The Intel Core i9 X family of CPUs are exclusive chips, targeted only at the hardcore, enthusiast user.
Unveiled at Computex last year, the company also announced a new family of “Core X” processors that offer even more powerful versions of its existing Core i5 and Core i7 models.
The new, top-of-the-line Core i9 is anchored by what the company proudly points out as its first 18-core CPU with 36-threads, the i9-7980X Extreme. The i9 family also comes in 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-core variants.
Intel Core i9
- Intel Core i9
- Intel Core i9
- Intel Core i9 X Series
- An Intel Core i9 Laptop
- Intel Core i9 Price
If you want actionable tips on:
- Intel Core i9 pricing
- what Intel Core i9 CPUs are about
- the possible chance of an i9 laptop
- how the rest of the Core-X line fairs against AMD’s offerings
We’d love to help you answer these questions in this article.
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Intel Core i9
The first salvo of Intel Core i9 processors were sold in June, along with top-end models to arrive in August. Intel claims that this new enthusiast CPU family is 15% faster than the former Broadwell-E.
The ultra-high-end 7980X Extreme is a pricy chip at around $1700. The unprecedented 18-cores refers to the number of individual processing units, which gives the CPU power to handle more distinct tasks at once.
Enthusiasts like gamers, and professionals working with intense programs can expect better support for activities, like 4K gaming on multiple monitor setups, the ability to edit, animate, render, code and perform video/photo editing processes simultaneously.
Intel Core i9 and the AMD Competitor
Intel has been accused of holding out on its consumers to increase profits, and stretch out upgrades. If that’s true, one can’t help but wonder what would have happened to AMD in the past decade.
The 2003-2006 era was the last time AMD could supersede Intel. But the Core 2 was just the chip to sling-shot the brand back in the pole position in 2006; which is where the company has enjoyed success for the past 11 years.
But whether Intel has been holding back or not is irrelevant. The harsh reality for any chip manufacturer is, each succeeding generation makes it increasingly difficult to improve performance.
Intel Core i9 Performance
AMD has only recently been able to compete with the juggernaut thanks to the Ryzen-Series. And the introduction of the 16-core Threadripper for AMD’s high-end desktop X399 platform. It offers a legitimate alternative to the Core X branding.
But like a worthy opponent, Intel has countered by pulling out the big guns with the Core i9-7980X Extreme, which beats AMD’s most powerful consumer processor in megatasking.
The company says that while the additional cores on the Core-X models will help improve multitasking capabilities, technologies like Turbo Boost Max 3.0 ensures that each core is able to achieve peak performance for 10% faster multithreading over the previous generation, and 15% faster single thread.
Intel Core i9 X Series
All the new desktop Core-X processors have been designed to work with Intel’s X299 motherboard chipset, and LGA2066 (Socket R4).
The Core X-Series scales from 4-cores, topping out with the Core i9 Extreme. Rounding out the X-Series family are the quad-core i5-7640X and i7 models in 4-, 6-, and 8-core models.
Almost the entire line of enthusiast processors is built on the sixth-generation Skylake architecture (Skylake-X), which run on the Basin Falls platform. The 4-core models at the bottom of the range are built on the seventh-gen Kaby Lake-X architecture.
The Intel Core i9 and Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Technology
But like any good parent, Intel hasn’t unleashed the Extreme Edition chips out into the world without proper innovations to handle the computational power.
These innovations include Intel’s updated Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Technology, which has been applied to some of the higher-end Core-X models.
In short, it improves performance of Turbo Boosting to support maximum clocks on single and dual-cores; (remember these numbers for the next section).
Turbo Max 3.0 technology seeks the highest stable clockspeed by:
- allowing the CPU to temporarily increase power for short boosts,
- thereby increasing the number of applications that can see the added clockspeed
- to exceed the normal Turbo Boost 2.0 frequency for that core,
- while providing the lowest power draw
- all without overheating.
- This feature is only available on Skylake-X, leaving Kaby Lake-X and the 6-core parts out in the cold.
- You need to enable the feature in the motherboard BIOS,
- then install and run Intel’s custom CPU driver for Windows so it works.
- But since it only effects one core, performance isn’t always as dramatic as you would expect.
Intel Core i9 Clockspeed
The i9 family feature base clock speeds of 3.3GHz. They can reach dual-core speeds of up to 4.3GHz, thanks to Turbo Boost 2.0 technology. And a whopping 4.5GHz speeds with Turbo Boost Max 3.0.
Intel has offered varying turbo states for years; fine-tuning clockspeed is one of the advantages Intel has over AMD’s Ryzen.
You can target higher clocks with fewer active cores, which could mean more stable 2/4/6-core maximum overclocks.
- With Intel, you can set the maximum clockspeed based on the number of cores on the CPU
- With AMD, overclocking any core overclocks the entire CPU to that level.
This could have the effect of forcing users to buy processors based on the number of cores rather than clockspeed.
Intel also has an AVX multiplier offset, which works to push the CPU power and thermal load to the limit.
How Does the Intel Core i9 Achieve This Level of Performance Without Overheating?
As you can imagine, more cores lead to significant heat issues. To solve that problem, Intel is changing its base recommendation for CPU cooling with the X-series chips.
Previous enthusiast CPUs have included boxed air coolers. And, while Skylake-X and LGA2066 are compatible with existing LGA2011 heatsinks. You’ll still want to be careful with heat.
Intel’s list of innovation for the Core-X family continues by developing its own liquid cooling system, the TS13X to keep the 140-watt thermal design points (TDP) under control, which is well above the 91-watts from something like the more affordable, Kaby Lake i7-7700K processor.
PRO TIP: You can run Skylake-X with air cooling. But be careful with overclocking speeds as it will hit thermal/power limits, rather than silicon limits easily (especially when running many cores).
An Intel Core i9 Laptop
Until now, Intel’s laptop chips have been more interesting than its desktop CPUs. A contributing factor is laptops, like ultraportables and convertible which have shifted focus away from delivering as much computer power as possible, to offering processing power efficiently.
As we said, the Core i9 X-Series won’t be the go to for most users. But we predict that for techno geeks looking for the latest way to enhance the performance of their computers, the Core-X chips will be heaven sent.
At the moment, these chips are desktop-only. Which means laptops are left out for a little while. Though, we estimate between $999 and $1,999 for a Core i9 processor on top of the cost of the laptop.
But, newer, faster Intel chips are on the horizon. We can look forward to the 8th Generation “Coffee Lake” Core i-series CPUs, which intel hints could be 30% faster than the seventh-generation Kaby Lake processors.
Intel Core i9 Price
Pricing could be the real kick in the teeth which offsets the type of user that buys one of these chips. (Every additional $200-$300 nets you two more cores.)
Starting with the Intel Gultown which had 6-cores and 12-threads back in 2010, the company has increased ‘enthusiast’ core counts 67% in seven years.
Fortunately for consumers, Intel has to compete against AMD with the Threadripper, which could drive down prices-somewhat.
The Intel Core i9 X Series Prices
The Core X family starts with the Core i5-7640X at $242, which offers 4-cores and 4-threads.
The Core i7 X-Series, meanwhile has the following offerings:
- 7740X: 4 cores and 8 threads priced at $339
- 7800X: 6 cores and 12 threads priced at $389
- 7820X: 8 cores and 16 threads priced at $599
While the Core i9 X-Series rounds out the family with the following prices:
- 7900X: 10 cores and 20 threads priced at $999
- 7920X: 12 cores and 24 threads priced at $1,199
- 7940X: 14 cores and 28 threads priced at $1,399
- 7960X: 16 cores and 32 threads priced at $1,399
- 7980X Extreme: 18 cores and 36 threads priced at $1,999
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Intel steps up its game with the introduction of a new family of processors for enthusiasts with the Core X-Series.
The company says its Core i9 lineup was driven by the surprising demand for last year’s 10-core chip unveiled at Computex last year; an experiment that proved that power enthusiasts want “the best of the best”.
The 7980XE is a huge leap in performance that slakes a power-hungry user’s thirst to play intense games in 4K, and work with 4K content. Laying counterpoint is AMD’s recent line of Ryzen processors which are the first viable competition to the Intel’s Core i5, and Core i7 X series.
But, for the average user (even some gamers) there’s not much call to go beyond 4-cores. Intel plans to add lower core counts to their insane roster, with any eye on scalability for either end.
In addition to Core X, the forthcoming, eighth-generation Coffee Lake promises 15% improvement over the current Kaby Lake.
We’d love to continue this conversation with you over in the comment section, and get a chance to hear your thoughts.