Intel Core i9-7900X - 10-Cores Refined

Today we'll be taking a closer look at the Intel Core i9-7900X Skylake-X processor, which is Intel's High-End Desktop Platform (HEDT) 10-core, 20-thread CPU (3.3 GHz base/4.5 GHz Boost/13.75MB Cache) that costs $1061.99 shipped over at Amazon. The Intel Core i9-7900X sounds like a powerhouse and it better be since it commands around $1,000 in the retail market. What is crazy though, is that price is over 40% less than the Intel Core i7-6950X processor cost. So, even at this rather high price point consumers are getting a better value than the previous processor generation! Intel Core i9-7900X and X299 Features A handful of 4- to 10-core Intel Core X-series processors have been available for purchase since June 26th, 2017 and it appears that they are doing well in the market despite the fact that Intel is only releasing the lower half of the product stack and has more versions with additional cores coming out later this year. Intel Core i9-7900X Retail Box Processor

Intel Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X Desktop CPU Lineup

SKU Name Cores/Threads Base Clock Turbo Boost 2.0 Turbo Boost 3.0 L3 Cache TDP PCIe Lanes Price (USD)
Core i9-7900X 10/20 3.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.5 GHz 13.75 MB 140W 44 $1,061.99
Core i7-7820X 8/16 3.6 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.5 GHz 11 MB 140W 28 $678.75
Core i7-7800X 6/12 3.5 GHz 4.0 GHz N/A 8.25MB 140W 28 $479.00
Core i7-7740X 4/8 4.3 GHz 4.5 GHz N/A 8MB 112W 16 $347.97
Core i7-7640X 4/4 4.0 GHz 4.2 GHz N/A 6MB 112W 16 $239.89
The Intel Core i9-7900X looks pretty good on paper as it has higher clock speeds and the latest Intel Turbo Boost 3.0 technology that is being seen for the very first time on Skylake-X processors. Intel Turbo Boost 3.0 technology allows the two-best performing cores on any given processor to have single- or dual-core speeds of up to 4.5GHz. Intel tests each processor at the factory to determine the best two cores and then sets those cores to boost higher when needed. Intel Core i9-7900X CPU-Z If you happen to have one of these processors you can open up a free utility called CPU-Z to find the best two cores as they are highlighted in red. On our Intel Core i9-7900X processor the two best cores just happen to be core #3 and core #4. Knowing this information might come in handy when overclocking on a per core basis versus leaving all cores the same and just cranking up the CPU multiplier. Intel Turbo Boost 3.0 on Core i9-7900X The reduction of L3 cache and increase in the L2 cache might throw a few people off. The Intel engineering team thought it was time to re-balance the smart cache hierarchy on Skylake-X due to where they believe the software market is headed. Intel increased the L2 cache size from 256KB to 1MB per core while the L3 cache has gone from an inclusive to a non-inclusive format. This change will help some workloads while some might actually see a performance decrease. Intel Skylake-X desktop processors are the first to support the AVX-512 instruction set, so it is highly likely that these changes were brought to optimize for how those workloads are handled. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hertDBK6suA   We'll be taking a look at one of processors based on the Kaby Lake architecture in an upcoming article. Intel bringing out LGA2066 processors on both the Kaby Lake and Skylake architectures at the same time is an interesting move that has muddied up the product segmentation a little bit. The proble with the Kaby Lake based processors is they can't take full advantage of the Intel X299 chipset. For example they don't have support for quad-channel memory or have nearly as many PCIe lanes, so depending on the board you buy there will be ports, slots and headers that won't work. The Intel Core i7-7740X and Core i5-7640X are basically the Core i7-7700K amd Core i5-7600K LG1151 desktop parts with the integrated graphics processor (IGP) removed and a higher TDP (91W originally bumped up to 112W now) on an LGA2066 part. This means they should overclock better, but the IPC performance is exactly the same. Buying a Kaby Lake-X processor along with an X299 board is going to be a more expensive investment, but it does give you an upgrade path to 18-core processors in the years to come. The Intel LGA2011 platform stuck around for many years and was solid, so it looks like Intel LGA2066 is going be as well. Let's move onto the benchmarks after looking at the test systems on the next page.

Our CPU Test Systems

Before we look at the numbers, let’s take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro Anniversary Update 1607 build 14393.10 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running. We tested on seven different desktop platforms (Intel Z77, Intel Z97, Intel Z270, Intel X99, Intel X299, AMD AM3+ and AMD AM4) in this article, so we'll just quickly touch on each as all shared common parts (CPU Cooler, Video Card, SSD, Power Supply) and only differed in the board, processor, memory kit and memory timings. Intel Z270 Platform: The Intel X299 platform that we used for testing consisted of the ASUS X299 Deluxe motherboard. The Corsair Vengeance 32GB 4000MHz DDR4 dual channel memory kit was manually set to 3000MHz with 15-15-15-36 1T memory timings as we wanted to test with one of the most popular clock frequencies sold today. We used an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition video card with GeForce 376.33 WHQL drivers for all of the systems. We also used the Corsair AX860i digital power supply, Corsair Hydro Series H115iwater cooler and Crucial MX300 1050GB SSD. Intel Z270 Platform: The Intel Z270 platform that we used to test the Intel 1151 processors was running the Gigabyte Aorus Z270X-Gaming 5 with UEFI F5e that came out on 12/28/2016. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 4000MHz DDR4 dual channel memory kit was manually set to 3000MHz with 15-15-15-36 1T memory timings as we wanted to test with one of the most popular clock frequencies sold today. We used an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition video card with GeForce 376.33 WHQL drivers for all of the systems. We also used the Corsair AX860i digital power supply, Corsair Hydro Series H105 water cooler and Crucial MX300 1050GB SSDs on all of the desktop systems.
Intel LGA1151 Test Platform

Component

Brand/Model

Live Pricing

Processor

Intel Core i7-7700K

Motherboard

Gigabyte Z270X-Gaming 5 Click Here

Memory

16GB Vengeance 3000MHz DDR4 Click Here

Video Card

GeForce GTX 1080 FE Click Here

Hard Drive

Crucial MX300 1050GB Click Here

Cooling

Corsair H105 Click Here

Keyboard

Corsair K70 RGB Click Here

Mouse

Corsair M65 Pro Click Here

Power Supply

Corsair AX860i Click Here

Monitor

ASUS VE278Q 27" Click Here

Operating System

Windows 10 64-Bit Click Here
Intel Z97 Platform: The Intel Z97 platform that we used to test the Intel 1150 processors was running the ASUS Z97-A motherboard with BIOS 2801 that came out on 11/15/2015. The Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB 2400 MHz DDR3 memory kit was set to 11-11-11-28 1T memory timings. Intel Z77 Platform: The Intel Z97 platform that we used to test the Intel 1155 processors was running the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H (rev 1.0) motherboard with BIOS F16h that came out on 07/11/2016. The Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB 2133 MHz DDR3 memory kit was set to 10-11-10-28 1T memory timings. Intel X99 Platform: The Intel X99 platform we picked to use for the LGA2011-v3 processors was the ASUS X99-E-10G WS board with BIOS 0403 and that is the initial release UEFI as no newer version has come out since the introduction of that board in 2016. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 4000MHz DDR4 dual channel memory kit was manually set to 3000MHz with 15-15-15-36 1T memory timings. AMD AM3+  Platform: The AMD AM3+ platform that we used to test the AM3+ processors featured the ASRock Fatal1ty 990FX Killer  motherboard with BIOS 1.60 that came out on 01/14/2016. The Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB 2400 MHz DDR3 memory kit was set to 10-11-10-28 1T memory timings. Laptops:  Just for fun we also included Dell XPS 13 9350 and Dell Dell XPS 13 9360 laptop results! These are retail Dell laptops with clean installs of Windows 10 Pro Anniversary Update 1607 build 14393.10 installed for comparison to the desktop platforms. Let's take a look at overclocking and move onto the benchmarks!

Memory Bandwidth Benchmarks

SiSoftware Sandra 2016 SP3 Memory Bandwidth: link

SiSoftware Sandra 2016 is a utility, which includes remote analysis, benchmarking and diagnostic features for PCs, servers, mobile devices and networks. This test has been popular for CPU and memory benchmarks for well over a decade and it is one of the easiest benchmarks out there to run.

AIDA64 5.80 Memory & Cache Benchmark: link

AIDA64 is an industry-leading system information tool, loved by PC enthusiasts around the world, which not only provides extremely detailed information about both hardware and installed software, but also helps users diagnose issues and offers benchmarks to measure the performance of the computer. Memory Bandwidth Results Summary: The Intel Core i9-7900X with the Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000MHz memory kit with CL15 timings gave us about 57 GB/s of memory bandwidth on Sandra. Not enough to be the fastest on our charts, but nothing to complain about.

Real World Benchmarks

Dolphin 5.0 x64 Emulator Benchmark: link

The long awaited Dolphin 5.0 release happened in 2016 and thanks to a major cleaning up of the codebase Dolphin has reached a new level of efficiency, powered by a revitalized dynamic recompiler. Dolphin is considered by many to be the best Nintendo Wii emulator for PC you can find. It also works for Gamecube. We are running the official Dolphin 5.0 benchmark as it offers closer mapping to real world Dolphin performance as the previous version was extremely floating point heavy. We feel this is a pretty good general CPU benchmark for real world performance as emulation workloads are something that most gamers will run at one point or another.  We benchmark the standard Wii homebrew application and run it with the speed limit set to 'unlimited' and the External Frame Buffer set to 'real' in case you wanted to run this on your personal system.

Agisoft Photoscan 1.2.6 x64 - 2D to 3D Image Manipulation Benchmark: link

Agisoft PhotoScan is a stand-alone software product that performs photogrammetric processing of 2D digital images and generates 3D spatial data to be used in GIS applications, cultural heritage documentation, and visual effects production as well as for indirect measurements of objects of various scales. We us the 50 images from the 'Building' sample data download page for our benchmark. We take the total time it takes to complete four steps: Align Photos, Build Dense Cloud, Build Model, Build Texture with all the default settings for each.

KeyShot 6.3 - 3D Rendering and Animation: link

KeyShot 3D rendering and animation software is one of the fastest, easiest way to create amazing, photographic visuals of your 3D data. We installed KeyShot 6.3 to do some benchmarking and real-world stress testing using the camera_benchmark.bip scene that is included with the application. This benchmark tests a 800x554 pixel image with a continuous sample rate and shows the Frames Per Second (FPS) that the scene is being rendered from. This scene has nearly 42,000 triangles and does a good job at using all available cores to render the scene.

Blender 2.78a Open Source 3D Creation Benchmark: link

Blender is the free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation. We use the BMW CPU Benchmark (CCO, 3MB) created by Mike Pan for our testing. Real World Benchmark Results Summary: When it comes to our 'real world' benchmark tests we found the Intel Core i9-7900X had some mixed results. It dominated our Blender and Keyshot benchmarks, but fell short of the Core i7-6950X in Photoscan. The Dolphin emulator benchmark is very lightly threaded and core clock plays a huge roll in that benchmark, so it isn't a big surprise that the 7900X didn't take the lead in that scenario. That said, the 7900X shaved more than a minute off the time of the 6950X in Dolphin!

Media Encoding & Encryption Benchmarks

HandBrake v1.0.1 - link

HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows. It is popular today as it allows you to transcode multiple input video formats to h.264 output format and is highly multithreaded. We used Big Buck Bunny as our input file, which has become one of the world standards for video benchmarks. For our benchmark scenario we used a standard 2D 4K (3840x2160) 60 FPS clip in the MP4 format and used Handbrake version 1.0.1 to do two things. We used the new Fast 1080p30 preset to shrink that down to a 1920 x 1080 video clip to reduce the file size. This is something people often do to save space to put movies onto mobile devices. We also ran the workload using the normal preset as it puts the CPU at a higher load than the Fast 1080p30 preset.

X264 HD Encoding - link

the x264 HD Benchmark is a reproducible measure of how fast your machine can encode a short HD-quality video clip into a high quality x264 video file. It’s nice because everyone running it will use the same video clip and software. The video encoder (x264.exe) reports a fairly accurate internal benchmark (in frames per second) for each pass of the video encode and it also uses multi-core processors very efficiently. All these factors make this an ideal benchmark to compare different processors and systems to each other. We are using x264 HD v5.0.1 for this test. Media Encoding Benchmark Results Summary: Our media tests showed that the Intel Core i9-7900X is a force to be reckoned with and bested the Core i7-6950X at times. It really depends on what settings you are using in Handbrake as the CPU load varies greatly on the profile that is being used. In X264 the 7900X dominated the 6950X and was an impressive 20% faster on the second pass!

VeraCrypt 1.19 - link

VeraCrypt is an open-source disk encryption software brought to you by IDRIX and is a fork based on the discontinued TrueCrypt 7.1a utility. The developers claim that weaknesses found in TrueCrypt have been resolved with the VeraCrypt project. This is a popular utility used by people that don't want to use Microsoft's built-in encyption tool for Windows 10 called Bitlocker. Encryption Benchmark Results Summary: If encryption is something you do, you'll find having more cores and threads to be very beneficial as you can see from the results above. The higher core clock frequency on the Intel Core i9-7900X give this new processor a good lead over the Intel Core i7-6950X.

Web JavaScript & HTML5 Benchmarks

Mozilla Kraken 1.1: link

Kraken is a JavaScript performance benchmark created by Mozilla that measures the speed of several different test cases extracted from real-world applications and libraries. Kraken uses a test harness based on the SunSpider benchmark. Results are reported in milliseconds (lower is better).

JetStream 1.1: link

JetStream combines a variety of JavaScript benchmarks, covering a variety of advanced workloads and programming techniques, and reports a single score that balances them using geometric mean. JetStream includes benchmarks from the SunSpider 1.0.2 and Octane 2 JavaScript benchmark suites. It also includes benchmarks from the LLVM compiler open source project, compiled to JavaScript using Emscripten 1.13. It also includes a benchmark based on the Apache Harmony open source project's HashMap and a port of the CDx benchmark, hand-translated to JavaScript.

WebXPRT 2015: link

WebXPRT 2015 uses scenarios created to mirror the tasks you do every day to compare the performance of almost any Web-enabled device. It contains six HTML5- and JavaScript-based workloads: Photo Enhancement, Organize Album, Stock Option Pricing, Local Notes, Sales Graphs, and Explore DNA Sequencing. Web JavaScript & HTML5 Benchmarks Results Summary: When it comes to online browsing you don't need 8-cores or 10-cores, so you'll see the faster clocked quad-core processors at the top of these performance charts.  The Intel Core i9-7900X has pretty solid performance for web browsing and scored roughly 50 points higher than the Core i7-6950X.

3DMark & Cinebench

Futuremark 3DMark 2.2.3509 - link

3DMark is a popular gaming performance benchmark that includes everything you need to benchmark your PC whether you're gaming on a desktop PC, laptop, notebook, or a tablet. 3DMark includes seven benchmark tests and we'll be running 'Sky Diver' that is aimed at gaming laptops and mid-range PCs.

Maxon Cinebench R15.038 - link 

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software Cinema 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Iron Man 3, Oblivion, Life of Pi or Prometheus and many more. 3DMark and Cinebench Benchmarks Results Summary: The Intel Core i9-7900X performs well in 3DMark Fire Strike and has the Physics score that we have ever seen at 23,642! In Cinebench we got got the highest multi-CPU score we have ever gotten as well at over 2,200! The Intel Core i9-7900X looks strong in these popular benchmarks.

Discrete GPU Gaming Performance

Thief

Thief is a series of stealth video games in which the player takes the role of Garrett, a master thief in a fantasy/steampunk world resembling a cross between the Late Middle Ages and the Victorian era, with more advanced technologies interspersed. Thief is the fourth title in the Thief series, developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix on February 25, 2014. We picked this game title for CPU testing as it is known to scale well with CPUs. We use the games built-in benchmark and test with the default settings with these changes; exclusive fullscreen, vSync off, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an action role-playing stealth video game developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix. Set in a cyberpunk-themed dystopian world in 2029, two years after the events of Human Revolution, Mankind Divided features the return of Adam Jensen from the previous game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, with new technology and body augmentations. The game was released on August 23rd, 2016 for PC users and we are using it to show DX12 performance on the CPUs that we tested. DX12 removed most all of the CPU overhead, so we wanted to see what happens to performance on DX12 game titles as well. We use the games built-in benchmark and test with the default settings with these changes; DX12 enabled, exclusive fullscreen, vSync off, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz, medium graphics. Discrete Gaming Benchmarks Results Summary: Gaming performance hasn't been anything to write home about on this mega-core processors, but gaming performance was smooth. You can run multiple streams and game at the same time with more than acceptable frame rates, so it can game! 

Power Consumption

No review is complete without taking a look at power and the Intel Core i9-7900X did fairly well considering it is an 10-core processor with a 140W TDP. At idle the Intel Core i9-7900X Skylake-X platform used 67W at idle and that is impressive as includes the ASUS X299 motherboard,  NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 FE video card, SATA SSD and the Corsair Hydro water cooler. The processor topped out at 238W in Handbrake and 307W when playing Thief at 1080P.

Intel Core i9-7900X Overclocking

When it comes to overclocking the Intel Core i9-7900X we were delighted to find that the ASUS X299 Deluxe motherboard made that task easy. We managed to get up to 4.9GHz at 1.5V and it was stable for most everything. We were able to play any game title we wanted, ran Cinebench, the AIDA64 stress test and stuff like that without crashing or having issues. The problem we found was that during video encoding that the system would lock up around 10-15 minutes into the process. We therefore couldn't call this 100 percent stable, but it was damn close. We needed to drop the clock speed all the way down to 4.6GHz to get it fully stable. Since the Core i9-7900X was stable at 4.9GHz we will show off our multi-CPU score... How does 2,551 cb sound in Cinebench R15? This is a monster score and we had a blast overclocking the Intel Core i9-7900X procesor! Let's wrap up this review on the Intel Core i9-7900X processor!

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

The Intel Core i9-7900X processor and the associated Intel X299 LGA2066 platform are brand new and still a little rough around the edges. As with all new process architectures and chipsets things will get better with time and they already have. The Intel Core i9-7900X 10-core, 20-thread processor looks great on paper and the price is damn good compared to what Intel brought the Core i7-6950X to market at, but the performance fell a little short of our expectations. We try to go into every review with an open mind and no expectations, but with Skylake-X we expected a beastly processor that would destroy everything on the market. The Intel Core i9-7900X crushed the Core i7-6950X in MOST of the heavily threaded workload tests. The keyword there is most. We expected it to crush it in all those tests. We knew it wasn't going to lead the gaming benchmarks nor the browsing benchmarks, but we really thought it was going to lead in the others. If I'm laying down $1000 to buy the flagship Intel Core i9-7900X processor I'm expecting to get the best performance in everything. The problem here is that the Intel Core i9-7900X isn't really the flagship processor for the Skylake-X processor series. Intel still has the Core i9-7920X (12-core, 24-thread at $1,199), the Core i9-7940X (14-core, 28-thread at $1,399), Core i9-7960X (16-core, 32-thread at $1,699) and the Core i9-7980XE (18-core, 36-thread at $1,999) coming to market in the near future. The real beast is going to be the Intel Core i9-7980XE for two thousand dollars. If you have deep pockets and want the most cores and threads possible then you don't want the Core i9-7900X that we tested today, but rather the Intel Core i9-7980XE that is still a bit off.
Intel Core-X Series Specifications
Processor Cores/ Threads L3 Cache PCIe Lanes Base Clock Turbo Clock 2.0 Turbo Clock 3.0 Price
Core i9-7980XE
18C/36T
TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD $1,999
Core i9-7960X
16C/32T
TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD $1,699
Core i9-7940X
14C/28T
TBD TBD TBD TBD TBD $1,399
Core i9-7920X
12C/24T
TBD
TBD
TBD TBD TBD $1199
Core i9-7900X
10C/20T
13.75 MB
44
3.3 GHz
4.3 GHz
4.5 GHz
$999
Core i9-7820X
8C/16T
11 MB
28
3.6 GHz
4.3 GHz
4.5 GHz
$599
Core i9-7800X
6C/12T
8.25 MB
28
3.5 GHz
4.0 GHz
N/A $389
Core i7-7740K
4C/8T
8 MB
16
4.3 GHz
4.5 GHz
N/A $339
Core i5-7640K
4C/4T
6 MB
16
4.0 GHz
4.2 GHz
N/A $242
The other big issue or complicating matter with the high-end desktop market is that AMD is back with a viable option thanks to Ryzen Threadripper. If AMD Ryzen Threadripper wasn't coming to market with up to 16-core, 32-thread models will be available there likely wouldn't be a second round of Intel Skylake-X processors coming out. The bad news for AMD is that Intel just added these processors on top of the usual product stack and is selling them for more money. It feels like Intel is taunting AMD with this pricing by saying we'll respect your core count and will beat that, but your product isn't a big enough threat to adjust our pricing. The AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X 16-core, 32-thread processor is going to be $999 and the Ryzen Threadripper 1920X 12-core, 24-thread processor is going to be $799. That means the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X 16-core processor is price comparable to the Intel Core i9-7900X that we reviewed here today. When it comes to multi-threaded tasks that the Intel Core i9-7900X dominated in our testing with 10-cores will it still be on top in early August when Threadripper comes out? It will be interesting to see how this all pans out. Intel Core i9-7900X Retail Box Processor The Intel Core i9-7900X is a very powerful processor and it shows that the upcoming Skylake-X processors will be absolutely insane. The smart cache hierarchy changes on Skylake-X and the inclusion of the AVX-512 instruction set look like they will pay off down the road based on what Intel has told us. We need to make some changes to our testing suite for these new processors as with 18-core processors coming we need to get more mega-tasking into the mix. That is something we are currently working on behind the scenes to get ready for the big core Threadripper versus Core i9 battle that will be happening here this summer. For now we are advising our readers to wait to purchase a a high-end processor that is over $500. Let the Intel X299 platform become more refined and let AMD Ryzen Threadripper come out. We are witnessing the fastest rise in processor core count ever this this release, so grab some popcorn and let Intel and AMD bring out these mega-core processors. The Intel Core i9-7900X is just a little taste of what is to come! You can purchase the Intel Core i9-7900X Skylake-X processor for $1061.99 shipped and the ASUS X299 Deluxe motherboard we used for testing will set you back $487.30 shipped on Amazon.   Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Core i9-7900X processor looks good, but Intel has processors with more cores coming out later this year that are based on the same architecture!