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Intel’s next round of high-end desktop CPUs will be much cheaper than before

(Image credit: Intel)

Intel recently promised to bring "dramatic changes" to the high-end desktop (HEDT) market, and following up on that, it has now announced its upcoming Cascade Lake-X lineup. At up to 18 cores and 36 threads, these will undoubtedly provide some competition for the best CPUs out there. What's particularly surprising is Intel's aggressive pricing, and we're looking forward to seeing some good competition when the Black Friday deals roll around.

That 18-core/32-thread part is the Core i9-10980XE, and it will debut at $979 (MSRP). On the other end of the spectrum, the Core i9-10900X will bring offer enthusiasts 10 cores and 20 threads of computing for $590.

Here's a look at the full lineup, with specs and pricing:

(Image credit: Intel)

While not exactly budget offerings, pricing on Cascade Lake-X is up to 50 percent cheaper than Intel's previous generation Skylake-X. This is how they stack up (Cascade Lake-X processors are in bold):

  • Core i9-10980XE—18 cores / 36 threads, 3GHz to 4.8GHz, $979
  • Core i9-9980XE—18 cores / 36 threads, 3GHz to 4.5GHz, $1,979
  • Core i9-10940X—14 cores / 28 threads, 3.3GHz to 4.8GHz, $784
  • Core i9-9940X—14 cores / 28 threads, 3.3GHz to 4.5GHz, $1,387
  • Core i9-10920X—12 cores / 24 threads, 3.5GHz to 4.8GHz, $689
  • Core i9-9920X—12 cores / 24 threads, 3.5GHz to 4.5GHz, $1,189
  • Core i9-10900X—10 cores / 20 threads, 3.7GHz to 4.7GHz, $590
  • Core i9-9900X—10 cores / 20 threads, 3.5GHz to 4.5GHz, $980

These prices are in line with Intel's claim its next round of HEDT processors would offer "up to 2x the performance per dollar of the previous generation."

The value proposition extends beyond the number of cores. This next round pushes faster single-core frequencies, support for more memory (256GB of quad-channel DDR4 RAM, up from 128GB), a few additional PCIe 3.0 lanes (48, up from 44). The TDP is the same as before (165W), and things like Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5GbE (via external controllers), deep learning support, and better protections against side-channel attacks (the same mitigations as found in Intel's Cascade Lake Xeon processors) are also present.

One noteworthy item is that Intel is now stopping CCL-X at the 10-core part, leaving the 8-core and lower segment for its mainstream LGA1151 / Coffee Lake parts. It's a minor jump in price from the $499 Core i9-9900K up to the $590 i9-10900X, but that's not the whole story. The X299 parts use quad-channel memory, so you need four sticks, and the motherboards are also about $100 more. Perhaps more importantly, the Skylake-X and Cascade Lake-X CPU architecture uses a mesh topology for inter-core communications, and in our previous testing that usually makes the consumer parts faster in gaming benchmarks.

This sets the stage for an interesting showdown with AMD's upcoming third-generation Threadripper processors. Cascade Lake-X and new Threadripper CPUs will hit the market in November, as will AMD's 16-core/32-thread Ryzen 9 3950X (technically a mainstream desktop CPU,  and not an HEDT part). Intel is sticking with socket LGA2066 and the X299 chipset, while AMD will apparently move away from X399 for 3rd gen Threadripper. I suspect the steep price cuts have more to do with the mainstream Ryzen 9 parts, however.

Whatever your future CPU plans, fun times await.