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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  • dysonlu - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Disgusted should be the first reaction for this.
  • Kepe - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    My thoughts exactly. Cutting prices by 50% is great, but it also means they've been overcharging their customers ridiculous amounts in the past few years, which is not cool at all. I'd call it immoral even. Yeah sure, when you have no competition, you can set the price wherever you want it to be. But you could still rein yourself in a little bit in how much you charge your loyal customers. Now that they've cut prices by 50%, it means they've had zero interest in their customers and 100% interest in filling their own coffers.
    Also, the value of used Intel HEDT CPUs just halved due to this new pricing announcement. People trying to sell their 1-2 years old 2 000 dollar CPUs might be a bit miffed about this.
  • Spunjji - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    Yup. The overpricing was always obvious, but now they've made it *ugly*.
  • rahvin - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    The rumor is that the new Cascade HEDT parts cost more to make than Intel is charging with this 50% price cut and Intel is selling these at a loss to try to slow AMD down.

    The chiplet design of the TR3 and Ryzen 3 actually makes it cheaper for AMD to make CPU's than intel can with their monolithic design. The result is AMD can handle lower pricing than Intel and still make money.
  • Korguz - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    rahvin " The rumor is that the new Cascade HEDT parts cost more to make than Intel is charging with this 50% price cut and Intel is selling these at a loss to try to slow AMD down. "
    um, yea, no, intels investors and shareholders would not let that happen as it would mean they would also be losing money.
  • Kevin G - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    Nope, 14 nm is a very mature process for Intel at this stage.

    The only sort of 'loss' for Intel is that a water 18 core chips could have been wafter of 28 core parts that sell for higher margins. Intel does have to be picky about what does go through there fabs as they are at capacity with far too many products occupying the 14 nm node. The 10 nm delays have really, really hurt them.
  • Korguz - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    their investors and shareholders will still be upset. wouldnt you be ??
  • Qasar - Thursday, October 3, 2019 - link

    " Nope, 14 nm is a very mature process for Intel at this stage. " doesnt matter, there is no way intel would resort to losing money like rahvin says, to " slow amd down " as was said shareholders and investors wouldnt allow it.
  • The_Assimilator - Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - link

    Yes, because Intel was holding guns to those consumers' heads and forcing them to buy Intel HEDT CPUs. WHEN WILL INTEL'S EVIL REIN END?
  • Kevin G - Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - link

    Socket 2066 is a mess as this is yet *another* PCIe lane config for motherboard makers need to account for. The only way to leverage the extra lane is gonna be via a new motherboard (with the possible exception of some X299 that have launched the last few months). The new price points are nice but something Intel should have done a year ago (ditto for the extra PCIe lanes and memory capacity support).

    The sad thing is that I would expect performance per clock improvements when the hardware security mitigations come into play.

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