Intel Core i9: Everything we know about Intel's hypercharged PC processor

Intel's Core i9 is possibly the most powerful family of consumer PC chips ever made.

pcw corei9 hub Rob Schultz / IDG
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  • No Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0
  • 16 PCI Express lanes (for one x16 or two x8 cards)
  • Two-channel DDR4 2666
  • 112W support

All of the various X299 chipset implementations support up to eight SATA 3.0 ports and 10 USB 3.0 ports. 

There are two other under-the-hood improvements. By moving to Intel’s latest DMI 3.0 interface between the Core i9 and the X299, bandwidth is essentially doubled, allowing for the extra ports and PCIe lanes. Intel also moved to a different cache scheme that puts a smaller amount of cache closer to each individual core. You probably won’t see any overt signs of either in your day-to-day compute tasks, but those upgrades may show up in the benchmarks.

Core i9/X299 motherboards

Remember that for now, every Core i9 motherboard you’ll buy is based on the Socket R4, a 2,066-pin LGA socket that’s incompatible with some of the older Core i5 and Core i7 microprocessors. (The Core i5-7640X, Core i7-7740X, Core i7-7800X, and Core i7-7820X all use the new 2,066-pin socket, too.) All of the new motherboards are based on Intel’s X299 chipset, the only chipset for the Intel Core i9 right now.

asus tuf Asus

The ASUS TUF motherboard, using Intel’s X299 chipset.

We have some details on the Core i9 motherboards that have been announced, from Asus, MSI, Gigabyte, ASRock, and EVGA. It appears that prices range from $300 to $400 or so. Intel said in August that more than 200 X200 motherboards are sitting on store shelves.

Some of the brands and families include:

The competition: AMD’s Threadripper

For much of the last decade, Intel dominated high-end PC computing, and rival AMD struggled to keep up. That’s changing. AMD debuted its Ryzen processor to global acclaim, though the company’s performance claims came under some scrutiny. More recently, the company came out with its own version of the Core i9: Threadripper

ryzen threadripper and mobile IDG/Gordon Mah Ung

Intel’s Core i9 may be ready for liftoff, but AMD’s Threadripper is waiting to take it down. (An unrelated AMD mobile chip is on the right.)

Right now, Threadripper lags slightly behind Core i9 in core count: 16 cores, 32 threads, compared to the Core i9-7980XL’s 18 cores and 36 threads. AMD’s traditional lever, though, is price. While Intel is asking enthusiasts to pay through the nose for Core i9 chips, AMD’s Threadripper comes at an enormous discount. That’s an enormous consideration when buying a chip like the Core i9: What’s its value proposition, and is it better than the competition?

We’ll keep you updated as more Core i9 news comes out.

Updated on Sept. 29 to include PCWorld’s review of the 18-core Core i9-7980X and 16-core Core i9-7960X and to update the supply situation of the highest-end Core i9 chips.

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