intel’s Core i9-9990XE wasn’t intended to ever get a retail release. The CPU, which formally launched as an auction-only part intended for OEMs, has tipped up for sale at CaseKing.de, a manufacturer which also offers the CPU for-sale inside some of its systems.
The CPU’s price? Just €2,999, a veritable steal. (€2,999 works out to $3,375).
The 14-core Core i9-9990XE isn’t Intel’s largest CPU core. In fact, it’s 14 cores are relatively svelte compared to the 28-core CPUs Intel also sells. The Core i9-9990XE was a halo part designed for those who wanted to balance clock speed and core count, with a base clock of 4GHz and a boost clock of up to 5.1GHz. Intel’s 18-core CPU, the Core i9-9980XE, offers a base clock of 3GHz and boost of up to 4.5GHz. With 14 cores at 4GHz, the Core i9-9990XE should actually be slightly faster than the 18-core 9980XE, provided both are running at base frequency — the additional clock should compensate for the higher core count on the other CPU.
Of course, all CPUs have to be evaluated based on price/performance, and the 9990XE is going to struggle to cleanly put its opponents away. We covered a review by Puget Systems earlier this year, that found the 9990XE was hard to justify. While it offers excellent performance, it didn’t cleanly distinguish itself from other competitive products available for much less money.
Here, a comparison with the data we’ve been discussing in AMD’s context is instructive. At $3375 for a 14-core chip, the Core i9-9990XE is carrying a per-core price of $241. Granted, this includes VAT, but if you were buying the chip in Germany, that’s what you’d wind up paying. To put that in perspective, the current per-core price for an Intel CPU based on data from Mindfactory.de is €48.16 ($54.42 if you want that in USD). Even the Core i9-9980XE, with a $2064 price tag on Newegg as of this writing, has a per-core price of “just” $114.67.
Disparities like this highlight how good a deal AMD’s Threadripper is, and how little the existence of that deal has changed the market over the past two years. A 16-core AMD Threadripper 2950X is selling for $859 ($53.68 per core), while the 32-core flavor is $1699 ($53 per core). Some of the reason for the lower position on the 2990WX may have to do with the scheduling issues that can hit that chip, but AMD’s 16-core Threadripper CPUs have per-core prices that should have left them eating Xeon’s lunch — if core pricing was what drove the market. The fact that Intel continues to ship Xeons with far higher pricing than Threadripper is evidence that AMD hasn’t had a lot of luck in prying high-end workstation buyers out of Intel’s ecosystem yet.
A CPU like this is the niche part of niche parts, but we’d be surprised if somebody wasn’t willing to buy the thing. There’s always someone looking for the fastest solution, regardless of price.