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The Intel Core i9-7900X 10-core Skylake-X Processor Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Power, Perf per Dollar, Conclusions

Power Consumption

Okay, so there had to be a catch right?

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I didn’t believe it at first, but the Core i9-7900X is using more than 70 watts additional power than the Core i7-6950X! Remember that both of these processors have a rated TDP Of 140 watts, so how Intel is able to justify this additional power draw hasn’t yet been answered – I am awaiting a reply to my questions. Idle power on this platform is definitely a plus though, with the X299+SKL-X using nearly 20 watts less than the X99+6950X combination.

Performance per Dollar

With HEDT processors, performance per dollar is always an interesting discussion. Add on to this a $700 price drop on the 10-core solution, which is when we compare the 6950X launch price to the 7900X launch price, there should be substantial gains for Intel here.

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The 7900X is a big jump over the 6950X in terms of single-threaded value, with a much higher performance capability and a big drop in cost. Even with the lower Ryzen 7 1800X ST performance, though, the value of the 7900X doesn’t manage to keep up.

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While the 7900X still can’t meet the performance per dollar metrics of the 7700K or Ryzen 7 1800X, it does get much closer than any previous generation of HEDT processor from Intel in my memory. Is it a “value” proposition? Not at all. But, if you crave and need multi-threaded capability, it will be easier to justify the cost difference this generation.

Conclusions

Performance

The Core i9-7900X proves to be a performance leader in more areas than I expected at the outset of testing. The multi-threaded performance was a known quantity – 10-cores and 20-threads of performance will tear through most rendering and encoding workloads, and the added clock rate supplied by Skylake-X (and that power draw!) gives us anywhere from a 15-25% advantage over the Core i7-6950X. And while I know we’ll see more options from AMD soon, the 8-core Ryzen 7 1800X is a distant competitor, often falling more than 35% behind in those scenarios.

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The Core i9-7900X vs Core i7-7700K

The single-threaded performance was a surprise, even after staring at that specifications table for the last couple of weeks. With a maximum Turbo clock of 4.5 GHz for single-threaded workloads, the Core i9-7900X is able to match, or nearly match, the performance of the Core i7-7700K in tests like Audacity, SYSmark Office Productivity, and CBR15 single. That’s no small feat – the 7700K is the best single-threaded processor available to consumers. Intel has actually offered what it said it would offer last year, a processor that offers little to no compromise for single or multi-threaded computing environments.

Pricing and Availability

The Core i9-7900X, along with the other 8-core and below processors on this platform, will be available for preorder starting on June 19th. They will start shipping on June 26th.

I’ve said a lot about the pricing on these parts already, but after that performance summary, it seems obvious that the value of the 10-core part is better than I would have expected. At $999, it is not cheap, and AMD will still have another say in this battle in a month or so; but, if you look at the 10-core options as they stand today, Intel is moving in the right direction. A $700 price drop, along with better single and multi-threaded performance nearly across the board (1080p gaming…ugh) is hard to argue with, even in the face of competition.

Final Thoughts

In some circles of the Internet, the Core i9 release and the parts that were announced last month from Intel seem as obvious a reaction to AMD’s Ryzen processor and Threadripper as could be shown. In truth, it’s hard to see the likes of the Core i9-7900X as reactionary in its current state; Intel has clearly been planning the Skylake-X release for many months. What Ryzen did for the consumer market was bring higher 4-count core processors to prevalence, and the HEDT line from Intel has very little overlap in that regard. Threadripper having just been announced in the last 60 days (even when you take into account the rumors that have circulated), seems unable to have been the progenitor of the Core i9 line, isn't its entirety. That being said, it is absolutely true that Intel has reacted to the Ryzen and Threadripper lines with pricing and timing adjustments. Do you think it is chance that the 8-core HEDT product from Intel will be $100 more than the Ryzen 7 1800X? Of course not. And to combat Threadripper, it seems clear that Intel was willing to bring forward the release of Skylake-X, to ensure that it maintained cognitive leadership in the high-end prosumer market.

The unknown for potential buyers today surrounds the release of AMD Threadripper, with core counts as high as 16. We don’t know what the frequencies are going to be for that product though, though I think we can assume they will not be higher than what Intel can bring to bear. Remembering that Ryzen was at most equally clocked in comparison to the high-end Skylake and Kaby Lake processors, and coupled with the continued IPC advantages than Intel will have over the Zen architecture, Intel will maintain an overall performance advantage in my estimation. Where AMD could undercut Intel, if they are willing, is in that cost of that performance. Ryzen has proven to be disruptive in this regard and I expect no less from Threadripper. 

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It is worth noting here that our early testing with the X299 motherboards has including troubling amounts of performance instability and questionable compatibility. Though the impact of this for Intel has been much less dramatic, it is reminiscent of the issues that were a bane to AMD at the outset of the Ryzen release. Using a couple of conversations with motherboard vendors as a source, I can say that both expressed to me that Intel was “full bore” into getting any hurdles removed, and that the updates were “more frequent and more aggressive” than what they had seen with the Ryzen platform release. My expectations are that X299 motherboards are going to be ready for use and production as you read this. Still, it shows that even Intel is not immune to the woes of new platform releases.

Though Intel brought puzzled looks when I showed them my power results, which were repeatable and verified by other reviewers and articles, it seems that the company has chosen to be ambivalent to the excessive power draw the Core i9-7900X exhibits. With matching TDP levels between both the 7900X and the 6950X, I definitely did not expect this – although it appears that Intel’s need to peak performance for the coming battle with Threadripper has precluded the company’s usual stance as a specification stickler. I don’t suppose that this will have a big impact on sales, as the buyers of $999 processors are usually more than will to sacrifice power-savings for performance. 

There is no getting around the fact that the performance is impressive on the Core i-7900X. Single-threaded benchmarks and multi-threaded workloads all scale wonderfully for Intel’s new, current flagship CPU. There are a couple of hurdles that stand out, including our 1080p gaming results that bare resemblance to the Ryzen 7 1800X situation from earlier this year, but to a lesser degree. Still, if you were looking to nit-pick on the architecture or implementation for Skylake-X, the move to the mesh interconnect that leads to longer L3/LLC latencies would be the target.

That being said, if you want to own the fastest consumer processor on the planet, the Core i9-7900X is it. Until July. Or August. Or October...


June 19, 2017 | 10:04 AM - Posted by Martin Trautvetter

A 15% increase in performance resulting from a 50% increase in power consumption seems to indicate that this processor is firmly out of its comfort zone in terms of efficiency.

Makes me wonder where it would land with similar clock rates as the 6950X.

As for the i9 line-up, I don't follow the argument that these CPUs are not the direct result of AMD's renewed competitiveness. Sure, 6- through 10-core CPUs would've been planned for long ago, but their final clocks were set post-Ryzen. The idiotic KBL-X were rushed post-Ryzen. The MCC-i9s are clearly a rush job (hence their late launch) trying to compete with Threadripper.

I'd be willing to bet that not a single CPU launched for this platform was planned exactly as-is 9 months ago.

June 19, 2017 | 10:48 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Even if everything you say is true, is that a problem? Is that not what we want? Some competition to push things forward?

June 19, 2017 | 12:39 PM - Posted by Martin Trautvetter

Sorry, I might have simply misread/misunderstood your conclusion.

As far as I'm concerned, it was not giving enough credit to AMD for the final specs of these CPUs, as they are / will be shipping.

Anyways, thanks for testing the rejiggered cashes and mesh topography and showing how it affects scaling when compared to its predecessor!

June 19, 2017 | 11:02 AM - Posted by Xebec

I am curious if future BIOS updates will affect mesh speed(ping time?), and what kinds of differences that will make.

I like the performance/$ metrics. There's so many ways to slice those -- CPU Only, including motherboard and RAM (which you have to buy anyway to use the CPU), or full system price. Pros/Cons to each.

Best internet line of the day:
"Until July. Or August. Or October..."

Great review PCPer!

June 19, 2017 | 11:13 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Future BIOS should not have a direct effect on it, unless Intel changes its stance on the clocks of the cache. It runs at a slower clock that memory or the CPU itself, but it is controllable - I show you the change on one of our graphs here looking at thread to thread "ping times".

On the performance / dollar, you are right, we could have included memory and motherboard in that and it might be worth doing in the future. But I think most people reading will understand that the X299 motherboard price average is higher than the X370 motherboard price average, so the differenecs will widen slightly.

June 24, 2017 | 08:40 PM - Posted by RandomUsername1234 (not verified)

X370 may not be a fair yardstick if you want price/performance. X370 is closer to X299 in features (though still a long way off), but if want you want is maximum price/performance B350 is the way to go.

June 19, 2017 | 11:19 AM - Posted by DakTannon

Hey Ryan great review. If possible for the gaming benchmarks could you post the 1% and .1% low frame rates or just the min fps if that would be easier. I have found the enthusiast platform tends to excel in the minimum FPS and smooth delivery of frames (less stutter) and that is what motiveates my purchases more than Max or Average fps i would rather have a CPU with a min of 60 fps and a max of 85 fps than one with a max of 105 fps and a min of 45 fps even if that mean it has a lower average fps, smoothness is everything for me

June 19, 2017 | 02:59 PM - Posted by StephanS

At what speed where you running the 1800x infinity frabic ?

Also your idle system wattage look to be half of other sites for the 1800x. I wonder what you or they are doing differently.

Cinebench value. Not sure why but I get a score of 1641 on a stock 1800x. / $440 (amazon) = 3.72
I think you are using the launch day price of $500 ?

note: I run my ram at 2400mhz (the rated XMP profile)

June 19, 2017 | 03:18 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

All of the 1800X data was generated at stock settings, DDR4-2400 memory. And yes, I am still using the $499 launch price for that data, as you note.

June 19, 2017 | 03:10 PM - Posted by amadsilentthirst

Great Video Ryan, Actually made me read the review... that was good too.

With....one little exception New parts, higher clocks, more cores

Kinda wanted to see what the "NiceHash" daily BTC amount would be, you know for science.

Consider including it in your benchmarks for all the new CPU's?

June 19, 2017 | 03:18 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Maybe...but CPUs, even 10-core CPUs, are very inefficient in comparison to even moderate GPUs.

June 19, 2017 | 03:52 PM - Posted by amadsilentthirst

You are totally right, and rather handsome,
However after Electrickery a Ryzen 7 1700X nets $600 per annum

Which is peanuts to golden haired tech gods granted, but some peeps may want to put one in a corner and let it pay for itself (with all the assumptions granted) while heating up their greenhouse.

As alogs change and prices fluctuate, releases get more cores, it'll be nice to keep an eye on hashing value.

Goes without saying that it will be awesome to have it on GPU charts.

You're obviously way too important and tall to take on such a task, maybe the smaller more condensed you (Ken) could take on such a burden of honour.

June 19, 2017 | 04:53 PM - Posted by quest4glory

Something I haven't seen much of is the (potential) benefit of this X299 plan to boutique system builders, and even larger mass producers of custom PCs such as HP with their Omen, and Dell / Alienware.

They could standardize on X299 for most of their builds, and then offer customers the choice of i5 and "entry level" i7 now, with the option to upgrade to a true HEDT system later on, while keeping the same chassis and main system components.

That and single-core performance should be best on those parts, especially when overclocked to their max.

June 19, 2017 | 05:53 PM - Posted by quest4glory

In terms of TDP, did you measure that at stock or overclocked? I'd have to assume stock, and if so, could the measurements be off due to the new platform?

I know you know this, but for anyone who wonders how Intel defines TDP...from https://www.intel.com/content/dam/doc/white-paper/resources-xeon-measuri...

"Intel defines TDP as follows: The upper point of the thermal profile consists of the Thermal Design Power (TDP) and the associated Tcase value. Thermal Design Power (TDP) should be used for processor thermal solution design targets. TDP is not the maximum power that the processor can dissipate. TDP is measured at maximum TCASE.1"

June 20, 2017 | 04:40 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

All measured at stock settings.

June 19, 2017 | 06:15 PM - Posted by Titan_Y

Seems to me that there has been a cost-shift Intel has done here from the CPUs to the chipsets. The motherboards are about $100 more expensive than they should be. This way, Intel can make their CPUs out to be a better value than they actually are.

June 19, 2017 | 10:11 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I don't think that's accurate. Intel is probably getting slightly more from the X299 than the Z270, but I would guess not much. If anything, the motherboard vendors know this is a higher end platform and audience, so they put higher end products together to serve it.

June 19, 2017 | 11:07 PM - Posted by boinc_oclock

Ryan,

Did overclocking the cache + using faster RAM have any effect on benchmarks?

June 19, 2017 | 11:50 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I honestly did not have time to check, only to do the latency evaluation you saw on that page. We'll be following up - my expectation is that it will have affect on things like 7zip and the 1080p gaming results, if it all.

June 22, 2017 | 10:16 PM - Posted by boinc_oclock

I'm looking at Guru3D's X299 motherboard reviews and it seems like the BIOS that run the more conservative power profile have higher memory/L3 latency and run worse in games and synthetics like Cinebench. The Cinebench scores matched your results so I'm assuming these latency tests were done using the lower power profiles.

It will be interesting to see what your latency tester shows on the higher power profiles.

June 20, 2017 | 04:08 AM - Posted by chortbauer

Great Review!

Grammar Nazi:
On the last page, under the last picture


It is worth noting here that our early testing with the X299 motherboards has including troubling amounts of performance instability and questionable compatibility.

June 20, 2017 | 04:41 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Ah, thanks. :)

June 20, 2017 | 04:27 AM - Posted by n19h7m4r3

Interesting to see the Intercore latency affect Skylake X so much. Despite Ryzen's latency affecting games, it does compete well with Broadwell often, despite lower clocks usually.

It's nearly the reverse in gaming with Skylake X, where it's clocked higher, and still loses.

I hope Ryan does some detailed tests with Skylake X X CPUs, and Threadripper to see how the increase CPUs & CCX's will affect latency; and as a result affect some use cases.

June 20, 2017 | 06:40 AM - Posted by psuedonymous

"And to combat Threadripper, it seems clear that Intel was willing to bring forward the release of Skylake-X, to ensure that it maintained cognitive leadership in the high-end prosumer market."

Impressive Intel know the release date for Threadripper back in 2015 when they scheduled Basin Falls! https://regmedia.co.uk/2015/05/26/intel-kdm-roadmap-1.jpg

August 19, 2017 | 04:10 AM - Posted by Desmond (not verified)

Continue the good work; keep posting more n more n more.
seo service cambridge

June 21, 2017 | 01:10 AM - Posted by Cellar Door

Hey Ryan,

Great job as always! Just wanted to give a little feedback about the graphs - the font is borderline unreadable and that is on a 1080p 27" ultrasharp Dell.

Otherwise keep on rocking!

June 24, 2017 | 11:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous123 (not verified)

Why is your latancy test different to that from sysoft Sandra?

http://www.tomshardware.de/performance-benchmarks-ubertaktung-leistungsa...

Intel 7900x
Sisoft: 79ns
PCPer: 100ns

AMD Fabric:
Sisoft: 122
PcPer: 140

June 24, 2017 | 08:15 PM - Posted by RandomUsername1234 (not verified)

Perhaps you guys should factor in the platform cost in these reviews - B350 Mobos can be had for ~$100, while these X299 Mobos cost at least $400. It's hard to argue the i7-7800X is a suitable competitor for the 1700 when you have to pay another $400 for the motherboard, and are still two cores short (though the higher clocks make up for this)

Intel needs to offer multi-core mainstream offers to truly compete with the 1700 in the future. Right now higher clocks trump twice the threads, but if games like Battlefield and the higher core count of consoles are anything to go for that won't last forever.

June 24, 2017 | 08:15 PM - Posted by RandomUsername1234 (not verified)

Perhaps you guys should factor in the platform cost in these reviews - B350 Mobos can be had for ~$100, while these X299 Mobos cost at least $400. It's hard to argue the i7-7800X is a suitable competitor for the 1700 when you have to pay another $400 for the motherboard, and are still two cores short (though the higher clocks make up for this)

Intel needs to offer multi-core mainstream offers to truly compete with the 1700 in the future. Right now higher clocks trump twice the threads, but if games like Battlefield and the higher core count of consoles are anything to go for that won't last forever.

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