The Hardware Show: Intel Core i9-7900X Processor

The game of processors got pretty serious this year. After the racket caused by AMD with its Ryzen chips and also with the announcement of the Threadripper models, Intel decided to roll up the sleeves and drop some surprises to give the change.

Announced during Computex 2017, exactly one year after the arrival of the Intel Core i7-6950X processor, the Core i9 line comes to show that the manufacturer continues in a frenzied breakthrough to deliver more performance and technology to the consumer.

The Intel Core i9-7900X is the entry-level model for this new series, which has stolen the attention with absurd numbers, but rather timid compared to its predecessor. Although there are some doubts about the real power of the product, this new device stood out among the many recent ads, mainly because it is a chip aimed at the desktop market.

Belonging to the Skylake-X family, the i9-7900X comes to repaginate the Extreme series, which gains a number of new members. This processor is manufactured with 14-nanometer lithographs, comes with ten cores (which means it can run 20 threads simultaneously) that run at 3.3 GHz and have a TDP of only 140 watts.

Of course this is not a big breakthrough if we think about last year’s component, which had very similar specifications. However, there are promises that it will be significantly higher than the i7-6950X and deliver good competition with Ryzen 7 and future Threadripper. It is worth considering that this news arrives with new socket and other details, being necessary to discuss these questions in detail.

Overall, the Intel Core i9-7900X is focused on tasks that use multiple cores. Now, the question remains: is it worth it for the consumer who wants to play or perform tasks at home? As usual, we spent a few days running several tests, including benchmarks and recent games. Check out our verdict now.

Specifications

What is this new Intel Core i9 series?
If you follow the hardware market, you may already know that Intel has split (or even split) its high-performance processors into three categories: entry, middle, and high performance. The input chips are labeled with the name Intel Core i3, intermediaries such as Intel Core i5 and the more powerful ones like Intel Core i7.
In recent years, with the idea of delivering performance beyond what the Core i7 family could offer to desktop gaming consumers, Intel introduced models with more cores and bold specs that could deliver significant benefits to gamers and professionals who needed agility Processing.

The series of devices with more cores was titled Extreme, being integrated in the line Core i7 to avoid more confusion to the consumer. As competition progressed, Intel was forced to separate the latest and most robust models from the Extreme line into a new category: the Core i9 family.
So today, the brand has new Extreme models, which are distributed among the series Core i5, Core i7 and Core i9. The most affordable CPUs with this badge have been integrated into families already common, while devices with 10 cores or more fit in the Core i9 division – just to be sure, Intel plans to launch a chip with 18 cores.

What’s the idea of the new Intel Extreme family?
Firstly, it is important to note that the Intel Core i9 and other Intel Extreme processors of this generation use the new socket LGA2066, which has many more pins and requires more space on the motherboard. In addition, they require the latest X299 chipset to operate properly, which means that only new adapters are compatible.
In practice, this means that the current cards compatible with Kaby Lake chips or even those that were used with the old Intel Extreme can not be used for these unpublished models. Of course, having more setup costs can be considered a disadvantage, but Intel had a pretty interesting idea for these new chips.

The new Intel Extreme processors come to take performance beyond what is possible in each line, that is, the Intel Core i5 Extreme delivers higher performance than any common Core i5, the same goes for Core i7 Extreme. The good part of this new Extreme line is that all models use the same socket.
Now you can opt for an Intel Core i5 Extreme to start your gamer setup and, if you feel the need, you can switch to an Intel Core i7 or Core i9 later. Of course, all Extreme chips cost more than ordinary models, so that’s a worthwhile idea if you really want to invest in a more robust and dedicated series for overclocking.

Meet the Intel Core i9-7900X
The Intel Core i9-7900X processor is one of the few members of the Skylake-X family. As discussed earlier, it has 10 cores and can therefore run 20 threads. Basically, nothing new in this part, since the i7-6950X has this specification. So, what changes? Well, Intel made a lot of changes on the inside.
Instead of having 25 MB of cache memory, such as the i7-6950X, this new chip comes with 13.75 MB of cache at the L3 level. The reduction at this point is rather curious, since given the similarities, such a shift may, in theory, cause some disadvantage in the processing part. Of course, we’re just going to find out how much that impacts at the time of testing, but such a change is at least intriguing.
In addition, Intel was able to raise the base clock to 3.3 GHz – the old i7-6950X was running at 3.0 GHz by default – and the turbo clock reaches an incredible 4.3 GHz. The Intel Turbo Max technology, which in certain cases can take the clock to 4.5 GHz automatically, always checking the voltage and temperature settings.

For you who do not know this technology, we will explain in detail. Suppose a particular software is programmed to take advantage of only two or four cores. In this case, instead of the processor increasing the frequency of all cores, Intel Turbo Max technology allows to change the clock only of the cores that are in use.
Another advantage of this processor is its ability to work with absurd amounts of RAM. Designed for professional activities, this model can take advantage of up to 128 GB of DDR4 memory.
It is worth mentioning that it supports memories that run at up to 2666 MHz, which can be configured in sets of four modules, since the CPU has support for four channels. All of these features are beneficial to softwares that allocate a lot of data and require fast response from memory modules.

Performance tests

We performed some tests with the Intel Core i9-7900X processor to check the performance of the chip in different applications. The main goal here is to see how this model behaves when performing specific activities, such as graphical applications and benchmarks (which simulate different tasks that you would perform on a daily basis).
Likewise, we run the tests on other processors, in order to verify the gain of this new Extreme processor compared to its predecessor (the i7-6950X) and more common (and economically viable) chips, such as the Intel Core i7-6700K , AMD Ryzen 7 1800X and AMD Ryzen 5 1600X.

Machine used in tests

System: Windows 10 Pro
CPU: Intel Core i9-7900X @ 3.30 GHz
Memory: 16 GB RAM Corsair DDR4 2.133 MHz
Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti
SSD1: Intel 540s Series 480 GB
SSD2: WD Blue 1 TB
Source: Corsair AX1500i
Cooler: RioToro Bifrost 240mm

The platforms for comparison (with Skylake chips and AMD) had different motherboards – since they use other sockets. Video card, power supply, SSD and operating system were identical in all tests.

PCMark

PCMark focuses on mixed testing, which simulates everything from the more traditional use of a computer, such as internet browsing, to playing movies and other tasks. We use Home Conventional and Creative Conventional checks to check machine performance.

O teste Home é mais focado em tarefas do dia a dia, como navegação na web e execução de aplicativos de escritório. O resultado do Intel Core i9-7900X foi bem similar ao do Intel Core i7-6700K, o que mostra que as vantagens dessa CPU não são tão perceptíveis em atividades rotineiras.

Na análise Creative, no entanto, esse modelo Core i9 se mostra ainda mais superior ao Core i7 ou até mesmo ao Ryzen 7. Tais resultados apenas comprovam que esse chip pode ter muitas vantagens em situações profissionais ou que exijam mais cálculos para edição de vídeos e imagens.

Cinebench

Cinebench is a benchmark test that verifies the computer’s capabilities in rendering three-dimensional graphics (using OpenGL technology) as well as the processing power of the machine’s main chip for rendering images.

The focus of this analysis was to specifically check the potential of the CPU, so we did not run the OpenGL test. The CPU results were very surprising, proving that optimized software can have a significant advantage with the Intel Core i9-7900X.
The Core i9 was very agile to process several parts of the image separately, completing the job in half the time we see on an Intel Core i7 Skylake. Obviously, this advantage is reflected in the benchmark total score, which guarantees more than 100% gain compared to the Intel Core i7-6700K and almost 30% higher than the i7-6950X.

Temperature and overclocking

To complete our analysis, we performed some temperature checks and also made adjustments to check the performance of the processor when configured to operate clockwise over what is specified by the manufacturer – that is, under overclocking conditions.
The checks were performed with the help of the RealTemp program, which records the values in real time, as well as stores information on minimum and maximum levels. We tested the CPU with two watercoolers: the Intel TS13X and the RioToro Bifrost.
Unfortunately, it is clear that watercoolers from one fan are not enough to cool the Intel Core i9-7900X. The maximum temperature recorded during tests that used all CPU cores exceeded 100 degrees Celsius and we had situations where the computer even hung up.

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