Here's The Problem With Intel's Pitch For Its 10 Core CPU

Intel announced its brand new Broadwell-E processor at Computex this year, but immediately after the 10-core CPU was unveiled eyebrows started to slowly raise. Why, for instance, was the new Extreme Edition CPU slower in raw power and a lower base frequency? Why was it hundreds of dollars more than the new GPUs announced by NVIDIA?

Who exactly did Intel think was going to buy this thing?

The initial answer: people with a hell of a lot of money. According to a StaticICE search, the 10-core Broadwell-E CPUs will set you back at least $2579. It's no wonder many retailers aren't stocking the chip: most people are already tapped out with new GPUs and VR headsets to buy, and if you factor in the prospect of a new motherboard it becomes an even more difficult argument.

Intel's argument, however, is that the 10 cores of the Broadwell-E (although there are cheaper 6 and 8-core variants) is suited to streamers or content creators that would be running multiple high-intensity applications at once. Think about playing a game and streaming and encoding all at the same time. Or playing a game in VR while you broadcast the in-headset and third-person feed to Twitch.

"I don't know if you've seen some of the gamers, I've seen them operate in two kind of modes. One as: they'll buy two PCs, one to do streaming, one to do gaming," Frank Soqui, head of the Enthusiast Desktop unit within Intel's Client Computing Group, said. "Or they'll buy a single chassis with two mini ITX's in it, one dedicated to streaming, one dedicated to the game itself. If you count up the cores in there, they're basically building up a 10-core system. And they're doing this today."

The thing is: it's still cheaper to build two gaming systems than it is to build a high-end gaming rig based around Intel's 10-core Broadwell-E CPU.

Let's take a look at what a Broadwell-E CPU system would cost today. The cheapest i7-6950X CPU is $2579, while socket 2011-3 compatible motherboards can be picked up for around $300. I've gone with an ASRock X99-EXTREME3, for argument's sake.

You can get 16GB of DDR4-2400Mhz RAM for under $100. I've picked the Corsair Vengeance LPX line because it's closest to $100 and it makes this a simpler exercise, although you can save a few bucks if you want to really crimp.

As for the graphics card, I've gone with the EVGA Founders Edition of the GTX 1080. It's one of the cheaper models, although not by much, at $1179. The rest of the system is built along similar lines: it's being used for high-end gaming, and is built as such. I'm not counting the cost of peripherals or monitors here, because presumably if you're about to drop thousands upon thousands on a gaming system, you already have a keyboard, mouse and a monitor lying around.

I've also used PC Part Picker to compile the below, mostly because it spits out handy tables for you all to see. So let's look at what we're dealing with here.

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Core i7-6950X 3.0GHz 10-Core Processor $2579.00 @ Mwave Australia
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO 82.9 CFM Sleeve Bearing CPU Cooler
Motherboard ASRock X99 Extreme3 ATX LGA2011-3 Motherboard $305.00 @ Umart
Memory Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR4-2400 Memory $99.00 @ CPL Online
Storage Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5" Solid State Drive $122.00 @ IJK
Storage Samsung 850 EVO-Series 1TB 2.5" Solid State Drive $419.00 @ CPL Online
Storage Western Digital BLACK SERIES 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $229.00 @ CPL Online
Storage Western Digital BLACK SERIES 3TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $229.00 @ CPL Online
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition Video Card $1199.00 @ Scorptec
Case NZXT Phantom 530 (Black) ATX Full Tower Case $189.00 @ CPL Online
Power Supply Corsair 850W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $249.00 @ CPL Online
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $5619.00

You could obviously put some parts in and get the whole system running up for somewhat less, but there's good reasoning behind some of the decisions. Firstly, if you're building a high-end gaming rig that's going to be used for recording, streaming, playing and encoding all in one, you're going to need your programs on different hard drives.

The WD Caviar Black's are designed to be running in RAID 0; you're a bit screwed if one of the drives fails, but you'll get plenty of speed which is important if you're looking to record footage at a high resolution and frame rate.

If you were adding the cost of another Windows licence and peripherals, the price could easily touch $6000. You'd also probably want some extra case fans as well for a touch of extra cooling.

Now let's look at the alternative that Intel suggests: a standard gaming rig — something based off an Intel CPU that most people can afford. I've tried to keep the smaller core parts — SSDs, RAM, etc — the same, but do remember that the price can change fractionally.

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Core i7-4790K 4.0GHz Quad-Core Processor $494.00 @ CPL Online
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212X 82.9 CFM CPU Cooler $49.00 @ CPL Online
Motherboard MSI Z97-Gaming 3 ATX LGA1150 Motherboard $209.00 @ CPL Online
Memory G.Skill Ripjaws X Series 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-2400 Memory $98.00 @ IJK
Storage Samsung 850 EVO-Series 250GB 2.5" Solid State Drive $122.00 @ IJK
Storage Samsung 850 EVO-Series 1TB 2.5" Solid State Drive $419.00 @ CPL Online
Video Card EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB Founders Edition Video Card $1199.00 @ Scorptec
Case NZXT Phantom 530 (White) ATX Full Tower Case $189.00 @ CPL Online
Power Supply Corsair 850W 80+ Platinum Certified Fully-Modular ATX Power Supply $249.00 @ CPL Online
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $3028.00

This is the PC you'd be playing on, and it seems fairly standard for a top-of-the-line rig. I've left the peripherals, monitor and Windows licence out, for parity with the previous build.

Now let's look at what a second PC for the streaming or recording would be like. You wouldn't need as powerful a GPU, but you'd want more storage space for all the video files.

Type Item Price
CPU Intel Core i5-6500 3.2GHz Quad-Core Processor $275.00 @ Centre Com
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212X 82.9 CFM CPU Cooler $49.00 @ CPL Online
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-H110M-A Micro ATX LGA1151 Motherboard
Memory \*Corsair 8GB (1 x 8GB) DDR4-2133 Memory $45.00 @ PLE Computers
Storage Samsung 850 Pro Series 128GB 2.5" Solid State Drive $115.00 @ CPL Online
Storage Western Digital BLACK SERIES 4TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $295.00 @ CPL Online
Storage Western Digital BLACK SERIES 4TB 3.5" 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $295.00 @ CPL Online
Video Card Asus GeForce GTX 970 4GB STRIX Video Card $465.00 @ Centre Com
Case Fractal Design Core 1500 MicroATX Mini Tower Case
Power Supply Thermaltake Toughpower 550W 80+ Gold Certified Semi-Modular ATX Power Supply $119.00 @ CPL Online
Prices include shipping, taxes, rebates, and discounts
Total $1658.00

I've gone with NVIDIA in both systems for platform parity, although the prospect of AMD's RX 480 could make the streaming PC and mid-range gaming PCs vastly more affordable. You get better quality streaming at lower bitrates with x264 than AMD or NVIDIA's hardware encoders. It's more complicated than simply hitting a button on, say, Shadowplay, but if you're going to be creating content on a regular basis you're going to become familiar with the software you're using one way or another.

Nevertheless, you can see the dilemma Intel has here. They're pitching their 10-core Broadwell-E CPU as something that could replace the need for two systems. Having one system is certainly far more practical from a space and power perspective, but it certainly isn't when it comes to cost.

Expert system builders can undoubtedly push things further and save even more money on both systems, but the problem is always going to come down to the same thing: $2579 for a CPU is far, far, far too much for gaming.

Soqui is entirely correct when he says that gamers, streamers and content creators today are effectively using 10 or more cores by building multiple systems for their needs. And in time, 10-core CPUs will filter down into the mainstream market and software will evolve to the point where it more effectively uses all of a CPU's power.

But right now, it doesn't. And right now, the Broadwell-E line just costs too bloody much. Even the older Haswell-E CPUs are more expensive than the top-of-the-line Skylake i7-6700K — and it wouldn't be any better for gaming, either.

It's a difficult argue to prosecute. Intel even confirmed to ZDNet that they didn't have Linux drivers for the latest Turbo Boost mode, further limiting the market who might want one of these processors.

I'm sure there's someone out there who has a use case for the Broadwell-E and its 10 cores, or even the cheaper (but still relatively costly) 6 and 8-core variants. But it sure isn't gamers, streamers or content creators. And with the Australian dollar at its current levels, it doesn't look like that crowd will be buying Intel's argument any time soon.

The author travelled to Computex 2016 as a guest of Intel.


    nice system that $5619.00 one

    edit: dont build it yourself get the shop to. :)

    Last edited 07/06/16 11:40 am

      You'll pay more if you ask a retailer to put the parts together though. Also, building your own PC is a reasonably simple process.

        I see multiple storage drives on it I assume for partitioning operating & storage drives, I assume you should know what your doing before attempting that. reformatting a brand new computer feels like utter death.

        Also paying someone else a hundred bucks or more so they take all the risk too properly installing a $2500 CPU seems like a worthwhile investment.

          More as scratch drives (for recording/encoding). The logic is you'd use the smallest SSD for the Windows partition, the larger SSD for a Steam library, and the SATA drives for recording.

          Installing a $2500 CPU is the same as installing a bargain bin Intel i3 or low-end AMD CPU, but I can understand the fear factor. It's a lot of money, and dwelling on that makes it a more daunting task.

            yeah but the nerves get to you when installing a processor that expensive,,,,, its alright installing a $600 one.... but when I was installing my 5960X I got the shakes....

            shakes and mobo pins = bad
            its like $50-100 to get whatever shop to build it

            also the alcohol diddnt help
            all good fun tho,

            Last edited 07/06/16 1:36 pm

              Nah, I remember the feeling installing just a bog standard Celeron. Mind you, my last PC before that blew up in a thunderstorm so I was like "if I bugger this up I have no money left".

          When you're building a computer of this price, that 100 dollars can be seen as a sound investment, as if you're paying a professional to build and parts are damaged, that 100 dollars is therefore also seen as a safeguard incase they damage those parts.

            yeah im stuck with dual channel... not quad... as it would take 6 weeks to send the mobo back

            mistake I regret.... but not even 1fps difference really

              But one day... one day... one day it might make the difference and then it'll piss you right off lmao

    Whales gonna whale. Your purchasing logic is invalid.

    Surely you'd want 4 sticks of RAM in the Broadwell-E system. With the setup you've speced you'd only be getting half the memory performance the system is capable of.

    And depending on the workload, the extra RAM performance might be worth it to you (although maybe not the price of the 10 core variant).

      I've gone with 16GB RAM here for simplicity, but you're right in that there's a use case for it (heavy After Effects/Premiere/Vegas Pro etc. usage, for instance). It wouldn't add a massive amount to the end price, though, but it would further highlight how expensive the Broadwell-E solution would be as a dual-system replacement.

    Welcome to the PC Master Race, no one said it would be cheap.

    Emulating a PS3 perhaps?? Didn't that have 10 or 9 cores or something!

      8, games only used 7 though, one core was dedicated for the OS.

    Yeah, the CPU is ridiculous... I'd rather they actually put some effort into making the cores faster, instead of just adding more. Most things are still not multi-threaded...

      There's a ceiling around 4ghz for clockspeed, and the only thing you can really do is improve IPC. Thats been increasing between 5-10% on each CPU revision from Intel, but we are starting to hit up against blocks until we move off Silicon.

      Yes, it's a shame they stopped putting effort on making cores faster.

        The problem is that energy consumption is proportional to the square of the clock frequency. The Pentium 4 was probably the last chip designed around the principle that they could endlessly increase clock speed. That didn't work out so well: they couldn't adequately deal with the heat, so never saw the full benefits of their design.

        You still see incremental speed bumps over the generations, but this is generally down to the incremental efficiency improvements. This is slow going, since a 10% reduction in energy usage would only let you increase clock speed by 5% to get back to the original energy usage.

    Expensive PC should have a PCI-E SSD in it for 4-5 times the read speed of SATA SSDs and to push the price over the $6K psychological wall.

      Marketing 101, $5,999 so you think it's a bargain

        He's not writing a sales pitch, he's writing a story on how silly expensive the PC made around a 10 core I7 is.

    Having a second PC for doing the capturing/streaming means that if the gaming PC crashes/reboots for whatever reason (there was that streamer the other day that had his Win 10 PC force a reboot to apply updates), the capture/stream doesnt go down with it. Getting a chunkier CPU doesn't solve that issue

    The Extreme Edition CPUs have kind of always been a niche product though.

    They're there for:

    (a) streamers who have the cash and just want the convenience of being able to do what they need to, in one system with one motherboard and one CPU. Rather than the dual CPU or dual PC setups mentioned.

    (b) people who just want to wave their e-peen.

    TL;DR - the Extreme Edition CPUs have never really made much financial sense compared to the regular top-end i7s.

    Last edited 07/06/16 2:58 pm

    Yeah but not many people are buying X99 Broadwell for just gaming & if they are then well I think they're idiots.

    Also come on Alex, 40 PCI-E lanes and you're going for PCI-E and or M.2 PCI-E storage? Come on man :P

    As someone who does 3D renderings for a living these chips look ideal. You are right in that their pitch is wrong, because people who use these chips are people like me. There is a market for these chips. Incidendentally I agree with others here that your sixteen gig of Ram is laughable. With this chip I would be looking at 128. But even for a regular user buying a new system I would recommend 32. It is a minor cost increase for a large longevity increase. Rule of thumb is when there is an option with more ram, take the one with the more ram.

      I'd say you'd be one of the few users for whom this is a perfect chip. Question for you: if you're doing a lot of 3D renderings, would you be getting the Quadro GPUs too?

    I need dis for da bitmines baby !!!!!!!!!!!!! XO

    I feel everyone is struggling to eclipse their performance from the previous generation without adding to the expense.

    Looking at those prices, I feel I'm back in 1990.

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