Yes, you read that title correctly. Intel has just released the Intel Core i9-7980XE, a processor that boasts a whopping eighteen cores, sharing a cache of roughly 17 MB. Most of you reading this are probably doing so from a device that has a maximum of eight cores, and sometimes even as little as two. So what gives? Why would a computer need that many cores? And what possible reason could Intel have for coming up with this new processor?
The Logic Behind the Madness
A company with as much experience and prestige as Intel doesn’t just add cores to its chips all willy-nilly without having a strategy. We can assume quite safely that the i9 wasn’t made with the average home user in mind, so why would Intel just go ahead and release such a monster destined for the desktop PC and not a server environment?
There can only be one answer: AMD has become a thorn in its side with the announcement of its new “Threadripper” CPUs which boast an impressive sixteen cores.
The CPU competition has recently gotten fiercer as AMD has begun releasing its more affordable high-performance Ryzen family of chips, each with their own set of advantages. On the higher end, we have the Ryzen 7 1800X, an eight-core processor with sixteen threads and a 4 MB L2/16 MB L3 cache. It comes at nearly half the price of an Intel CPU of similar specs.
To remain competitive, Intel has to work on improving its innovative chip architecture and gain any edge it can to continue to appeal to professionals who want good returns on their investments. The fact that there’s a market for the massive sixteen-core AMD chip gives Intel some hope of getting in on some of the action with an early release of a slightly more monstrous CPU.
Why Would You Need Eighteen Cores?
In all honesty, for the applications that even the most avid gamers run on their computers, an eight-core processor provides more than enough muscle to get the job done. Any extra core on the CPU means less attrition in the form of lag because of resource-hogging applications. Eight cores can run eight very intense processes with very little noticeable interruption to the flow of the operating system as a whole.
For professionals like 3D modelers and architects, however, the story is a bit different. Some people need as many cores as possible to run programs that do a lot of work in parallel. By jumping from eight to sixteen or eighteen cores, they’ll see a massive boost in performance. This makes them more productive, which in turn keeps their bosses happy.
Most of the programs we run in everyday life don’t reach this level of sophistication, so it would be a wasted investment to spend upwards of a thousand dollars on a processor that gives you little noticeable improvement. Applications like Skype, for example, will not be pumping all the cylinders you give it. It will try to run on one thread and keep to itself. The same goes for the majority of things we use. They will treat your CPU like a single core with the operating system allocating the power where it is appropriate. Having more cores isn’t without its uses, but it’s hard to foresee a day in the near future where you will absolutely need more than eight.
Do you use applications that require as many cores as possible on a regular basis? Tell us what you think about this new release in a comment! We’d love to hear from you.
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