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Intel Lays Down the Hammer with the Xeon W-3175X

The core wars rage on with another volley from Intel. The Xeon W-3175X is a mouthful to say and a mouthful of performance. Let’s take take a closer look at this colossal chip from Intel

At Titan we can remember the megahertz wars as if it were yesterday. At the outset of the Pentium 4 generation of processors, the general belief was that performance increases would be largely driven by faster clock speeds. We really thought that by now we’d be sticking 20Ghz CPUs in our computers.

It turns out that, for silicon chips at least, that was always going to be a pipedream. While today’s CPUs routinely operate at between four and five gigahertz, performance mainly comes from elsewhere. On the one hand, CPUs are becoming much more complex and efficient. The end result of this is that although two CPUs might have the same clock speed, the newer unit can do more work per clock cycle. The other way to get more performance from a CPU is to stuff more discrete cores into it.

On consumer desktops, quad-core CPUs have been the norm for years. Intel was happy to leave it at that, without any real competition from AMD. Then Ryzen happened and a real fire has been lit under the market leader. So now we are seeing the real core wars. As Intel and AMD see who can put the most cores into a single socket package. The Xeon W-3175X is the latest extreme example of this trend.

The Number Games

The headline figure here is the inclusion of 28 Xeon cores. These are 14nm++ cores with a base clock of 3.1Ghz and a peak boost of 4.3Ghz.

This is a chip derived from Skylake and Cascade Lake technology. It fits socket LGA3647 socket, which is a new server socket with only two or three manufacturers indicating upcoming boards that will use it. Clearly this is not going to be a mainstream product.

This already extreme 265W TDP processor has an unlocked clock. Which means you better prepare your best PSU and serious water cooling if you want to push it beyond the stock specifications.

It features six-channel memory support and a staggering 68 PCIe lanes. So clearly you can stack GPUs to your heart’s content.

The open questions are of course the total cost of ownership and how much faster the per-core performance will be than the AMD Threadripper 32-core CPU. Either way, this is shaping up to be one seriously impressive chip.