We tracked down Intel's demo system at the show to get a closer look at the new motherboard and system that supports the company's 28-core processor. We found that the company tested the processor with a hefty overclock that required a massive water chiller.
Intel's Computex presentation surprisingly included the overclocked 28-core processor at an impressive 5.0 GHz, but as per usual for a tradeshow demo, the company didn't share many details. AMD released a new 32-core Threadripper 2 model here at Computex, and Intel's announcement that it will ship a 28-core model this year was clearly designed to steal some of AMD's thunder before its announcement.
The center of the motherboard is dominated by the massive 3,647-pin LGA3647 socket, which is flanked by six DIMM slots on each side. These memory slots feed the six-core memory controller onboard the chip, which is largely thought to be a $10,000 Xeon Platinum Scalable 8180 server processor with an unlocked multiplier. The board has four eight-pin EPS power connectors. The processor requires a 1000W power supply to feed adequate power for overclocking.
The motherboard features a 32-phase power delivery subsystem. A massive finned heatsink with four fans cools the VRMs.
Intel's demo didn't tell the full story. Many in the press mistakenly assumed the new processor runs at 5.0 GHz at stock settings, but we carefully analyzed video from the event and spotted a few obvious signs that the processor was overclocked. Intel was apparently running some sort of closed-loop cooling that required insulating material around the tubing. This turns out to be a water chiller hidden under the table. As expected, all of the components are properly shielded to avoid excess condensation from the chilled liquid.
The one-horsepower Hailea HC-1000B is a beefy water chiller that can dissipate tremendous amounts of waste heat, but it also requires more than 1,000W for operation. We were originally going to witness the demo first hand, but there wasn't enough power handy to run both the chiller and the system simultaneously.
Intel's new 28-core processor is likely similar to the Xeon Platinum 8180. This processor lands with a $10,000 MSRP for data center users, and given its target market, it doesn't come with an unlocked multiplier. Releasing an enterprise model with an unlocked multiplier to the general market is a tricky proposition for Intel, as data center and high performance computing users will jump on the unlocked models, thus plundering sales of high-margin Xeon models. As such, we can expect Intel will charge a hefty premium for its new 28-core models and employ some type of defeaturing, such as removing AVX-512, ECC, and multi-socket support to discourage the practice.
Intel processors have much higher frequency headroom than AMD's processors, both at stock settings and after overclocking. The 5.0 GHz overclock makes Intel's new processor all the more impressive compared to AMD's relatively tame clock speeds. Intel's large monolithic die also features a cohesive mesh interconnect, while AMD's Threadripper processors have a distributed MCM design that connects multiple die via the Infinity Fabric. AMD's implementation can suffer from reduced performance in games and some applications, although the company does offer several parameters that users can tweak to reduce the impact. In either case, Intel's enthusiast-class processors generally lead competing AMD models in lightly threaded games and applications. Adding more multi-threaded heft with 28-core models will help Intel address one of its remaining weaknesses compared to Threadripper processors, but pricing will be a problem.
In the end, the incredible requirements for overclocking the 28-core processor, which requires hefty power and cooling accomodations, make it clear that most enthusiasts won't be pushing the limits of Intel's 28-core processor any time soon.