By Bill Thomas
Over the last few years, there has been a ton of newfound competition in the CPU space – reigniting the endless war of AMD vs Intel. Enter Skylake-X, Intel’s answer to AMD’s massively successful Ryzen and Threadripper CPUs.
First, a history lesson. Back in 2017, AMD revealed its Ryzen line of processors and caught Intel by surprise. For a little while, no one knew how Intel was going to strike back. There were, of course, rumors that Intel would launch Cannon Lake at Computex 2017, but that got delayed yet again. Instead, Intel announced a new line of Core i9 processors, based on the Skylake-X architecture, aiming to reclaim the high-end desktop market.
And, in large part, Skylake-X was successful. Intel launched the Core i9-7980XE at Computex 2017, and while we all knew it was going to happen, we were still impressed by its performance – even though it came in at a price that was prohibitive to say the least. But, it doesn’t stop there.
Later, Intel announced a new HEDT ‘Basin Falls Refresh’ line of processors based on Skylake-X, along with a 28-core Xeon W chip due to release in December 2018.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? Intel’s 8th Generation high-end desktop processors
- When is it out? June 2017
- What will it cost? From $389 (£329, AU$519) to $1,979 (£1,649, AU$2,729)
Intel released the lower-end Skylake-X processors immediately following their reveal at Computex 2017 with the Core i7-7800X, Core i7-7820X and Core i9-7900X. All of which released on June 19, 2017.
And then, Intel released three more enterprise-level processors in the following months, with the Intel Core i9-7920X, Core i9-7940X and Core i9-7960X all releasing by September 2017. Then, finally, Intel launched the beast itself, the Core i9-7980XE in late september, absolutely destroying everything in its path.
And, now that Kaby Lake-X chips are a thing – or, were a thing when they died unceremoniously – you might be thinking to yourself that all the fun ended with the 7980XE. However, Skylake-X isn’t dead yet.
Intel’s newest addition to this family was announced on October 8, 2018 in the form of the 28-core Intel Xeon W-3175X processor. This latest Skylake-X chip is due to ship by December 2018.
The biggest thing holding Intel Skylake-X chips from an easy recommendation is their price – they’re some of the most expensive consumer CPUs you can buy today. If you want to pick up a Core i9 processor for your latest build, you might actually need to sell your car first, as they start out around $999 (about £750, AU$1,340).
Now, the Core i7 Skylake X processors are a bit more reasonable, but you’re still paying to adopt a high-end platform, so don’t expect to base a budget build off of Skylake-X. Below you can find the pricing for all of the Skylake-X processors currently available.
- Intel Core i7-7800X: $383 ( £329, AU$519)
- Intel Core i7-7820X: $589 (£509, AU$799)
- Intel Core i9-7900X: $989 (£819, AU$1,309)
- Intel Core i9-7920X: $1,189 (£990, AU$1,589)
- Intel Core i9-7940X: $1,387 (£1,099, AU$1,899)
- Intel Core i9-7960X: $1,684 (£1,399, AU$2,279)
- Intel Core i9-7980XE: $1,979 (£1,649, AU$2,729)
As for the Basin Falls Refresh chips coming out later this year, we don’t know the pricing yet. However, we do know that the 28-core A-series chip is going to be extremely expensive – building a PC with that CPU slotted in will likely set you back $10,000.
This is where Intel flexes its silicon muscles with Skylake-X. If you have the cash, you’re going to have a hard time finding better performance from a consumer CPU. At least, until the CPUs Intel and AMD showed off at Computex 2018 make it to market.
With the Skylake-X Core i9 processors, you’re paying for core counts that are, frankly, bananas. Starting with the Core i9-7900X, you’re getting 10 cores with 20 threads – clocked at 3.3GHz with a boost clock of 4.3GHz and a 13.75MB L3 cache. Even at the baseline, the Core i9 processors are overkill for anything like gaming.
It only gets better from here. The Core i9-7920X includes 12-cores and 24-threads with a core clock of 2.9GHz that turbos up to 4.3GHz – with an even more impressive 16.5MB L3 Cache. Then, you have the Core i9-7940X with 14-cores and 28-threads, with core clock of 3.1GHz and boosting up to 4.3GHz. This is topped off with a whopping 19.25MB L3 cache.
Then, when you get to the top end of the Core i9 stack, you get processors that defy physics. The Core i9-7960X features 16-cores, 32-threads, a 4.2GHz boost clock and 22MB of L3 Cache. And, if that’s still not enough, the top-of-the-line Core i9-7980XE comes with 18 cores and 36 threads, clocked at 2.6GHz with a 4.2GHz boost clock.
If these absurdly high-end processors are a little out of your reach, there are still some high-performing Skylake-X processors that don’t cost as much as your car.
There are two Skylake-X Core i7 processors available in the Core i7-7800X and the Core i7-7820X. While they don’t reach the same highs as their Core i9 counterparts, they’re still worthwhile chips. The Core i7-7800X features 6-cores and 12-threads, clocked at 3.5GHz with a turbo boost of 4.0GHz. The Core i7-7820X is much beefier, with 8-cores and 16-threads, clocking in at 3.6GHz and boosting up to 4.3GHz.
Now, we’d actually recommend going with the Core i7-7800X or the Core i7-7820X for most average users. However, as you can see above, if your workload requires it, Intel Skylake-X allows for massive amounts of computational power – as long as you have the budget to support it.
Keep in mind, though, that none of these Skylake-X processors come with a heatsink in the box. However, if you’re using this high-end platform, you’re probably going to be using an aftermarket cooler anyways, so no big loss there.
Intel newest Skylake-X chip, the Intel Xeon W-3175X, seems to be beyond the realm of these other HEDT chips. With a name like Xeon, this CPU is designed for more enterprise usage than enthusiast overclocking.
Although the chip first debuted at Computex 2018 with a 5.0GHz boost clock, it was later revealed that Intel was actually overclocking while immersing the chip in liquid-nitrogen. Without an extreme setup, you’re more likely to see this chip running at a maximum 4.3GHz.
Although Intel has yet to reveal a new chipset for the Xeon W-3175X, this CPU comes with a greatly expanded support platform. Team Blue has said the chip will support 68 PCIe lanes, 6-channel memory for up to 512GB of RAM running at 2,666MHz. All told, this maybe the processor to finally outpace the Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX and Threadripper 2970WX.
- Meanwhile, AMD is forging ahead with Ryzen Threadripper 2nd Generation