HEDT – High-End Desktop was a type of desktop computers originally devised by Intel to segment their top-of-the-line offering of processors and motherboards back in 2008. Up until this year, the only manufacturer capable of delivering the HEDT performance was Intel. Now though, things have changed and along with Intel, AMD is [for the first time] making a breakthrough in the HEDT market.
After 12 years of being an outsider, AMD once again has a competitive gamma of products and is playing $/core war against Intel.
It’s not a name of a transformer, it’s the name of the processor that AMD offers to HEDT consumers. The processor comes in 3 different variants, from 8 cores 16 threads up to 16 cores and 32 threads.
The base of TR processors are the same Zen cores that are the beating heart of the regular Ryzen desktop CPUs, so there are no novelties regarding the configuration of the cores. The main differences are portrayed in the core count, frequencies and the biggest one – number of PCIe lines. 60 PCIe lines across the complete gamut of the CPUs means that now you can have more devices attached than ever before on a consumer PC (graphics cards, storage, and other components). Also, TR platform supports ECC (server) memory modules. A high number of PCIe lines and ECC support is very important for IT services companies such as Picnet. These companies usually exploit their hardware to the maximum, and employing several graphic cards in high-bandwidth modes for parallel computing or rendering while using local storage is now possible with a single machine.
While AMD is new to this market segment, for Intel this is 6th HEDT generation and it is expected that the performance is smashing. But, what is also expected is that the price sticker on Intel’s HEDT offering is as high as it gets; it is quite simple – you want premium, you pay premium price.
As you can see in the table, Intel is offering two times more SKUs than AMD and covers a wider price range. There is support for up to 44 PCIe lanes, high-speed DDR4 and OC on every CPU.
Which is better?
The first reviews of the flagship Skylake-X CPUs 7980XE and 7960X surfaced this Monday and the general consensus of the professional community is that they are the fastest retail CPUs that can be purchased to date. Whether these SKUs were part of the original Skylake-X plans or not remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – AMD pressed Intel into rushing its new HEDT platform to the market.
Performance vise these two processors are faster than AMD’s 1950X in both IPC bound single-threaded performance as well as in the multi-threaded applications. There are, however, certain scenarios where TR tops the 7960X and even 7980XE in some. But, overall Skylake-X top of the line CPUs are better.
Having said that, there are a few more things to consider before underlining the final verdict.
TDP (Power Consumption)
Looking back at the previous products from both manufacturers, one could expect that Intel has a better TDP rating, while its processors stay within the respective TDP margins.
However, it seems that Intel went a bit over the top in their crusade to the top spot and smashed the TDP boundaries. On stock frequency values are at full load, the 7980XE exceeds the rated 165W TDP by 20+W, while 1950X and 7960X are well within their rated values. It seems that the roles are reversed this time around.
Performance per dollar
While this type of comparison for most types of consumer items is the most important KPI, for hardware that is intended for prosumers and workstations, that’s not always the case. With that in mind, the 7980XE and 7960X that cost $1999 and $1699 respectively, can’t quite be called the kings of performance per dollar. If we take into account that single-threaded performance is around 30% better than on AMD 1950X and that multi-threaded performance difference is in the single-digit percentage in favor of Intel’s CPU, the price difference of 100% can’t be justified.
The $999 AMD CPU will do everything that the 7980XE does for half the price. And the 20% extra performance you get with 7960X is also not worth the extra $700 USD you’d pay for it.
It is always an ungrateful task to compare products from manufacturers who have a big fan base and among which many take the fan aspect to the extremes, which cannot happen without stepping on some toes. We see that with companies such as Apple and Samsung, Nvidia and AMD, Sony and Xbox, and of course Intel and AMD. However, by keeping an objective stance it is easy to draw a conclusion – if you are looking for raw performance for professional work and have an excess of $2000 in your wallet ($2000 for the CPU, $300+ for the motherboard and $200 for RAM), you won’t be disappointed with the 1980XE. On the other hand, if you don’t mind waiting for your tasks to finish a few seconds/minutes longer and spend that extra $1000 on something else, then AMD Threadripper is the right CPU for you!