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The Intel Core i9-7980XE and 7960X Review: Skylake-X at $1999 and 18-cores

Author: Ryan Shrout
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Media Encoding and Rendering

Audacity MP3 Encode

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Keeping mind that lower is better on this test, the Core i9-7980XE and Core i9-7960X are able to offer better single threaded performance than the 16-core Threadripper 1950X that is beneficial to this legacy, but still common, audio encoding workload. 

Handbrake 1.0.2

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Handbrake results are interesting. Even though the Core i9-7980XE (18-core) is 20% faster than the Core i9-7900X (10-core), it is actually still slightly behind the Threadripper 1950X (though only by 3%).

X264 Benchmark 5.0.1

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Another interesting set of results. As it turns out, we run all of our testing and benchmarks with Windows 10 in the "Balanced" power mode. For some reason, the first pass of the X264 Encode benchmark behaves very differently in that mode than in "High Performance" based on conversations with Intel. While that warrants further discussion for future testing, our results remain in Balanced mode today. As a result, 7960X performs better than the 7980XE and both of the new Intel parts are slower than the Threadripper options. Pass 1 is only lightly threaded. 

Pass 2 is a more traditional workhorse part of the encoding process. Here, the Core i9-7980XE is nearly 5% faster than the Threadripper 1950X and 30% faster than the Core i9-7900X.

Cinebench R15

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Single threaded Cinebench R15 results again show the advantage that Intel has over AMD in frequency and IPC. The Core i9-7980XE is 19% faster than the AMD Threadripper 1950X and essentially on par with the Core i7-7700K, which is a good sign. In the multi-threaded test, the Core i9-7980XE is 11% faster than the top AMD result from the 1950X and 53% faster than the Core i9-7900X. Also interesting: the Core i9-7980XE is 3.4x the result from the Core i7-7700K!

POV-Ray

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POV-Ray is another example of a highly threaded workload that can fully utilize more cores and more clock speed. The Core i9-7980XE is 11% faster than the AMD Threadripper 1950X. Even if we match core to core, the Core i9-7960X is about 6% faster than the 1950X, both with 16-cores. 

Blender 2.78b

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In both of our tested Blender workloads, the Core i9-7980XE and 7960X are faster than both Threadripper options. In the BMW test that gap is over 20% and on the Gooseberry file it is 42%! 


September 25, 2017 | 03:43 AM - Posted by Puusari (not verified)

Great performance alright, but its a little evident that you try to paint an okish picture for Intel on the value front. They are asking double the price for how much..like 30% more performance. Emphasis on the cost benifit is lacking imo. Intel 4790 owner here.

September 25, 2017 | 05:03 AM - Posted by Martin (not verified)

...or 70% more for +15% performance.

7940X sppears to be the most interesting one of the Intel bunch so far. At $1300, it's "only" 30% more expensive than 1950x and so far it looks like it might match the performance.

September 27, 2017 | 02:29 AM - Posted by throAU (not verified)

In some markets, particularly those who buy such parts, performance per dollar is less relevant than outright performance.

e.g., some oil and gas model work a colleague has been involved in, the company was willing to buy a heap of workstations worth 30-50k to make the simulations run as fast as possible, as improving efficiency could be worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars per day.

in that context, saving a grand on a CPU but giving up ANY of your performance is a bad choice.

Sure,those markets are few and far between, but they do exist, and for those people, intel is a better choice in this segment.

For the vast majority though, who aren't dealing with those sorts of efficiency improvements and ROI improvements its a different story.

But for a lot of THOSE people, the HEDT platform isn't really required or worth the money anyway.

Its certainly a consideration worth mentioning anyhow.

September 27, 2017 | 02:36 AM - Posted by throAU (not verified)

Oh, and i write that as an AMD fan by the way.

I'd never buy one of those processors, and I'm deciding between Ryzen and ThreadRipper for my next build at the moment.

But I'm also an experienced IT veteran of some 20 years, and have been around long enough and seen enough to know that sometimes its not worth trying to force square pegs into round holes.

You use the most appropriate tool for the job, and in some cases, it is WORTH spending double, triple or many more times the price if the ROI is worth it.

September 25, 2017 | 03:54 AM - Posted by Skree (not verified)

Who cores?

September 25, 2017 | 04:05 AM - Posted by BobbyVal (not verified)

AMD panic mode. Price drop imminent!

September 25, 2017 | 05:19 AM - Posted by biohazard918

umm why? They already have a crushing advantage in performance per dollar. What would be the point when thread ripper is already very competitive for anyone paying for their own hardware.

September 25, 2017 | 05:26 AM - Posted by quest4glory

Pretty much this, I don't see very many people paying an extra grand for 40% more performance, overclocking it and then adding something like 2 480mm radiators + whatever else they can spare just to try to keep the processor cool.

September 25, 2017 | 08:09 AM - Posted by biohazard918

Eh cooling is much less of an issue then power delivery on the mobo if I had to guess. Look at how much heat amd dumped though a 120mm rad with there dual gpu cards. The numbers I am hearing are plus 500 watts which is in the same range as a 295x2. Just need a good block and pump. Now the real question is will your mobo catch on fire.

September 25, 2017 | 11:13 PM - Posted by quest4glory

Not really. GN has temp data for things like a 30 minute Blender run on an overclocked 7960X at 85C, with the 7980XE sometimes jumping up to 90. That is with a 360mm radiator. They had to delid and replace with liquid metal just to decrease the temps 10-15 degrees. Still too hot for my taste and most serious enthusiasts, I'd wager.

September 25, 2017 | 03:04 PM - Posted by Streetguru

The most they might do is release a 32 core Threadripper chip, won't be quite as good as the EYPC equivalent on Memory/PCI-e, but keeps their crown in this market segment.

September 25, 2017 | 05:25 AM - Posted by PcShillSuxDick (not verified)

Edited because the author was stupid.

September 25, 2017 | 05:53 AM - Posted by quest4glory

Way to keep it classy.

September 25, 2017 | 08:30 AM - Posted by CB

Yeah, Ryan's totally a shill. I mean, who would want to look at benchmarks and make an informed decision?

And, shills always point out how to other product wins handily in performance per dollar. /sarcasm

Nice review Ryan. Some of us actually enjoy reading the articles and benchmarks. I, for one, know that these products are out of my price range and use case but still love reading about the absolute bleeding edge of tech.

September 25, 2017 | 05:59 PM - Posted by DemXsEnSuchFiles (not verified)

All the online websites are in the compamnies's pockets for ad revenuse and review samples! So where have you been living lately as that's not new news industry wide. You have to go and read many reviews across many online news/review sites to get the proper view of reality. It has always been thus in Crony Capitalist America, or Scamerica as I like to call it.

So some websites spin one way and other websites spin the other and more research is reqired to get closer to the truth! Read as many reviews form as many sources as possible and even other poster's benchmarks on reddit/Anandtech forums/other sites. It's all X-Files with the benchmarking/review process anyways and the Truth Is Out There to find.

September 25, 2017 | 05:48 AM - Posted by Odizzido2 (not verified)

That's pretty damn expensive for what it offers.

September 25, 2017 | 05:53 AM - Posted by quest4glory

Some people are more than willing to pay the Intel tax. Same goes for Apple, luxury automobile makers, etc. etc. etc.

September 25, 2017 | 05:54 AM - Posted by Prodeous_at_work (not verified)

Honestly I'm happy about this release.

A. it clearly shows Intel finally felt threat from AMD, and put a Xeon in the Desktop environment.

B. AMD's TR is not that far back at 1/2 the price. and even power wise it is not that bad.

C. This makes me get the TR 1950 even more... Well done Intel :)

D. If money was no object, that new Intel chip would be to drool for. though if money was No Object, I would get a quad Xeon or Epyc setup :)

September 25, 2017 | 07:07 AM - Posted by FQ (not verified)

Exactly, I don't have issue with money but I'm not going to spend my money for no reason. Especially at my age (getting closer to 40). Getting the most expensive setup is stupid. I have no use for it and can use that money to invest instead. Even the the threadripper is way over what I need to use. I'm still debating if I should get a Ryzen as my Phenom II 1090T is serving me well for the last 7 years.

September 25, 2017 | 10:04 AM - Posted by Benjamins (not verified)

You should see TR4 NVME Riad results
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cH9orZ9Qtg

September 25, 2017 | 07:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous69854255 (not verified)

AVX-512 - Is it effective for video software?
Encoded?
Movies ?
Real time conversion?
What video software works with AVX-512 ?

September 25, 2017 | 10:41 PM - Posted by James

I don't think AVX-512 is a very good idea. It should be able to do 16 32-bit operations per clock per unit, but even a small GPU can do hundreds, if not thousands of operations in a clock. The CPU clock is higher, but not by that much, and it may have to downclock the units due to power consumption. The GPU will probably be significantly more power efficient as far as performance per watt. If you have an application that could make use of 512-bit vector units, then the developer of that application should be porting it to run on a GPU. Hopefully servers that don't need much of any FP at all will not burn extra power due to the AVX units.

September 26, 2017 | 09:47 AM - Posted by ThreeCardIntelMonte (not verified)

Yes that's why Intel's Bean Counters are doing that 1 AVX 512 unit on some and 2 AVX 512 units on others and users having something else to have to pay extra($$$$$) for Intel to enable with "features" like RAID keys and other such product segementing schemes to milk those cows even more for profit. Those drops in Intel's sky high CPU SKU pricing will have to be made up in CPU feature reductions and elsewhere across Intel's CPU/MB platforms to try and claw back some of those high margins than Intel runs on.

It's Just more of Intel's 3 Card Monte where Intel trys its best to shuffle higher costs onto the MB/other CPU parts with features that are disabled that can be re-enabled for a price! Watch the Features, Watch those Features, can you guess where they have gone, lower pricing here and higher cost there to re-enable for a price($$$$$)! One Intel hand gives the other takes away, so watch those cards and not your pockets as thoes extra set of Intel claws reach deep down into your wallet and your pockets to snag every last bit of change!

September 25, 2017 | 09:21 AM - Posted by Benjamins (not verified)

Are we going to see x399 NVME raid tests. Der8auer has a video out about it.

September 25, 2017 | 10:27 AM - Posted by Mr.Book

Thanks for the review Ryan. On a related note, I would like to have seen platform costs included in the review.

Cheers.

September 25, 2017 | 11:03 AM - Posted by Manda (not verified)

Well, people being able to buy these kind of "enthusiast" rig isn't by getting wrong decision often. And that 1000$ difference looks like one.

September 25, 2017 | 11:29 AM - Posted by JustDoTheMathOnEpycSingleSocket (not verified)

Now let's look at the cost of the Epyc 7401P($1075) at 24 cores/48 threads and compare that to the cost of the Threadripper 1950X and Intel's HEDT SKUs. So for any Blender rendering workloads and other workloads AMD's 24 core/48 thread Epyc 7401P($1075) only costs $76 dollars more than the Threadripper 1950X($999) and a lot less than Intel's top end HEDT offerings. Then there is the the Epyc platfotm's Standard across all Epyc single and dual socket SP3 motherbpard SKUs support for 128 PCIe lanes and 8 memory channels with the single socket Epyc motherboards running in the $450-$625 range. Which is not too bad considering that the Epyc/SP3 motherboards usually offer dual 10Gb ethernet support and are fully Tested/Certified and validated for ECC memory with that ECC usage supported in the warrenties of both the Epyc/SP3 motherboard parts.

So the Epyc SP3 motherboards all support 128 PCIe lanes and 8 memory channels and actually are run through a standard series of rigorous Certification/Validation testing for ECC memory and the Epyc/SP3 MB Parts get the 3+ year warrinties and extended product availability and support that comes standard with the REAL Workstation/server Grade parts.

So on a feature for feature basis the Epyc 7401P and SP3 motherboard options have twice the PCIe lanes and twice the memory channels as any Threadripper CPU/X399 MB SKUs. And the Epyc/SP3 motherboard's(128 PCIe lanes/8 Memory Channels) costs less(even at $625 for the Gigabyte SP3 MB) on a MB-price/PCIe lane and MB-price/memory channel pricing/feature metric than even a $349 Threadripper X399 motherboard with its only 64 PCIe lanes and 4 memory channel support.

If you look at AMD's single scoket Epyc/SP3 MB options and their standard featre sets and the Epyc 7401P/Other "P" single socket processor price/featre offerings then that comes out better than the Theradripper/X399 MB platform on a feature for feature basis and way better than any Intel top end HEDT offerings as well. AMD's Epyc/SP3 MB options are the reverse of Intel's Xeon/Xeon MB options that cost much more on a feature for feature basis than any AMD/Intel consumer/HEDT variants with the Epyc/SP3 "P"/single socket SP3/MB actually a better feature for featire deal than AMD's consumer/HEDT Threadripper for the Real Epyc Branded Workstation/Server parts.

September 25, 2017 | 04:12 PM - Posted by James

So, TL;DR

September 25, 2017 | 11:54 AM - Posted by vodkakarhu (not verified)

the big guesting left in my mind is who is this cpu for?
draws too much power to be usefull in task where you make money pre wat. dosent have pcie lanes. expensive for streamers if cheaper cpu can do the same task. no ecc memory support at that price.
so what left youtubers that want to make videos bit faster?

September 25, 2017 | 04:17 PM - Posted by James

It is for the marketing department. Reviewers review it and it clearly gets higher bars on a bunch of thos test. That is the main purpose that they released it. They don't really have to sell any. An 18 core part is probably very low volume, even for Xeon parts. Price wise it may even be better to get a dual socket board and much cheaper processors even if you are staying with Intel. It will be almost non-existent in the consumer space.

September 27, 2017 | 02:41 AM - Posted by throAU (not verified)

Oil and gas models / simulation.

September 25, 2017 | 12:56 PM - Posted by cracklingice (not verified)

TDP is the amount of the heat generated by the processor and is not the amount of electricity consumed. Think of TDP more as the amount of power that isn't used in performing the work, but instead gets wasted generating heat.

September 25, 2017 | 02:58 PM - Posted by Streetguru

Every watt that goes into a CPU is converted to heat, same for the VRM.

September 25, 2017 | 01:09 PM - Posted by beb (not verified)

no ECC support ? and 2k$ ! I would just go for an AMD Epyc for 2.1k and I would get 32c/64t + 128xPCIE.

September 25, 2017 | 01:10 PM - Posted by beb (not verified)

+8ch memory!

September 25, 2017 | 04:31 PM - Posted by EvenMorePlusesOnEpyc (not verified)

+ The Epyc CPU/Socket SP3 Motherboards are all certified/tested/vaildated for ECC memory! Not So for any consumer Threadripper/X399 or Consumer Intel/HEDT/MB CPU/motherboard SKUs. And the Epyc/SP3 MB SKUs being fully certified/tested/vaildated for ECC memory uasge with the Epyc CPU's/Socket SP3 MB's ECC ability guaranteed in the parts' warranty.

+ The Epyc/SP3 motherboards often have dual 10Gb ethernet support and remote/headless server support/management chips and 3+ year CPU/MB warrienties.

+ The Epyc CPU/SP3 MB SKUs also come with extended periods of product support for Firmware/drivers/other support and extended product availability support. So the Epyc/SP3 MB parts will be offered for sale over an extended time period compared to the consumer branded parts.

+ The Epyc Server/Workstation CPUs/Socket SP3 have extra features like multi-GPU(Radeon Pro WX/Radeon Instict) peer to peer support on the Epyc/Socket SP3 grade motherboards for that and CPU/GPU Hardware/Firmware/OS virturalization features above and beyond what is available on any consumer CPU/Motherbiard platforms.

September 25, 2017 | 01:22 PM - Posted by shot (not verified)

No thread to thread latency tests?

September 25, 2017 | 04:28 PM - Posted by James

It should be pretty much flat for all cores for the Intel parts. It will be higher than the latency on a 4 core Intel chip (or a 4 core AMD CCX), and they are burning a lot of power to provide that uniform latency. With Zen, you get NUMA like memory access, but that can be optimized for, so it isn't an issue. The data movement then stays more in a 4 core cluster. The benchmarks and some of the apps here may not be NUMA (or at least AMD's specific implementation) optimized. I wouldn't put as much weight on the synthetic banchmarks as I would for a normal desktop part. The Pro apps should be made to take advantage of NUMA so Threadripper may perform differently in NUMA or interleaved mode. I didn't see what mode Ryan ran these test in.

September 25, 2017 | 04:51 PM - Posted by EvenMorePlusesOnEpyc (not verified)

Threadripper is not the best deal for Real Workstation usage, get over that TR/"Workstation" obsession! Epyc is the better deal over any Consumer Grade CPU/MB parts from AMD or Intel!

AMD is not Intel and The Epyc CPUs and Socket SP3 motherboards options especially the 1P Epyc CPU/single scoket SP3 MB SKUs are a better deal than any Theradripper "Workstation" wannabe SKUs!

AMD's Single Socket Epyc/SP3 platform Rules the price/performance metrics and Graphics users have a better chioce that's actually the professional choice. And That ECC memory support is fully tested/certified/validated for any Epyc/SP3 MB parts!

September 25, 2017 | 10:54 PM - Posted by James

I didn't say anything about Threadripper for workstations. People probably are buying it as gaming/encoding machines though. That isn't a bad use for it. Not everyone cares about ECC and other workstation features. Also a Threadripper 1900x is only 550$. Not everyone will want to drop 1000$ or more on the top Threadripper. Also, it is unclear how much Epyc boards will cost. TR boards seem to be about 350$ with 4 memory channels routed. Epyc will have all 8 memory channels plus a lot more pci-e. Also, you need to populate all 8 channels for full bandwidth. It will be significantly more expensive than a TR board and 4 memory sticks. It also will probably not be an ATX board. They will probably be E-ATX. Even though low end Epyc may be close to the top TR in price, the platform cost will not be the same. You should stop trying to push Epyc over TR when you don't know the actual cost.

September 26, 2017 | 11:22 AM - Posted by ThreeCardIntelMonte (not verified)

"you need to populate all 8 channels for full bandwidth"

But you can save money by getting the smaller capacity DIMMs and if you do want ECC memory the smaller capicity ECC DIMMs are much more affordable. So with 8 memory channels there is the option of populating across the 8 memory channels on Epyc while still being able to have a large total memory capicity of 32GB with for example: 8, 4GB ECC DIMMs(much lower cost) and leave each of the 8 channels' other memory slots emmpty. With TR's only 4 memory channels you will have to populate both the memory channels slots and that can cost memory/latency speeds/efficiency once you start going higher capacity with the DIMMs and using both the channel's DIMM slots.

There is regestered ECC DIMMs(Real costly) and Unregistered ECC DIMMs less costly, but if you start to populate both the channel's 2 DIMM slots then you are going to need Registered ECC DIMMs, while with only one DIMM slot per channel populated you can go with the lower cost unregistered ECC memory.

With 8 memory channels you get twice the effective bandwidth or you can NUMA mode up into 4 NUMA nodes, each with it's own dual channel primary/near memory store. It all depends on what workloads work best with what mode.
So On Epyc systems that Virtuilization Of CPU/GPU IP in the Zeppelin Die is all fully enabled and on some Epyc/SP3 Motherboards there is also support for AMD GPU to AMD GPU peer to peer networking among multi-GPUs.

So that's also an extra benefit, and who Knows what kinds of GPU Peer to Peer over that Infinity Fabric Protocol may be enabled for any Vega micro-arch beased GPUs with some future MB/Firmware updates on any Epyc SP3 based MB platforms. Epyc CPUs Speak Infinity Fabric protocol and so do Vega micro-arch based GPUs. And Infinity Fabric on Vega is similar to Nvidia's NVLink with the Infinity Fabric being a level above PCIe for those similar to Nvidia's NVLink sorts of direct GPU to GPU interfacing and CPU to GPU Interfacing.

There is a lot of IP in Vega that will be enabled once the software/driver/firmeware is all fully validated for that more Direct Sorts of Infinity Fabric sorts of Interfacing.

Sure Threadripper can be used for some encoding workloads but that Epyc(24 core/48 Thread) 7401P's price per core($44.80) is even less than the 1900X's(8 cores/16 Threads) $68.75 per core cost. And the Epyc SP3 motherboards cost($625 for that single socket Gigabyte Epyc/SP3 MB) has a per PCIe lane cost(Epyc SP3 MB's cost/#PCIe lanes, 128 PCIe lanes) of $4.88 Per PCIe lane, with the TR($350) MB-Price/#PCIe lanes(64) costing $5.47 pre PCIe lane. And Epyc's SP3 MB(Gigabyte of $625/#Memory channels(8) is $78.13 per memory channel while that TR/x399 MB $350/#Memory channels(4) for a per memory channel cost of $87.50 per memory channel.

So Epyc's cost/feature is less even though the overall cost of the Epyc 7401P/SP3 MB costs more than that TR $350MB/$550-1900X combo, and I did not even consder the Gigabyte Epyc/SP3 MB's dual 10Gb ethernet/other features supported that are Certified/Fully validated features on Epyc and not on the Threadripper/X399 platform.

September 25, 2017 | 02:28 PM - Posted by JohnGR

This platform is for the stupid and those who want the best. For the stupid who will throw hundreds of dollars on an expensive 2066 motherboard and get a quad core, thinking they will upgrade "cheap" in the future(having payed in front for the more expensive motherboard, that's why I call them "stupid") and those who just want the best, either because they have dollars to burn, or because they are professionals and time is money for them. Everyone between will be better with a Ryzen 7 or a Threadripper.

September 25, 2017 | 06:32 PM - Posted by James

If you are willing to spend 2000 dollars for the best performance, then you might want to wait and see what Epyc can do for the applications you care about.

September 27, 2017 | 10:32 AM - Posted by EpycCurbStompsIntelandTRInPricePerFeatureValue (not verified)

The Epyc 7401P(24 core/48 threads, at $1075) costs only $76 dollars more than the Threadripper 1950X(16 core/32 thread, at $999). And there are a least 2 single socket Epyc/SP3 motheboard's listed for sale now(1 Tyan at around $450, and One Gigabyte for $610-$625) so if you take the number of memory channels offered on the Epyc/SP3 MB's(128 PCIe lanes, 8 memory channels), then on a total MB/cost per feature metric the Epyc/SP3 motherboards come out costing less on any MB-Price/Per-PCIe lane and MB-Price/Per-Memory-Channel metric, even on a $625(Gigabyte Epyc/SP3 MB) price compared to a $350(Threadripper/X399 MB) price.

And the Gigibyte Epyc/SP3 motherboard at even $625 is offering dual 10Gb Ethernet and single 1Gb Ethernet allong with other workstation/server Grade features like fully certified/validated ECC tested support for ECC memory.

So it's better to look at those Price/Feature metrics and do a proper cost/benefit analysis because the Epyc single socket platform offerings are an even better feature for feature deal than any Threadripper/X399 platform offeringes for the Real Workstation/Server Epic/SP3 MB feature sets at a better price/feature metric.

September 25, 2017 | 02:58 PM - Posted by Streetguru

What's up with the 12/16 Threadripper chips having the same power consumption?

And why are the 10 core parts so far apart in power consumption?

September 25, 2017 | 06:30 PM - Posted by James

The lower the core count, the higher the base clock is for Threadripper.

September 25, 2017 | 03:46 PM - Posted by agello24 (not verified)

make sure before you purchase the i9-7980XE, that you lube up well and have intel use protection. cause they are about to fuck some buyers raw!

September 26, 2017 | 02:09 PM - Posted by malakudi

Something is wrong here. Ars Technica could not overclock i9-7960X over 4100MHz @ all 16 cores without hitting thermal throttling and you are able to overclock i9-7980XE at 4300MHz @ all 18 cores? They even used 360mm water cooling and still could not avoid thermal throttling above 4100 MHz, you have used 240mm one. So what is going on here? If pcper just has a "golden" chip, we cannot make conclusions about overclocking capability.

The article mentions that there were no stability issues at 4300, but it doesn't mention if thermal throttling occured on longer running tests, making the overclock result irrelevant.

September 30, 2017 | 11:11 AM - Posted by NumberCruncher (not verified)

Ah, did the author intentionally leave out the fact that AMD is exposing a whopping 64 PCIe lanes when evaluating these processors???

Clearly INTEL is the one in full panic mode here - like I've never seen them...

October 1, 2017 | 06:17 AM - Posted by Anonymouse (not verified)

Intel 18C SL-X -$2000

AMD 32C EPYC 7551P -$2100

Want a *real* workstation ? You don't want Intel then. Because single socket EPYC buries everything they've got. But the 'press' never mentions it. They just keep comparing $2000 Intel chips to $1000 Threadripper.

Bunch of shills. You're right, workstation buyers *don't* care about cost so much, which is exactly why they will spend the extra $100 on an EPYC, and leave this expensive, hot, zero value for money 'kidde 18C' junk from Intel in the trash, where it belongs.

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