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A laying-on of hands with Intel’s new 10-core monster

This is(n't) a review

What’s that you say? A $1,000 10-core CPU has naff all to do with real-world gaming? To which I might riposte, who cares? Get a load of all 10 cores. Behold 20 threads humming away in Task Manager. Or I might not. But I have had a go with the new Intel Core-i9 7900X. Here’s wot I think.

Wot I think is that the 7900X doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. Or to be reviewed properly. So, I’m not going to.

That’s not because it isn’t fast. The reason why I don’t think it deserves to be taken seriously is because the 7900X is symptomatic of what amounts to a rotten corporate culture at Intel. Strong words, I grant, and not everyone will agree.

Either way, I’m not going to take it seriously. Instead, I’ll tell you that it sits nicely in the hand and feels weighty and expensive, albeit only in that somatic way that makes something feel expensive when you already know it’s expensive.

And that’s it.

I won’t tell you how it performs because, firstly, none of us are going to buy it. So it doesn’t matter. And secondly the 7900X, the manner of its launch and the non-launch of its new many-core CPU brethren make it all too obvious how out of touch Intel has been of late.

The way I see it, for far too long Intel has set itself the wrong task. It should have aspired to make great CPUs. The end. Instead, it aimed to produce the worst CPUs it could get away with. And then dressed that up as progress.

For a while, that worked. There was no competition. Then AMD’s Ryzen popped up and, though it's arguably flawed as a gaming CPU, Intel panicked. The result is the shitstorm of CPUs models I reported on recently and none of it makes any sense.

My impression is that the 7900X was originally intended to be the top chip. As a consequence it’s clocked very high, high enough in all-cores Turbo mode that I suspect it will make the task of outperforming it with CPUs configured with more cores actually pretty tricky. Which may be part of the reason why all those CPU have yet to be released.

It wouldn’t actually surprise me if Intel adjusts its plans for the line up of CPUs it intends to stick in the new LGA2066 socket, into which the the 7900X slots. It’s a mess. Bizarre four-core models with bits turned off that are inexplicably more expensive than the mainstream socket LGA1151 chips they're based on and hobble the motherboards into which they are inserted. Numerous models that have been partially announced but nobody knows when they will arrive and which seemingly only exist to act as a spoiler to dampen sales of upcoming many-core AMD Ryzen chips. It all has a general air of chaotic improvisation.

The whole sorry story smacks of an entrenched operator that has grown defensive to the point of self-destruction. Everything about the way Intel plans its products now seems overwhelmingly negative to the point that I honestly think there’s a certain belligerence to the way it views its customers. Yes, it exists to make a profit. I have no issue with that. But there are many ways to skin that particular cat. And if you don’t respect your customers, you can’t really expect your customers - or the media - to respect you.

I’m also reminded of a somewhat analogous situation in my other occupational muse, the car market. For some time now, Porsche has been rolling out big-ticket limited edition car models that are sold out before they are even officially announced as products, which is a nice trick when you think about it.

Anyway, the somewhat preposterous net result is that Porsche keeps on launching new cars that you can’t buy unless you’re part of a tiny club of favoured clients, the membership criteria of which is opaque to say the least. And yet, Porsche goes through the usual press launch routine. The hacks turn up. The column inches and YouTube video content are cranked out. The circus goes on.

In a similar fashion, I’ve been as guilty as the next hack of toeing the line, of reviewing the latest infinitesimally incremental new mainstream Intel CPU release. When really i should have said nothing, because the new chips changed nothing and didn’t merit serious coverage.

Of course, you could accuse me of having my cake and eating it, of not reviewing the 7900X but still giving it airtime. I grant there’s also a certain hypocrisy tied up in all this as it pertains to gaming specifically and the limited role of the PC processor as a bottleneck to gaming performance.

But that’s a complex chicken-and-egg argument. Moreover saying nothing at all isn’t really viable. On a one off basis, it has zero impact.

So this is my review of the Intel Core-i9 7900X. And it’s no review at all.

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About the Author

Jeremy Laird