Intel Core i9-9900KS Ships in Oct., Cascade Lake-X Nearly Doubles Performance Per Dollar


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Intel made some product announcements at a pre-IFA event in Berlin this week, including news on the Core i9-9900KS that it announced earlier this summer and an upcoming product refresh for its Core X family. Intel has been pushed onto its proverbial heels by AMD’s 7nm onslaught, and it has yet to respond to those products in a significant way. These new parts should help do that, albeit at the high end of the market.

First, there’s the Core i9-9900KS. This CPU is a specially-binned Core i9-9900K, with the ability to hit 5GHz on all eight CPU cores, and a 4GHz base clock. That’s a 1.1x improvement over base clock on the 9900K, but the impact of the all-core 5GHz boost is harder to estimate. A sustained all-core 5GHz clock speed would be substantially higher than the Core i9-9900K we have here at ET — but Intel CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce no longer hold their full clocks under sustained load. Our Core i9-9900K will turbo up to high clocks for 20-30 seconds, depending on the workload, before falling back to speeds in the lower 4GHz range when run on our Asus Z390 motherboard.

A faster Core i9 will undoubtedly improve Intel’s positioning against the Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 family,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce but even a chip that could hold an all-core 5GHz boost won’t catch the 12-core/24-thread Ryzen 9 3900X in most multi-threaded applications that can scale up to 12 cores. The gap between the two parts is too large to be closed in such a manner.

What the 9900KS will do for Intel, however, is give it a little more room to maneuver in gaming performance, which is where the company is making its stand. On the desktop side of things, Intel is facing a genuinely tough competitive situation, and even the advent of 10-core desktop CPUs may not solve the problem.

Cascade Lake May Meaningfully Respond to Threadripper

For the past two years, AMD has hammered Intel with high-performing, (relatively) low-cost workstation processors. Even though Intel’s Skylake X CPUs have often punched above their weight class compared with the Core family, AMD’s willingness to shove tons of cores into its chips has secured it the lead as far as performance/dollar, as well as the absolute performance lead in many well-threaded applications.

Intel may intend to challenge this in a far more serious way this year. The company showed the following slide at IFA:

The implication of this slide is that Intel will launch new Cascade X CPUs at substantially lower per-core prices than it has previously offered. We say “implication,” however, because technically this is a slide of performance per dollar, not price. Imagine two hypothetical CPUs, one with a price of $1,000 and performance of 1x, while the other chip costs $1,500 and has 2x the performance of the first chip. The second chip is 1.5x more expensive than the first but offers 1.33x more performance/dollar.

With AMD potentially eyeing Threadripper CPUs with up to 64 cores, however, Intel may not feel it has a choice. We haven’t heard from AMD on this point yet, so much is up in the air. There seems to be a battle brewing in these segments — hopefully, Intel will bring a much more price-competitive series of parts to market.

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Microsoft May Finally Launch Dual-Screen Device at Oct. 2 Surface Event


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Microsoft is holding its next Surface event in New York City on October 2 and rumors are buzzing that the company could launch its long-rumored, never-shipped dual-screen device, codenamed Centaurus. It would be a significant change of approach if the company did. After initially leading the way with a series of impressive products, Surface has been quiet (in brand terms) for the past few years. Designs like the Surface Book have been refreshed, but the last major product to be introduced under the Surface brand was the Surface Laptop. (The Surface Hub is technically branded as a Surface product, but it sells for vastly more money and isn’t really consumer-oriented.)

Microsoft has demoed Centaurus at internal events, indicating that the device may be nearing completion. We’ve seen Intel push OEMs to create some dual-screen devices — the company demoed its Honeycomb Glacier concept at Computex this year, which drew some praise (and eyeballs) for its unusual design:

That’s what Honeycomb Glacier looked like when folded flat, and it’s not necessarily all that appealing. Open, however, the laptop reportedly offered a second display that worked rather well for at least some use-cases:

Intel-Honeycomb-Glacier-Feature

Intel has also created prototypes like Tiger Rapids, a folding dual-display concept with a conventional display on one side and an e-ink panel for inking and writing on the other. That concept has been commercialized as the Yoga Book C930 from Lenovo. One major question about the new Surface devices would be this: Are they intended to be general-purpose machines for regular users, or specialty devices that appeal to narrow market segments?

Since it launched Surface, Microsoft has devoted time to both market groups. The initial Surface Pro and Surface were an attempt to push PCs into tablet form factors, with detachable keyboards, fanless operation (some models), and an emphasis on weight and battery life. Later, Microsoft branched out into more niche concepts like the Surface BookSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce (2-in-1 tablet, but with a discrete GPU), Surface Hub (corporate presentations), and Surface Studio (focused on creatives and featuring Surface Dial). Other products, like the Surface Laptop, were initially intended for users who wanted a stripped-down and limited version of Windows before Microsoft changed strategies and decided to market the system primarily to ordinary users.

Complicating this scenario is the fact that Microsoft has never actually shown Centaurus or its rumored predecessor, Andromeda, to the public. Some Surface products that have been rumored for years simply never materialize. Remember the Surface Phone? It was rumored to be right around the corner for several years, even as Microsoft tore up its plans for Windows 10 Mobile. There were even a few rumors that the company would still launch Surface Phone after shutting down its phone division, or that it would partner with a third-party company to create some kind of product. Nothing ever materialized.

Right now, the rumor mill seems to think dual screens are the juicy feature on tap for the event; if Microsoft has anything else in the till that it hasn’t shown off the company has been quiet about it. The new launch may feature products from Intel’s 10th Generation CPU family, but Surface has been historically slow to adapt cutting-edge Intel parts — it isn’t unusual for Microsoft to tap older hardware for its various updates. Ice Lake’s 10nm chips are expected to be a huge leap forward for Intel integrated graphics, however, and it would make a lot of sense for Microsoft to tap those CPUs for the Surface Pro and Surface Book. A new Surface Book might feature Intel Gen 11 graphics for the CPU, with a Turing GPU option available via a partnership with Nvidia, for example, improving both integrated and discrete performance.

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Leak Points to Intel Comet Lake Desktops Arriving in 2020: 10 Cores, New Socket


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We’ve heard for a while that Intel might respond to AMD’s 7nm onslaught with higher core counts on desktop processors. A new leak suggests that’s exactly what the company will do, with a new chipset supporting up to 10-core CPUs built on the company’s mature 14nm process. This will supposedly require a new CPU socket, as Intel is increasing the power delivery and capability of its desktop motherboards to compensate for the higher power requirements in a 10-core chip.

The new socket is supposedly LGA 1200 and the top-end chips will offer 10C/20T configurations if rumors are to be believed. TDP is also finally rising, up to 125W. This last is something of an interesting point. Intel CPU power consumption currently has little relation to TDP if you allow the CPU to boost; TDP is measured at base clock, not boost clock. Intel may need to expand TDP to deal with adding more CPU cores, but in the past, it has kept its CPUsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce in the same TDP brackets by cutting base clock.

intel-comet-lake-lga-1159-1200-news-again-4

Image by XFastest

Our guess is that Intel is raising TDP because it doesn’t want to do this again. Cutting its base clocks further to remain within the old 95W TDP bracket with 10 cores instead of eight is probably possible, but runs the risk of creating negative comparisons against previous generation parts or AMD hardware. Intel reduced base clock speed when it moved from the Core i7-8700K to the Core i9-9900K — the 9900K has a base clock of 3.6GHz, while the 8700K is 3.7GHz. The old 7700K had a base clock of 4.2GHz, though obviously vastly inferior performance overall.

The relatively low base clock may not have been much of a concern when AMD’s own Ryzen 7 base clocks were also in the 3.6 – 3.7GHz range, but AMD adjusted its own clock ranges slightly for 7nm. The 3700X has a base clock of 3.7GHz, while the Ryzen 3800X is 3.9GHz base and the 3900X is a 3.8GHz chip. Intel may want to bring clocks up slightly to make certain it matches on base, and the only way to do that is to nudge the TDP higher.

Image by XFastest

Supposedly the new 400-series adds another 49 pins to hit LGA1200, with the extra pins used for power delivery. There would be a few new features, like integrated 802.11ax support and presumably an easier method of integrating Thunderbolt 3, similar to what we’ve seen in mobile. 65W and 35W CPUs would still be supported (and released) on this latest 14nm revision, it’s just the enthusiast TDP bracket that would stretch up to 125W. Intel would likely try to keep the boost clock as high as possible, but I don’t want to speculate on what that will be.

Catching AMD Wouldn’t Be the Goal

Anyone who has paid attention to relative standings between AMD and Intel has already realized that a 10-core Comet Lake isn’t going to match AMD in most performance areas. The 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X is on its way, and we’ve already seen what happens when a 10-core Intel HEDT CPU takes on a 16-core AMD Threadripper: The 10-core CPU loses. Mostly, it loses by a lot.

But while this might sound faintly absurd, beating AMD in absolute multi-core performance probably isn’t the goal here. Both companies are working towards their respective strengths: For AMD, that means emphasizing multi-core while working to improve single-core, where Intel still holds a narrow advantage in some games at 1080p. For Intel, that means attempting to improve single-core while competing more effectively in multi-core. Bumping up to 10 cores and raising base clock via TDP increase probably helps the company achieve that. It’s going to take more than +2 cores to put Intel seriously back in the multi-threading game, and the company knows that.

The rumors of a 10-core Comet Lake are strong enough and have been running around for long enough that I think they’re pretty solid. We suspect this generation will see the return of Hyper-Threading as well to boost Intel’s competitive standing against AMD at lower price brackets. Without any price information, we obviously can’t opine on how the two companies will stack up, but Intel has a history of introducing better price/performance ratios at major product launches. This suggests we’ll see the company adjust its core count/dollar strategy at the next major launch.

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AMD Reports Q2 2019 Market Share as Intel Sticks to Its Guns on Pricing


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Over the past month, AMD let fly with two-thirds of its 7nm product lineup. Both the desktop and server spaces have now been refreshed with 7nm CPUs. Intel’s response? Meh.

Let’s do the market share data first. Heading into Q2, AMD has a series of pushes and drags on its market performance. Positive factors include Intel’s ongoing CPU shortage (expected to peak in Q2 2019) and the strong overall market response to Ryzen in desktop, laptop, and server. Negative factors include ongoing trade disputes with China and the possibility of a 12/14nm sales slowdown as the 7nm launch approached.

Data on AMD’s market share in desktop, server, and laptops was provided by Dean McCarron of Mercury Research via THG. We’ve covered Mercury Research’s figures before — sticking with one firm allows us to create an apples-to-apples comparison for how AMD’s market share is evolving over time. There’s good news on multiple fronts for the smaller CPU manufacturer:

AMD-Market-Share-Q2-2019

Data by Dean McCarron, Mercury Research. Chart by ExtremeTech

AMD’s desktop market share was flat in Q2, at 17.1 percent of the channel. This isn’t necessarily surprising. AMD has been cutting prices on its older 2000 series parts to stimulate uptake, but there was an unmistakable surge of interest in third-generation RyzenSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce after those chips launched. We don’t know how strong the surge will be, but European retailer Mindfactory released July sales data showing that AMD shipments skyrocketed after July 7. The DIY retail market for CPUs is typically estimated to be between 10-20 percent of the space. If AMD continues to enjoy high retail demand, we will see that reflected in the Q3 2019 figures for overall desktop market share. As always, when considering data from a single company or source, keep in mind that it reflects information at that specific retailer, not the wider market.

Notebook share is the major winner, both year-on-year and quarter-on-quarter. AMD has picked up two percentage points of share since the beginning of the year and grown its market share by 1.6x relative to Q2 2018. The challenge for the company will be keeping that share as Intel’s CPU shortage lessens. Some analysts have predicted that AMD would lose its gains in this area as Intel shipped more cores; we’ll see what Q3 shows us in that regard.

The server market continues to tick upwards, with AMD claiming 3.4 percent of the space now, up from 1.4 percent the previous year. AMD didn’t hit its previous goal of taking 5 percent of the entire server market by Q4 2018 (the company told us earlier this year that it believed it had secured at least 5 percent of the 2S / dual-socket server space). We’re not concerned by the relatively slow server ramp — the Epyc CPUs AMD just launched are the most impressive performance leap the company has ever delivered in that market.

Overall, AMD’s market share figures show a company executing well and gaining share. AMD has predicted that its Compute and Graphics revenue will increase by 1.2x over 2018 when the impact of slowing semi-custom design sales is taken into effect (Xbox One and PS4 sales are falling as the new console cycle builds momentum).

As for Intel, the larger CPU vendor is sticking to its guns. Intel’s August CPU Price List gives the expected list prices in 1K units for its complete product lineup. There are no changes whatsoever. These official price guides don’t necessarily reflect the price that chips are selling for in the retail channel, and they certainly don’t reflect the price that OEMs pay in bulk, but they represent Intel’s officially communicated pricing.

IntelPricesAugust

The full document is available for your perusal, but it looks like the above straight down the line. Intel may adjust its pricing quietly behind the scenes, or it may make larger, formal cuts at a later date, but the firm is sticking to its guns for now. From Intel’s perspective, this makes good sense. AMD may have just launched an impressive suite of products, but Intel presumably wants to see how the market responds to them before it makes a determination about what to do.

Intel’s response to AMD since 2017 has been to avoid direct price cuts and instead introduce different products at adjusted price points. That might not work in server, given that Cascade Lake has already launched and there aren’t going to be opportunities to respond to AMD with a new family deployment in the near term. Intel might cut prices later this year, or opt to wait to change its product alignments until Cooper Lake or Ice Lake are ready to ship. For now, AMD continues to gain market share with expected improvements in the back half of 2019 related to the 7nm Ryzen refresh.

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