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Intel Core i9 7980XE & Core i9 7960X Review

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Intel Core i9 7980XE & Core i9 7960X: Conclusion

With these two processors, we get some good and some not so good performance characteristics. On one hand, in just about every test the Core i9 7980XE and Core i9 7960X are the cream of the crop when it comes to pure processing power. On the other hand, I ran into some issues with their gaming performance. This may be just one of the minor glitches with supporting this new platform as it was rushed out to meet the challenge presented by AMD when it released the latest Zen-based processors: the Threadripper 1950X and 1920X. That being said, the challenge was accepted and met with processors that still outperform the competition.

In the short comparison, I was able to show that the Extreme Editions on Intel's X299 HEDT platform is every bit the contender when directly compared to AMD's HEDT offerings. The real challenge is that the Intel Core i9 7960X and i9 7980XE carry a significant price performance penalty of either $700 or $1000 depending on the processor you compare. That point aside, the i9 7980XE and i9 7960 are the highest performing processors I have tested.

Overclocking does add to the already impressive performance characteristics of these processors. After tinkering with the settings for a few nights, I finally was able to reach clock speeds of 4500MHz on each of these processors with the i9 7980XE running up to 4544MHz. This level of overclocking is rarely seen on an HEDT processor, with a 1900MHz bump over the base core clock on the i9 7980XE and a 1700MHz bump over the 2.8GHz base clock speed of the i9 7960X. To reach these speeds I had to massage the majority of the thermal and current safeguards on the motherboard. However, the speeds were stable in all of the tests I ran.

Before overclocking, you will want to ensure you have a high-end cooling solution to keep 16 and 18 cores out of thermal trouble. I usually use a Corsair H115i as my cooler, but even as good as it is it cannot handle the thermal load of the Core i9 7980XE or Core i9 7960X with any added voltage. Stock voltages were in the 0.89v range, but it took voltages of 1.12v to 1.14v to get the processors up to 4.5GHz. As low as those voltages are, a custom water cooling solution was taxed to keep thermals in check when running Prime 95 workloads. Under most workloads, the processors would stay below 85 °C, but easily hit 99 °C and throttle or reboot while overclocked to 4.5GHz. The 4.5GHz is a bit high for daily use, with 4.2GHz to 4.3GHz a better option using 1.0v. Running at 4.2GHz is easily fast enough for just about any task.

Now that both AMD and Intel have shown their hand, we get to see which system will ultimately come out on top. From a cost concern, neither AMD's Threadripper platform or Intel's Basin Falls platform is going to hit your wallet pretty hard. But if you are a content creator or you just have to have the best money can buy, the choice is yours.

Pros:

  • High core count
  • Overclocking
  • Multi-threaded performance

Cons:

  • Low base frequency
  • High price for performance
  • High heat when overclocked
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