By any measure, Intel’s Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition is a efficiency beast of a high-end CPU. As Intel’s present flagship client desktop processor, it helps most each cutting-edge non-enterprise function the corporate gives, from Turbo Boost to Hyper-Threading. That, mixed with its whopping 18 cores—scalable to 36 concurrent computing threads—means it could actually breeze via any CPU-bound workload you are planning to push its manner. But at an MSRP of $2,000, it could actually blow via your financial savings account with equal ease. Its closest AMD equivalents are cheaper, and the efficiency variations aren’t enormous. The outcome? The Core i9-9980XE is a particularly highly effective, lust-worthy high-end desktop (HEDT) engine. But many customers will not discover it as well-rounded as some key alternate options, similar to Intel’s personal mainstream-grade Core i9-9900Ok and the Editors’ Choice-winning AMD Ryzen Threadripper 2950X. It’s a rocket of a chip, however superb just for a subset of deep-pocketed content material creators who want each excessive multi-threaded muscle and particular supporting applied sciences like Thunderbolt 3.

The Extreme Edition: Give Me All the Cores
The Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition, the capstone of Intel’s Core X-Series CPUs for high-end desktop PCs, is destined just for the very prime tier of PC builds. Sure, it might make an look in excessive, tricked-out gaming rigs which are much less about worth logic and extra about bragging rights. But the extra probably (and extra rational) vacation spot? Pro-grade media-crunching workstations. Their homeowners can have obsessed over each element and may justify that obsession by the enjoyment they derive (or the cash they earn, within the time they save) by dashing up 3D renders, information analyses, and different CPU-intensive duties.
One of the Core i9-9980XE’s two strongest for missions like these is its large arsenal of threads and cores. That firepower is much less related for gaming than for skilled apps designed to take benefit not solely of a CPU’s clock velocity, but in addition what number of simultaneous directions it could actually deal with. Eight-core CPUs at the moment are commonplace amongst high-end workstations and gaming rigs. The base mannequin of the Apple iMac Pro has an eight-core Intel Xeon, whereas even the compact MSI Trident X PC Labs just lately examined comes with an eight-core/16-thread Core i9-9900Ok.

The Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition, in the meantime, has these eyebrow-raising 18 cores and 36 threads in its chamber. That’s greater than some other consumer-grade Intel chip other than the previous Core i9-7980XE Extreme Edition (it had the identical depend), although barely fewer than AMD’s flagships, the 24-core/48-thread Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX and the 32-core/64-thread Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX. In this rarified zone of extraordinarily high-end processors, the extra cores and threads CPU has would not make navigating pages in an internet browser or sending emails one whit sooner. On the opposite hand, in the event you spend all day twiddling with renderings in Maxon Cinema 4D or Adobe Premiere Pro, you will recognize all of the cores and threads you may get.
The Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition’s second related qualification is its assist for Intel’s Turbo Boost expertise, which identifies the best-performing cores and boosts their clock velocity to wring each final ounce of computing energy out of the CPU. Due to variations within the chip-fabrication course of, not all cores carry out equally properly from CPU pattern to CPU pattern, and even between these in the identical chip. Turbo Boost has been round for some time and is on the market on many different Intel CPUs; within the Core i9-9980XE, it could actually increase the clock velocity of all cores to 4.4GHz, and one of the best two cores to 4.5GHz, when apps demand extra efficiency and the thermal headroom is on the market.

AMD’s Ryzen chips may enhance their clock speeds when conditions demand it. The 16-core Ryzen Threadripper 2950X’s prime boost-clock velocity is 4.4GHz, whereas the 24-core Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX’s peak at inventory settings is 4.2GHz.

It’s a Refresh: “Basin Falls” and “Skylake-X”
Bear in thoughts, too, that the Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition is just the topper of a brand new line of X299-compatible chips, dubbed “Skylake-X Refresh” or “Basin Falls,” within the Core X-Series. Beyond the Core i9-7980XE Extreme Edition, PC Labs reviewed lots of the “lesser” Core X-Series chips within the first technology (the unique Skylake-X), amongst them the Core i9-7900X and the Core i9-7960X. The 7000-series chips fall underneath the identical primary structure.
Along with the Core i9-9980XE, Intel has additionally launched six different stepped-down Skylake-X Refresh processors, working from a Core i9-9960X with 16 cores right down to a Core i7-9800X with eight cores. (Click the picture beneath for higher legibility.)

PC Labs hasn’t had the chance to check the remainder of the Basin Falls chips, however observe that the top-dog Core i9-9980XE on the bench right here is the one one which charges the “Extreme Edition” moniker, which is typical in Intel’s HEDT chip strains of current years.
Also observe that just like the Skylake-X 7000-series chips that got here earlier than, the Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition (and the six different 9000-series CPUs) all work with the LGA2066 socket widespread to all motherboards that make use of the supporting Intel X299 chipset. If you already personal a first-generation X299 mainboard, it ought to work with these new chips, however you’ll probably want a BIOS improve and can need to verify whether or not one is on the market earlier than diving in.
Depending on the board mannequin, updating the BIOS might require the presence of a CPU supported by the older BIOS, which might complicate issues. In the case of the Asus check board in PC Labs’ testbed (extra on that later), updating the BIOS was doable with a USB key and the brand new CPU put in—no previous chip required—utilizing its “USB BIOS Flashback” function. Do your homework on that entrance to keep away from any nasty surprises in your PC construct or improve.

What’s Behind Extreme: 44 Lanes, X299 Chipset
Besides a versatile clock velocity and a powerful array of cores and threads, the Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition has a number of second-string advantages that you simply’d anticipate from a chip that prices this a lot.
For starters, it is unlocked, which suggests you could manually alter the clock frequencies of every core individually, in addition to assign a brand new base clock frequency and reminiscence ratio. All of this assumes you understand what you are doing, since you will void your guarantee and danger toasting your $2,000 funding in the event you’re not cautious.
Also, provided that Intel obtained a lot grief from the hardcore PC-enthusiast neighborhood with some earlier chips, the Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition makes use of a soldered metallic layer to switch warmth from the CPU die to the built-in warmth spreader. This might imply higher cooling efficiency than the previous-generation XE-series chips, which used a layer of thermal materials as an alternative of soldered metallic to switch warmth.
For customers seeking to drop this chip right into a board and get rendering, although, this distinction must be negligible. It actually issues provided that you are planning on overclocking the chip or—heaven forbid, on a chip this costly—can be utilizing a suboptimal CPU cooler. (And nobody ought to low cost out on the cooler for a chip of this stature.)

The chip’s built-in reminiscence controller helps 4 channels of DDR 2666 reminiscence, which, just like the CPU itself, might be overclocked. Also, with the Basin Falls chips, the X299 chipset helps 44 PCI Express (PCIe) lanes up and down the road to be used by add-in similar to graphics playing cards, PCIe-bus solid-state drives, or Thunderbolt 3 playing cards. (This is unique of the 24 lanes allotted by the CPU.) While the Ryzen Threadripper platform helps 64 PCIe lanes, few customers will want that many, even when they set up two graphics playing cards and some such SSDs. Ryzen chips additionally lack assist for Thunderbolt 3, which might be the deciding issue within the Core i9-9980XE’s win column if you’re invested in Thunderbolt 3-equipped peripherals. (Some high-end content material creators definitely are, and the gear’s not low cost.)

How a lot profit you will get from all the above options relies on the motherboard you are utilizing, the you imply to put in, and, to a lesser extent, the cooler and energy provide. All present Core X-Series chips assist motherboards appropriate with Intel’s X299 chipset, however not all X299 boards are created equal. Cheaper ones might not allow you to overclock the reminiscence or reap the benefits of all of the PCIe lanes, for instance.
It’s all relative, in fact. By nature, X299 boards are high-end to begin with. (See, for instance, our opinions of the Asus ROG Strix X299-E Gaming, the Gigabyte X299 Aorus Gaming 9, and the MSI X299 SLI Plus.) But like with AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper chips, when you determine to go along with one in all these HEDT monsters, you take a complete plunge: a premium motherboard, sturdy cooling , a discrete video card, and sufficient RAM to utilize the remaining.
Note: One factor you do not get with the Core i9-9980XE (like with AMD’s Threadripper chips) is any form of built-in graphics processing. You’ll want to put in a separate graphics card in any PC with this chip. That is not essentially a disadvantage, since lots of the apps and video games that lap up CPU cores and threads additionally want the facility of a discrete graphics chip. But in the event you’re budgeting for an X299-based, high-end dream machine primarily based on the Core i9-9980XE, be able to peel off at a least a number of extra Benjamins for a card worthy of complementing this silicon monster.

Performance Testing: Exercising the Beast
We used PC Labs’ X299-based testbed to judge the Core i9-9980XE’s inventory efficiency. It’s the identical testbed PC Labs used to check the chip’s predecessor, the Core i9-7980XE Extreme Edition. The setup consists of an Asus Prime X299-Deluxe motherboard and 32GB of Corsair reminiscence working in a quad-channel setup.
An Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Founders Edition video card handles show output, and a Serial ATA-based Kingston HyperX Savage SSD serves because the boot drive. All of those parts go right into a Deepcool GamerStorm Genome ROG Certified case, which features a self-contained liquid cooler with a big three-fan radiator.

We in contrast the Core i9-9980XE’s efficiency on PC Labs’ benchmark checks with that of eight different consumer-focused CPUs. In addition to the high-end Core X-Series and Threadripper chips mentioned up up to now, we included the Intel Core i9-9900Ok talked about earlier, plus the Intel Core i7-8700Ok and the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X, to signify the efficiency you’d anticipate from a considerably cheaper mainstream chip. The Core i9-7960X and Core i9-7980XE, in the meantime, signify the last-generation equivalents of the Core i9-9980XE within the Core X lineup.
Cinebench R15 and iTunes 10.6
The first check, Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15, is totally threaded to utilize all accessible processor cores and threads, utilizing the CPU quite than the GPU to render a fancy picture. The result’s a proprietary rating indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads.

In normal, the extra cores and addressable threads a CPU has, the higher it can do on the All Cores check (all else being equal), which explains why the Core i9-9980XE trailed the class-leading 24-core Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX by a bit. It did do notably higher, nonetheless, than its Core i9-7980XE predecessor, probably due to a mixture of the clock-rate uptick from technology to technology and different architectural tweaks.
On the single-core Cinebench check, the Intel CPUs clustered collectively, with scores starting from 191 to 218. None of the Threadripper or Ryzen chips broke into that vary; single-core efficiency has been a longtime Intel benefit within the HEDT sphere. That mentioned, single-core efficiency is of solely tangential curiosity right here, the place multicore efficiency is the entire level.
A job like changing a sequence of audio recordsdata in Apple iTunes gives a extra nuanced have a look at single-core efficiency. Our iTunes check makes use of a quite “aged” model of the app that taxes solely a single CPU core…

On this check, the Core i9-9980XE was once more a tick sooner than its predecessor, and considerably sooner than its AMD competitors.
Media Processing and Compression Tests
That mentioned, nobody must be utilizing dear chips like these primarily for single-threaded stuff. It’s far more environment friendly to transcode multimedia recordsdata utilizing a contemporary, multi-threaded app similar to Handbrake. The Core i9-9980XE took simply 3 minutes and 46 seconds to encode 12 minutes of 4K video to 1080p.

The Core i9-9980XE was by far the quickest on this check, even higher than the Threadripper 2970WX, which demonstrates that there are exceptions to the final rule that extra cores and threads equals higher efficiency.
The similar is true of the Core i9-9980XE’s class-leading efficiency in terms of compressing recordsdata right into a ZIP folder utilizing the 7-Zip app…

It was a little bit of a special story when assembling a photorealistic picture by way of ray tracing on all cores with the POV-Ray app…

The Core i9-9980XE was simply edged out by the 24-core AMD chip on the all-cores check, beating all different comers, whereas on the single-core check, it scorched all of the AMD entries whereas being itself topped by its higher-clocked mainstream Intel kin. On each of those benchmarks, the margins over the Threadripper 2970WX’s showings are comparatively slim, nonetheless, if you issue them in opposition to the $700 worth distinction.
Finally, the Core i9-9980XE’s outcomes on a brief 3D-rendering trial in Blender point out that in some conditions it performs virtually the identical as its non-X-Series little brother, the Core i9-9900Ok…

The Core i9-9980XE was a second slower at rendering a 3D picture utilizing the Blender app than the less-expensive Ok-series chip. That high-clocked chip, certainly, is a speedster for gaming PCs and different less-elite efficiency builds.

Overclocking (With Some Gaming on the Side)
Since the Core i9-9980XE, like all the Basin Falls X-Series CPUs, is overclockable, we used Intel’s free, downloadable Extreme Tuning Utility (XTU) to dial up the clock velocity and see if we might get higher efficiency on a few of these benchmarks. Recall, we had the chip put in in a case with a three-fan AIO liquid cooler.
Ticking up the clocks and nudging the voltage ultimately led to an deadlock (throttling or crashes in XTU’s stress check, in addition to in Cinebench and Handbrake). But as soon as we obtained the platform secure, with the bottom clock pinned to 4.5GHz and all different settings at their manufacturing unit ranges, we recorded a Cinebench rating of 4,192, or about 12 p.c higher than pre-overclocking. We had been additionally capable of shave a big 28 seconds off the Handbrake render time, whereas the POV-Ray all-cores check improved by simply 3 seconds, or 8 p.c.
Of course, as ever in overclocking, your mileage can (and doubtless will) fluctuate. Sample-to-sample variation is actual, and whereas a few of your success in overclocking will probably be right down to ability, persistence, and the robustness of your cooling , simply as a lot depends on the traits of the particular chip you draw. That’s why shopping for a chip like this for overclocking is known as, in PC-enthusiast circles, taking part in the “silicon lottery.”
And we’ll reiterate: If you are seeking to overclock with the Core i9-9980XE, we will not emphasize sufficient not skimping in your CPU cooler. A sturdy AIO liquid cooler must be a part of your budgeting. Indeed, Intel doesn’t bundle a inventory cooler with retail variations of the Core i9-9980XE, with the understanding that the patrons who may contemplate this chip are builders or upgraders who can have their very own preferences and even current . (The chip will work with present LGA2066 cooling options, in fact.) Granted, this CPU is rated “only” for a 165-watt thermal design efficiency (TDP) determine. But in the event you’re in for 2 grand, what’s one other $100 to chill issues proper?
Gaming at 1080p
Since the Core i9-9980XE lacks a graphics processor, testing its gaming efficiency is a little more difficult than evaluating its media content-creation prowess. When you play video games at their most high quality settings and at resolutions higher than full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels), your graphics card will, generally, be the limiting efficiency issue. The CPU would not matter as a lot, as video games aren’t written to leverage a core/thread depend this excessive; that is as a result of the overwhelming majority of avid gamers haven’t got a CPU wherever close to this lusty. Playing at 1440p (2,560 by 1,440 pixels) or 4K (3,840 by 2,160) will stress the bounds of the present technology of video playing cards earlier than it hits any wall erected by the CPU.

At decrease resolutions, although, together with the total HD that many mainstream avid gamers favor, the CPU’s efficiency comes into play, and it may be a limiting issue. We’ve seen that with the Ryzen Threadripper chips, and in these conditions, the Core i9-9980XE might carry out noticeably higher than its AMD rivals. We ran a number of anecdotal checks, on this case, once more utilizing the GeForce GTX 1080 as a baseline and evaluating the chip to its closest competitor we examined, the 24-core Threadripper 2970WX.
The Core i9-9980XE achieved a median body price of 103 frames per second (fps) on Far Cry Primal’s in-game benchmark at 1080p decision and High high quality, in contrast with 98fps for the Ryzen Threadripper 2970WX. The distinction was higher with Rise of the Tomb Raider, at 130fps (Core i9-9980XE) versus 111fps (Threadripper 2970WX).
However, in the event you’re looking for a brand new CPU primarily to play video games, observe that the Core i9-9900Ok—extensively deemed among the best high-performance processors for gaming—scored even higher in these 1080p checks: 138fps in Far Cry Primal, and 140fps in Rise of the Tomb Raider. On the entire, PC Labs, like different testing outfits, has seen little or no distinction amongst these CPUs when working the identical video games on the similar settings at 1440p or 4K with the GTX 1080. So actually, this distinction issues provided that you are working video games at (comparatively) low resolutions. And given your probably urge for food for funding in high-end in the event you’re even contemplating a chip like this, this may occasionally not even apply. Consider this a distinct segment case through which the Core i9-9980XE avails itself simply tremendous.

18 Cores, Two Grand: Worth the Splurge?
A dominant HEDT CPU should blow the competitors out of the water on issues like uncooked efficiency, overclockability, sheer core/thread depend, and clock price. The Core i9-9980XE is powerful in all these sides, however the place it actually pummels its competitors is worth. But we do not imply low worth, thoughts you.
No different client CPU, other than the Core i9-7980XE Extreme Edition that got here earlier than, prices $1,999, full cease. Consider that the even-more-rarified Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX, with extra cores and threads at 32 and 64, is barely cheaper, at $1,799. In a easy, relative sense, primarily based on pure core and thread depend, the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X (16 cores, 32 threads) and Core i9-9900Ok (8 and 16) are steals by comparability, at $899 and $499, respectively.

Just as telling as worth, although, is that the latter (Core i9-9900Ok) chip, whereas on Intel’s mainstream platform, really gives higher efficiency in some remoted circumstances, particularly with graphics-intensive video games at 1080p. If you are trying on the Core i9-9980XE merely as a bragging-rights chip for a gaming rig, cease proper there and rethink. You merely needn’t spend $2,000 on a CPU to construct a screaming-fast gaming rig. Get a 9900Ok and Z390 motherboard as an alternative, and you may come out manner forward, with sufficient cash left over to purchase a high-end video card just like the GeForce RTX 2080 Founders Edition.
For content material creators for whom time is cash, nonetheless, the query is much extra nuanced. On a dollars-per-core foundation, the Threadripper 2970WX and 2990WX are each higher values. But not each skilled utility scales the identical with increasingly more cores, and the 2970WX would not essentially provide higher efficiency on each CPU-intensive job. (PC Labs hasn’t had the chance to check the 2990WX.) The Threadripper platform, for the time being, additionally lacks Thunderbolt 3 assist and may’t profit from the sturdy ecosystem of motherboards, coolers, and different parts that assist the X299 platform. Its X399-chipset world is developed sufficient, to make sure, however you are taking a look at specialised coolers for Threadripper and an enormous chip die that reduces among the PCB availability on X399 boards for different options.
When you add all of it up, as a broad suggestion, the Ryzen Threadripper 2950X stays PCMag’s choose for one of the best high-end CPU for many system builders and upgraders seeking to construct a content-creation powerhouse on an HEDT platform. But in the event you’re in that creator house, and occur to be invested within the Thunderbolt 3 ecosystem of super-fast storage to feed your media back and forth in your workflow, the Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition has its place. It’s no much less a thrill journey in silicon than a Threadripper. You’ll simply pay a really expensive admission ticket to get on the coaster.

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