Intel Xeon W-3175X Review: 28 cores of blistering performance

Intel's 28-core Xeon W-3175X isn't quite the Threadripper killer, but damn, it gets close.

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Xeon W-3175X Multi-Tasking Performance

In the real world, few applications can use all of the threads in a 64- or 56-thread CPU,  so we’ve been trying to measure performance when you do multiple things at once. We say ‘try.’ because multi-tasking can be inherently unreliable for performance.

Still, we’ve done this particular test enough that we feel the results are reliably repeatable. We run Blender while also simultaneously running Cinebench. The result for Blender is almost a tie, but the big, big win for Threadripper is in Cinebench where it simply blows the Xeon away. 

It’s almost, hmm, like the 32-core Threadripper has an additional 8-threads of compute power sitting around to tap on that the 28-core Xeon doesn’t have. Win: Threadripper.

xeon w 3175x threadripper 2990wx cinebench and blender simultaneous IDG

When you run two heavily multi-threaded tasks, the Threadripper comes out smelling like roses.

One thing about the above test: It’s probably not that realistic for someone to do a Cinema4D render at the same time as a Blender render. So we also uses Premiere CC to encode a 4K video to the Blu-ray preset while also rendering out a scene in Blender. This may sound crazy to you, but if you’re an indie movie maker, it’s an entirely realistic workload.

For the most part it’s a tie, but the Xeon ekes out a little more performance in the Premiere encode. Enough to call it a win? No, more like a draw.

xeon w 3175x threadripper 2990wx premiere and blender simultaneous IDG

Running Premiere and Blender, the Xeon has a very slightly advantage over the Threadripper.

Xeon W-3175X Gaming Performance

Let’s be clear: If you bought a $3,000 Xeon or a $1,800 Threadripper to play a game 90 percent of the time—you’re doing it wrong. Still, you do want to know how it performs so we present abbreviated set of results culled from other gaming tests we ran. 

The result is no surprise: At resolutions and game settings that make the graphics card power the bottleneck, it’s nothing to write home about. The Xeon has about a 5- to 7-percent advantage in frame rates, but let’s just call it a tie.

xeon w 3175x rise of the tomb raider very high dx12 1080p IDG

At resolutions and settings you would actually play at, it doesn’t matter that much.

The gap that has haunted Ryzen since day one remains, though. In fact, when you take the GPU out of the equation by lowering the graphics quality, we see the very familiar 15 to 17 percent advantage for the Intel CPU. If you are buying a big CPU and do plan to game with the fastest GPUs in the world and do 3D rendering, modelling and other content creation, the advantage will generally go to Intel. If you’re just playing games sometimes, then it really doesn’t matter that much.

xeon w 3175x rise of the tomb raider lowest dx12 1080p IDG

We see the familiar “Ryzen gap” when you remove the GPU as the bottleneck.

Overclocking Performance

The vast majority of our testing is based on baseline speed which is whar most people will stick with. It is, after all, pretty scary to think about heavily overclocking a $3,000 CPU.

Still, it would honestly be a crime not to at least do some basic overclocking with Xeon W-3175X. It was snap to push the Xeon W-3175X to a 4GHz all-core boost just by goosing the multiplier. We pushed all cores up to 4.1GHz and then also set turbo ratios for higher clocks on lighter loads. The results of a casual hour netted significant performance dividends.

oc xeon w 3175x vray 1.08 IDG

Overclocking all of the cores to 4.1GHz was a Thanos-snap easy.

While an all-core of 4.1GHz sounds pretty weak, it’s something many can aim for and not feel squeamish about. But all the indicators are there’s a ton more headroom in the chip. Speaking with vendors planning to sell Xeon systems at CES, they suggested an all-core overclock to 5GHz wasn’t far from reality, with the only limits being power and thermals. 

That probably tells us why both of the launch motherboards for the Xeon W-3175X feature dual power input.

To give you an idea of where that falls, the current HWBot record for a single 28-core Xeon 8180 Platinum is 5,010. We kicked out 5,859 without breaking a sweat.

oc xeon w 3175x cinebench nt IDG

It didn’t take us long to push up near 6,000 in Cinebench using the 28-core Xeon. 

It’s a power hog

And yes, the Xeon W-3175X is a power hog. On stock, we saw it regularly pushing loads of 550 watts at the socket (we’d estimate 60 watts to be just the fans in the system). The Threadripper 2990WX system was far more ‘green’ down at 350 watts under full load. Overclocking our Xeon W-3175X to a mild 4.1GHz, we saw power climb up into the 700-watt range, too.

Mind you: That’s with a single power supply. It’s generally recommended that if you want to attempt to push all cores to 5GHz and up, you should run a second matched PSU to keep the power-hungry Xeon happy. After all, if you bought a muscle car with a 440-cubic-inch engine, you wouldn’t complain about the gas mileage, would you?

xeon w 3175xsocket 2 Gordon Mah Ung

Here’s the “Socket P” the new Xeon goes into.

Xeon W-3175X Thread scaling

The last performance chart we want to leave you with shows how the Xeon W-3175X performs when you scale from 1 to 64 threads in Cinebench. Rather than the actual result we’ll give you the performance advantage for the Xeon W-3175X over the Threadripper 2990WX.

With the original Core i9-7980X, the 18-core CPU would outpace the AMD chip on lighter loads but eventually get hammered as the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX’s advantage took over. Here, at stock speeds, the Xeon W-3175X has a huge performance advantage across the board, especially with applications that sit in that middle ground. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean all applications will follow suit, but we will note that our HandBrake test, which put the Xeon W-3175X ahead by 17 percent to 20 percent, typically only used about 28 threads.

cinebench thread scaling dlm on IDG

The Xeon W-3175X pretty much has the advantage across the board in performance.

The upshot, as the vast majority of our tests have shown, is that the 28-core Xeon W-3175X is faster most of the time over the 32-core Threadripper 2990WX. 

And then there’s the cost

Our normal price guidance in the lofty echelons of high-performance chips is not to care about price or value. When you’re shopping for a custom-built, custom-painted PC that costs at a minimum $12,000, caring about how much the CPU costs is like haggling to get the floor mats on a $300,000 car.

Still, we do have to look at the value of the $3,000 Xeon W-3175X per thread. We looked up the list prices of AMD and Intel’s big socket chips and computed how much they cost per thread. The worst are the 28-core Xeon Platinum chips that go into servers, which is not a surprise.

Among the CPUs that might conceivably be used in a (very fancy) desktop, the $3,000 Xeon W-3175X is actually in line with most Intel CPUs. The best value still belongs to AMD, which is basically charging you half of what Intel charges per thread for its CPUs.

bucks per thread IDG

You know what’s crazy? The 28-core Xeon W-3175X isn’t a bad value—for Intel.

Conclusion: Wanting it all

Here's a funny story: When we originally received the Xeon W-3175X for testing at what we thought was a price of $4,000 we actually thought Intel had actually created a CPU at a price designed to actually make AMD’s Threadripper 2990WX look better. Afterall, with a 32-core Threadripper 2990WX going for $1,800, no amount of performance was going to really make it a product worth considering for anyone who doesn’t fly around on a private jet.

With a price of $3,000 and an actual demonstrable performance advantage in a lot of areas though, it’s actually a contender. It’s not a knock out by any means but for those who do want it all and don’t mind paying for it, it’s going to be really hard to find a faster CPU out today than the Xeon W-3175X.

Xeon W-3175X 28-core Intel CPU Gordon Mah Ung
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At a Glance
  • Pros

    • Easily the fastest CPU for multi-threaded tasks today
    • A crime not to overclock
    • Pretty much screams in most workloads


    • Requires crazy expensive and crazy huge motherboards
    • Sucks down electricity
    • Doesn't offer the value of AMD's Threadripper 2990WX
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