Intel Core i9-7900X Review: Meet Skylake-X

Workstation & HPC

If you want to know more about our HPC benchmarks, check out the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X CPU Review. We didn't just copy results from that story, though. Rather, after a number of BIOS updates and software configuration changes, we retested everything. This gives us a more up-to-date picture, reflecting improvements of up to 15% that AMD worked hard to enable.

2D Benchmarks: DirectX and GDI/GDI+

Adding Intel’s new CPU doesn’t yield any surprises in our AutoCAD 2D and GDI/GDI+ graphics benchmarks. The newcomer falls in place exactly where you’d expect based on its frequency.

2D Benchmarks: Adobe Creative Cloud

The same is true in Adobe's CC apps. Again, performance comes down to clock rate. The Intel Core i9-7900X does well in workloads that challenge more than four cores. However, two of the individual scores do show some need for optimization on Intel’s part, which may be weaknesses related to the mesh topology.

3D Benchmarks: DirectX and OpenGL

The Core i9-7900X’s graphics performance across individual applications and suites is consistent with our previous findings. Turbo Boost plays a big role here, since few of the popular applications are (yet) able to utilize more than two cores. This calls for a high IPC, which the Core i9-7900X has a much easier time supplying than the Core i7-6950X.

CPU Performance: Workstation

The 3D graphics performance we just measured isn’t all that matters to professional rendering titles. Applications run many other tasks (like simulations, compute jobs, preview rendering) on the CPU simultaneously. The full picture’s only achievable by looking at both of them together.

AMD’s Ryzen CPUs look good here, which is to say that the Core i9-7900X has to go all-out, and even then has a hard time justifying its price tag.

CPU Performance: Photorealistic Rendering

Final rendering doesn’t need a jack of all trades. Instead, efficiency and fast parallel computation are key. This is why photorealistic rendering gets its own test section. Intel's Core i9-7900X does really well, beating some of the contenders by huge margins. Only the much less expensive AMD Ryzen 7 1800X can keep up every now and then, which is a nice surprise. The Core i7-6950X can’t compete.

CPU Performance: Encoding & Compression/Decompression

These types of tasks also fall into the Core i9-7900X's wheelhouse. Decompression is the only field where Intel’s new processor slows down a bit. It's in good company, though. In the end, this workload is only lightly threaded, preventing the -7900X from really shining.

High Performance Computing (HPC)

Intel’s Core i9-7900X shines once again. However, we also have to call out the Ryzen 7 1800X for its exceptional performance, particularly given a much more affordable price tag.

In most tests, Intel’s new processor does dominate the field. This makes it an interesting alternative to expensive Xeon workstations for semi-professional work.

In the end, Intel’s Core i9-7900X is a good choice for enthusiasts running well-threaded professional tasks, particularly when a Xeon-based workstation might be overkill. Thanks to Turbo Boost, the new processor also performs well when only a small number of cores are in use, emphasizing IPC and clock rate more than parallelism.

This means that the Core i9-7900X kills two birds with one stone by providing high frequencies when just a few cores are active and great multi-threaded performance when dealing with well-threaded tasks. The same certainly can’t be said for its predecessor, the Core i7-6950X.

To be fair, the significantly less expensive AMD Ryzen 7 1800X keeps up with Intel's latest in a number of places. This comes as a surprise, since the numbers we generated when Ryzen launched were markedly worse. Power users who want top performance across the board will definitely get it from Intel, but this choice won’t always result in a speed-up commensurate with Core i9's price premium.


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