Both Intel and AMD paper launched top-end products intended (as always) to one-up the other. AMD launched a 16 core CPU with a massive 64 lanes of PCIe Gen 3.0, which could help open up some existing bottlenecks in current motherboard designs. Intel announced an 18 Core CPU with 44 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes.
From a casual glance, all seems well with these launches. However, some are now claiming that the top-end Intel CPU was not part of their original launch plans and only came into existence after a leak of AMD’s Threadripper. They are claiming that Intel may have “borrowed” a Xeon design and coopted it for the consumer desktop. To them this explains the delay in shipping dates Vs announcement and the reason the increase in PCIe lanes is so small (only four more lanes).
Personally, I think this is a stretch of imagination, but could be partially true (just not in the way some want it to be). For starters, it is not uncommon for both AMD and Intel to trickle down designs from their enterprise CPUs into their desktop. They also will often push features up from the consumer world into their enterprise offerings. This migration of feature sets is the way the world works. Intel also was in need of a new flagship CPU anyway so moving an 18-core design into the fray was a logical one. On the subject of the PCIe lanes… well there are some explanations for this too. Although I can obviously not speak to what Intel might have said in planning meetings there are challenges in putting too much into such a small package. We are talking about leakage and interference inside the CPU at the frequencies that we are seeing today.
In short, Intel’s move is a reaction to Ryzen as a whole, but not specifically to Threadripper. These CPUs have been in the works for months now and even though the Core i9-7980XE will not hit the market for a couple of months (after Threadripper hits) it still had to be in the pipeline before the leak happened. Intel is changing their direction due to increase competition from AMD. This is normal when rivals actually put out compelling products. The issue here is that AMD still does not have the market share to really push Intel to drastic measures… yet. This will change as Ryzen gains ground and consumer trust, but we are not there yet.
AMD, for their part, are reacting to what Intel has done over the past few years, Zen as a concept was an attempt to directly compete with Intel in the performance market. It was something that AMD should never have stopped doing. Fortunately, they have recovered nicely and are executing at a much better pace than they have for years. Threadripper is a solid move on their part as long as the motherboard makers can tune the traces needed to handle those extra PCIe lanes. We are hoping that they have worked around that tricky bit and the launch goes smoothly. If there are issues with the rollout of partner boards AMD could take a big hit in consumer confidence and will lose market share.
The future looks very good for consumers over the next 18 months. You will have solid performing platforms regardless of your CPU maker preferences. AMD’s return to relevance is to thank for new market, Intel will need to respond with something bigger and better if they want to maintain the crown (duh) and the rush to this will be sure to keep many tech journalists happily typing away trying to keep up with all of the marketing messages being thrown at them. Fun for all.