Today marks the launch of Intel’s updated Core X-Series processors. Specifically, this will be a review of the Intel Core i9 10980XE. The name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and when the name was originally leaked, I initially thought it was a fake based on the name alone. The rumors are true and the 109xx series is what Intel went with. This CPU sits at the top of the Intel HEDT product stack and represents the most powerful desktop and enthusiast CPU Intel has ever produced up to this point.
Ultimately, Intel created the HEDT market. I could make a case for the original HEDT CPU debut being in late 1995 with the introduction of the Pentium Pro. It was a socket 8 processor, instead of the more common socket 7 or super 7 socket used by Pentium and later Pentium MMX CPU’s at the time. Its motherboards had a more server or workstation-oriented design philosophy. It was used by professionals and prosumers back in the day for many of the same reasons that modern HEDT systems are used today. For many, many years, Intel has been the master of this domain. This is arguably easy when you are the only one playing the game. It was a market that no other company even had products for.
Enter the Competition
However, this isn’t 1995 or even 2014 anymore. AMD challenging the mainstream desktop segment is one thing. Until the first generation Threadripper CPU’s launched, Intel still had the HEDT market all to itself. Intel likes to say that it largely doesn’t react to its competition and instead moves along its pre-determined course. In mobile and server markets, Intel is constantly pushing performance per watt boundaries. Consumers demand better and that’s what they get. In the server market, increasing performance per watt and core counts is a big deal. With virtualization and cloud computing driving demand, Intel is constantly challenged to improve its products on those fronts.
Unfortunately, the desktop market and by extension the HEDT market didn’t really get much attention. Sure, Intel produces products for these markets, but they are always based on repurposed parts made for the mobile and server markets. Desktops used to just get 4c/8t parts which were ubiquitous for 10 years. On the HEDT front, we went from 4, to 6, and then eight cores very quickly. Intel even settled on 10 cores for Broadwell-E, jacked-up prices and that was that. Intel has had server CPU’s with many more cores than we’ve seen in either of these desktop markets for several years now. Then things changed.