Earlier this week at Computex, Intel announced the new Intel Core i9 Extreme processor. “Extreme” seems like an accurate descriptor for a CPU with 18 cores, capable of executing 36 simultaneous threads. I feel like Intel missed an opportunity to have had Tim Allen reprise his Tim “The Toolman” Taylor role from the sitcom Home Improvement, grunting like a gorilla and calling for “more power”. One thing is for sure—the gloves are off between Intel and AMD.
Don’t expect to find the new Core i9 Extreme in any run-of-the-mill PCs. This beast is specifically intended for hardcore enthusiasts. At just under $2,000, the Core i9 Extreme costs more than most people spend on their entire computer. Intel will also offer a 16-core / 32-thread Core i9 for $1,700 and a 10-core / 20-thread version for $999.
“Intel’s announcements at Computex, including its new 4 to 18-core X-series processor family, new x299 motherboard, new Compute Card for integrating third party devices and the 30 percent performance improvements it expects from its upcoming 8th gen “Cannon Lake” Core processors show why the company is such a formidable competitor,” proclaimed Charles King, principal analyst for Pund-IT.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group, shared some thoughts on the new Intel processors. “This is interesting largely because this is what Otellini wanted to do was drive a core war. But Intel shifted sharply to mobile and cores largely got forgotten as did much of their PC effort. But PC sales started to come back, AMD focused back on PCs, and Intel was left scrambling. But, apparently, Intel is still really good at scrambling because they were able to get their own high core processor at least to announcement topping AMD’s 16 Threadripper with an 18 Core, Teraflop i9. I think AMD has a better brand for gaming as Teraflop sounds very corporate but that could allow it to play better for workstations.”
Enderle points out that most of the horsepower of a massive multi-core processor will go unused with today’s software. Few programs are designed to effectively use 5 cores, let alone 16 or 18. Outside of high-end photo or video editing apps, or possibly some engineering / CAD applications, the power of the cores will mostly remain untapped.
Enderle notes that AMD has been aggressively positioning itself in this segment, and Intel seemed to be caught flat-footed, but recovered quickly with a formidable response.
“It isn’t just a matter of Intel developing compelling new products or leveraging its considerable manufacturing muscle so much as it is the company’s ability to craft and deliver multi-dimensional solutions,” explains King. “That places more limited competitors, like AMD, at a distinct disadvantage, especially when Intel uses a high-visibility event like Computex to announce its new solutions’ pricing schema. That is likely to put the squeeze on AMD both in terms of its ability to effectively compete and to reap sustainable margins from its new Ryzen Threadripper silicon.”
Enderle summed up, “It should be noted that AMD should actually get to market first and that by the time the Intel i9 arrives they too could have more cores you likely yet need, but whatever else happens, the core war is on!”