Intel Xeon W-3175X Review: Ultimate Performance at the Ultimate Price

If you're looking for the most extreme CPU available, Intel's overclockable 28-core, 56-thread Xeon W-3175X is the chip for you (provided you can come up with $3,000, plus the cost of an expensive platform). In comparison, AMD's massive Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX is downright affordable at $1,800.

Xeon W-3175X doesn't even match the core count of AMD's flagship. But Intel thinks its Skylake-SP silicon can beat AMD's finest in every type of workload, particularly the heavily-threaded tasks such a CPU was designed for. Think architectural and industrial design, or professional content creation. 

As if the processor's hefty price tag wasn't enough, Intel's workstation-oriented Xeon W-3175X needs exotic accommodations for overclocking, too. The company's existing Xeon W models top out at 18 cores and drop into familiar LGA 2066 interfaces. But introducing the highest-end server silicon to workstations required stepping up to the complex LGA 3641 socket, which hasn't seen the light of day outside of data centers.

In order for us to test its Xeon W-3175X, Intel sent over a pre-built PC armed with the gorgeously-appointed $1,500 Asus ROG Dominus Extreme motherboard, featuring two 24-pin ATX connectors, a quartet of eight-pin inputs, and a pair of six-pin connectors for feeding the 255W chip through a ridiculous 32-phase power delivery subsystem. The company also shipped two 1600W EVGA T2 PSUs to serve up sufficient power for overclocking.

If that all sounds extreme to you, then we wholeheartedly agree. If ever there was a CPU able to inspire envy among enthusiasts, this is it. Intel is obviously going all-out to quell the Threadripper uprising. And while our testing determined that the W-3175X offers far more performance in most workloads without the compromises imposed by AMD's 2990WX, Intel still isn't as competitive on the pricing front. Of course, cost is usually a secondary consideration for professionals when time maps over to dollars, and the chip's overclockability will certainly find plenty of fans in high-frequency trading circles. This grants Intel the license to charge big bucks for the best overall performance money can buy.

Intel Xeon W-3175X Specifications

The Xeon W-3175X wades into a increasingly crowded workstation market. While AMD's Threadripper processors aren't officially aimed at that space, their combination of lower prices, higher core counts, and largely unrestrained feature sets (like unlocked multipliers, support for ECC memory, and 64 third-gen PCIe lanes on every model) is attractive among professionals.

In contrast, the Xeon W-3175X is designed for workstations. It supports ECC memory, Intel's vPro management suite, and advanced RAS (Reliability, Availability, Serviceability) features. But its design feels more like an enthusiast part due to an unlocked multiplier. That's a tactic the notoriously-stingy Intel hadn't previously explored in the Xeon W family. Thanks to AMD's enthusiast initiative, though, Intel finds itself playing with new knobs and levers. 

Intel recently split its server chips out onto their own platform with a larger interface and a different chipset. However, the first round of Xeon Ws, spanning from four to 18 cores, drop right into the LGA 2066 socket we know from the company's high-end desktop motherboards (albeit paired with a server-specific C422 chipset that prevents Xeon W from working in consumer platforms). Unfortunately, that left Intel's CPUs with 18+ cores stranded on server platforms with the massive LGA 3647 interface. To bring the 3175X to workstations, Intel had to repackage that bigger socket and C620-series chipset for a more accessible form factor. As a result, we end up with a much larger CPU than we're used to seeing in a desktop system. Check out the Core i5-8086K, to the left, and the HEDT-class Core i9-9980XE, to the right, in the picture above.

Intel Xeon W-3175X Specifications
Socket
LGA 3647 (Socket P)
Cores / Threads
28 / 56
TDP
255W
Base Frequency
3.1 GHz
Turbo Frequency  (TB 2.0)
4.3 GHz
L3 Cache
38.5 MB
Integrated Graphics
No
Graphics Base/Turbo (MHz)
N/A
Memory Support
DDR4-2666
Memory Controller
Six-Channel
Unlocked Multiplier
Yes
PCIe Lanes
48

The Xeon W-3175X has 28 physical cores with Hyper-Threading technology, allowing it to operate on 56 threads at the same time. A $3,000 price tag means that the 3175X only competes with AMD's 32C/64T Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX in terms of core count. Otherwise, it stands alone as the most expensive chip outside of Intel's full-on Xeon Scalable data center line-up.

Although $3,000 is decidedly steep, bear in mind that the W-3175X is eerily similar to Intel's Xeon Scalable Platinum 8180, which sells for $10,000. Of course, Intel strips features from the W-3175X to prevent data centers from using these chips en masse. For instance, the UPI (Ultra Path Interconnect), which allows multiple Xeons Scalable processors to work together, is disabled.

Like Intel's data center-oriented model, the W-3175X also features a familiar Skylake-SP microarchitecture, Mesh Topology, support for AVX-512, a 28-core XCC die and a rebalanced cache hierarchy that includes 1MB of private L2 cache per core and 38.5 MB of total shared L3.

Intel's Xeon processors are based on one of three dies: XCC (up to 28 cores), HCC (up to 18 cores), or LCC (up to 10 cores). Recently, the company used its HCC die for Core X-series CPUs with more than 10 cores and the LCC die for models with 10 or fewer cores. Now Intel uses the HCC die for all of its Core X-series models and the XCC die for its W-3175X.

The W-3175X also features a six-channel memory controller that supports up to 512GB of DDR4-2666 memory (less than standard Xeon's support for 768GB) in both ECC and non-ECC flavors. AMD's Threadripper platform supports up to 1.5TB of memory per chip, though its quad-channel controller can't provide as much throughput as the W-3175X (~35GB/s vs. ~59 GB/s).

Threadripper exposes 60 native PCIe lanes. Although Intel fires back with 68 "platform" lanes, that number includes additional lanes carved from the C621 chipset. The W-3175X actually only exposes 52 native PCIe 3.0 lanes. Four are dedicated to the DMI 3.0 connection between its PCH and CPU, meaning you get access to 48 native lanes.

Active Cores - Non-AVX Frequency
Base
1 -2
3 - 4
5 - 12
13 - 16
17 - 18
19 - 20
21 - 24
25 - 28
Xeon W-3175X
3.1
4.3
4.1
4.0
4.0
4.0
4.0
4.0
3.8
Xeon Platinum Scalable 8180
2.1
3.6
3.4
3.3
3.3
3.1
3.1
2.9
2.8
Core i9-9980XE
3.0
4.5
4.2
4.1
3.9
3.8
-
-
-

As you can see above, the W-3175X's base and Turbo Boost frequencies are considerably higher than the 205W Platinum 8180, which isn't surprising given the W-3175X's 255W TDP rating. The improvements are apparent in Intel's multi-core Turbo Boost 2.0 clock rates, which increase between 700 MHz to 1 GHz depending on the number of active cores. That should yield big gains in games and productivity apps, along with sizeable speed-ups in content creation and rendering workloads.

Whereas the Core i9-9980XE uses a solder-based thermal interface material (STIM) to improve thermal transfer between its die and heat spreader, Intel's Xeon W-3175X uses the company's garden-variety thermal grease. We'd expect that to negatively affect overclocking, particularly in light of this CPU's prodigious power draw. Even at stock clock rates, expect to invest in a premium motherboardhigh-capacity power supply, and beefy cooler to get the most out of the Xeon W-3175X. Intel goes so far as to recommend water-cooling.


Cores /
Threads
Base /
Boost (GHz)
L3 Cache
(MB)
PCIe 3.0
DRAM
TDP
MSRP/RCP
Price
Per Core
TR 2990WX
32 / 64
3.0 / 4.2
64
64 (4 to PCH)
Quad DDR4-2933
250W
$1,799$56
Intel Xeon W-3175X
28 / 56
3.1 / 4.3
38.5
?
Six-channel DDR4-2666
255W
$2,999
$107
TR 2970WX
24 / 48
3.0 / 4.2
64
64 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933250W
$1,299
$54
Core i9-9980XE
18 / 36
3.0 / 4.5
24.75
44
Quad DDR4-2666165W
$1,979
$110
TR 2950X
16 / 32
3.5 / 4.4
32
64 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933180W
$899
$56
Core i9-9960X
16 / 32
3.1 / 4.5
22
44
Quad DDR4-2666165W
$1,684
$105
TR 2920X
12 / 24
3.5 / 4.3
32
64 (4 to PCH)Quad DDR4-2933180W
$649
$54
Core i9-9900K
8 / 16
3.6 / 5.0
16
16
Dual DDR4-2666
95W
$500
$62.5

The Xeon W-3175X's $3,000 recommended price (per 1,000 tray units) means you pay a lot more per core than anything in AMD's Threadripper line-up. Intel obviously believes that its architecture, which doesn't require swapping between different modes for optimal performance across disparate workloads, like Threadripper, a more robust feature set, and six channels of memory throughput are worth the premium.

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  • rantoc
    Shame i don't live on the north-pole where this cpu could be fully utilized - As a space heater and cpu ;)
  • Other Comments
  • rantoc
    Shame i don't live on the north-pole where this cpu could be fully utilized - As a space heater and cpu ;)
  • shrapnel_indie
    317373 said:
    Shame i don't live on the north-pole where this cpu could be fully utilized - As a space heater and cpu ;)


    With this current polar vortex.... you might not need to live at one of the poles to take advantage of the space heater qualities.
  • jimmysmitty
    As impressive as it is that Intel can match or beat more cores with less Intel really needs to get pricing in check. Its hard to justify this CPU when its cost is nearly double but the performance is not always double.

    I like Intels platform but man they really have to come back down to earth and start competing with AMD from a price perspective as well.
  • rschiwal
    I've always been an AMD fan. For my gaming and Blender use it's Ryzen all the way! you can't beat the performance/cost ratio, but as a system administrator, I would recommend a Dell server with this processor as a core server in business infrastructure. Xeon is a known commodity. I would love to see Threadripper servers in non-critical operations until I know how dependable they are, but they are the new hotness. In business, you are looking for a dependable tractor, not a flashy sports car.
  • salgado18
    317373 said:
    Shame i don't live on the north-pole where this cpu could be fully utilized - As a space heater and cpu ;)


    *fortunatelly. One Blender run would melt the entire polar cap.
  • bloodroses
    330834 said:
    317373 said:
    Shame i don't live on the north-pole where this cpu could be fully utilized - As a space heater and cpu ;)
    With this current polar vortex.... you might not need to live at one of the poles to take advantage of the space heater qualities.


    I know what you mean. I live in Michigan and was greeted to -6 F outside this morning. :( I'm just glad this is only supposed to stay for a day or 2.
  • logainofhades
    More ridiculous pricing from team blue. You could build a couple of threadripper systems, for the cost of this single Intel system.
  • jimmysmitty
    59887 said:
    More ridiculous pricing from team blue. You could build a couple of threadripper systems, for the cost of this single Intel system.


    The issue is the market this is geared towards. That market doesn't see the same way we do. As another user said they will stick with what has worked until TR can be proven to work as well and support the same.

    I agree the pricing is a bit insane though and Intel needs to get on the same level but I doubt they will until AMD truly threatens them. I mean look at the results. Its a 28 core chip thats performing on the same level and sometimes beating a 32 core chip.
  • dorsai
    The vast majority of corporate IT departments will not care at all about the unlocked multiplier...most have strict policies about overclocking being a no go...so there's no reason to boost the rating of this chip because of it. Outside of a few key exceptions most of the test results would never justify the price associated with migration to the w-3173x platform...indeed I would guess that few of these processors will ever be bought outside of corporate IT shops with the deep pockets to purchase them. This chip is destined to be nothing but a niche product exemplifying both what Intel can do when pushed to it...and a lesson in cost vs performance economics
  • Brian_R170
    If the system has the potential to earn you tens of thousands of dollars more than a competing system, then spending an extra $3K is a no-brainer. Of course, you have evaluate your choices 100% objectively, which isn't always easy to do without actually purchasing and using them, so Dorsai is likely correct that the vast majority will end up medium/large corporations. However, the few that do end up with reviewers and enthusiasts will undoubtedly garner the most attention.
  • TCA_ChinChin
    This product seems pretty weirdly positioned at least for current times. I feel like everyone that can afford one and can justify the price tag would probably have tasks that better suite an actual Xeon rather than this chip. Overlooking is not needed in most areas and power draw is also more important than pure performance in many other. Cool premium piece from Intel for the dedicated enthusiast though.
  • Karadjgne
    Pixar and Disney. You don't buy just 1 cpu, you outfit entire departments with them. Talk about a cash-cow...
  • spdragoo
    1489542 said:
    The vast majority of corporate IT departments will not care at all about the unlocked multiplier...most have strict policies about overclocking being a no go...so there's no reason to boost the rating of this chip because of it. Outside of a few key exceptions most of the test results would never justify the price associated with migration to the w-3173x platform...indeed I would guess that few of these processors will ever be bought outside of corporate IT shops with the deep pockets to purchase them. This chip is destined to be nothing but a niche product exemplifying both what Intel can do when pushed to it...and a lesson in cost vs performance economics


    Definitely agree with that. And especially when you look at the price-per-performance graphs, there's very little there to appeal to a corporation from an acquisition cost perspective -- paying nearly double the cost per system to get only a 5-10% improvement is not an efficient use of corporate assets.

    And that especially becomes important when you have things like this in the review:
    Quote:
    The W-3175X also comes with a 4.3 GHz dual-core boost that provides snappy performance in lightly-threaded apps, like web browsers and mundane office applications. The second-gen Threadripper processors have made great strides in this area, but they still can’t match Intel’s frequency and IPC throughput advantage.


    Anyone, especially a business, considering this Xeon for their system is not concerned about dual-core 4.6GHz performance...& if that's their primary concern, they're going to save even more money by purchasing Core i3 (or even i5) systems (or even consider Ryzen 3/5/7 systems).

    As for gamers...with the Intel i9-9980X system not only outperforming it, but in the OCd tests outperforming the Xeon at a lower clock speed ,while saving nearly $1,000 on your system, it truly becomes a no-brainer as to which system would have the (current) "ultimate" gaming CPU.
  • logainofhades
    1011591 said:
    Pixar and Disney. You don't buy just 1 cpu, you outfit entire departments with them. Talk about a cash-cow...


    Fox is using Threadripper, apparently, for their VFX.
  • BulkZerker
    "Pixar and Disney. You don't buy just 1 cpu, you outfit entire departments with them. Talk about a cash-cow..."

    *Laughs in GPU accelerated rendering*
  • emeralds1000000
    149725 said:
    59887 said:
    More ridiculous pricing from team blue. You could build a couple of threadripper systems, for the cost of this single Intel system.
    The issue is the market this is geared towards. That market doesn't see the same way we do. As another user said they will stick with what has worked until TR can be proven to work as well and support the same. I agree the pricing is a bit insane though and Intel needs to get on the same level but I doubt they will until AMD truly threatens them. I mean look at the results. Its a 28 core chip thats performing on the same level and sometimes beating a 32 core chip.


    28 cores outperforming 32 cores ? so what ? it is just 4 cores difference and they ask for 4 times the price with the $1500 motherboard included.

    I dont see this product going anywhere ... and I dont see who will buy it.

    for professional work and data centers , no one overclock. and for gaming it gives no advantage at all.
  • Avikbellic911
    Looks good but the power draw...boi thats too much
  • cryoburner
    1920539 said:
    Multi-Threaded rendering workloads have long been the absolute strength of the Threadripper lineup, but Intel's W-3175X steps in and upsets the balance.

    At least for any multithreaded application that can divide rendering across networked systems, which should apply to most rendering software, Threadripper still seems to be the real winner here. The $1200 24-core Threadripper 2970WX appears to offer close to 80% of this CPU's rendering performance, and you could likely build two systems around that processor for a similar total cost as a single 28-core Xeon W-3175X system, and get significantly more performance with rendering/encoding tasks divided between the two. It would actually be interesting to see an article comparing the performance of one of these 28-core Xeons versus two Threadripper systems set up as a render farm.
  • kinggremlin
    582021 said:
    1920539 said:
    Multi-Threaded rendering workloads have long been the absolute strength of the Threadripper lineup, but Intel's W-3175X steps in and upsets the balance.
    At least for any multithreaded application that can divide rendering across networked systems, which should apply to most rendering software, Threadripper still seems to be the real winner here. The $1200 24-core Threadripper 2970WX appears to offer close to 80% of this CPU's rendering performance, and you could likely build two systems around that processor for a similar total cost as a single 28-core Xeon W-3175X system, and get significantly more performance with rendering/encoding tasks divided between the two. It would actually be interesting to see an article comparing the performance of one of these 28-core Xeons versus two Threadripper systems set up as a render farm.


    As others have mentioned, you're not likely to see one of these in a single CPU workstation. You're going to see hundreds or thousands of them in render farms. 2 threadripper systems will take twice the rack mount space of one Xeon system along with additional networking equipment as well as setup costs, maintenance with twice as many parts that can fail, etc. Two threadripper systems will use significantly more power than a stock speed Xeon system requiring significant more cooling in the server rooms. People on message boards always focus on the initial cost of the hardware in the system itself, which is valid for a personal computer. It often means little compared to the lifetime operating costs of a server within a farm.
  • TJ Hooker
    @kinggremlin I agree with the rack space and equipment argument, but not the power/cooling. Given that a single 2990WX seems to offer better perf/W, whether you have 1 or 100 of them isn't going to change that. Sure, 2 threadripper systems would use a fair bit more than a single Xeon, but it would similarly perform a fair bit better too (looking at the rendering results). If you were to compare some number of threadripper systems that uses a given amount of power (or cooling) and compare the rendering performance to some other number of Xeon systems that use the same total power, you'd get more performance from the former.