Single page Print

It's time once more to sum up our results using our famous scatter plots. To spit out this final index, we take the geometric mean of each chip's results in our real-world productivity tests, then plot that number against retail pricing gleaned from Newegg. Where Newegg prices aren't available, we use a chip's original suggested price.

Our value scatter tells the entire story of the Core i9-7900X: if your workload scales to many threads, this chip is generally the one to run it on. The server version of Skylake delivers an unusually large performance boost for a modern Intel CPU revision in many tasks. Core for core and thread for thread, the already-beastly Core i7-6950X can sometimes lag the 7900X in the range of 10% to 20%. All that oomph comes for a jaw-dropping $724 less than the 6950X's initial suggested price, too. Competition is a wonderful thing.

In a milestone for Intel's high-end desktop platform, the Core i9-7900X mostly ends the tradeoff between single-threaded swiftness and multi-threaded grunt typical of some older Intel high-end desktop chips. For lightly-threaded workloads, the i9-7900X's improved Turbo Boost Max 3.0 behavior lets it trail our single-thread-favorite Core i7-7700K by only a few percentage points at most. In typical desktop use, then, the i9-7900X and its TBM 3.0-enabled brethren should feel about as snappy as their mainstream desktop cousins. I need to get the i9-7900X paired up with a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti soon to see whether that single-threaded performance translates to similar gameplay smoothness.

I'll also need to explore Skylake-X overclocking in depth soon. Thanks to immature firmware and monitoring utilities, I didn't feel comfortable pushing my 7900X too hard at this point. That said, I see a lot of promise for overclocking this chip. My test system made it to the Windows desktop without a hiccup at an astounding 4.7 GHz on all cores, and thermal limits seem as though they'll be the primary obstacle to fully exploiting that speed. I'll explore Skylake-X's overclocking potential more once the X299 platform has had a bit more time in the oven (and once I've picked up some seriously beefy cooling hardware in the meantime).

We've always been loath to recommend the top-end CPU in Intel's high-end desktop family (and yes, that is this chip for the moment). Despite the Ryzen-inspired price reshuffling that's coming with Core X, the i9-7900X still isn't a great value. The star of the Core X lineup may actually be the Core i7-7820X, whose eight cores and 16 threads have clocks similar to those of the i9-7900X. You may lose a couple of cores in the bargain, but even so, the i7-7820X should perform better than a Ryzen 7 1800X for not that much more money. We hope to play with one of these more attainable Skylake-X CPUs soon.

Of course, the performance of the Core i9-7900X is beyond question: it's the fastest single-socket CPU we've ever tested. The X299 platform may need a little polish yet to let Core X chips really shine, but the performance bar the i9-7900X is already setting promises an exciting standoff this summer as AMD prepares its Ryzen Threadripper CPUs for launch. If you need as many cores and threads as possible from your desktop, times have never been more exciting. Stay tuned as we see whether the i9-7900X has got game.

AMD's Ryzen 5 2500U APU reviewedToward a more perfect fusion 166
Intel's Core i5-8250U CPU reviewedKaby Lake Refresh rides in on Acer's Swift 3 113
AMD's Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U APUs revealedInfinity Fabric ties Zen and Vega together 175
Intel's Core i7-8700K CPU reviewedSix shots of Coffee Lake, please 369
Intel's Core i9-7980XE and Core i9-7960X CPUs reviewedDid somebody say more cores? 176
The Tech Report System Guide: September 2017 editionHog heaven at the high end 100
Intel kicks off eighth-gen Core with four cores and eight threads in 15WMore of the good stuff 89
AMD's Ryzen Threadripper 1920X and Ryzen Threadripper 1950X CPUs reviewedI'm rubber, you're glue 126