Intel Core i9-9990XE Conclusion

Intel never really announced the Core i9-9990XE into the market. We broke the story this year at CES in January after confirming from several sources in that initial auction said that it was taking place – a 14-core 5.0 GHz CPU and an unknown quantity would be available for select system integrators and OEM partners to bid on. There is no warranty from Intel, so these integrators were taking a risk, and could ultimately bid too high for a chip that might not sell.

In the end, that initial auction fell to (at least) three companies, of which two ended up with the CPUs. We very quickly found out that CaseKing snapped up most of them, and the company eventually ended up putting them for direct sale (with 1 year warranty) on their connected websites for €2999 (now €2849) as well as offering several of their high profile water cooled extreme overclocked systems with the chip inside. We also saw Puget Systems with at least one, and another companies was ICC, an Intel partner that focuses on a number of markets including the financial market. It was ICC who built a 1U system for this chip and sampled the system for us to review.

The system was provided with custom proprietary liquid cooling, which we’re not able to show you. The thing is a beast, however, and can appropriately cool up to 400W of CPU in a 1.75-inch form factor. It’s also loud, registering 78 decibels whether the system is at idle or running a full workload. Given that it is a 1U server, this would suggest that a datacenter is the best place for it. I have no doubt that it could be transferred into a tower, although much like the 28-core Xeon W-3175X we tested in January, it requires a substantial cooling setup to be tamed.

In performance, the tweaked system from ICC was built for low latency financial trading. It was only paired with 32 GB of DDR4, but running at DDR4-3600 with tuned subtimings. We added in our standard testing SSD and GPU, although due to the complexity of the system build we weren’t able to run games on this thing. But for raw ST performance, the Core i9-9990XE puts all the other high-end desktop chips to shame – as it should do. Everything from Intel on a Core chip gets obliterated, and against the Xeon W-3175X which has 28-cores, the Xeon does go ahead just on the multithreaded stuff but this Core i9-9990XE kills it when frequency is the limiting factor. This shows up in our compile test, where the right balance of cores and frequency are needed - the Core i9-9990XE set a new world record in our benchmark. There are some caveats - the mesh frequency does seem to be a little bit of a hold back in some tests, or frequency going in and out of turbo modes can cause additional delays in tests.

Against AMD counterparts, that 5.0 GHz frequency carves through anything like butter. Where AMD has to play is on its 32-core Threadripper CPUs, and even then it’s a tradeoff – 14 cores at 5.0 GHz against 32 cores at ~3.4 GHz means that the 2990WX has a lead only it’s a raw compute problem, but put in any memory limited scenario, or add in AVX2/AVX512, and the Core i9-9990XE is going to win.

We obviously haven’t talked price. The W-3175X is a similar $3000 to the i9-9990XE, but has ECC support and six memory channels, but doesn’t have that single thread frequency. The 2990WX is a NUMA design that works well in focused applications rather than the i9-9990XE which works well in almost every scenario, but the 2990WX is 30-40% cheaper.

Comparing the i9-9990XE
Intel   AMD
Core i9
Core i9
AnandTech Ryzen
7 3950X
TR 2
28 14 8 Cores 16 32 32
56 28 16 Threads 32 64 64
3.1 4.0 4.0 Base 3.5 3.0 2.9
  5.0 5.0 All-Core      
4.5 5.0 5.0 Turbo 4.7 4.2 3.4
255 W 255 W 127 W? TDP 105 W 250 W 225W
6 x 2666 4 x 2666 2 x 2666 DDR4 2 x 3200 4 x 2933 8 x 3200
48 44 16 PCIe 24 64 128
$2999 $auction $513 MSRP $749 $1799 $3400

Then around the corner we have Intel’s 8-core 5.0 GHz processor, the Core i9-9900KS. This is a consumer level processor, with only two memory channels and 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, but is set to be $513 when launched in a couple of days (October 30th). Users interested in an all-core 5.0 GHz processor out of the box (i.e., not overclocked) are likely to find that the 9900KS acts as a good starter position, which might be able to be scaled with the 9990XE when things like memory bandwidth start becoming an issue.

On the topic of sustainability, no-one is going to be able to deploy the Core i9-9990XE en-mass: Intel only has a few chips that meet the specifications, and these are auctioned to system integrators. So unless a customer wants a specific number, they will have to work with an system integrator with a set budget for that auction in mind, and even then, there’s no guarantee that Intel will have that many chips available (or if someone will outbid you). There’s also no-warranty on the parts from the perspective of the system integrator, so that adds additional cost. Companies looking at one of these systems might have to consider them as one-offs for their deployment, whereas by comparison, we expect there to be more Core i9-9900KS processors in the wild for companies to buy direct from retailers.

Ultimately, the Core i9-9990XE is a curio. It’s a hell of a curio, that’s for sure. It is like one of the house robots on Robot Wars (UK) or BattleBots (US): something completely outside the rules of normal sportsmanship and is big enough to beat you to a pulp, and it’s very rare that you would even own one, not at least before it owns you.


Power Consumption, Frequencies, and Thermals


View All Comments

  • xrror - Monday, October 28, 2019 - link

    Hey Ian, please again thank ICC for letting you guys have a full run though with one of these systems.

    While yes, this will never be a practical option for the vast majority of people, it IS one VERY AWESOME datapoint(s) for benchmark purposes. No more hypothetical "but what if 5Ghz Skylake" no - you have actual numbers, it shows the scaling for Intel's current'ish gen out to the extreme end.

    I hope you are able to run more on this box to fill out the numbers in Bench - (which you may have already, I haven't actually looked yet).

    Again thanks to ICC and Anandtech for this.
  • MrAndroidRobot - Monday, October 28, 2019 - link

    If like to see how the 3900X fairs in comparison given its 12C/24T and holds up well against current TR/HEDT CPUs Reply
  • krumme - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    I cant really tell how this is different from my 8700k from a performance perspective.

    Looking at the article i think this is cheap marketing. Good move. But anyways it's crazy 14c cpu is now touted for their single thread performance. Seriously one have to wonder the meaning of all this. What am i doing here? Lol
  • TheJian - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    Please test SLOWER/VERY SLOW not FAST/FASTER for encoding. I would not STORE anything ripped at FAST/FASTER...LOL. Who rips at this crap quality level? Besides, with 14c why wouldn't you want top quality (or fairly close)? It's not much more time and might yield completely different results. Never understood why people keep running tests that are NOT how we would USE the tested device/game etc. Test it like we USE it or quit wasting your (our?) time.

    Raise your hand if you're ripping your blurays with fast/faster settings...Nobody. You can rip with SLOWER faster than you can create the content on these chips today, so why ruin your vid? L4.1 HIGH, VERY SLOW. Done (and I do 2pass, control other settings too, but you get the point). Nobody is archiving anything with your settings right? Emulate the pirates (seriously, one NFO file can tell you a LOT about these settings) :) They would NUKE your rip. Mediainfo can tell you all the settings also if you don't know where to get an nfo file from the people who've been ripping since the net started...LOL. Just saying...It's like claiming 1440p is the new enthusiast resolution (Ryan did this in his 660ti article...ROFL - see the comment section where I destroyed that crap), which isn't even true TODAY...LOL. YEARS later. Wake me when 1440p hits 10%. Right now it takes 1440p+4k to hit ~6.5% total...ROFL. 1440p is STILL not even 5% yet (4.98...ROFL). 1080p however 65%! Hmm, where should we spend MOST of our time testing then? Ah, UNDER 1440p with 4k being a complete joke still at 1.6%.
    Wrong still for 7yrs Ryan Smith, AND counting. Is 10% even good enough to call it the new enthusiast resolution? Maybe Ryan will be right 2020. I digress...Don't even get me started on the complete BS that 4k testing is (1.6% of 130mil steam users say 4k is still dead). Apparently people don't like turning crap down (that devs meant for us to SEE) as much as Ryan etc think. :)
  • GreenReaper - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    It's true that relatively few systems have a high-resolution screen. In fact I'd go further and say that for general usage of current systems, the combination of 4K+1440p is closer to 3% (with 1440p being ~2.5% of that). That's what I see on my media hosting website.

    However, enthusiasts *are* the 3%. Or at least a lot of it. Most people use all-in-ones, work laptops, or school netbooks. They may install Steam on them and game on them, because they have to - they probably didn't buy new hardware specifically to do so. Reviews are all about new hardware.

    If they *did* want to buy a new piece of video hardware, they may want to know how it'd perform if also buying a 1440p monitor and plug it in, perhaps once prices come down a bit. Or even 4K!

    It's also a better way to measure GPU power than running them in a CPU-limited zone (after all, your GPU may end be paired with a future CPU by the time you buy it). The higher-end cards that tend to be reviewed are also intended to potentially last multiple CPU cycles - in reality I suspect most buy something further down the scale and just use it with one CPU, but it's an option.

    Your point is fairer with IGP, but that's what IGP level is for. Most serious gamers are not using IGP. And this review doesn't *have* any GPU tests, though, so your comment may be better saved for one that does; it came off as ranting a little too hard about Ryan. :-)
  • TheJian - Wednesday, November 6, 2019 - link

    Of course reviews are about new hardware...But the point is about HOW you test them. Are you acting like I'll MAYBE, if the wind blows right, stars align, etc, in 5yrs, or are you testing for what we will do with it for the next few years NOW? You know, like what I actually BOUGHT it for, NOW. I'm an enthusiast (know pretty much only them, since only deal with IT people pretty much), and have nothing like what they are pushing (no 4k desire for anyone I know, most not on 1440p). It isn't because I can't afford 4k, just don't care (for many reasons currently, lacking gpus for one, you need TWO still). I can afford those two titans every month too, but what for? They'd fry me in my PC room after 30mins of gaming due to heat in my state. So I'm stuck waiting for a 7nm NV card that takes AMD's 7nm a step further in watts heat (or I'll just downclock their no doubt better 7nm version since they waited) so I can play my next monitor (hopefully xmas this year or next) at max details, and of course my current 1920x1200 will be maxed finally by it until I finally see a monitor I want (c'mon dell 30+ with gsync). I'll pay $1200, just make it!

    I see nothing wrong with "ranting" (not how I see it, but whatever) if you're still right and it is relevant to 95% of users who are STILL not using stuff like they seem to think we do (and you keep testing stuff WRONG over and over). The point is a pattern of reviewing products in ways we don't actually use them. If 95% of users were running 4k monitors, it would be just as stupid to test 720p all day in every review right? Unless you're trying to prove a specific point by doing said test, there is no reason to wash rinse and repeat this. Your review should cover your audience NOW, with a mention of the future maybe as an afterthought (like RTX on day one, hmm, hope they use it). RTX didn't fly off the shelves until more about the features came out. Most people don't care about the future of their tech, they are buying for today's perf or features they need.

    No, The same people buy new titans yearly (Multiple Titans in many cases, 4 at a time, 2080ti's also) according to Jen Hsun himself. The bulk of top sales go to the same rich who can afford them yearly easily. Heck I can afford them too (easy with no Visa bills, no car (cash), no cell, no cabletv (just HSI), just don't care to act rich for not much more perf :)

    More than 3% buy enthusiast cards. Heck 3% of sales is likely Titans alone, and that card alone is not what I call enthusiasts (Ryan thought it was 660ti back then, it was NOT the top card, probably correct too, but it wasn't built for 1440p he was pushing). Anything over $250, you're probably more than a casual gamer.

    NO serious gamer is using igp...LOL. Do you know serious gamers who play 720p with details down? I don't say NEVER test 4k or 1440p, I say there is no need to spend 2/3 of each review of gpus on this crap (you can read many posts of mine in reviews like this). TEST more of what we PLAY at NOW, RIP at quality levels most would want to watch, etc. When the future comes, I'll be on other hardware (probably most enthusiasts huh?)...ROFL. Test a few games a year in a 4k review, no need to do it repeatedly as if it is used by more than a few %. People are FAR more interested in how it works NOW as I use it, than "futureproof" junk I may never use if nobody supports it ever. I'm not against testing a 4k game per review, but not a 4k test for every game in said review. Same for ripping, I humbly ask who watches this crap quality? Why are all the ripping tests in crap qual? They turn off stuff users specifically BUY NV cards for. You know, like acting CUDA wouldn't be used by a NV buyer if they had a choice. Nobody buys NV to do OpenCL...ROFLMAO. You buy for CUDA if you can for your app. I could go on, but you should get the point: TEST IT LIKE WE USE IT, no matter what you're testing today, tomorrow, etc.

    My point is fair for ALL single gpu cards, as there isn't one yet that can do 4K on ALL games without turning tons of crap down on a per game basis. Pricing isn't bad, so this is clearly a big deal to people. No point in buying something new, only to degrade it's perf out of the box just to get enough fps to enjoy your game (not as the dev intended you to see it at this point either). But, then, I don't enjoy that game at this point. I need the details ON.

    IF, if, but, maybe...blah...How about spending MOST of your time testing what we actually DO with whatever you are reviewing, instead of wasting time on what YOU WISH we used this stuff for. This is why Anandtech is my last resort these days and tomshardware even less used (same site really now).
  • mode_13h - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    Isn't the myth of high-frequency traders using tuned CPUs a bit overblown? I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but would they really even go so far as to forego ECC memory? Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    I guess you have to be fastest to earn serious money. And there's no "fast" ECC RAM in terms of desktop OC. If with ECC you can get a guaranteed answer too late, it's not going to matter. Better risk the seldom error without ECC - it's probably going to be fine... Reply
  • Bp_968 - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    So I'm a true blood capitalist but I just don't see the utility or reason for existence for "high speed trading". They are making money on the difference between prices at the millisecond level. It offers nothing back to society and seems to exist only due to how stock and commodity trading works.

    Stocks should exist for public ownership of companies, to provide funding for those companies and hopefully for the stockholders to benefit from the growth and profit of said companies.

    It shouldn't exsist as a glorified casino game, which is essentially what "high speed trading" is.
  • crotach - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    So it's good at compiling stuff? Reply

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