Intel debuts 9th-generation Core chips, targeting creatives

Intel unveiled its 9th-generation Core desktop chips on Monday, with a new series of X-class chips for designer, artists, video editors and animators (and gamers), ranging from eight cores and 16 threads through 18 cores and 36 threads.

Last year, Intel announced its 14-, 16-, and 18-core Intel’s X-series chips as a part for high-end gamers. This year, Intel positioned the X-series parts for creators, of which Intel said there are 100 million in the UK, US and China combined. Intel didn't specify which architecture these chips use, they're expected to be based on the Skylake architecture, otherwise known as the Skylake-X desktop processors. Shipping in November, here are the specs we know now:

  • 3.0GHz (4.4GHz turbo) 18-core/36-thread Core i9-9980XE, for $1,979
  • 3.1GHz(4.4GHz) 16-core/32-thread Core i9-9960X, for $1,684
  • 3.3GHz (4.4GHz) 14-core/28-thread Core i9-9940X, for $1,387
  • 3.5GHz (4.4GHz) 12-core/24-thread Core i9-9920X, for $1,189
  • 3.5GHz (4.4GHz) 10-core/20-thread Core i9-9900X, for $989
  • 3.3GHz (4.1GHz) 10-core/20-thread Core i9-9820X, for $889
  • 3.8GHz (4.4GHz) 8-core/16-thread Core i7-9800X, for $589

Intel also released performance metrics for the new X-series chips. These seem mainly focussed on games. but you can see Adobe Premiere at the end there.

Alongside these were mainstream desktop parts. Intel introduced its first 9th-gen chips, spearheaded by the Core i9-9900K. It's the company’s first broad-volume 5GHz chip, with 8 cores and 16 threads. Intel is also adding solder TIM for additional overclocking headroom.

Intel announced three members of the new 9th-gen K series:

  • 3.6GHz (5.0GHz) 8-core/16-thread Core i9-9900K, for $488
  • 3.6GHz (4.9GHz) 8-core/8-thread Core i7-9700K, for $374
  • 3.7GHz (4.6GHz) 6-core, 6-thread Core i5-9600K, for $262

Starting today, Intel said, US readers can preorder the Core i9-9900K from major e-tailers. PC makers are lining up, too: The Acer Predator, the Asus ROG line, the HP Omen, and the Dell Alienware lineup will all use it.

However, the new i7 and i5 have the notable omission of a key feature: Hyper-Threading.

Hyper-Threading has been a staple of Intel’s processors since 2002’s Pentium 4. As clock speeds tended to top out at 4GHz to 5GHz, parallelism – originally in the form of support for more processor threads, and later to more physical cores – kept the processor performance on an upward trajectory.

Both gamers and creatives want the most powerful chips, but here their needs diverge. Most games have been engineered to only take advantage of a few threads, while most major creative applications can use a lot more – with the performance boost growing as you move into more complex video, animation and VFX apps (and if you want to render projects on the same computer as you're working on).

Another factor is Intel’s own manufacturing problems. No, these new chips aren’t Intel’s long-awaited launch into the 10nm generation. The new “Coffee Lake Refresh (-R)” chips Intel announced Monday are still built upon a 14nm process, in might what be called a “14nm++” process technology.

By now, Intel expected its 10nm fabs would be churning out new “Cannon Lake” processors, reserving the 14nm production lines for older chips. But the slow transition forced Intel to change direction, and Intel has said its production will suffer. Fortunately, the company is prioritizing high-end Core chips.

Intel rebrands its 28-core chip as Xeon

At the event, Anand Srivatsa, vice president and general manager in the Client Computing Group at Intel, began his presentation with an apparent surprise: Intel appears to be calling its upcoming 28-core chip that it announced at Computex the W-3175X Xeon, a part that runs up to 4.3GHz – and not a member of the Core family. It will include 68 platform PCIe lanes. It will ship in December, Srivatsa said, at an undisclosed price. Unfortunately, Intel didn't really disclose further details.

This is perhaps unsurprising has few gamers or creatives will be able to take advantage of all those cores/threads while playing/working. But put this in a box in the corner and you'd have one hell of a render server. 

Intel adds a new Z390 chipset, too

Though the new 9th-gen chips will be compatible with Intel’s existing 300-series chipsets, Intel is adding the Z390 chipset as well, with support for 6 Gen2 USB 3.1 connections plus 10 Gen1 USB 3.1 lanes. (Gen1 USB connections support 5 Gbits/s, while Gen2 doubles that to 10Gbits/s, as MSI explains.) Up to 24 PCIe lanes are supported, and there’s reportedly Thunderbolt 3 support, as well -- at least according to early leaks..

The Z390 also supports Intel’s own 802.11ac WiFi MAC; Intel has struggled in the communications space for years, and clearly wants to push its way back in. Remember, Intel began encouraging its wireless connections in April, when it launched some additional 7th-gen desktop parts. (Our past story also contains a summary of Intel’s four other desktop chipsets: the H370, H310, Q370, and B360.)

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