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Intel Core i9 7900X & Core i7 7740X Review

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Category: CPU's
Price: Core i9 7900X $999, Core i7 7740 X $339
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Intel Core i9 7900X & Core i7 7740X Introduction:

Earlier this year, we saw that AMD had taken a bold step forward with its Zen architecture and the Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 lineup. Not only did AMD prove it could be competitive, but that in multi-threaded applications even the top dog 8-core / 16 thread Ryzen 7 1800X gave the 8-core i7 5960X all it could handle and then some when you compare 8-core processors head-to-head. When compared to the 10-core i7 6950X, well, more cores gets more work done across the board. Intel's Skylake and Kaby Lake processor technologies are well known at this point. However, Intel took the time to revamp them a bit for the HEDT X299 platform to bring us Skylake X and Kaby Lake X.

When first introduced, Intel showed off specifications for 8,10,12, 14, and 16-core processors for the Skylake X line up and were sticking with the quad-core SKU's for Kaby Lake X. The parts available right now include the two processors I am looking at today. Priced at $999 and $339 respectively, these two processors are a way for Intel to protect its high end line up with a bit of innovation and updates to existing architectures. Let's see what they have to offer.

Intel Core i9 7900X & Core i7 7740X Closer Look:

Visually, these two processors look similar, although when you look close you can see that the integrated heat spreader is wider on the Core i9 7900X. In these two images, the Core i7 7740X Kaby Lake X part is on the left while the Core i9 7900X Skylake X part is on the right. The front of each integrated heat spreader has the SKU number and base core clock speeed listed. The Core i9 7900X has a larger selection of resistors on the back of the processor package by comparison.

These new processors are designed and built to be used in Intel's latest X299 High End Desktop socket 2066 platform. The Core i7 7740X is basically the same silicon we looked at on the Seventh Generation Core i7 7700K review earlier this year, but packaged to run in the 2066 pin socket. Other differences between the Core i7 7700K and the Core i7 7740X are that the newer package runs a 100MHz higher base clock speed of 4.3GHz and we see the same 4.5GHz Turbo Boost 2.0 clock speed. Memory support sees a boost in the supported memory speeds from a dual channel DDR4 2400MHz to a dual channel DDR4 2666MHz rating. The TDP sees a jump up from 91W to 112W in this package. Basically, we see the Kaby Lake 14nm-based Core i7 7740X as the gateway forward on the X299 platform.

The Skylake X-based Core i9 7900X, on the other hand, gets some new features to improve performance over last year's Skylake architecture. What we see with the Core i9 Skylake X lineup to start is a 10-core / 20 thread processor in the Core i9 7900X that was just released. Further down the line we will see the higher core count processors due in the future that include 12, 14, 16, and finally an 18-core / 36 thread beast of a processor in the Core i9 7980XE. Internally, we see that Intel has gone from a traditional ring bus layout to connect the physical cores and cache to Intel's 2D mesh architecture that improves inter-core performance. Another of the big changes to the processor is Intel's Smart Cache re-balancing that delivers a four-fold increase in L2 cache from 256KB per core to 1MB per core with a reduction in overall L3 cache to 13.75MB.

The baseline core clock speed on the Core i9 7900X is 3.3GHz with a Turbo Boost to 4.3GHz. The Turbo Boost 3.0 max clock speed of 4.5GHz is achieved using the two best cores on the processor and is supported in the latest Windows 10 Anniversary release. The Core i9 7900X supports four channels of DDR4 memory at speeds of up to 2666MHz officially supported, with the architecture readily willing to support higher speeds. Power consumption stays fairly consistent with the Broadwell-E Core i7 6950X at a140W rating.

Whereas the Kaby Lake X SKU's are limited to 16 PCIe lanes coming from the processor, the Core i9 SKU's have 44 PCIe lanes to be used right off the die with the 6 and 8-core i7 SKU's having 28 PCIe lanes available. Ultimately, to get the highest PCIe lane count you will need to step up to a Core i9 processor. The AVX feature set is improved on this procesor and all Core i9 SKU's will offer support for the AVX-512 instruction set.   

 

 

As the highest clocked 10-core processor in Intel's product stack, the Core i9 7900X should be the processor to beat in just about every work load. It has the core count to crush the currently available best that AMD has to offer, albeit at a much higher price point. The Kaby Lake X Core i7 7740X should offer performance results similar to what we saw earlier this year with the mid-range socket 1151 Core i7 7700K since they are essentially one and the same. The key is what will they really do when put to the test.




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