Companies like Intel and AMD typically make their CPUs available to both OEMs and what’s known as the retail channel for purchase. Sometimes, a limited edition chip or one intended for specialty markets may only be available to OEMs, particularly if it’s a soldered form factor or relies on other components that a typical individual user would have no use for. There are new rumors that Intel may introduce a new 5GHz 14-core CPU with no price tag at all. Instead of being readily available for purchase at any given time, these chips would be put up for auction. OEMs that bought them for inclusion in boutique systems would then price them as they see fit.
The chip — the Core i9-9990XE — is a supposed 14-core CPU with a 5GHz top-clock and no formal price tag at all. It fits over the Core i9-9980XE (18-cores, 36 threads, 165W TDP) with a 4GHz base clock, 5GHz boost clock, formal support for DDR4-2666, and a massive 255W TDP.
There will be no formal price for the CPU. Instead, according to Anandtech, Intel will offer the chip to a select list of OEMs via a series of auctions, to be held once per quarter. The first auction will be held the third week of 2019. Price is not fixed but will fluctuate depending on what the integrator is willing to pay, though there’s always the possibility that Intel has set a base price under which the auction will not clear. Anandtech states that only three system integrators will bid on the first auction.
The motherboard socket must be capable of providing 420 amps and the chip includes no warranty from Intel.
This is an unusual part, to put it mildly. In fact, we don’t recall Intel ever offering up auctioned CPUs to a handful of OEM partners in this type of scenario, much less doing so without any kind of warranty whatsoever. The chip’s TDP, meanwhile, only refers to its base frequency. This is a 255W chip at 4GHz on 14 cores before Turbo Mode ever factors into the equation. The fact that Intel can (apparently) only pull together a few hundred of them per quarter and is auctioning them off rather than selling them in-channel also implies we’re looking at the absolute bleeding edge of the company’s manufacturing.
The TDP leap in these figures also neatly highlights why it’s so hard for high core count chips to hit high clock speeds and why Intel was never going to practically launch a 28-core CPU with a 5GHz all-core boost. Maintaining high clock rates across a large number of cores is prohibitively expensive and it gets harder the higher your frequencies and the larger the number of CPUs. Adding workstation CPU features like larger caches and additional memory controllers only increases the total power required when clock rates jump. New process nodes can improve absolute clock scaling, but the amount of additional thermal dissipation required for each additional 100MHz of scaling is well above linear at these clocks, regardless of process node.
It wouldn’t surprise us if this 14-core 5GHz CPU represents, on some level, the most aggressive CPU Intel has ever even attempted to bring to market. Apart from truly one-off golden samples, we can’t imagine a tougher product to yield. The fact that there is no price of any kind lends truth to the old saying: “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
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