks like AMD's old 4x4/QuadFX efforts that'll be quickly forgotten by history.

    Speaking of AMD, Intel missing the launch window by a few months places it closer to the eminent launch of new Threader designs leveraging Zen 2 and AMD's chiplet strategy. I wouldn't expect AMD to go beyond 32 cores for Threadripper but the common IO die should improve performance overall on top of the Zen 2 improvements. Intel has some serious competition coming.
    Reply
  • twtech - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    Nobody really upgrades workstation CPUs, but it sounds like getting a replacement in the event of failure.could be difficult if the stock will be so limited.

    If Dell and HP started offering this chip in their workstation lineup - which I don't expect to happen given the low-volume CPU production and needing a custom motherboard - then I think it would have been a popular product.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    Providing the replacement part (and thus holding back enough stock to do so) is on Dell/HP/etc via the support contract. By the time it runs out in a few years the people who buy this sort of prebuilt system will be upgrading to something newer and much faster anyway. Reply
  • MattZN - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    I have to disagree re: upgrades. Intel has kinda programmed consumers into believing that they have to buy a whole new machine whenever they upgrade. In the old old days we actually did have to upgrade in order to get better monitor resolutions because the busses kept changing.

    But in modern times that just isn't the case any more. For Intel, it turned into an excuse to get people to pay more money. We saw it in spades with offerings last year where Intel forced people into a new socket for no reason (a number of people were actually able to get the cpu to work in the old socket with some minor hackery). I don't recall the particular CPU but it was all over the review channels.

    This has NOT been the case for Intel's commercial offerings. The Xeons traditionally have had a whole range of socket-compatible upgrade options. It's Intel's shtick 'Scaleable Xeon CPUs' for the commercial space. I've upgraded several 2S Intel Xeon systems by buying CPUs on E-Bay... its an easy way to double performance on the cheap and businesses will definitely do it if they care about their cash burn.

    AMD has thrown cold water on this revenue source on the consumer side. I think consumers are finally realizing just how much money Intel has been squeezing out of them over the last decade and are kinda getting tired of it. People are happily buying new AMD CPUs to upgrade their existing rigs.

    I expect that Intel will have to follow suit. Intel traditionally wanted consumers to buy whole new computers but now that CPUs offer only incremental upgrades over prior models consumers have instead just been sticking with their old box across several CPU cycles before buying a new one. If Intel wants to sell more CPUs in this new reality, they will have to offer upgradability just like AMD is. I have already upgraded two of my AM4 boxes twice just by buying a new CPU and I will probably do so again when Zen 2 comes out. If I had had to replace the entire machine it would be a non-starter. But since I only need to do a BIOS update and buy a new CPU... I'll happily pay AMD for the CPU.

    Intel's W-3175X is supposed to compete against threadripper, but while it supposedly supports ECC I do not personally believe that the socket has any longevity and that it is a complete waste of money and time to buy into it verses buying into threadripper's far more stable socket and far saner thermals. Intel took a Xeon design that is meant to run closer to the maximally efficient performance/power point on the curve and tried to turn it into a pro-sumer or small-business competitor to the threadripper by removing OC limits and running it hot, on an unstable socket. No thanks.

    -Matt
    Reply
  • Kevin G - Thursday, January 31, 2019 - link

    I would disagree with this. Workstations around here are being retrofitted with old server hand-me-downs from the data center as that requipment is quietly retired. Old workstations make surprisingly good developer boxes, especially considering that the costs is just moving parts from one side of the company to the other.

    Though you do have point that the major OEMs themselves are not offering upgrades.
    Reply
  • drexnx - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    wow, I thought (and I think many people did) that this was just a vanity product, limited release, ~$10k price, totally a "just because we're chipzilla and we can" type of thing

    looks like they're somewhat serious with that $3k price
    Reply
  • MattZN - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    The word 'nonsensical' comes to mind. But setting aside the absurdity of pumping 500W into a socket and trying to pass it off as a usable workstation for anyone, I have to ask Anandtech ... did you run with the scheduler fixes necessary to get reasonable results out of the 2990WX in the comparisons? Because it kinda looks like you didn't.

    The Windows scheduler is pretty seriously broken when it comes to both the TR and EPYCs and I don't think Microsoft has pushed fixes for it yet. That's probably what is responsible for some of the weird results. In fact, your own article referenced Wendel's work here:

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/13853/amd-comments-...

    That said, of course I would still expect this insane monster of Intel's to put up better results. It's just that... it is impractical and hazardous to actually configure a machine this way and expect it to have any sort of reasonable service life.

    And why would Anandtech run any game benchmarks at all? This is a 28-core Xeon... actually, it's two 14-core Xeons haphazardly pasted together (but that's another discussion). Nobody in their right mind is going to waste it by playing games that would run just as well on a 6-core cpu.

    I don't actually think Intel has any intention of actually selling very many of these things. This sort of configuration is impractical with 14nm and nobody in their right mind would buy it with AMD coming out with 10nm high performance parts in 5 months (and Intel probably a bit later this year). Intel has no business putting a $3000 price tag on this monster.

    -Matt
    Reply
  • eddman - Thursday, January 31, 2019 - link

    "it's two 14-core Xeons haphazardly pasted together"

    Where did you get that info? Last time I checked each xeon scalable chip, be it LCC, HCC or XCC, is a monolithic die. There is no pasting together.
    Reply
  • eddman - Thursday, January 31, 2019 - link

    Didn't you read the article? It's right there: "Now, with the W-3175X, Intel is bringing that XCC design into the hands of enthusiasts and prosumers."

    Also, der8auer delidded it and confirmed it's an XCC die. https://youtu.be/aD9B-uu8At8?t=624
    Reply
  • mr_tawan - Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - link

    I'm surprised you put the Duron 900 on the image. That makes me expecting the test result from that CPU too!! Reply

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