Let’s focus today on some awesome news about coming Intel & AMD CPU units, that of course will improve your way of working with computers on strong tasks. High-end desktop CPUs are the main theme of this article.
Best CPUs do not stay the same
As we know well, nowadays’ technology is evolving constantly, and each year we can see newer, better-quality products launch on the market. This applies to Desktop and Server central processing units (mainly known as CPUs or processors) too, and of course we include the high-end desktop (HEDT) CPUs. And since the CPU is the brain of the computer, we may really want to ensure that our computing machines have some of the best brains!
Some former facts
During the past years, people who are keen on desktop PCs and on CPUs (myself included) have witnessed an increasing, surprising, enthusiast competition between the two giants making processors – that’s to say, Intel and AMD. Going through the previous years, like 2010-2016, Intel had undoubtedly been the leader of the market, speaking in a matter of CPU power which translated into core frequencies, operations per second (or let’s just call it IPC – instructions per clock) and subsequently into market visibility and attractiveness.
From 2017 on, times have changed substantially since the Ryzen and Threadripper platforms have come out from AMD, along with the innovative, progressing Zen architecture. Of course, Intel developed new mainstream and especially high-end desktop CPU generations too (launched newer Core i7 pieces and also the powerful i9 generation, giving birth to platforms such as Skylake-X, Cascade Lake), while AMD went further with newer Ryzen and Threadripper versions. And both companies increased the desktop / mainstream CPU core counts, pushing the limits far beyond what we could see 5-10 or more years ago.
The present situation
As of today, towards the end of 2019, AMD owns the leadership in CPU core counts and multithreading powers, which we can easily understand if we do some Cinebench research and make comparisons between the corresponding flagships of AMD and Intel (and of course comparing smaller-powered high-end CPUs and mainstream ones). And while the most powerful AMD High-End Desktop CPU being currently available is the 32-core, 64-thread Threadripper 2990WX that was launched last year in August, and Intel flagships have stayed at 18-core, 36-thread since 2017 (Core i9 7980XE, 9980XE, the newest 10080XE that was recently launched), there are newer and stronger, overkill CPUs to come ahead!
Exposing the strongest examples
So, starting from this very month of November, AMD is going to launch new 3rd-gen Threadripper processors, that surely are better versions of their predecessors, taking into account the fact that AMD is building them based on a fresh Zen architecture (the so-called Zen2) that uses a lithography process of 7 nanometers (nm), while the previous Threadrippers were manufactured on 14nm Zen (the first generation including the 16-core Threadripper 1950X) and then on 12-nm Zen+ (the second). This thing called lithography process can be considered as the cell dimension of CPUs, just like the biological cells our bodies are made of.
It looks like not only will be see 16, 24 and 32-core counterparts for Threadrippers, but at January 2020 we may even witness an even stronger Threadripper that will double the core and thread count: the 7nm zen2 AMD Ryzen Threadripper 3990X, having an enormous 64-core & 128-thread power!
And perhaps we will see also a 48-core, 96-thread 3980X AMD Threadripper, but this is not sure yet. We have to wait until January and see what’s going on. Tomorrow, the 7th of November, there will be a round of official announcements from AMD regarding Threadrippers, and the first market launches are scheduled for two weeks later (November 19). There is a large probability that the next big Threadrippers be unveiled at CES 2020, and this event is not yet to happen, not before January.
Now, let’s give AMD a break and talk about what Intel is planning to do. In the recent years they stuck at 14nm technology, releasing several generations one after another and considering them as 14nm (the first) then 14nm+, and 14nm++, while their long-term rival AMD has already gone towards 12nm and 7nm lithographies. Intel’s latest high-end desktop, 14nm-based CPU generations (known as i9), sorted in chronological order, are as following:
– Skylake-X from the 7th generation, launched in 2017, ranging from 10 up to 18 cores (i9-7980XE is the flagship);
– Coffee Lake & Coffee Lake Refresh, belonging to 8th and 9th generation, that came out in 2018 and 2019, having six cores (the 8th-gen i9-8950HK) and 8 cores (the others from the next generation);
– Skylake-X refreshed, from the 9th generation, that launched between November 2018 and January 2019 and range from 10 to 18 cores as their previous 7th-gen counterparts, and their 18-core flagship is the 9980XE;
– Cascade Lake-X, from the tenth generation, that are about to come out and have improved features and increased performance. They should be going to be available on the market soon, since November 25th is their official launch date, and they also keep the traditional 10-up-to-18 cores range (however without the 16-core 10960X part, that one is not in the roadmap). This family brings significant progresses in memory support: 256 GB DDR4-2933MHz maximum memory support on the motherboard, up to 4800 MHz running frequencies supported on board (overclocking also comes in), updated Intel Turbo Boost 3.0 technologies, just to give three examples, and featured technologies like the Thunderbolt 3 support.
Some details about the Cascade Lake-X flagship processor here:
Other good news about this generation is that Intel dropped the prices at about one half with respect to the price range of the previous 7th and 9th-gen HEDT Core i9 CPUs, meaning that the flagship i9-10080XE is supposed to have a just $979 US release price, while the i9-9980XE costed $1979 US last year, and back in September 2017 the i9-7980XE was priced at $1999 US, which means that the newest Intel HEDT CPUs from Intel are more affordable for users who want strong and modern computers with processors as such!
And we are not finished yet! We may also talk a bit about Intel’s server Xeons that are scheduled for the next year (2020). Of course we are now exiting our known Desktop PC area, but history teaches us that the CPU progress starts from the server side. And this applies also to AMD, with their 7nm-based Epyc Rome 128-threaded CPUs being launched last summer, half a year before the desktop Threadripper counterparts! It sounds bright, doesn’t it?
So in 2020 we should witness the release of the new Ice Lake Xeons with 38 cores and 76 threads on the 10 nanometer lithography (well, Intel is not that power-of-two-based in core counts, like AMD is) and at 270W of power. There is also going to be a 14nm Cooper Lake Xeon family (based on – you perhaps guessed – a 14nm+++ process node) having 48 cores / 96 threads and up to 300W power-rated.
In order to be complete about the high-end server part of Intel, we have to add that there already exists also a 56-core, 112-threaded Cascade Lake-AP system consisting of two processor dies that are packaged together inside the same substrate (that is called BGA-5903). And AP stands for Advanced Performance.
Moreover, the Cooper Lake family is planned to have a 112-threaded part by itself. But once again, this is about servers, not about the widely available Desktop PC configurations that we are interested in the first place. And server components are far more expensive.
The CPU segment of the hardware market is a dynamic and a fascinating one, especially when we look at high-end desktop and server components, and we have to stay put during the time if we want the latest news from this area of interest. We are coming through some important years of progress in the Hardware domain, with new elements that appear to be stronger and stronger. And we know so well that by “computer hardware” we mean also other things besides processors, whereby the progress applies as well.