Intel Cascade Lake X CPUs: Everything we know so far

Can Intel's Cascade Lake X bring the CPU fight back to AMD?

Stock photo of Intel 9th gen core processor
Intel Newsroom/Intel Corporation

Even though AMD stole the CPU spotlight in the summer of 2019 with its new-generation of Ryzen 3000 processors, Intel isn’t resting on its laurels. On top of new, hotly competitive 10nm Ice Lake mobile CPUs, it’s also expected to debut a new line of high-end desktop processors as a replacement for its 9000 X-generation. These chips, codenamed Cascade Lake X, could offer new levels of top-tier performance which could give AMD’s rumored third-generation Threadripper chips a run for their money.

Here’s everything we know so far.

Release date and pricing

Intel hasn’t made any official announcements about Cascade Lake X so we can’t say for sure when these chips will be revealed or released, but we do have some leaked information which points to before the end of 2019. A slide that appeared on German site Tweakers earlier this year suggested that at some point in the third-quarter of 2019, Cascade Lake X chips would make their appearance.

intel cascade lake x news rumor specs price release date intelroadmapleak01

Although there have been a number of delays to new Intel CPUs in recent years, we don’t expect there to be much of one with Cascade Lake X. Many server-grade Cascade Lake CPUs launched in April 2019 and Cascade Lake X is merely the more performance-targeted version of that design.

As for pricing, all we can do is speculate based on previous generations of Intel HEDT (high-end desktop) chips. The Core i9 7000-series processors started at $989 and stretched to $1,999 for the top-end chip. The successor to that line, the Core i9-9000 series started at a slightly lower $889, but rose to a similar cost, with the 9980XE costing $1,979 at launch.

We would expect a new-generation of Intel HEDT CPUs to cost much the same, though if core counts were to increase dramatically, it may be that the top chips turn out to be even more expensive.

Performance

There’s no denying that Intel’s HEDT chips are some of the most powerful ever made and are designed with heavy workloads in mind, rather than gaming. But we haven’t seen huge improvements in performance between generations. The 9000-series HEDT chips were notoriously close to the 7000-series in performance, only improving clock speeds and efficiency by small margins.

With Cascade Lake X set to be based upon the same (but slightly improved) 14nm architecture as the 7000 and 9000-generations’ Skylake X design (see below), what performance improvements can we expect from the new generation of chips?

We don’t have any comprehensive specifications or performance results we can share just yet, but we do have some that have trickled out into the public consciousness. In April this year, an unnamed 10-core Intel CPU appeared in the SiSoftware database. It was rated as having 10 cores with 20 threads, and 19.25MB of L3 cache — the same as Intel’s 9900X. Where it does differ though is in the clock speed. The maximum boost frequency is only 100MHz higher, at 4.6GHz, but its base clock is 500MHz greater than the 9900X, at 4.0GHz.

That’s a sizeable improvement and suggests that even if peak performance of Cascade Lake X chips isn’t drastically higher than its predecessors, sustained performance should see a nice bump. If such an increase were seen across the board, that could equate to a 10-20 percent improvement in CPU capabilities in single and multithreaded workloads.

It’s always possible that Intel will borrow more inspiration and design choices from its Xeon w-3175x, the 28-core monster that dominates benchmarking high-score tables. It’s a workstation CPU that straddles the line between more traditional HEDT chips and server processors. At $3,000, that would be far more expensive than even Intel’s top-tier 9980XE. We don’t expect a new-generation of Cascade Lake-X chips with up to 28 cores, but Intel might bump the core counts if rumors of AMD Threadripper 3000 CPUs with up to 64 cores are anything to be believed.

Then again, that leaked Intel roadmap slated Cascade Lake X as having a maximum of 18-cores, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Architecture

The architecture at the core of the new CPUs is new, but it’s more of a refinement than a revolution. It will be based on a 14nm++ node, so it’s still 14nm, but it’s a little more enhanced than Skylake-X. That’s part of the reason we don’t expect to see any major advances in performance with Intel’s new generation CPUs, with clock speed and efficiency improvements being the most likely.

Like last-generation HEDT architectures we expect this one to support six-channel memory and 44 PCIExpress lanes.

Motherboards

With Cascade Lake X chips based on a mostly enhanced architecture and process node, we don’t expect any major changes to chipsets or motherboard support. WCCFTech’s coverage of this upcoming generation suggests Cascade Lake X processors will slot into existing x299 motherboards with the same LGA 2066 socket.

In fact, we may have gotten an early look at an example motherboard for these chips in mid-June, when Anandtech snapped pictures of the Gigabyte X299G Xtreme Waterforce. Although the naming might suggest otherwise, it sports the same x299 chipset, with the “G” denoting a new range of boards, rather than a new chipset.

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