Intel made a huge announcement at Computex 2017 this year — its new series of processors under the new Core X name. This new series is aimed towards PC enthusiasts looking to get the most performance out of their processor through overclocking. Normally, this processors would be under the Core i3, i5 and i7 names, but with the Core X series comes a new flagship — the Core i9, which is directly competing against the all-new AMD Ryzen chips (and upcoming Ryzen Threadripper processors, AMD’s own high-end line).
While Intel’s announcement might seem exciting, consumers should be warned — the Core i9 is powerful, but expensive compared to current options available as well as options from AMD that are even coming to market very soon.
What is the Core i9?
It’s important to understand that “Core X-Series” is largely a marketing term. It’s very similar to what Intel tried to do with its “Extreme Edition” of processors. That said, this Core X-Series is aimed at PC enthusiasts, offering better speed.
Intel will be offering 5 Core i9 models, three Core i7 models and a single Core i5 model in the X-Series. Each of these tiers will be a little better than the other; however, there’s almost no information on four of the Core i9 models, as they’re supposed to release at some point in the next 6 months or so.
That said, the one Core i9 model we do have information on is the Core i9-7000X. It has 10 cores and 20 threads, the same amount we’ve seen in previous flagship models — the real improvements will happen in the other four Core i9 models that aren’t released yet. These are the i9-7920X, i9-7940X, i9-7960X, and i9-7980XE — they’ll have 12, 14, 16 and 18 cores, respectively.
The introductory model is the aforementioned Core i9-7000X. It only has the 10 cores (as we already stated), but it still does come with the other benefits seen throughout the Core i9 family. With the i9-7000X, you’ll see a base clock speed of 3.3GHz. With Intel’s improved Turbo Boost 3.0, you can overclock it up to 4.5GHz. It sounds like you’ll be able to get more out of it through end-user overclocking since Intel is leaving these chips unlocked, too. You’ll also get quad-channel DDR4 memory clocked at 2,666MHz.
All of these chips will be on the LGA2066 socket and the X299 chipset, which means with your CPU purchase, you’re going to need a new motherboard. In addition, Intel has designed a liquid cooling system for these processors called the TS13X, which is going to cost you about $100, completely separate from your processor purchase. There’s almost no avoiding this liquid-cooled setup either. With these processors hitting 140 watts or more, it mine as well be a requirement.
Intel says the Core i9 processors are going to be 15% faster than the last enthusiast series — Broadwell-E. We have yet to see what the other four models are going to look like, but the Core i9-7000X, which is headed to retailers in just a few weeks, isn’t a whole lot different than the already available i7-6950X.
If you haven’t already noticed, the Core i9 is expensive. The currently available Core i9 — the 7900X — will cost you $1000 for just the chip. A new motherboard with the LGA2066 socket could cost you between $230 (on the low-end) all the way up to $500. You’ll also need Intel’s new liquid-cooled system, the TS13X — that’s another $100 right there.
So, to even get yourself into one of the new Core i9 processors, you’re looking at around $1330 in price (not including tax) on the budget end. For one of the latest processors on the market (and an enthusiast one at that), the price there isn’t too bad. However, it can get so much worse. If you want to snag the 18-core 7980XE later this year, you’re looking at $2000, which bumps your price up to $2330. If you decide to get a better motherboard other than the lowest priced one you can find, that also bumps your price up.
Suffice to say, you’re pretty much building a new PC for the new Core i9 processor (or any of the Core X CPUs) and shelling out a lot of money to do that. And while these chips are geared towards enthusiasts, there’s two things that makes these chips way too pricey: Cannonlake and AMD Ryzen.
Why you shouldn’t buy the Core i9
Intel advertises that these chips are 15% faster than the Broadwell-E series. There’s a lot of other neat goodies that come with the new Core i9 chips, such as much better overclocking support (the upgrade to Turbo Boost 3.0 and leaving these chips unlocked for more end-user maneuverability). While a 15% increase in speeds in addition to all of the extras that the come with Core i9 are a good thing, it’s hard to justify when Intel is already teasing another upcoming chipset that will essentially make the Core i9 and upcoming Coffee Lake obsolete: Cannonlake.
Cannonlake will supposedly be out in late 2017, possibly early 2018. It’s based off of a new 10nm manufacturing process, whereas the Core i9 and other Core X models are based off of the 14nm process. There’s very few details on Cannonlake right now, but it’s supposed to be one of the next big mainstream upgrades as far as processors go, and being based on that 10nm process, it’ll make CPUs today obsolete (although, it will take a little while for the Cannonlake platform to mature).
So, if you’re looking at getting the most of out of your upgrade, waiting for Cannonlake might be your best bet. Once it launches, it’ll be at least two years before new processors based on an even smaller nanometer process launch, making you upgrade-proof in a way. Cannonlake is also not geared towards enthusiasts, but more of a mainstream market, so prices should be cheaper as well, all while offering enhanced speeds, new features and more. With many people wanting the “latest and greatest” waiting for Cannonlake might seem like a formidable option here.
Gamers should also be warned: you’re not going to see many improvements with the Core i9 right away. There’s a lot of raw computing power here, which is great for video editing and compression. However, some early reviews are warning that the Core i9 actually struggles in several titles compared to its predecessor, which is why many might be better off waiting for Intel to work out the quirks before buying into the platform.
Of course, the downside is that you have to wait for Cannonlake to launch. And, some might not want to buy into it right away, waiting for Intel to work out the quirks. Not only that, but some might wait for the platform to mature to get better speed and power than what will come at launch.
That said, AMD Ryzen seems not only like the more economical option, but the more realistic option for the time being, too. Ryzen gives you 70% of the performance of the Core i9, but at half the cost. It’ll be able to handle anything you can throw at it all while not hurting your wallet.
To sum all of this up, the Core i9 is not a bad processor. On the contrary, it’s extremely powerful. The pricing for it is rather insane, though. Economically, there’s not many that have the cash to drop up to $2000 or more on the new offering from Intel, especially when your competitor already has cheaper options on the market that are almost just as powerful.
From an economics standpoint, the obvious route to go here is with AMD Ryzen. It’s cheaper, and current options are still pretty powerful. AMD is even launching some high-end Ryzen models in late July or early August that are still cheaper — a 16-core entry level high-end chip starts at $850 whereas Intel’s starts out at $1000– and has the potential to beat the power and speed the Core i9 has (we’re still waiting on hearing what clock speeds will look like, although we imagine that at the very least, they’re close to or better than Core i9 options). It goes without saying, the Core i9 is an excellent piece of technology, but very pricey and launching with some of the aforementioned quirks (and possibly some hyperthreading issues)
So, Ryzen seems like an obvious winner here. It’ll bring you plenty of power at nearly half the cost. Even high-end options set to release in just a couple of months are going to be starting out cheaper than the Core i9 (with the same amount of power or more), keeping more money in the bank. You’ll still have to buy a new motherboard for Ryzen (especially for the high-end Ryzen models), but since Ryzen is so cheap to produce, AMD can sell these processors to consumers at cheaper levels. So, even with having to buy a new motherboard, you’re still coming out cheaper than going with the Core i9.
It goes without saying, Ryzen is the most economical decision for consumers right now, even as they start releasing high-end chips in late July or early August.