By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc. September 27, 2017
Intel’s latest 8th gen Core i3, i5 and i7 desktop chips and its new Core X-Series Extreme Edition processors offer a fresh example of one of IT’s more interesting value dynamics – the parallel evolution of graphics-intensive processors for both consumer and workplace applications.
It’s no surprise that the primary, respective audiences for these new solutions are gaming and overclocking enthusiasts (8th gen Core) and graphics content creators and gaming enthusiasts (X-Series Extreme Edition). But it’s worth considering how Intel is successfully serving those discrete audiences.
After all, it wasn’t so long ago that price/performance lines firmly separated high-end PCs and workstations. Those issues continue to exist, especially when it comes to professions leveraging Intel Xeon technologies for CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) applications.
However, these latest additions to Intel’s portfolio suggest that in some cases, the lines between personal and professional computing are becoming thinner and increasingly transparent.
8th gen Core for graphics enthusiasts and professionals
So what exactly is Intel bringing to market? The latest 8th gen Core offerings include solutions sporting their highest ever core count—6-cores for the i5 line and 4-cores for the i3 line. In addition, the company is also delivering unlocked “K” processors that maximize tuning options, along with up to 40 PCIe lanes for supporting graphics, I/O and storage add-ons. That should enable Intel’s OEMs and ODMs to offer desktop solutions for virtually every common taste and use case.
The top end Core i7-8700k, which Intel describes as its “best gaming desktop processor ever” offers 6-cores, 12MB of cache, base frequency of 3.7GHz and 4.7GHz single core frequency via Intel’s TurboBoost 2.0 technology. That should make the new chips stand out in both single and multi-threaded applications, including popular, high-performance games like, Gears of War.
In fact, Intel noted that the new chips deliver framerate performance that is up to 25% better than 7th gen Core systems and up to 65% better than 3-year old desktop PCs. That’s likely to be attractive to enthusiasts looking to maximize their gaming experience, but it also has practical implications for companies and developers—many of them small businesses and independents—that depend on Intel Core-based systems for creating and editing graphics content, like 360-degree videos.
Core X-Series Extreme for content creators and enthusiasts
Graphics professionals are also the prime targets for Intel’s new Core X-Series Extreme Edition solutions which the company calls the “most extreme desktop processor ever produced.” They come in three versions differentiated by core count—14-core (i9-7940X), 16-core (i9-7960X) and 18-core (i9-7980XE)—and are designed for creating, editing and rendering high-resolution (4k) and virtual reality (VR) video.
Intel noted that the new chips offer content creators up to 80 percent better performance for VR content creation and up to 60 percent faster 4K video editing over the previous generation Extreme Edition solutions. In addition, the new X-Series chips support rich, immersive user experiences and extreme mega-tasking, making them attractive choices for high-level gaming enthusiasts.
Intel’s new 8th generation core and Core X-Series solutions will be available beginning October 5, 2017.
So what can we make of Intel’s next gen Core and Core X-Series offerings? From a timing perspective, the company is aiming at two primary targets: 1) enabling OEMs to have new products on the shelves for holiday sales to consumers, and 2) enticing commercial/professional customers to upgrade graphics systems by year’s end or early in 2018. The substantial bumps in base performance, overclocking, tuning options (in the new “K” processors) and add-on support should make systems based on Intel’s new chips highly attractive to many gaming enthusiasts and content creators.
It should also be noted that the new offerings are arriving at a time when Intel is feeling an exceptional amount of competitive heat. That’s coming from two sources: 1) AMD, whose new Threadripper chips have attracted positive reviews and customer attention, and 2) NVIDIA which is enjoying the continuing attention of both graphics buyers and investors. AMD is probably the most immediate threat, given the obvious parallels between its own and Intel’s latest products, and the company’s aggressive pricing strategy. It will be worth watching closely to see if customers buy into AMD’s value pitch around Threadripper or stick with Intel’s longstanding reputation for quality.
Overall, with the new 8th gen Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, and the latest Core X-Series i9 offerings, Intel has given gaming enthusiasts and content creators a lot of good reasons to stick around. In essence, the company has demonstrated a deep understanding of both sides of the markets for high-end graphics—both creators and consumers—and shown how value developed for one group can naturally flow toward the other. That dynamic informs these newest Intel offerings and is also likely to animate the company’s future solutions and strategies.
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