This launch-day coverage isn’t going to be easy for us due to the fact that it entails a number of firsts, some of which are positive, others certainly aren’t. Parts of this introduction are also going to be a bit more personal than is typical for me but there’s good reason for that too: Intel’s launch of the Core-X series is unique in terms of scope, market conditions and their approach to press engagement.
These also happen to be some of the most controversial processors launched in recent memory and many of you are likely here to see whether or not we’re going to give Intel’s latest endeavor a failing grade since anything else would be unacceptable. Don’t deny it. If you’re here for fireworks, and I promise you there will certainly be some.
Before I get too far into this let’s get let the cat out of the bag: this is the first time in more than a decade we almost missed a launch-day review of a major new processor evolution. To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement of epic proportions but I won’t dwell upon it other than to simply explain the situation. However, we do have content here and now due to a benefactor who will remain anonymous. It just won’t be of the processor that Intel was hoping they would get coverage for. Instead of focusing primarily on the top-of-the-line i9-7900X, my focus here is solely upon the oddball 7740X, the Kaby Lake-X black sheep runt of this litter.
Due to a number of factors –some of which will be made apparent by the time you finish this introduction- Intel’s sampling of Core-X CPUs to the press was spotty at best. I’m writing this a mere two business days away from launch and I still don’t have Intel’s samples in-hand. Maybe by the time you read this we’ll be busy beavering away running even more benchmarks and figuring out where the flagship Core-X CPU lands in the grand scheme of things. However, rushing out benchmarks of that processor would be a disservice to our readers and could very well give false first impression (be it positive or negative) of a platform that will be a pretty big deal for enthusiasts.
Over the course of the last few weeks after Computex, I’ve been toying with a thought: have we reached “peak Intel”? Is this a time when the buying public is so fatigued by forced market segmentation, overly high pricing structures and overlapping platform capabilities that they look elsewhere? For the last decade or so, folks simply didn’t have a choice; either choose Intel or get saddled with an AMD architecture that just wasn’t all that competitive. Yet now AMD is back in the game with Ryzen and the upcoming high end desktop platform code-named Threadripper and the alternatives to the status quo look very promising. Our Computex coverage certainly pointed to that possibility since X399 articles and videos received triple the traffic of their X299 competitors.
Obviously these are the concerns that should have kept Intel up at night. However I get the distinct feeling they couldn’t have been bothered until the last possible moment, when AMD’s Threadripper salvo was already on its way downrange. Not only has Intel’s press engagement fallen by the wayside, but their Core-X parts and X299 platform are obviously being launched in an overly hurried manner. This is what happens when complacency sets in and one day you suddenly realize the mice have overrun your kitchen.
The ramifications of Intel’s knee-jerk reaction to Threadripper are evident everywhere today, with the launch initially slated for later this year being pulled in to mid-June. Core-X series processors are only available for preorder today while actual inventory will only arrive on June 26th or thereabouts. A key feature –that being VROC- won’t be rolled out until later this year or early next year. A large number of the announced i9 processors won’t even be available until next year, pointing towards them being a simple paper-bound hedge against whatever AMD has in store.
Adding insult to injury, some motherboards don’t even feature support for Kaby Lake X processors while others will have hallmark capabilities of Intel’s new X299 platform missing in action. There weren’t even enough processors to go around so only select sites and YouTube channels were targeted for sampling in time for today’s performance evaluations. The end result of all of this could be a lack of broad coverage, short term availability problems and the potential for significant confusion among end users. It’s a mess but one of Intel’s own making.
However none of this means you should automatically hop onto the X299 hate train like so many online personalities seem wont to do. There’s actually quite a lot to like here, such as expanded chipset capabilities (finally!), platform longevity and the possibility for some truly titanic performance metrics. What remains to be seen is how the associated processors line up in relation to their predecessors and AMD’s new stable of competitors.