More 14+++, No 10nm in Sight

For readers that haven’t followed Intel’s manufacturing story as of late, we are desperately awaiting the arrival of Intel’s 10nm process node technology to come to the desktop market in a big way. Intel has historically been at the forefront of process node developments since the start of the century, and it first started discussing its 10nm node back in 2010 (when it was called ‘11nm’), and slowly started to push through its process technology cadence. Initially promised in 2015, Intel declared that it had shipped some 10nm products in late December in 2017, although we didn’t see anything with 10nm in the market until mid-to-late 2018.

In 2019, we have had Intel’s 10nm products now pop up in portable form factors, such as high-end laptops. This is hardware that is far from ubiquitous, but at least it isn’t vaporware any more. We even tested the reference system earlier this year before they went on sale, and the results were fairly good by comparison. However, despite this, we have yet to see 10nm on the desktop. Intel has promised 10nm Ice Lake Xeons for enterprise (production ramp H2 2020), and has stated that 10nm ‘will come to the desktop’, but Intel isn't there quite yet.

To that end, we get more 14nm products. Officially Intel doesn’t like to mention whether a product is on its 14nm process, 14+, 14++, or anything beyond that – partly because it just further indicates that it isn’t 10nm, but also it wants to focus its messaging on the product regardless of the process node. One of Intel’s VPs, at a recent tour of its fabs by the European press, stated in not so many words that ‘consumers don’t care about process nodes, so you shouldn’t either’. Take from that what you will.

In the high-end desktop market, like the enterprise market, we expect a slower cadence compared to the bleeding edge used in the mainstream markets and notebook markets. Even with that in mind, today’s launch is Intel’s third line of HEDT processors on 14nm, following Skylake-X with the 7980XE family and a Skylake-X Refresh with the 9980XE family. The new family is called ‘Cascade Lake-X’, promising better support for high-end memory (up from 128 GB to 256 GB), more PCIe lanes (44 to 48), and more frequency (+100 MHz), for a lower cost ($979 for 18-cores, rather than $1929) and more hardened security updates (the first round of Spectre/Meltdown).

The issue Intel has, with not executing on its 10nm plans, is that the competition has caught up and surpassed them. By utilizing TSMC’s 7nm process, AMD has taken advantage of its chiplet strategy to drive higher core counts on a more efficient process, with smaller chips to allow for a better binning strategy and helps higher yields than big chips with the same defect rate.

So where Intel offers 18 cores with AVX-512, AMD offers 16 cores with better IPC and higher frequencies, at a lower price. Intel’s platform is HEDT, so it does come with more memory and PCIe lanes, and users wanting that on the latest AMD will have to jump up another 40% in cost, but will get 24-cores instead.

Benchmark wise, our results show that the 10980XE sits pretty much where the 9980XE did, albeit at half the price. What the 10980XE does well is that users who want a high-end desktop platform around $1000, with more memory and more PCIe lanes, can either use Intel’s latest solution, or an older AMD solution. AMD has priced its high-end desktop parts out of this market ($1399+), and is hoping that users at this price range don’t need high memory or high PCIe counts. So in an unusual turn of events, after having previously charged a sizable premium even within the HEDT lineup for extra PCIe lanes, now it's Intel who is offering the best deal for peripheral I/O.

Intel’s product fits in nicely with what the competition has to offer, but they no longer have the crown. Intel loves that halo spot, but it’s going to be a tough climb for it to get it back. We might have to wait until we see a consumer 10nm HEDT part for that, and the roadmap doesn’t look to great from where we’re standing. If Ice Lake Xeons are the priority in 2H 2020, that puts any 10nm for the $500-$1000 market in 2021.

Gaming: F1 2018
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  • milkywayer - Monday, November 25, 2019 - link

    Thank you AMD for strong arming the serial-milker Intel. Price cut from $1900 to $900. Hard to believe Intel would cut down on the core count milking. Am I dreaming? Reply
  • regsEx - Monday, November 25, 2019 - link

    Mind it was Intel and without any competition who lowered mainstream price from $500 to $300 back in 2011. 3700X would cost $500 now if not that. So thank you, Intel. Reply
  • Spunjji - Monday, November 25, 2019 - link

    Balderdash. Near the end of 2010 you could get a 6-core AMD Phenom II CPU for $270. By 2011, an "8 core" 4-module Bulldozer cost the same and Intel's products were priced to compete with that.

    So, uh, thanks again AMD..?
    Reply
  • karmapop - Monday, November 25, 2019 - link

    Sorry, but you may want to dig back into the review archives for some untinted perspective on that info. In fact, you're both incorrect. That mainstream performance pricing shift happened in 2008, with the introduction of the Yorkfield Core 2 Quad chips, and more importantly the Bloomfield Core i7 (with the i7-920 becoming that $300 darling entry point for the enthusiast platform).

    Those mid-2010 Thuban Phenom II X6 chips? Passably competitive with the lowest end quad-core Bloomfield chips (which were already on the market for a year and a half prior). And let's just forget about the dumpster fire that was Bulldozer, given that fabled FX-8150 had trouble matching the old Thuban Phenom II X6 at launch.
    Reply
  • nt300 - Tuesday, November 26, 2019 - link

    The FX 8350 & FX 8320 Piledriver CPUs saved AMDs bacon and proved to be more than enough for modern PC Gaming back in the day. They held great price/performance and were highly cost effective. Among Steamroller, then Excavator for the APU markets, they've held AMD afloat just in time for the superior ZEN launch. Now sit back and watch Intel finally struggle, deservingly so. Reply
  • yeeeeman - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    They were so crap that AMD could boast 50% better ipc with zen over bulldozer, while still being lower than Skylake. Reply
  • Korguz - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    too bad zen has better ipc then intel now... Reply
  • Gondalf - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    According to the official Spec submissions nope, Zen 2 is on pair with Skylake (bypassing the huge L3). More or less AMD enlarged the L3 just to have the lead, this have a cost obviously, the 7nm silicon is pretty expensive. Try to image a 9900K with 32MB of L3 with the same latency.
    You will have a winner.
    Reply
  • Korguz - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    gondalf
    sorry but zen 2 does have better ipc then intel does now.. why else does intel need such high clocks to compete with lower clocked chips ?? explain that one.. clock for clock.. zen 2.. has better ipc...
    Reply
  • Qasar - Wednesday, November 27, 2019 - link

    gondalf : According to the official Spec submissions " what spec submissions page ? also.. if you think having a large L3 cache is the reason why zen has more ipc then intel, then there is something wrong. if that was the case, WHY didnt intel do the same with the 10xxx series they just released ? keep in mind, 10xxx series, as 10 megs more of L2 to play around with... lets see you explain that as well. Reply

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