Skip to main content

Intel Core i9-10980XE Review: Intel Loses its Grip on HEDT

Enough with the refreshes, already.

(Image: © Intel)

Our Verdict

Intel's Core i9-10980XE marks a step forward over the previous-gen -9980XE, but overall pricing is still too high relative to AMD's competing chips.

For

  • Incremental performance improvements
  • Lower power consumption
  • Overclockability
  • Backward compatibility

Against

  • Price
  • Dead-end platform
  • PCIe 3.0

Intel's launch of the 10th-generation Cascade Lake-X processors marks yet another iteration of its 14nm process, serving as a refresh of its Skylake-X refresh processors. The Core i9-10980XE slots in as the flagship with a steep gen-on-gen price cut that reduces pricing from $1,999 to a 'mere' $979 for 18 cores and 36 threads. 

Intel's price cuts come as a byproduct of AMD's third-gen Ryzen and Threadripper processors, with the former bringing HEDT-class levels of performance to mainstream 400- and 500-series motherboards, while the latter lineup is so powerful that Intel, for the first time in recent history, doesn't even have a response. 

AMD is moving forward at breakneck speed with the 7nm process and Zen 2 architecture, but Intel remains mired on the 14nm process. Due to the limitations of the 14nm manufacturing process, Intel simply doesn't have room to add more cores, let alone deal with the increased heat, within the same package. Instead, Cascade Lake-X offers a few incremental bumps in frequency, exposes four more PCIe 3.0 lanes, and comes infused a few more hardware mitigations to deal with Intel's expanding list of security vulnerabilities. 

That means Intel's price cuts serve as the most impressive feature in its new lineup, allowing the company to seek shelter from AMD's Threadripper in what is now the low end of the HEDT market. 

But even though it isn't a direct competitor, Intel can't hide from the 16-core 32-thread Ryzen 9 3950X. The -10980XE is thoroughly unimpressive from a new technology standpoint, but Intel's incessant iterations of the 14nm process have yielded higher overclocking potential, lower power consumption, and incremental improvements in memory support that deliver decent bumps in performance. However, AMD's Ryzen 9 3950X still takes the shine off the -10980XE for users that don't need quad-channel memory. AMD has also left its second-gen Threadripper processors on the market as the 'value' HEDT alternative, but they aren't nearly as competitive as third-gen Ryzen

Intel Cascade Lake-X Core i9-10980XE Pricing and Specifications

Cores / ThreadsBase / Boost (GHz)L3 Cache (MB)PCIeDRAMTDPMSRP/RCPPrice Per Core
Threadripper 3990X64 / 128?256??280W??
Intel W-3175X 28 / 563.1 / 4.838.548 Gen 3Six-Channel DDR4-2666255W$2999$107.10
Threadripper 3970X32 / 643.7 / 4.5*12888 Gen 4 (72 Usable)Quad DDR4-3200280W$1999$62.47
Xeon W-327528 / 562.5 / 4.638.564 Gen3Six-Channel DDR4-2933205W$4,449$158.89
Threadripper 2990WX32 / 643.0 / 4.26464 (4 to PCH) Gen 3Quad DDR4-2933250W~$1,700$53
Threadripper 3960X24 / 483.8 / 4.5*12888 Gen 4 (72 Usable)Quad DDR4-3200280W$1,399$58.29
Xeon W-326524 / 482.7 / 4.63364 Gen 3Six-Channel DDR4-2933205W$3,349$139.54
Threadripper 2970WX24 / 483.0 / 4.26464 (4 to PCH) Gen 3Quad DDR4-2933250W~$925~$38.51
Core i9-10980XE18 / 363.0 / 4.824.7548 Gen 3 Quad DDR4-2933165W$979$54.39
Core i9-9980XE18 / 363.0 / 4.524.7544 Gen 3Quad DDR4-2666165W$1,999$111
Ryzen 9 3950X16 / 323.5 / 4.76464Dual DDR4-3200105W$749$46.81
Core i9-10940X14 / 283.3 / 4.819.2548 Gen 3Quad DDR4-2933165W$784$56
Core i9-10920X12 / 243.5 / 4.819.2548 Gen 3Quad DDR4-2933165W$689$57
Core i9-10900X12 / 243.7 / 4.719.2548 Gen 3Quad DDR4-2933165W$590$59

The 9th-gen processors have an average price-per-core of $103, but Intel reduced to ~$57 per core for 10th-gen Cascade Lake-X that is based on the same Skylake microarchitecture. The Core i9-10980XE slots in with 18 cores at 3.0GHz and a TDP of 165W. It also has a slightly improved Turbo Boost 2.0 frequency of 4.6GHz and 4.8GHz with Turbo Boost 3.0. 

The 10-core Core i9-10900XE sits at the bottom with slightly improved base and boost frequencies and will cost $590, which is only $30 more than the expected pricing of the Core i9-9900KS for the mainstream desktop. Intel says that it made this drastic price cut on the low end to make it easier for customers to step up to the more capable platform with its expanded feature set.

Intel doesn't have a 16-core model to deal with AMD's much-anticipated Ryzen 9 3950X. That might mean Intel has something in store for a later date, as we doubt the company will leave the 3950X uncontested.

We expect Intel to address the higher core count Threadripper with a refreshed Xeon W lineup, but as we can see from the $4,485 W-3275 and $3,349 W-3265, these chips come with eye-watering pricing that simply isn't sane in a post-Threadripper 3000 world. We expect Intel will slash the pricing on these chips, too, but they drop into server-derived sockets, so platform pricing will continue to be a problem for Intel. They also aren't overclockable – yet. 

Intel also has its Xeon W-3175X, the lone overclockable processor on the LGA 3647 platform, for $3,000. This 28-core 56-thread processor drops into exotic motherboards that carry heart-stopping price tags, so it really isn't a direct competitor to Threadripper 3000, either.

Base Freq.Turbo Boost 2.0All-CoreTB Max 3.0 (Two Fastest Cores)TB Max 3.0 (Two Next-Fastest Cores)
i9-10980XE3.04.63.84.84.7
i9-9980XE3.04.43.84.5N/A

Intel bumped up clock speeds across the entire range and added a new boosting feature that targets up to four cores with its Turbo Boost 3.0 technology, an expansion of the feature that allows it to hit two more cores with lightly-threaded applications. However, the frequency for the second two fastest cores drops 100 MHz from the listed Turbo Boost Max 3.0 frequency.

Intel increased memory support to DDR4-2933 and a maximum capacity to 256GB. Intel also brought support for DL Boost, Intel’s new AI-focused instructions that double or triple the performance of FP16 or INT8 AVX-512 vector code, to the HEDT space.

The Cascade Lake-X chips come with 48 PCIe lanes, an increase of four extra lanes compared to the previous-gen models. Intel exposed four additional lanes from the HCC die to the socket, and while these chips are compatible with existing X299 boards, you'll lose those extra four lanes unless you upgrade to one of the new X-series motherboards that also debuted with the new chips. These motherboards are a decent step forward with enhanced secondary features, but Intel still remains on PCIe 3.0, a disadvantage compared to AMD's support for the PCIe 4.0 interface that offers twice the I/O bandwidth. 

For HEDT, AMD also still holds the lead in sheer PCIe lane counts at 60. It also holds the overall core count title with 32 for its Threadripper 2970WX that AMD says competes as a 'value HEDT' processor for this price range, while the Ryzen 9 3950X has a disadvantage with 24 PCIe lanes and a dual-channel memory controller. However, the 3950X provides an amazing amount of performance given its faster PCIe interface and is incredibly efficient given its available memory throughput.  

A Whole Lotta Turbo

Active Cores GHz1-23-45-1213-1617-18
i9-10980XE IA/SSE4.84.7 4.33.93.8
i9-9980XE IA/SSE4.54.24.13.93.8
i9-10980XE AVX24.03.83.73.43.3
i9-9980XE AVX23.93.73.63.43.3

Active Cores GHz1-23-45-89-1213-1617-18
i9-10980XE AVX-5123.83.63.53.22.92.8
i9-9980XE AVX-5123.73.53.43.22.92.8

However, Intel also increased multi-core turbo ratios, too. Here we can see Intel's three-tiered Turbo system, with differently frequencies for SSE, AVX2, and AVX-512 instructions. The -10980XE features heightened boost speeds for standard SSE and AVX2 across up to 12 cores, while AVX-512 gets a boost for up to eight cores. 

Intel managed to bump up these multi-core turbo ratios, which equate to more performance in real-world workloads, while delivering impressive power reductions that we'll cover on the next page. 

MORE: Best CPUs

MORE: Intel & AMD Processor Hierarchy

MORE: All CPUs Content

  • Ful4n1t0c0sme
    Games benchmarks on a non gamer CPU. There is no sense. Please do compiling benchmarks and other stuff that make sense.

    And please stop using Windows to do that.
    Reply
  • Pat Flynn
    Ful4n1t0c0sme said:
    Games benchmarks on a non gamer CPU. There is no sense. Please do compiling benchmarks and other stuff that make sense.

    And please stop using Windows to do that.

    While I agree that some Linux/Unix benchmarks should be present, the inclusion of gaming benchmarks helps not only pro-sumers, but game developers as well. It'll let them know how the CPU handles certain game engines, and whether or not they should waste tons of money on upgrading their dev teams systems.
    Re: I used to build systems for Bioware...
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    Ful4n1t0c0sme said:
    Games benchmarks on a non gamer CPU. There is no sense. Please do compiling benchmarks and other stuff that make sense.

    And please stop using Windows to do that.

    Intel markets these chips at gamers, so we check the goods.

    9 game benchmarks
    28 workstation-focused benchmarks
    40 consumer-class application tests
    boost testing
    power/thermal testing, including efficiency metrics
    overclocking testing/data. I'm happy with that mix.
    Reply
  • IceQueen0607
    Disclaimer: I badly want to dump Intel and go AMD. But are the conditions right?

    The AMD 3950X has 16 PCIe lanes, right? So for those of us who have multiple adapters such as RAID cards, USB or SATA port adapters, 10G NICs, etc, HEDT is the only way to go.

    Someone once told me "No one in the world needs more than 16PCIe lanes, that's why mainstream CPUs have never gone over 16 lanes". If that were true the HEDT CPUs would not exist.

    So we can say the 3950X destroys the Intel HEDT lineup, but only if you don't have anything other than ONE graphics card. As soon as you add other devices, you're blown.

    The 3970X is $3199 where I am. That will drop by $100 by 2021.

    The power consumption of 280w will cost me an extra $217 per year per PC. There are 3 HEDT PCs, so an extra $651 per year.

    AMD: 1 PC @ 280w for 12 hours per day for 365 days at 43c per kilowatt hour = $527.74
    Intel: 1 PC @ 165w for 12 hours per day for 365 days at 43c per kilowatt hour = $310.76

    My 7900X is overclocked to 4.5GHZ all cores. Can I do that with any AMD HEDT CPU?

    In summer the ambient temp here is 38 - 40 degrees Celsius. With a 280mm cooler and 11 case fans my system runs 10 degrees over ambient on idle, so 50c is not uncommon during the afternoons on idle. Put the system under load it easily sits at 80c and is very loud.

    With a 280w CPU, how can I cool that? The article says that "Intel still can't deal with heat". Errr... Isn't 280w going to produce more heat than 165w. And isn't 165w much easier to cool? Am I missing something?

    I'm going to have to replace motherboard and RAM too. That's another $2000 - $3000. With Intel my current memory will work and a new motherboard will set me back $900.

    Like I said, I really want to go AMD, but I think the heat, energy and changeover costs are going to be prohibitive. PCIe4 is a big draw for AMD as it means I don't have to replace again when Intel finally gets with the program, but the other factors I fear are just too overwhelming to make AMD viable at this stage.

    Darn it Intel is way cheaper when looked at from this perspective.
    Reply
  • redgarl
    Ful4n1t0c0sme said:
    Games benchmarks on a non gamer CPU. There is no sense. Please do compiling benchmarks and other stuff that make sense.

    And please stop using Windows to do that.

    It's over pal... done, there is not even a single way to look at it the bright way, the 3950x is making the whole Intel HEDT offering a joke.

    I would have give this chip a 2 stars, but we know toms and their double standards. The only time they cannot do it is when the data is just plain dead impossible to contest... like Anandtech described, it is a bloodbath.

    I don't believe Intel will get back from this anytime soon.
    Reply
  • PaulAlcorn
    IceQueen0607 said:
    <snip>

    The AMD 3950X has 16 PCIe lanes, right? So for those of us who have multiple adapters such as RAID cards, USB or SATA port adapters, 10G NICs, etc, HEDT is the only way to go.

    <snip>
    The article says that "Intel still can't deal with heat".
    <snip>

    I agree with the first point here, which is why we point out that Intel has an advantage there for users that need the I/O.

    On the second point, can you point me to where it says that in the article? I must've missed it. Taken in context, it says that Intel can't deal with the heat of adding more 14nm cores in the same physical package, which is accurate if it wants to maintain a decent clock rate.
    Reply
  • ezst036
    I'm surprised nobody caught this from the second paragraph of the article.

    Intel's price cuts come as a byproduct of AMD's third-gen Ryzen and Threadripper processors, with the former bringing HEDT-class levels of performance to mainstream 400- and 500-series motherboards, while the latter lineup is so powerful that Intel, for once, doesn't even have a response.
    For twice? This is a recall of the olden days of the first-gen slot-A Athlon processors. Now I'm not well-versed in TomsHardware articles circa 1999, but this was not hard to find at all:

    Coppermine's architecture is still based on the architecture of Pentium Pro. This architecture won't be good enough to catch up with Athlon. It will be very hard for Intel to get Coppermine to clock frequencies of 700 and above and the P6-architecture may not benefit too much from even higher core clocks anymore. Athlon however is already faster than a Pentium III at the same clock speed, which will hardly change with Coppermine, and Athlon is designed to go way higher than 600 MHz. This design screams for higher clock speeds! AMD is probably for the first time in the very situation that Intel used to enjoy for such a long time. AMD might already be able to supply Athlons at even higher clock rates right now (650 MHz is currently the fastest Athlon), but there is no reason to do so.
    https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/athlon-processor,121-16.html
    Intel didn't have a response back then either.
    Reply
  • bigpinkdragon286
    IceQueen0607 said:
    Disclaimer: I badly want to dump Intel and go AMD. But are the conditions right?

    The AMD 3950X has 16 PCIe lanes, right? So for those of us who have multiple adapters such as RAID cards, USB or SATA port adapters, 10G NICs, etc, HEDT is the only way to go.

    Someone once told me "No one in the world needs more than 16PCIe lanes, that's why mainstream CPUs have never gone over 16 lanes". If that were true the HEDT CPUs would not exist.

    So we can say the 3950X destroys the Intel HEDT lineup, but only if you don't have anything other than ONE graphics card. As soon as you add other devices, you're blown.

    The 3970X is $3199 where I am. That will drop by $100 by 2021.

    The power consumption of 280w will cost me an extra $217 per year per PC. There are 3 HEDT PCs, so an extra $651 per year.

    AMD: 1 PC @ 280w for 12 hours per day for 365 days at 43c per kilowatt hour = $527.74
    Intel: 1 PC @ 165w for 12 hours per day for 365 days at 43c per kilowatt hour = $310.76

    My 7900X is overclocked to 4.5GHZ all cores. Can I do that with any AMD HEDT CPU?

    In summer the ambient temp here is 38 - 40 degrees Celsius. With a 280mm cooler and 11 case fans my system runs 10 degrees over ambient on idle, so 50c is not uncommon during the afternoons on idle. Put the system under load it easily sits at 80c and is very loud.

    With a 280w CPU, how can I cool that? The article says that "Intel still can't deal with heat". Errr... Isn't 280w going to produce more heat than 165w. And isn't 165w much easier to cool? Am I missing something?

    I'm going to have to replace motherboard and RAM too. That's another $2000 - $3000. With Intel my current memory will work and a new motherboard will set me back $900.

    Like I said, I really want to go AMD, but I think the heat, energy and changeover costs are going to be prohibitive. PCIe4 is a big draw for AMD as it means I don't have to replace again when Intel finally gets with the program, but the other factors I fear are just too overwhelming to make AMD viable at this stage.

    Darn it Intel is way cheaper when looked at from this perspective.
    TDP is the wrong way to directly compare an Intel CPU with an AMD CPU. Neither vendor measures TDP in the same fashion so you should not compare them directly. On the most recent platforms, per watt consumed, you get more work done on the new AMD platform, plus most users don't have their chips running at max power 24/7, so why would you calculate your power usage against TDP even if it were comparable across brands?

    Also, your need to have all of your cores clocked to a particular, arbitrarily chosen speed is a less than ideal metric to use if speed is not directly correlated to completed work, which after all is essentially what we want from a CPU.

    If you really need to get so much work done that your CPU runs at it's highest power usage perpetually, the higher cost of the power consumption is hardly going to be your biggest concern.

    How about idle and average power consumption, or completed work per watt, or even overall completed work in a given time-frame, which make a better case about AMD's current level of competitiveness.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    ezst036 said:
    I'm surprised nobody caught this from the second paragraph of the article.

    Intel's price cuts come as a byproduct of AMD's third-gen Ryzen and Threadripper processors, with the former bringing HEDT-class levels of performance to mainstream 400- and 500-series motherboards, while the latter lineup is so powerful that Intel, for once, doesn't even have a response.
    For twice? This is a recall of the olden days of the first-gen slot-A Athlon processors. Now I'm not well-versed in TomsHardware articles circa 1999, but this was not hard to find at all:

    Coppermine's architecture is still based on the architecture of Pentium Pro. This architecture won't be good enough to catch up with Athlon. It will be very hard for Intel to get Coppermine to clock frequencies of 700 and above and the P6-architecture may not benefit too much from even higher core clocks anymore. Athlon however is already faster than a Pentium III at the same clock speed, which will hardly change with Coppermine, and Athlon is designed to go way higher than 600 MHz. This design screams for higher clock speeds! AMD is probably for the first time in the very situation that Intel used to enjoy for such a long time. AMD might already be able to supply Athlons at even higher clock rates right now (650 MHz is currently the fastest Athlon), but there is no reason to do so.
    https://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/athlon-processor,121-16.html
    Intel didn't have a response back then either.
    Fun times. The Tualatin was based on Coppermine and went to 1.4 GHz, outclassing Williamette at 1.8GHz by a wide margin. Northwood came out and beat it, but at the same time Intel was developing Pentium M based on...guess what? Tualatin.

    And then Core came out of Pentium M, etc etc etc and it wasn't long before AMD couldn't keep up.

    Ten years we waited for AMD to settle the score, and it's our time to enjoy their time in the sun.
    Reply
  • IceQueen0607
    PaulAlcorn said:
    I agree with the first point here, which is why we point out that Intel has an advantage there for users that need the I/O.

    On the second point, can you point me to where it says that in the article? I must've missed it. Taken in context, it says that Intel can't deal with the heat of adding more 14nm cores in the same physical package, which is accurate if it wants to maintain a decent clock rate.

    yes, sorry, my interpretation was not worded accurately.

    Intel simply doesn't have room to add more cores, let alone deal with the increased heat, within the same package.
    My point was that Intel is still going to be easier to cool producing only 165w vs AMD's 280w.

    How do you calculate the watts, or heat for an overclocked CPU? I'm assuming the Intel is still more over-clockable than the AMD, so given the 10980XE's base clock of 3.00ghz, I wonder if I could still overclock it over 4.00ghz. How much heat would it produce then compared to the AMD?

    Not that I can afford to spend $6000 to upgrade to the 3970X or $5000 to upgrade to the 3960X... And the 3950X is out because of PCIe lane limitations.

    It looks like I'm stuck with Intel, unless I save my coins to go AMD. Makes me sick to the pit of my stomach :)
    Reply