Intel Core i9-9980XE vs AMD Ryzen Threadripper

Today Intel is kicking off its newest High End Desktop processor, the Intel Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition. This 14nm Skylake-X CPU boasts 18 Cores and 36 Threads and has an expected retail price of $1979. We compare the i9-9980XE to AMD's entire line of Threadripper CPUs to see where the 9980XE sits in the HEDT stack.

Intel Core i9-9980XE vs AMD Ryzen Threadripper

Intel was kind enough to send us an Engineering Sample (ES) of its new Core i9-9980XE Extreme Edition HEDT processor. This new processor is based on the well-known Skylake architecture.

As we are all very aware of, AMD has very much turned up the heat under Intel as of late, and Intel has finally started to react to AMD's onslaught of new Ryzen processors, most recently with the launching of its Core i9-9900K into the desktop space. The 9900K sports 8 Cores with 16 Thread support.

The Core i9-9980XE ups the ante a bit more, except in what we refer to as the HEDT space. The 9980XE is a 18 Core, 36 Thread CPU with a whopping 24.75MB of cache, a CPU clock possibly up to 4.5GHz, and base 4-channel DDR-2666 support.

Here is what Intel has to say about its new CPU's "key features."

  • Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0: Dynamically increases the processor frequency up to 4.4 GHz when applications demand more performance. Speed when you need it, energy efficiency when you don’t.

  • Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0: Now identifies the two best performing cores to provide increased single- and dual-core performance up to 4.5 GHz. Natively supported with the latest Microsoft Windows* 10 releases, Linux* distributions based on kernels since 2017, or the Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0 driver for legacy Microsoft Windows* products.

  • Intel Hyper-Threading Technology: Allows each processor core to work on two tasks at the same time for up to 36 total independent tasks (threads) providing parallel processing capability for better multi-tasking with threaded applications.

  • Intel Smart Cache: 24.75 MB of shared cache allows faster access to your data by enabling dynamic and efficient allocation of the cache to match the needs of each core, which can help significantly reduce latency to frequently used data and improving performance.

  • CPU Overclocking Enabled (with Intel X299 Chipset)1,2: Fully unlocked core multiplier, base clock, and memory ratios as well as options to modify power settings and per core overclocking enable ultimate flexibility for overclocking.

  • Solder Thermal Interface Material: Delivering improved thermal conductivity between the CPU die and the integrated heat spreader for improved overclocking capability.

  • Integrated Memory Controller: Supports 4 channels of DDR4-2666 memory. Support for memory based on the Intel Extreme Memory Profile (Intel XMP) specification

  • PCI Express* 3.0 Interface: Supports up to 8 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking with up to 44 lanes configurable, per x16 port, as 1x16, 2x8, or 1x8 and 2x4 depending on the motherboard design.

  • Chipset/Motherboard Compatibility: Compatible with the Intel X299 chipset with the latest BIOS and drivers.

For a complete list of specifications, you can check out Intel's 9980XE ARK listing.

Current LGA 2066 Sockets Welcome

The standout here is probably that this new CPU will be right at home on X299 chipset motherboards. We are going to be using the ASUS ROG Rampage VI APEX that we reviewed back in December of 2017. We updated to the latest EFI, v1503, that happened to be posted by ASUS in September and we were on our way. In fact, we have not used this motherboard since review, and we had no issues getting our new 9980XE up and running.

Damn the Torpedoes - Full Speed Ahead

There seems to be a lot of confusion around Intel and its TDP ratings recently. Here is exactly how Intel defines "Thermal Design Power."

Thermal Design Power (TDP) represents the average power, in watts, the processor dissipates when operating at Base Frequency with all cores active under an Intel-defined, high-complexity workload. Refer to the Datasheet for thermal solution requirements.

Quite frankly, here at HardOCP we do not pay much attention to TDP specifications, as it is mostly not important to computer hardware enthusiasts. Most, if not all of the enthusiast "DIY" motherboards that we use are in no way configured to run at base frequency specifications and we surely do not evaluate with "Intel-defined" workloads. TDP in the world of HardOCP is mostly an imaginary number as it pertains to CPUs. If you will look at our recent 9900K review, we exactly documented the 9900K clocks and CPU Package Power that we experienced with our system set to "Optimized Defaults."

Conversely, AMD with its HEDT Threadripper parts, do actually follow AMD's definition of TDP when Threadripper processors are used with its Precision Boost 2 technology, as you can see in this extensive amount of data we collected in our last Threadripper air cooler review. When you use Precision Boost Overdrive, AMD's TDP can greatly exceed stated TDP ratings. Surely, AMD is more "up front" about the way it defines and uses TDP specification in an enthusiast sense.

To put it succinctly, there seems to be a bunch of faux outrage about Intel and its TDP specifications. Most enthusiasts, seldom if ever, base their processor purchases or cooling solutions based on TDP numbers. That said, if there is any failure here, it is likely best laid at the feet of Intel's marketing team and its lacking explanation of just how most of these CPU powers and clocks are handled on enthusiast motherboards...if you actually care at all, outside of your own usage models. There is also no industry standard surrounding what exactly "TDP" is, so your mileage may vary, but we in no way expect Intel CPUs to operate at "TDP" when used on enthusiast motherboards.