Intel launches the 28-core Xeon W-3175X at $2999

If you had asked me this time last year whether Intel would take one of its 28-core Skylake Xeon chips with six-channel memory and release it as a consumer CPU on a new platform, I would have smirked and laughed as if you had asked me if game streaming will ever replace local processing. While this is fundamentally the same CPU that Intel showed in chilled form as part of its controversial Computex 2018 demo, we first heard concrete news about these plans back at Intel's "Performance Unleashed" event in October. That's right gerbils: Today is launch day for the Intel Xeon W-3175X 28-core workstation CPU.

First, the facts. The Xeon W-3175X is essentially the same silicon as the Xeon Platinum 8180, but with the clock rates of a Core i9-9960X. Specifically, the W-3175X takes 28 Skylake-X cores to 4.5 GHz max turbo, up from 3.1 GHz base. Thanks to the surprisingly high clock rate, Intel increases the TDP spec to 255W. It offers up to 44 lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity and a full six channels of DDR4 memory. Given that this is a Xeon, it can run high-density registered ECC memory, or you can hook it up to ultra-high-clocked unbuffered memory.

A system built by Intel. Looks awful gamer-y, doesn't it?

That's right — despite the Xeon name, this is decidedly a consumer-oriented chip. Not only will it happily hook up to fast gamer RAM, it's also fully unlocked for overclocking. This CPU is meant for that vanishingly small slice of the market where "gamer" and "creator" meet; it's for both the hardest of hardcore overclockers, as well as engineers and professionals who can make use of the massive core count but still need that single-threaded throughput. In short: It's an anti-Threadripper guided missile.

We weren't handed one of these CPUs—or the accompanying system—to review. I say "the accompanying system" because it's not like one of these behemoths would fit in any of our test rigs. This CPU uses the LGA 3647 socket; while calling it "a new platform" isn't strictly accurate, you won't find any motherboards on shelves with this socket in an ATX-adjacent form factor. We briefly mentioned the Asus ROG Dominus Extreme motherboard when talking about the best CPUs for gaming last year, and Intel's demo in October apparently used a Gigabyte motherboard, but neither have found their way to market yet.

A blinged-out system with a Xeon W-3175X. Image: Anandtech.

Intel did supply a bunch of other sites with suitable machines, though. You can hit up reviews of the new chip over at AnandTech, Tom's Hardware, Gamers Nexus, HotHardware, and PC World, among others. Click through to read the reviews because each one has interesting points to make, but everyone seems to tell the same story this time around, which is that this is pretty much the fastest CPU in the world for almost any given task. 

Steve at Gamers Nexus succinctly says that "the performance is objectively good." Ian Cutress at AnandTech was clear on the topic, too. He says "the Xeon W-3175X only caters to one market: high performance." In essence, if you need the absolute fastest single-socket system money can buy, this is the chip you want. It's quite a bit of money, though. The Xeon W-3175X comes in at $3,000 for just the CPU, and motherboards are expected to be north of $1,500. That's to say nothing of the at least six DIMMs you'll need to fill the machine's memory channels, or the 1-KW-plus power plant you'll want to drive it.

Every review makes the point that the gains this chip sees over the Core i9-9980XE—of which it is essentially a 28-core version—are minimal in a lot of tasks. However, in work where the Xeon W-3175X can flex its multi-core might, it is truly monstrous. Regular gerbils already know this story, of course. You see the same thing with AMD's Threadripper CPUs. Perhaps in acknowledgement of the limited appeal of such a system, Anandtech reports that Intel might make as few as 1500 of these chips.

All of the pricing discussion is a bit academic, anyway. You won't see the Xeon W-3175X on the shelves at your local Micro Center, nor the motherboards and coolers for the new platform. It's possible that might change in the future, but for now, the new hardware is exclusive to system integrators. If you're after the fastest single CPU money can buy, start checking the sites of vendors like Maingear and Boxx.

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