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
Xeon
W-3175X
Core i9
9990XE
Core i9
9900KS
AnandTech Ryzen
7 3950X
TR 2
2990WX
EPYC
7542
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
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  • willis936 - Monday, October 28, 2019 - link

    >but also pay experts and specialists to tune those systems for high latency

    I believe this should read "low latency".
    Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    Yup. And while correcting:
    > Against AMD counterparts, that 5.0 GHz frequency carves through anything like butter.

    That is rather optimistic... the Intel is frequently bested by the 3700x and especially the 3900x - I would expect a 3950X might even win the majority of tests run here.
    Reply
  • jospoortvliet - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    I went ahead and did a quick count:
    * 3900X has 13 wins (7 more than 10%)
    * 9990XE has 21 wins (10 more than 10%)

    Now obviously the 9990XE is faster, but it better be with 2 more cores and 5 ghz and 400 watt power use and a price - well... ;-)

    But it sure isn't the slam dunk it is described at - Ian writes like this monster wins in >90% of the tests, which it doesn't, not by a long shot. If it was readily available at $600 and had a TDP of 140W, I'd call it a winner, even if it doesn't *always* win. But if intel has to go THIS extreme and still loses in over 1/3rd of the graphs here at Anandtech, it is more a show of weakness if anything.

    And all that while we await the 3950X and new gen Threadripper - it is good for Intel that they weren't out yet and part of the benchmark, otherwise the halo would be even harder to make out...
    Reply
  • Netmsm - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    Agree;
    I expected to read a completely impartial review, like always, but I feel some sort of inclination to bold strengths in a way that a true discussion of 9990xe's weaknesses is out of favor!
    Reply
  • jgraham11 - Tuesday, October 29, 2019 - link

    Agreed!

    Look at that amazing performance at 250W (which will probably run even hotter, just like the 9900k "stock (95W)" vs out of box settings(140W+)

    Compared to the AMD 3900X at half the power(105W), that thing is a heater!

    Same story as all the other recent articles about Intel chips:
    Intel runs old games better, runs hotter, consumes more power, higher clock speed!

    AMD runs new games better, runs cooler, consumes less power (in this case half at least), runs applications better
    Reply
  • ballsystemlord - Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - link

    I agree too. Ian was too excited when writing this review.

    I'm more concerned that we'll have to stare at this processor in the lineup from now on as each AMD TR3 processor is covered. That's totally unfair because this CPU is for auction only and in limited supply permanently.
    Thus it'll look like Intel wins everything all the time. And then there are the people who will call this site a shill site because of that...
    Reply
  • NikosD - Friday, November 1, 2019 - link

    The whole article is another desperate move from Intel, just a few weeks before AMD releases Ryzen 3950X 16C/32T and new Threadripper 3rd gen.
    Unfortunately they found Anandtech and Dr. Ian Cutress again, to support their pathetic effort with some credibility.
    And suddenly after publishing this kind of article, the problem moves from Intel's side to Anandtech's side.
    My condolences.
    Reply
  • peevee - Monday, October 28, 2019 - link

    "This ultra-rare thing isn’t sold to consumers – Intel only sells it to select partners, and even then it is only sold via an auction, once per quarter, with no warranty from Intel."

    Pathetic strategy for bragging rights only...
    Reply
  • fackamato - Monday, October 28, 2019 - link

    I think you're in the wrong forums?

    Of course people will buy this if it brings value to them versus the price they have to pay.
    Reply
  • bananaforscale - Thursday, October 31, 2019 - link

    Sure, if value == bragging rights. Or if they have more money than sense. Reply

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