Pricing and positioning
Many hoped (myself among them) that Ryzen's arrival would force Intel high-end desktop CPU prices down compared to their historical stickers, and for two chips in the Skylake-X lineup, that's sort of what's happened. The Core i7-7820X brings eight cores and 16 threads to the $600 slot for the first time in Intel's history, while the Core i9-7900X shifts the 10 cores and 20 threads that were previously the domain of the $1650 Core i7-6950X down to a grand. I was disappointed that Intel didn't choose to add more cores for the same prices as Haswell-E chips when it launched Broadwell-E, so it's heartening to see the company returning to that practice with Skylake-X.
Meanwhile, the six-core Core i7-7800X rings in at the same $389 price tag as the Core i7-5820K of Haswell-E fame. Compare that to the $434 one had to pay to get into the six-core Core i7-6800K, and it seems Ryzen CPUs are keeping Intel honest at the low end of the high end, if nothing else.
Of course, Intel couldn't resist taking away as it gave us more cores for less money. To get 44 lanes of PCIe connectivity from the CPU with Skylake-X, one now has to pay $1000 for the Core i7-7900X. Both the Core i7-7800X and Core i7-7820X have the dreaded 28 lanes of connectivity that used to be the sole domain of the most entry-level Intel HEDT CPUs, a move that will doubtless leave some builders a little sour as they plop down $600 for an i7-7820X.
Even though Intel's decision to make the full 44 lanes of PCIe 3.0 more exclusive stings here, it might not sour builders as much as it might have in the past. Interest in multi-GPU as a route to higher graphics performance seems to be dwindling by the day, and multi-GPU was the primary reason we dinged Intel's 28-lane i7-5820K when it first appeared. Times have changed since. A single GTX 1080 Ti is enough graphics card to power all but the most excessive gaming systems, even with a 4K screen hooked up. Assuming one decides to chance SLI's hit-or-miss game support with twin GTX 1080 Tis, we're guessing they can afford a $1000 CPU or better to go with them.
The biggest demand for PCIe these days beyond graphics is for storage devices, and the lower-end Skylake-X parts still do well enough here. Motherboard makers could conceivably wire up three full-speed M.2 slots or U.2 ports from the remaining 12 lanes on the i7-7800X and i7-7820X, and that's before we consider what's possible with 44 lanes from the higher-end chips. Mobo engineers should also have fun with the freedom of X299's flex I/O lanes, although devices connected to those lanes will be bottlenecked by the roughly PCIe 3.0 x4 bandwidth of the chipset's DMI 3.0 link.
What about Core i9 CPUs? Well, more cores mean more money, but the Core i9 lineup actually seems pretty reasonably priced for what it offers, assuming you need more cores. The Core i9-7920X's 12 cores are a $200 upcharge over the $999 Core i9 7900X's 10-core, 20-thread complement, and another $200 jump gets you 14 cores and 28 threads on board the Core i9-7940X. From there, the delta changes to $300: first for the $1699 Core i9-7960X, and then to $1999 for the Core i9-7980XE big daddy with its 18 cores and 36 threads.
Even at $1999, the Core i9-7980XE seems like a fair bargain compared to many-core Broadwell Xeons. As just one example (and presuming your X99 motherboard offered support for it), one could get 18 Broadwell cores and 36 threads in the Xeon E5-2695 v4 for $2400 at retail. X299 likely won't offer server-grade niceties like ECC RAM support, but there's no denying that it's making a certain class of compute capability more accessible—and with higher potential performance—than ever before on Intel's high-end desktop platform.
Intel says Core X-series CPUs will be available "in the coming weeks," and we'll be learning more about them soon. For now, however, you can join us in pinching ourselves about the prospect of 18 Skylake-X cores in a high-end desktop PC. Hopefully we can stop dreaming and start testing something like the Core i9-7980XE soon.