Intel Core i9 9980XE 18 Core CPU Review
Published: 2nd December 2018 | Source: Intel | Price: |
As we said in our introduction, in the past the concept of a new flagship Intel processor was always so much better than anything that had come before and anything that was available from AMD in their wilderness years that it topped all of our graphs, dropped all of our jaws, and was crowned King of the World almost by default.
Times have changed.
How impressive you find the Core i9-9980XE depends largely upon which angle you're coming at it from, and your level of funding. It's probably the most difficult decision for those of you already in ownership of a Core i9-7980XE. Anyway, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The Intel Core i9-9980XE is a revised take upon the Core i9-7980XE that already sits proudly on most peoples dream builds. The major change is the extra clock speed that Intel have managed to eke out of its silicon, allowing the chip at stock to run significantly quicker than the 7980XE, which has a knock on benefit in our overclocking efforts, ending up 400 MHz faster than the beast that came before. Unquestionably it also has the most performance per core on the market amongst the high core count processors. The Ryzen 2990WX has pretty much twice the cores and threads but regularly ended up with about the same level of performance in very demanding applications, and slightly less performance in those tasks which don't fully utilise every core. Mainly because the memory performance on the AMD platform isn't quite up to the standards of the Intel solution. If, therefore, you're cash rich and just want the best, no-headache, option that the market has to offer clearly the i9-9980XE is the way to go.
There are, however, two areas where the Core i9-9980XE doesn't quite make for such an obvious choice. Firstly the elephant in the room, the i9-7980XE. This was an absolute monster when we first reviewed it and time hasn't diminished its ability to blow our minds. As you saw throughout our testing when overclocks both processors scored about the same, and sometimes the i9-7980XE was a little better. Obviously if you spent that much money on the 7980XE when it was released you'd expect it to still be brilliant and it is. If you're fortunate enough to own one there is almost no reason to upgrade to this Core i9-9980XE. The other element that has to be taken into consideration is price. The Core i9-9980XE is eye-poppingly expensive and in nearly all our tasks the Ryzen Threadripper CPUs had the same level of performance but for a significantly lower entry price. The Ryzen 2970WX is half the price, and by no means has half the performance. To put that into perspective you could buy a Ryzen 2970WX and a nVidia RTX 2080Ti for the same price. If you're an enthusiastic amateur then clearly that's an attractive proposition.
Lets not forget heat, and there is a LOT of it if you want to overclock. Much MUCH more than the old 7980XE and it confuses us why the temps have gone up so dramatically with the newer version when there isnt any extra cores and we were running the same if not less volts. Silicone lottery maybe? We asked some industry friends and they were all having the same issues sadly. If you buy one, invest BIG in cooling or youll end up spending twice and upgrading later. We had to dial our bench clock back in the end just because we couldnt keep it cool with a 360mm Corsair H150i with upgraded fans on 100% 2400RPM.
So the Intel Core i9-9980XE is exactly what you'd expect. Blisteringly fast in every scenario from 3D rendering via video encoding to gaming and sadly blistering hot too. There is a massive price to pay for that convenience though, and you'd have to be a very very dedicated 3D artist or video editor to justify the expense. The high core market isn't the one horse race it used to be, but the Intel Core i9-9980XE still gets past the post first in some scenarios, albeit by a nose. The thing is when spending this much cash on this many cores you're more than likely actually going to need them, and the 2990WX is a much better proposition for you and we would assume you could put up with 2 or 3% lower FPS for a quicker render. If you need to go Intel our advise right now would be try and get a 7980XE cheap while you can, its much easier to live with and can be faster if you're handy in the BIOS.
We are not entirely sure what went wrong with the 9980XE but unless you're running it at stock its just not worth even considering over a 7980XE. Mention Threadripper and the multicore tasks both CPU's were intended for and its an unquestionable win for the Red Team.