When AMD came out guns blazing with its multi-core, heavily multi-threaded Ryzen CPUs, we knew that Intel wouldn't take long to respond. And it has, with a new line-up of Core i5, i7 and a new i9 with as many as 18 cores and 36 hyperthreading threads. They'll be phenomenally fast, of course, but will have a price tag that puts any other PC component you could think of to shame.
Introduced at Computex in Taipei, Intel's latest CPUs use a new X299 chipset and new 2066-pin socket. CPUs with from four to 18 physical cores are on offer, so there's a huge range of options at — a huge range of prices. The cheapest quad-core Core i5-7640X (with no hyperthreading) is a $US242 part, for example, while the top of the line 10-core (and 20 thread) i9-7900X is an eye-bleeding $US999.
Those 4, 6, 8, and 10-core chips will launch first around the world, and 12, 14, 16, and 18-core CPUs will follow soon enough. All the chips have comparatively very high TDP thermal thresholds, so you'll need to invest in a gutsy water or air cooler to let these Core X processors run free without throttling back under load. Where Intel's mainstream desktop CPUs top out at around 90 Watts, these ones will hit 140 — and Intel's recommending water cooling as standard for the first time.
Intel says it's by far the most extreme desktop processor it's ever produced, and it's taken a page from the book of its server-grade Xeon chips to put the new hardware together. Compared to its previous generation of "most powerful ever" Extreme chips, the company is quoting a 10 and 15 per cent jump in multi- and single-threaded performance respectively.
Ryzen must have Intel spooked, because AMD's massively multi-core chips represented the first time that 8-core CPUs hit the mainstream desktop PC market. AMD's Ryzen is a superlative multi-core performer and brings that "mega-tasking" multi-tasking — gaming, streaming, saving content — to the mainstream in a way that the company hasn't seen success with in years. It has a new server and high-end desktop CPU, too, called Threadripper — up to 16 cores and 32 threads — and likely at a competitive price.
Intel also took the opportunity to hint at its 8th-gen Core processors, still a few weeks away from an official unveiling — expect up to 30 per cent better performance, it says, bringing quad-core and eight-thread performance to its mainstream Core i7-7500U equivalent mobile chips which are currently only dual-core. Laptops could be getting a significant speed boost in the near future.
Gizmodo traveled to Computex as a guest of Dell.