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Intel Core i9-10980XE
Join the community - in the OCAU Forums!
Date 26th November 2019
Author booj
Editor James "Agg" Rolfe
Manufacturer Intel

If you went back a month and compared the 9980XE to Threadripper 2, youíd say Intel were still competitive on pure performance, but that has all changed now we have Threadripper 3, and more significantly, the AM4 3950X.

If youíre a content creator or professional, then thereís little reason to go for a 10980XE unless you already have an X299 motherboard. The 3950X is the better buy, and offers better value too when considering the cheaper platform requirements. Thatís without mentioning the admittedly more expensive 3960X which simply blows the 10980XE out of the water with its unmatched multi-threading strength.

The exception is if youíre overclocking and like to game more than a little bit. When all of its 18 cores are overclocked to 4.5GHz+, bearing in mind the default all core turbo is 3.8GHz, then the 10980XEís performance jumps up to an entirely different level. Though still not competitive with a 24 core 3960X, it does offer well balanced all round performance, and gaming becomes an entirely viable proposition. The single threaded boost over the 9980XE also manifests itself with stronger performance in some scenarios, including gaming.

The bottom line, if youíre an enthusiast, the 10980XE demands to be overclocked. If youíre not interested in that, then the 3950X is the way to go. Of course the other processors can be overclocked too, but Zen2 processors donít have anywhere near the headroom that current generation Intel processors have. Itís nice to see the 10980XE get a single thread frequency boost over the 9980XE, but itís just not enough to win in the HEDT market where multi-threading performance is king.

We used an NZXT Kraken 280mm AiO cooler for our testing. Under all core load the 10980XE returned a very respectable 69c, with a 33c idle temperature. Not bad at all with 100% load at 3.8GHz.

Power consumption under the same all core load was a rather lofty 229W. Thereís debate about whether Intel should be more transparent with regards to its TDP under default vs turbo conditions. Ian Cutress at Anandtech does an excellent deep dive into that. 33W at idle is to be commended.

When overclocking, power consumption takes a massive step up. With a relatively conservative 1.2v for 4.7GHz, power consumption jumps to an eye popping 381w, and thatís just running standard benchmarks. If youíre planning to run something like Prime95 with AVX, be prepared for this figure to jump up significantly higher. We also saw 94 degrees on one of the cores. At that level, we called it quits.

For comparison, a stock 3950X consumes 131W (itself higher than AMDís 105W TDP) with a 3960X pulling 268W. Intel really is right on the limit of where it can clock its processors, and that goes for the likes of the 9900K and 9900KS too. Thereís nothing stopping it from hypothetically clocking a 10980XE at well above 4GHz with an all core load, but a processor pulling 300W+ at stock simply isnít feasible. Even AMDís 280W TDP is too high really.

A wise man once said, there are no bad CPUs, only bad prices. Intel has seen the writing on the wall and cut the price of the 10980XE in half compared to its 9980XE predecessor, and that alone brings the 10980XE to a respectable price/performance level instead of being laughed at at the old price point. Also itís worth considering if youíre invested in Intelís Optane or one of its other exclusive technologies.

The 10980XE doesnít exist in a vacuum though. Threadripper 3 is the better platform provided you can make use of all the multi-threaded grunt on tap. Itís also the more feature rich platform. Intel is stuck with PCIe 3.0, and with less lanes coming directly from the processor if youíre considering running multi GPUs and several NVMe drives.

If youíve got an earlier generation 7000 or 9000 series processor, by all means, the 10980XE will give you a relatively cost effective increase in performance vs the expense of jumping to an all new and costly platform. Thatís about where the recommendation ends though. The 3950X has lit a fire underneath the entire X299 platform. It offers decent value, it outperforms the 10980XE in too many scenarios, uses less power and doesnít require an expensive motherboard and quad channel memory. The same could be said of the likes of the 3900X over the 10940X and the rest of the range.

Gaming and lightly threaded applications still perform well, but why would you drop well over $1000 on a gaming processor? Grab something like a 9700K or 3700X and spend the savings on a better GPU. Gaming should be considered a part time endeavour on both AMD and Intel HEDT platforms.

Intel had to do something to respond to the threat of AMD from above and below and sadly the 10th generation of Core-X is not enough. Intel desperately needs a new architecture and process technology or it risks becoming irrelevant in the HEDT space. The 10980XE isnít as bad as all that makes it sound. It provides a decent performance balance and it really moves up to another level when overclocked, but the writing is on the wall. Intel needs to get its act together or risk being left behind, which was an almost unthinkable scenario just a couple of years ago.

Click to Enlarge

Intel Core i9-10980XE: 6/10

Decent balance of light and heavily threaded performance
Half the price of its predecessor
Gaming performance vs Threadripper
Updated X299 feature rich platform
Overclocking headroom

Still too expensive
Very strong competition from AMD
Itís fundamentally an overclocked 7980XE
Power consumption when overclocking

Feel free to discuss this review in this thread!

Page 1: Introduction, Details, Motherboards
Page 2: System Benchmarks, Gaming Benchmarks
Page 3: Performance, Heat and Power, Conclusions


All original content copyright James Rolfe.
All rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without written permission.
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