Roman Hartung, otherwise known by his overclocking handle Der8auer, delidded an $1,100 i9-7920X and posted pictures to his Facebook account. Intel originally slated its new 12C/24T i9-7920X for release August 28, but the chips didn't appear at retailers until roughly a week later. In either case, it isn't surprising to see one of Intel's latest Skylake-X processor make it onto Der8auer's test bench, but the size of the massive die does give us a few clues as to what lurks underneath.
The Core i9-7920X is the first photo in the series. The die rests on an interposer (the topmost PCB), which Intel connects to another underlying PCB. That layered design makes delidding Skylake-X chips more difficult than delidding a "regular" chip. Typically, you can use a simple razor blade to pop off the IHS (Integrated Heat Spreader), thus exposing the die. However, the stacked interposer introduces another layer of glue to the design, so you have to use a dedicated delidding tool.
As always, proceed at your own risk; delidding is risky and known to destroy processors. However, delidding allows you to swap out the TIM under the IHS, thus gaining some much-needed overclocking headroom.
We don't see any solder residue around the die, so it appears that Intel is sticking with its oft-maligned thermal paste. That means we can expect similar cooling problems that we've seen with other Skylake-X models. We dove in deeper in our Skylake-X Mess Explored: Thermal Paste And Runaway Power article.
Intel's ten-core i9-7900X is pictured in the second slide, and the last slide is a Kaby Lake-X processor. The 7920X's die is much larger than the other two processors, whereas the Kaby Lake-X models use the same die we find on Intel's mainstream processors, but they all snap into an LGA 2066 socket. The interposer allows Intel to mix and match different die into the same socket.
Intel's Skylake-X die come in LCC (Low Core Count), HCC (High Core Count), and XCC (eXtreme Core Count) flavors. The lower-end Skylake-X models, like the Intel Core i9-7900X we recently reviewed, use the 10-core LCC die. Intel disables cores along the way to create the six-core and eight-core models.
Stepping up to more cores, such as Intel's forthcoming 18C/36T i9-7980XE, requires the HCC die. That means Intel's flagship will look the same under the hood as the i9-7920X pictured above.
Intel is, unsurprisingly, sticking to using thermal paste under the 7920X's heatspreader, and we suspect the same for the flagship 18C/36T model. That will pose a serious challenge to even the most accomplished overclockers, as poor thermal dissipation from the die is impossible to completely surmount, even with exotic cooling solutions. Intel also released new microcode for its Skylake-X processors recently, which reduces performance in some titles and lowers the AVX offset by two bins, which is likely designed to address the recent thermal issues.
In either case, we'll be able to share details on cooling in the near future, as the rest of the Skylake-X models are coming to market soon.