With someone in the press having broken their embargo earlier today, Intel is lifting the lid earlier than planned on their upcoming Cascade Lake-X family of processors for the high-end desktop (HEDT) market. Similar to the way Intel's Cascade Lake based Xeon Scalable processors are a further revision of their Skylake Xeons, offering clock speed increases and security fixes in hardware, the new HEDT processors will grant higher frequencies, more memory capacity, and better protection against side-channel attacks. The key numbers however are the big drop in Intel's pricing: Intel will be releasing its 18-core part, the Core i9-10980XE, for under $1000.

Intel Cascade Lake-X
AnandTech Cores
Base All
TB2 TB3 TDP Price
Core i9-10980XE 18C / 36T 3.0 3.8 4.6 4.8 165 W $979
Core i9-10940X 14C / 28T 3.3 4.1 4.6 4.8 165 W $784
Core i9-10920X 12C / 24T 3.5 4.3 4.6 4.8 165 W $689
Core i9-10900X 10C / 20T 3.7 4.3 4.5 4.7 165 W $590
Skylake-X (previous generation)
Core i9-9980XE 18C / 36T 3.0   4.5 4.7 165 W $1979
Core i9-9940X 14C / 28C 3.3   4.5   165 W $1387
Core i9-9920X 12C / 24T 3.5   4.5   165 W $1189
Core i9-9900X 10C / 20T 3.5   4.5   165 W $989

This pricing is a significant shift in Intel's strategy, and a number of fingers will be pointed at AMD as having made this happen. Next month AMD is set to launch its 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X at $749, which will offer 16 PCIe 4.0 lanes for slots (+4 for M.2, +4 for chipset) and support for 128 GB of DRAM. So Intel needed something similarly speedy, but with more PCIe lanes and more memory support that they could offer for just a bit more, leading to the 10980XE for $979. Ultimately, the on-shelf price is often just slightly higher than tray price, so don't be surprised if retail prices land at around $1000. 

All the CPUs will support 256 GB of quad-channel memory (up from 128 GB), and have 48 PCIe 3.0 lanes (up from 44). Memory speed support is listed as DDR4-2933 for 1 DIMM per channel, and DDR4-2666 for 2 DIMMs per channel. All these CPUs have a TDP of 165 W, which Intel states will help the CPUs to turbo longer under Intel's recommended settings (as we know, consumer motherboard manufacturers like to ignore these anyway). All these CPUs are supported in X299 motherboards.

There is no 16-core in this stack, with Intel's official reasoning being that they assess the market with each generation and they don't believe there's a suitable price point for such a part when the 14C and 18C parts are so close. Most people will point the finger and say that no-16 core Intel part means no direct comparison with the Ryzen 9 3950X, which is something to think about.

Another point to note is that Intel has stopped this stack at the 10 core and no lower. This means that there will be no cross over between Intel's consumer processor stack and the HEDT stack, with users needing to spend just a little bit more from the Core i9-9900K/KF to reach up to the Core i9-10900X. It will be interesting to see where Intel's Core i9-9900KS fits in, although that still only has dual channel memory and 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes.

Intel lists Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5GbE support on these new processors - to clarify, Intel means external controllers here. For some odd reason when Intel says support, it could mean internal to the chipset or external via a controller; this is messaging I've railed against for a while, as it ends up confusing for enthusiasts, especially when this is an enthusiast platform. It does mean however that we get official information about Intel's 2.5GbE controllers, which we've been waiting on for a couple of years. Intel stated that these controllers will be ready at a later date, and more information to follow. (The controllers are currently listed on Intel's ARK database, but as 1 GbE controllers for some reason.)

These CPUs will have the same security mitigations as the Cascade Lake Xeon processors, with updated hardware mitigations for a number of side channel attacks. We are waiting to hear from Intel if the firmware that supports these processors will also have additional fixes in for Zombieload by default.

One question about this launch is surrounding Intel’s 14nm capacity. Within the last week, there have been reports that despite Intel’s best efforts and promises to match demand, and that Q3 and upcoming for Q4 is going to be busier than expected. We reached out to Intel last week for clarification, and the company said that the bulk of its capacity is focusing on the high-end processors in the market: the Xeon Scalable, the Core i9, Core i7, and Core i5. It will be interesting to see if launching another family of products is going to put additional strain on Intel’s capacity and demand.

With AMD's recent Zen 2 Ryzen 3000 series launch on 7nm earlier in the year, Threadripper 3 coming later this year, and Intel swinging another generation of 14++ into the high-end desktop market, Intel is going to have some tough times. Don't get me wrong, this pricing update from Intel is a good thing for users, especially those looking at implementing things like DL Boost to their workflow, but this market is suddenly turning very aggressive, and it will be interesting to see if Intel can be agile enough to keep pace.

Intel's Cascade Lake-X processors will be available in November. More details should be released nearer to launch.

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  • techguymaxc - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    In fact, QVL for most X399 motherboards only mentions 128GB kits at most, same as X299.
  • kobblestown - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link


    Section: Top Trumps: DRAM and ECC

    Quote: "AMD has officially stated that the Threadripper CPUs can support up to 1 TB of DRAM, although on close inspection it requires 128GB UDIMMs, which max out at 16GB currently."

    It is not the first time this has happened. About a decade ago there were some strange but JEDEC compliant modules (I think 8GB DDR2 DIMMs but I may be wrong about that) that would work on AMD processors without any adjustment but not work on intel. Aparently, indel used to, and probably still does, limit the supported sizes below the actual technical limitations. If you've learned nothing about intel in the last 5-10 years, that's your problem.

    On the other issue - 24 core TR 3000 will offer competitive performance with the 28 core Xeon W at a quarter of the price. A 32 core part will send it into oblivion. I'm pretty sure about that.
  • Kevin G - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    There was a bug in the DDR3 controllers of Sandy/Ivy/Haswell memory controller that didn't permit them to work with the largest capacity unregistered DIMMs. Broadwell, the last major DDR3 only chip from Intel, did fix this issue.

    Most of the time, the memory controllers are designed against JEDEC spec but are only validated with that is currently on the market. Thus going beyond the official max capacity generally works but is not officially supported. The exception to this has been the last few "generations" from Intel, especially on server, where memory capacity limits have been used for market segmentation.
  • EliteRetard - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Now that they're almost in the same price category I'd like to see the 10920x vs the 3900x clock for clock (and stock for stock). Can Intel justify the extra $200?
  • nevcairiel - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    What is "stock" these days? "Stock" behavior on Intel depends a lot of on the motherboard, as they can define boosting behavior to match their VRM capabilities, which can have a huge impact.

    Also, the Intel HEDT lineup of course has other advantages - which may not matter to everyone, compared to a 3900x. More PCIe lanes, more memory channel, AVX512.
  • Korguz - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    nevcairiel your comparing HEDT to mainstream, quite the difference there.
  • Korguz - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    EliteRetard " Now that they're almost in the same price category I'd like to see the 10920x vs the 3900x clock for clock " but you are now comparing a HEDT cpu, against a mainstream cpu, wait till threadripper 3 comes out, and then compare those 2 cpus.
  • peevee - Friday, October 4, 2019 - link

    No point. 3900x is quite comparable.
  • Korguz - Friday, October 4, 2019 - link

    no its not.. diferent platform.. different features... different I/O capabilities....
  • svan1971 - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    HEDT = pcie 4.0

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